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Dana Point is a sleepy little beach town in Southern California that’s easy to miss if you drive too fast on the highway. However, it’s worth a visit if only for the cozy beach vibe and the unpretentious and friendly population. The city’s official motto is “Harboring the Good Life,” and that sentiment is evident along all seven of the community’s beautiful coastal miles and the beautiful Dana Point Harbor.
The hospitality industry is a vital part of Dana Point’s economy, which means visitors are in luck when they’re interested in finding chef-inspired restaurants, delicious local eats, and cozy eateries in Dana Point. From steak and seafood to breakfast and bagels, Dana Point has restaurants for every time of the day and every sort of appetite.
Many of the restaurants in Dana Point offer views of the Pacific or Dana Point Harbor, so you can relax with a view of the ocean while eating some of the best food Southern California has to offer. If you’re planning on spending some time in Dana Point, don’t forget to put some of the following best restaurants in Dana Point on your itinerary.
Best Restaurants in Dana Point, California
Address: 1 Ritz Carlton Dr, Dana Point, CA 92629
RAYA is located inside the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel and offers Pan-Latin coastal cuisine created by Chef Richard Sandoval. The establishment creates its dishes using local ingredients. You’ll appreciate the ocean views afforded several tables within the restaurant, as well as the attentive service from professional servers.
You’ll sit in a comfortable lounge chair as you gaze out at the Pacific through the floor-to-ceiling windows, enjoying your fine dining experience. The small plate options are a good place to start, especially when paired with a bottle of fine wine. Enjoy a special occasion or a date night at this elegant restaurant. RAYA is certainly one of Dana Point’s most romantic restaurants.
RAYA is a luxurious restaurant, but it’s open for more than just an evening dinner. Some of the most delicious items appear on the breakfast menu. If you’re staying in the Ritz-Carlton, you’ll definitely want to stop by RAYA at least once during your stay; however, the restaurant welcomes everyone who visits Dana Point, even if they’re not staying at the hotel.
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2. Coastal Kitchen
Address: 34091 CA-1, Dana Point, CA 92629
Coastal Kitchen is the ideal venue for beach lovers and those who enjoy a bright and airy atmosphere as they dine. If you’re looking for Dana Point restaurants with excellent seafood, Coastal Kitchen is definitely one of the best places for delicious entrees like jumbo lump crab cakes and New England clam chowder.
Coastal Kitchen is located in the Lantern District in a historic building that was once popular with travelers passing through on their way between San Diego and Los Angeles. In the 1920s, the location was home to The Blue Lantern Fountain Lunch, a café. Today, the location is home to Coastal Kitchen, and the restaurant is owned and operated by Michael and Christina Grant.
Diners at Coastal Kitchen speak highly of the attentive and friendly servers, as well as a need to visit the seafood restaurant more than once to sample more of its extensive and eclectic menu. Dishes on the menu that receive high marks include the halibut and the seared ahi salad.
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3. Stacks Pancake House
Address: 34255 CA-1, Dana Point, CA 92629
Stacks Pancake House is a chain restaurant, but don’t let that make you think that the food is any less delicious. If you’re looking for some perfect American comfort food, Stacks Pancake House will fill you up and satisfy you with its waffles and pancakes. Stacks is one of the best restaurants in Dana Point for families.
The restaurant was founded by Nixon Tanuwidjaja, who designed the menu to feature great food influenced by Hawaiian cooking. One of the most well-known entrees on the menu is the Banana Macadamia Nut Pancakes with their coconut syrup. They also have interesting menu items like Japanese Fried Rice Omelets and Korean Kalbi Ribs.
Stacks definitely isn’t a fancy place to eat, but it’s one of the most popular restaurants in Dana Point because of its unpretentious and delicious menu. First-time visitors to the restaurant should try the classic buttermilk pancakes, while egg aficionados might want to order the Denver Omelet.
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4. Craft House
Address: 34094 E Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, CA 92629
Craft House feels like a relaxed bar and grill but also makes you feel like you’re surrounded by the upscale ambiance of a fine dining establishment. The modern rustic décor pairs wonderfully with menu options like the Wagyu steak burger and the extensive seafood menu.
The restaurant was founded by Chef Blake Mellgren, who was born and raised in Southern California and trained in places like New York City and the International Culinary Center. The chef opened his own restaurant, Craft House, in 2014, and it quickly became known as one of the best restaurants in Dana Point.
Craft House is primarily a lunch and dinner establishment, but they also serve Sunday brunch and a social hour at the bar. The menu offers a delicious array of familiar foods, each with an unusual twist, like the Brussels sprouts made with crispy pancetta, chipotle honey, herbs, and Cotija. If you end up having room for dessert, the ricotta doughnut is a must at this Dana Point restaurant.
5. Casanova Ristorante
Address: 33585 Del Obispo St #C & #D, Dana Point, CA 92629
If you’re in the mood for an Italian restaurant, but you don’t want to wear your Sunday best, Casanova Ristorante is a cozy establishment with an interesting menu of authentic Venetian dishes. If you’re looking for places to eat in Dana Point with friends or for a casual date, Casanova Ristorante is a delicious option.
Some of the most popular menu items at Casanova Ristorante include the petto di pollo alla parmigiana, spaghetti alla Bolognese, and the veal parmigiana. Eating at Casanova Ristorante with your significant other or a friend is an excellent way to experience the restaurant’s great food because you can share your dishes and sample more than one entrée.
Visitors to the restaurant note that the pasta is always incredible, no matter what accompanies it. The staff is also regarded as friendly and helpful, allowing diners to make substitutions and change dishes as they wish.
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6. RJ’s Café
Address: 25001 Dana Point Harbor Dr #F120, Dana Point, CA 92629
RJ’s Café is the perfect example of an unassuming diner with delicious breakfast food and a classic American menu. On a sunny morning in Southern California, you can’t beat sitting down for eggs Benedict at this open-air café. Rumor has it that the feta avocado scramble is a not-to-be-missed dish.
The cafe’s owners boast that the restaurant routinely makes it onto the local “Best Breakfast” list every year, and with good reason. When owner and founder RJ Breeden moved back to the area after an absence of more than a decade, he was dismayed at the lack of truly delicious breakfast establishments.
He missed having a cozy family restaurant where the family was welcome, and they could relax and feel like they were at home. If you’re wondering where the locals eat in Dana Point, especially for breakfast, the answer would probably be RJ’s Café.
7. Luciana’s Ristorante
Address: 24312 Del Prado Ave, Dana Point, CA 92629
Luciana’s Ristorante combines delicious Italian food and an elegant ambiance to provide an excellent atmosphere for romantic dates. However, it’s not just the atmosphere that patrons love but the familiar and delicious Italian food. The restaurant has seating near a cozy fireplace, as well as outdoor patio seating near Dana Point Harbor.
The family responsible for opening Luciana’s Ristorante opened their first restaurant in Newport Beach in 1976 and would eventually open Luciana’s Ristorante in 1983. In addition to serving fine cuisine in Orange County, the family also owns its own olive oil brand, which was developed after an exhaustive search for the best olive oil in the world.
If you’re searching for a Dana Point restaurant for a birthday party for the family mom or a cozy dinner date with your significant other, Luciana’s Ristorante is an excellent option. You’ll love the old-world atmosphere and the rather significant menu, where you’ll find all sorts of delicious options.
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8. Salt Creek Grille
Address: 32802 CA-1, Dana Point, CA 92629
Salt Creek Grille in Dana Point is one of five restaurants in the Salt Creek family, but each restaurant has a unique menu. This Dana Point eatery offers an excellent combination of great service, a friendly atmosphere, and, most importantly, excellent food. The menu features a variety of sandwiches, burgers, seafood chowder, and main entrees.
If you’re only in town for a brief visit or you’re just passing through, try one of the seafood dishes at Salt Creek Grille. The eclectic seafood restaurant offers fresh fish dishes like sea bass, salmon, and halibut. Other standout dishes include the cider-brined pork chop, tamari ginger flat iron steak, and the baby back ribs.
The goal of owner Tim McCune in opening the Salt Creek Grille was to provide locals with a casual American grille with an upscale yet friendly ambiance. The restaurant offers recommendations for wine pairings with most of its dishes, so it’s an excellent place to enjoy a laid back atmosphere with good drinks and friends.
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9. The Shwack Beach Grill
Address: 24502 Del Prado Ave, Dana Point, CA 92629
If you’re craving simple dishes like a barbecue chicken sandwich or a grilled cheese sandwich, The Shwack Beach Grill is the perfect place to meet up with friends. During your stay in Dana Point, rent a bicycle to cruise through town and stop for lunch at this delicious eatery. It’s the perfect place to eat after spending time at the beach.
You won’t need to wear your fancy clothes to The Shwack, and the fast-casual atmosphere makes it easy to dip in and out for a quick afternoon bite near Dana Point Harbor. It’s also easy to call ahead for pickup when you only have a few minutes to spare and can’t take a seat to eat. One of the most popular items on the menu is the fish tacos, and the barbecue chicken salad receives high marks from visitors, too.
Fans of the California craft beer scene will enjoy eating at The Shwack since the owner, Max Fisher, is a huge fan of craft beer. Many of the California coast’s most respected craft breweries reside in San Diego, just an hour south of Dana Point and The Shwack. Enjoy an ever-evolving selection of craft beers on tap at The Shwack alongside a delicious seared ahi-tuna salad.
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10. Vibe Organic Kitchen & Juice
Address: 34255 CA-1 #105, Dana Point, CA 92629
Vibe Organic Kitchen & Juice offers visitors a handful of locations throughout Southern California, and their Dana Point location is an excellent place to stop when you’re in the mood for something refreshing and healthy. The restaurant’s entire menu is organic and gluten-free, and they specialize in plant-based food and juices.
Many Dana Point restaurants will fill you up with their comfort food entrees, but you’ll find a different sort of menu at Vibe, where the focus is on healthy options like avocado toast, smoothie bowls, and organic tacos. If you’ve always wanted to try a plant-based morning meal, consider one of their plant-based options like the sunrise scramble, with cauliflower standing in for eggs.
If the last thing you want to do on your vacation to Dana Point is gain 10 pounds eating cheeseburgers and steak, Vibe Organic Kitchen & Juice is the perfect alternative. The establishment is ideal for anyone trying to cut down on their sugar intake and eat a healthy diet. Fill up on the organic, delicious food at Vibe in-between visits to the beach.
11. Lupe’s Mexican Eatery
Address: 33621 Del Obispo St Suite F, Dana Point, CA 92629
Some Dana Point restaurants are designed to offer the full sit-down experience with appetizers, atmosphere, and dessert, but Lupe’s Mexican Eatery is more of an informal restaurant for great Mexican food like burritos and tacos. Lupe’s has four locations in Southern California, with the first location opening in San Diego in 2012.
The Dana Point location opened in 2016 and is an excellent choice when you want something satisfying and delicious but aren’t in the mood to sit down and wait for it. Lupe’s is one of the best restaurants in Dana Point for families because you won’t spend much time waiting for your food, and the menu is filled with dishes that will suit even the pickiest eaters.
The restaurant serves lunch and dinner, as well as breakfast with some of the area’s best breakfast burritos. Try the California breakfast burrito with steak, avocado, potatoes, chipotle, eggs, and pico de gallo if you’re particularly hungry. If you’re feeling adventurous, consider the house special: tostada filled with shrimp, octopus, fish, and scallops.
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12. Bourbon Steak Orange County
Address: 1 Monarch Beach Resort N, Dana Point, CA 92629
Bourbon Steak Orange County is a restaurant by Chef Michael Mina. The restaurant serves modern American food with a focus on steak and creative dishes like the Maine Lobster Pot Pie. If you’re searching for a restaurant that knows how to prepare steak and present it in a creative way, Bourbon Steak Orange County is a must for your itinerary.
This Dana Point restaurant is located at the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach and visitors to the establishment remark upon the excellent service and the elevated dining experience. The wait staff is knowledgeable and helpful, and there’s no doubt that any dish you order will delight your tastebuds.
If you visit Dana Point in the winter or when the temperature is chilly for Southern California, try sitting outside with the heaters for a sublime experience. Delicious menu options at this Dana Point restaurant you shouldn’t miss include the charred asparagus and Brussels sprouts, the truffle mac and cheese, and the Broiled New Zealand Tai Snapper.
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.