Coastal dining destinations San Clemente to Huntington Beach

Following up on last years walk in San Diego county, I’m doing a New Years coastal walk from San Clemente to Huntington beach, stopping in Dana Point, New Port Beach, and anywhere along that path. Do you have any recommendations that’ll be good for walking in without a reservation, and are not too much of a detour from the water?

We’ll be camping and looking pretty grubby during the day, so high-end dining is off the table. I’m especially looking for foods Southern California does better than the Bay Area, including Mexican food and fish tacos, but am game for whatever is good and not touristy. I’m not interested in fish & chips or poke and would only be interested in a brewery if the food is notable. We haven’t drafted an itinerary yet, so interesting breakfast places are of interest too.

Any thoughts?

In Capistrano Beach: Kawamata Seafood for a really good poke bowl.


In San Clemente, South of Nicks and Ellie’s Table are good bets for solid casual fare with a nice beachside vibe.

Also worth a stop perhaps is Bread Gallery, where you can carbo load (or reload) with some chocolate bread, banana nut bread and some cinnamon rolls.


Bluegold/LXSO in Huntington Beach.


Thanks for the suggestions! Rain prevented us from getting down to San Clemente or Capistrano Beach this trip, so those tips may need to wait until later in the year.

@Aesthete, I can’t thank you enough for your suggestion of LSXO! I managed to snag a reservation two hours ahead of time, and didn’t realize until the drive over that the “LS” in LSXO stood for “Little Sister.” I was impressed by Little Sister Manhattan Beach on a previous solo trip, and was overjoyed to get to try more dishes with a larger group. Every dish was unanimously a hit.

LSXO (“Little Sister Extraordinary”) is the third location of Tin Vuong’s Vietnamese inspired restaurant, and, compared to the other locations, is described by Vuong as “straight-up, honest, home-style Vietnamese cuisine.” It’s not visible from the rest of the mall-- it’s sectioned off within new American Bluegold’s larger space. The space is comfortable and intimate enough that our group were able to share our meal, seated in a row of four at the bar, with no problem hearing each other or passing shared plates.

One of our party was a pescatarian and our sample of dishes had many that were light and herbaceous, yet still satisfying. With no drinks, our bill including tip was a surprisingly low $30/person but I would expect most customers spend much more, especially those who are interested in cocktails.

I’d easily order any of these again:

  • Fried okra, mint, tomato, lime, fenugreek (2 orders): even though okra’s not in season, this was as good as I’ve had in years and had no hint of sliminess.
  • Rau muong xao vietnamese spinach stir fried with garlic: oh, this was water spinach! perfectly cooked, bright green, crunchy and savory.
  • Octopus salad: smokey pieces of octopus in herbs and greens.
  • Lamb satay, egg noodle, mustard greens, fried garlic: big portion, very tasty. long noodles were difficult to separate, without cutting.
  • Xio sticky rice, lap cheung, pork floss, crispy shallots, slow egg, roasted chili vinegar : lots of textures and flavors to pair with one another
  • Master stock jasmine rice : this wasn’t as bold as I remembered from the other location of Little Sister. I’m not sure if the kitchen was at fault— I had this later in the meal, so the mismatch could easily have been a result of palate fatigue. YMMV.
  • Lotus root salad, dried shrimp, green chili
  • Ca kho to braised catfish in clay pot: tangy, not too sweet, went really well with the master stock jasmine rice
  • Pumpkin tres leches with salted caramel ice cream and pepita popcorn: an odd pairing to the meal, but still delicious, more of a spice cake than a Latin American tres leches cake

There is nothing home style vietnamese about this!

Did you miss the Bon Apetite article on how to properly eat Tres Leches? :wink: It looks like LSXO uses the same dessert menu as Bluegold, the restaurant in which it’s embedded.

Regarding the home style comment in general, I wish I took a photo of the menu to compare to their other locations. I’m not knowledgeable about Vietnamese food, but there were plenty of savory items in the mix that seemed more chefy than home style.

What they mean by homes rule is that there are chefy versions of dishes diners are less used to seeing on restaurant menus and more used to as thinking of things eaten at home. Not that he food is made literally the same as in a home.

That same ethos sort of extends over to Bluegold. Reminds me that I need to complete my reports on both.

I wish they would bring the Singapore style noodles back but those lamb satay noodles are really good, go great with the tangy fried chicken. The fried chicken is semi spicy and addictive but I do wish they could fry chicken like Howlin Rays; sort of dry even though it’s tasty. The lamb satay is basically perfect though. Their sambal really apps up the funk and sweetness of the lamb and chewy noodles. Or a bit of hot mustard. Best of all is using the vinegar-soaked Serrano and garlic mixture you can order on them though, gives them a whole new dimension of flavor.

Lamb Satay Noodles

Lemongrass Fried Chicken

Also, I think LXSO is the only Little Sister with cocktails, am I wrong?

Pretty good; I always felt LS food would be nice with good cocktails.

Coconut Cream Punch

Egg White and Pear

The accompaniments are also a wonderful part of LS dining. The sauces are really nice and the market provisions often oddly good in their own right such as the beautifully fried okra. The thousand year old egg is really creamy and nice and goes superbly with the lamb noodles if you swing a certain way, but also really tasty on its own. The rice was sent out for free to me and not really necessary but it’s pleasant enough rice.

Green Sambal, Vinegar/Serrabo/Garlic, and Hot Mustard


Thousand Year Old Egg

Fried Okra with Mint