Dining Review by Gerrit Hale
“My feeling about dining out is, If I’m going to pay for a meal out, It should be better than I can prepare myself. That’s my guiding principle when dining out. When my good friend, and publisher, asked me to write a few words about some of the local eateries, I was somewhat hesitant but enthusiastic. I look forward to sharing my experiences and hope these reviews are helpful.”

Wind and SeaWind and Sea
34699 Street of the Golden Lantern, Dana Point
(949) 496-6500
Cuisine: American, Steak & Seafood
Happy Hour: Monday-Friday 4:00-7:00 pm

I was recently reminded at a high school reunion/get-together that almost everyone I went to high school with worked at Wind and Sea sometime during their youth. The restaurant has been a mainstay in the Dana Point Harbor for as long as I can remember. More recently, I have been a frequent guest since it is my mother’s favorite restaurant. With the opportunity to be her caregiver, dining at Wind and Sea is one of the many pleasures we enjoy. Whether outdoors, in the lounge, or in the dining room, the view overlooking the harbor is so surreal. There’s a family of sea lions that sleep across the water on the docks. When not sleeping, you’ll see them frolicking in the water right in front of your window. To just sit and relax as the boats and paddle boarders move through the channel is a pleasure all its own.

There are so many excellent items on the menu, often times I will just order from the appetizer menu. The sliders and artichoke make a meal of their own. The oysters are plump and fresh and the calamari is tender and tasty. My last visit, I had a cup of clam chowder and the BLT Wedge which provided leftovers. The broiled Halibut is always perfectly prepared and the side options provide plenty to choose from.

One of the nicest things about Wind and Sea is the staff. They are always friendly and never rushed or pushy to clear the table. If you’re looking for ambiance, good food and a relaxed environment, Wind and Sea should be first on the list.

The VineThe Vine
211 North El Camino Real, San Clemente
(949) 361-2079
Cuisine: Californian-Mediterranean
Open Seven Days a Week

Having spent many years on the East Coast, one of my favorite drinks for summer is a Pimm’s Cup. It seems hard to find here on the West Coast but stopping in at the Vine Restaurant I thought, “What the heck, let me see.” Not only was the staff incredibly nice and friendly when I walked in the door, but didn’t even blink when I ordered my Pimm’s. I was shocked and almost fell off my chair. Just the way I like it.

The Vine is one of the most quaint spots in San Clemente and not only is the food exquisite, the atmosphere really takes them over the top. The kindness of the staff carries over to the guests and turns everyone into friends. Nothing makes a better night out than sitting on the patio, relaxing and having casual conversation with the folks at the next table.

The menu selection is eclectic. From the crispy meyer lemon and honey duck wings or fried green tomatoes with fresh burrata on the appetizer menu to the grilled bone-in, rib-eye steak, Mexicali burger or the pan roasted loop de mer (Mediterranean sea bass from Greece) the choice is hard to make. If you’re a foodie like me, there is definitely something on the menu that will make your say “Wow, that was good!” Prices are a bit higher than average but the value is definitely there and the food and service are worth the price. Great spot for a date or late night meet up. The Vine is definitely A place to impress others, as well as your palate.

Avila’s El RanchitoAvila’s El Ranchito
204 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente
(949) 498-5000
Cuisine: Mexican
Open until 10:00 pm

Avila’s El Ranchito is one of our go to Mexican Restaurants. While they can get busy at times, the wait is usually reasonable and the staff is great at keeping things moving. Also, Taco Tuesday’s is always a good night to eat on the cheap. A couple of tacos any way you like and a beer or margarita is more than filling and stays well within budget. Or, you could take the kids out on a Wednesday and let them eat for free!

The menu has all the standard Mexican food items and I have yet to have a meal I didn’t like. My two personal favorites are the Baja Bowl and the Carnitas. Well, I could go down the menu and keep going but suffice to say, there’s something for everyone. Of special note is Mama Avila’s Soup. It is some of the best chicken soup you will find and an entire meal on it’s own!

Avila’s El Ranchito is reasonably priced and provides a family friendly and comfortable atmosphere. No reservations accepted.


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