Looking for dining with a view in Orange County? When you are in OC, it often feels like a waste to spend almost any time indoors. Sure, there’s tons of great eats to be found inside, but one should embrace our temperate weather and try our all nautral air conditioning: fresh air. If you need ideas on where some of OC’s most picturesque outdoor dining can be found, check out these nine spots for everything from a six-course meal to light fare and live music.
Casual and Classic: Lighthouse Bayview Café
Marina Park, 1600 West Balboa Blvd., Newport Beach, CA 92663
Lighthouse Bayview Café is a brand new addition to Newport Beach in the recently completed Marina Park. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is right on the water. There are indoor tables, but the patio on the sand, and upstairs outdoor seating let you get the best views and the fresh air. The café is on the harbor side of the peninsula and overlooks the boats passing by Lido Island. The food is not only good (beignets for breakfast- yes please), but the prices are so reasonable, you won’t believe you’re in Newport. They also offer local craft beers and California wines. They’ve recently added a parking attendant and you can park for free in their lot after 6 PM.
Panoramic and Romantic: Orange Hill Restaurant
6410 East Chapman Avenue, Orange, CA 92869
It’s easy to see why many consider the best view in Orange County to be the view of Orange County at Orange Hill Restaurant. The open air patio is high above in the foothills of Orange. You might think it odd to travel inland to get a good view of the ocean, but on a clear day you can see all the way to Catalina Island while sitting around the fireplaces on the terrace. You’ll see why it’s been called the most romantic restaurant in Orange County.
Live Music and Tequila: MoQUILA Dana Point
34402 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, CA 92624
The rooftop patio of the DoubleTree Hotel in Dana Point is a good place for ocean and sunset views. It’s right across from Doheny Beach, it’s four stories up, and it’s decked out with comfortable patio sofas around a firepit. MoQUILA is an agave lounge with a light menu, live Jazz and Blues music, and a focus on the tequila drinks. This was called Vivo Rooftop Lounge until the recent remodeling of the hotel. But one thing they didn’t change was the excellent view of the ocean and beautiful beach. Check for Groupon deals as they are offered throughout the year. During the summer you can get there using the free Dana Point Trolley. You can also park by the hour at Doheny Beach and walk over.
On the Sand Fine Dining: Beachcomber at Crystal Cove
15 Crystal Cove, Newport Coast, CA 92657
The Beachcomber at Crystal Cove is fine dining right on the sand. It’s located among the restored enclave of historic cottages on the Newport Coast, just south of Corona del Mar. The front porch of this cottage restaurant gives you a front seat view of the waves. Often, we’ve watched dolphins playing in the surf while we dine. Of course, a favorite time to dine is for the sunset view. There is also an open area with a bar and a small beach snack grill with limited hours open during the summer. Breakfast is a delight here with warm, puffy beignets a must as starters and Bloody Marys and Mimosas to start the day. The food is excellent at lunch and dinner as well – with or without the cocktails and craft beers. They do take reservations, but you can always take a walk on the beach if you have to wait for a table. Parking is comped, but you need to either walk from the Los Trancos parking lot or take the shuttle for a couple bucks.
Our Top Five Laguna Beach Outdoor Dining Favorites
Laguna Beach is home to some of the most beautiful coast in the world. These dining spots can get packed, but it’s worth a try to get your spot for knockout views of the ocean. You’ll get into the true spirit of summer. But be sure to take advantage of the free trolley in Laguna Beach (and maybe the connecting trolley in Dana Point) to avoid the stress of traffic and parking that may take away from the beauty of your outing.
Most Instagram-worthy: Las Brisas
361 Cliff Dr, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Las Brisas is THE spot for patio dining with a view. Built in 1938, it’s usually packed, because it is deservedly world famous. The unsurpassed view from Heisler park is unforgettable. The patio has its own menu of upscale tacos and Mexican inspired sandwiches and salads. Among the tasty drinks is the delicious margarita inspired by local artist Wyland; the Wyland Whale Tail Margarita in a beautiful blue to match the blue sky above and the blue ocean below.
People Watching: The Rooftop Lounge in Laguna Beach
La Casa Del Camino Hotel, 1289 S. Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
The Rooftop Lounge in Laguna Beach is rightfully one of the most popular places to watch the sunset in Laguna Beach. On the roof of La Casa del Camino Hotel, this rooftop has unending views of the spectacular Pacific, the perfect spot to sip a mojito and contemplate life. The Rooftop shares its kitchen with the K’ya Bistro downstairs. They serve brunch on Sundays, and lunch Monday – Saturday, and meal-worthy appetizers until closing (Sunday – Thursday closing is 9pm, Saturday and Sunday 10pm). They are often packed at sunset, so get there early, they don’t take reservations. To entice you to come earlier, their Happy Hour runs from 3-5 PM during the week.
Hearty Food but Still Fancy: Skyloft Laguna Beach
422 S. Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Skyloft Laguna Beach is the newest perch to get a bird’s eye view of Main Beach. It’s located on top of the Historic Heisler Building right across from Main Beach. Not only is the view unbeatable, the food and drink are the top too. They serve California Coastal wines and beers from rotating local breweries including Golden Road, Pizza Port, and Mission. The specialty is smokehouse BBQ offerings, from California Brisket to a family style plate of ribs, chicken, brisket, and sides! A big bonus here is the great children’s menu with kids-sized and kid-friendly versions of their adult fare.
In the Village: The Cliff Restaurant
577 S. Coast Hwy. Laguna Beach, CA 92651
The Cliff Restaurant has a 180-degree view of Laguna’s Main Beach. Perched above the beach, this all outdoor oceanfront terrace restaurant is located in the Laguna Village artist shops on PCH. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, have happy hour specials, and most nights they have live music. It’s a casual place for a spectacular view.
Friendly Rivals: Driftwood Kitchen and The Deck On Laguna Beach
619 and 627 Sleepy Hollow Lane, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
The Deck On Laguna Beach lets you pretend you are eating on the beach patio of a friend’s house. You sit right over the sand under shady umbrellas and watch the waves just yards away. You can’t get any closer than this without getting your feet sandy. The mood is casual, with an emphasis on fresh seafood and cocktails for lunch and dinner. The Deck is next to the Pacific Edge Hotel next to Main Beach. Right next door is Driftwood Kitchen, with a similar casual-coastal vibe and plenty of fresh seafood and steak.