The Best Restaurants in San Clemente
Here are our favorite places to dine in San Clemente.
The San Clemente restaurant scene is certainly improving at a very rapid pace. There are some excellent places to dine. Here we share with you our favorite San Clemente restaurants.
Nick’s San Clemente
Nick’s San Clemente is probably our favorite restaurant in town. The combination of amazing food, wonderful ambiance and fantastic service make this restaurant one which should be at the top of your wish list if you are visiting San Clemente. The word is definitely out that Nick's is the place to be in San Clemente if you want to enjoy some great food in a friendly, upscale restaurant. Reservations are recommended, particularly at the weekend.
Our favorite entree on the menu is the Pan Seared Scottish Salmon which is served with caper mustard beurre blanc, sautéed kale with garlic, slivered almonds & lemon, and whipped mashed potatoes. This is San Clemente so prices are usually high but we think that $22 is pretty reasonable for the quality and the location of the restaurant.
If steak is more your thing then we think you will love the Filet Mignon. At $34 this is topped with steak butter, served with a fully loaded baked potato.
If you want something a little lighter then you should try the Kale and Quinoa Salad. We know that sounds very Californian, but this salad with red seedless grapes, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, red peppers, parmesan cheese and champagne vinaigrette really is worth experiencing. You can also add chicken or salmon to make it more of a filling entree.
You do need to leave room for dessert. More specifically you need to try the Butter Cake. This is one of the specialties of this restaurant and you really should try it - pick someone to share it with if you feel too guilty about the calories. It is served with vanilla ice cream and really is just one of those desserts which feels worth the splurge.
They have a full bar and an extensive wine list. One of our favorite cocktails here is the Moscow Mule. This is an amazing combination of Russian standard vodka, fever-tree premium ginger beer and fresh lime. The cost is $12, or $25 if you can't resist keeping the mule mug!
Nick’s San Clemente
213 Avenida Del Mar
Phone number (949) 481-2200
If you book at table at Vine restaurant in San Clemente you will not be disappointed. This is another one of our favorite restaurants in this relaxed coastal town. You can't fail to be impressed by the very high standard of food, the service and the ambiance of Vine.
The restaurant is very much influenced by the restaurant's, cuisine and of course the wine of Napa Valley. It has a wine bar, open kitchen restaurant, and for those looking for the ultimate experience, a wine room which offers semi- private dining.
The whole focus at Vine is on using seasonal, fresh ingredients. They have their own garden and use their home grown herbs, vegetables and fruit in their restaurant. You most definitely can taste the difference.
The Lemon Verbena Poached Scottish Salmon is served with saffron pearl couscous, baby heirloom carrots, shaved fennel & pomegranate salad, and ruby grapefruit. It is an unusual combination of flavors but it works so well.
The American Kobe Wine Country Burger is not your usual burger! Price at just $15 it is a combination of spanish mahon cheese, red mustard leaf, cabernet bacon jam, roasted tomato, pickled onion, and chef's secret sauce, all served on a soft potato bun.
The Scharffenberger Chocolate Souffle Cake served with vanilla bean ice-cream is a favorite.
As you would expect from a restaurant with such a strong allegiance to Napa Valley, there is an excellent and very extensive wine list. Over 100 wines are offered, with many also being available by the glass. They also offer beer on tap and craft cocktails.
211 N El Camino Real
Phone number (949) 361-2079
The Cellar is the place where the San Clemente locals go for great food, wonderful atmosphere and a fabulous wine selection. They even have live music every night except Monday—what could be more perfect?
The Cellar is located in the heart of downtown San Clemente. The menu is simple but has many tempting choices. The Cheese Board Selection is one of the best and you can choose from different sizes for either $13, $20 or $26. There are lots of things on the menu to share. A favorite is Crispy Calamari and Olives for $15. Or maybe Hummus Board for $14 is more your thing?
There is a selection of entrees including Cedar Plank Salmon $28, Bison Short Ribs $29 or a Tasty Mac and Cheese for $11.
As you would expect from a restaurant called The Cellar, there is an extensive wine list with items available either by the bottle or the glass. You can also sample Wine Flights.
There is even a menu for our four legged friends. Your dog can enjoy a Rawhide Braid for $6 or Peanut Brindle for $4.
156 Avenida Del Mar
Phone number (949) 492-3663
You have to take some time to look at the exterior of the MRK Public restaurant. At first it may seem like a pretty non distinct building, but what makes it really cool is the "living wall" on the outside. The succulent plants make a really attractive wall covering! It is a really nice touch for this very popular new restaurant. They combine excellent food, a great atmosphere, and a good selection of local beers.
The interior of MRK Public is very inviting. Snag a table by the window or on the small outdoor patio and you will get a fabulous view of the Pacific Ocean in the distance. The decor on the inside is very sleek and modern. They combine light woods with dark leather seating to create a upscale, welcoming atmosphere.
MRK Public is a very informal place, but the standard of the food is very high. The presentation of the food is excellent, which adds to the upscale feeling of the restaurant.
The menu is small, but you will find something to enjoy. The menu uses fresh ingredients so it is subject to change according to what is available seasonally. A very popular choice is the Vietnamese Sticky Wings for $13. These are a delicious combination of wings coated in roasted chili caramel, fried garlic, and served with pickled vegetables. Even the Fries are delicious. They are thin cut and served with a House Sauce for $5. Perfect to share.
The Sandwiches are very creative and tasty. The Banh Mi can be served with either Chicken, Pork Belly or Tofu. The tasty filling is a combination of pickled carrot, daikon, chili, cucumber, with a ginger aioli. The House Burger is also a favorite. It has some unusual ingredients which make it taste so good. The roasted tomato and the lemon aioli really add to the flavor. You can add fries to any of the sandwiches for just $3.
There is a small selection of desserts available, but they are definitely worth sampling. The Brown Bread and Butter Pudding tastes delicious and is available for $8. We highly recommend the Lemon Ricotta Beignet for $8. You are sure to want to return another day to try these again and again!
1402 S El Camino Real
Phone number (949) 441-7621
Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday: 11 am to 9 pm
Friday and Saturday 11 am to 10 pm
South Of Nick's
South of Nick's is one of San Clemente's best known and successful restaurants. It is part of a small group of restaurants, and is owned and operated by the same company as Nick's San Clemente.
As you probably guessed by the name, South of Nick's is a Mexican restaurant. The interior of the restaurant is very appealing, with an upscale, but welcoming vibe. The decor is modern, there is a large bar with seating, as well as an open kitchen where you can watch the chefs at work.
This place is usually busy and the atmosphere is a little loud and lively. Reservations are suggested as this is one of the most popular restaurants in San Clemente.
You will find traditional Mexican favorites on the menu. You will be served complimentary chips and salsa as soon as you are seated. The Guacamole tastes very fresh, and is a great idea as an appetizer to share for $9.
There is a good choice of seafood entrees on the menu. The Chipotle Dusted Sea Bass is a very tasty combination of sauteed fish with a creamy poblano sauce and sauteed verdolagas. It is served with black beans and white rice for $31. If you would like to try something truly indulgent you should order the Mar Y Tierra for $50. This is a combination of rib eye steak, lobster tail and lemon butter. Truly delicious.
If seafood is not your first choice there are plenty of other options. Choices include Chicken Flautas for $16, Sweet Mole and Chicken for $18, and Pork Canitas for $20. The menu is a little light on vegetarian options but one excellent choice for non meat eaters is the Grilled Portobello Burrito for $14. The El Gingo Taco Salad is also a good option for $14. This has Spanish rice, greens, scallions, Jack cheese, black olives, guacamole, sour cream, and a cilantro dressing.
South of Nick's is also an excellent choice for brunch in San Clemente. It is served on the weekend from 11 am until 3 pm. The brunch selection is small, but you can of course still order from the main menu during that time. The traditional Breakfast Burrito is a very tasty choice for $11. It has bacon, pico de gallo, jack cheese, avocado, cilantro, scrambled eggs, and hash browns. For a traditional brunch you should order one of the excellent Bloody Mary's, or a Mimosa.
South of Nick's serves some excellent desserts including the delicious Butter Cake which you can also enjoy at their sister restaurant, Nick's. Other choices include Mexican Chocolate Tart, and Caramelized Banana Flan.
They also have an extensive choice of beers, wine and cocktails. This is a Mexican restaurant, and as you would expect, they have a good choice of different Margaritas. If you are watching the calories you can order a Skinny Margarita for $11 for a glass or $55 for a pitcher. If you want to try a variation on the usual Margarita theme you should order a Chipotle Pineapple, Spicy Watermelon, or a Prickly Pear. A very popular choice is the Toasted Coconut Frozen Margarita which is available for $11.
South of Nick's has a very large selection of Tequila available. If you are fan of this spirit you will definitely feel at home here. There is also a good selection of Mexican beers. The wine list is mostly comprised of Californian wines, but there are also a few choices from Spain and New Zealand.
South of Nick’s
110 North El Camino Real
Phone number (949) 481-4545
Lunch + Dinner Menu | Beer Wine + Cocktails
Ellies Table At North Beach
Ellies Table At North Beach is probably better described as a cafe, but it is so good we wanted to include it in our selection of best restaurants in San Clemente. Who cares about labels when the food is so good? All of the food is home cooked and made from the finest locally available ingredients. Prices are very reasonable at this friendly cafe.
Ellies Table opens at 6 am Monday to Saturday, and at 7 am on Sunday. This is a breakfast and lunch place as it closes at 2 pm.
The Savory Croissants are delicious and all are priced at $4.25. The caramelized mushroom and brie croissant is a great choice.
If you eat here you must try one of their amazing pastries and desserts. They have a huge selection of macaroon flavors including Dark Chocolate Kahlua Cream, White Chocolate Pistachio, Salted Caramel Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Mint. The Blueberry Cream Cheese Croissant is also very difficult to resist. They serve a good selection of coffee drinks. They also serve Mimosas if you want to be a little more indulgent.
Ellies Table At North Beach
120 W Avenida Pico
Phone number (949) 361-1042
If you want to sample some Hawaiian cuisine in San Clemente head on over to Hapa J’s. This is a very popular spot to enjoy some great food in friendly restaurant with excellent service. The menu is definitely influenced by Hawaiian traditional recipes but it also borrows a lot of ideas from other Pacific Rim cuisine. The result is some truly great tasting options with some choices that you may not have tried before.
The interior has a very modern feel. It has dark wooden floors, high wooden beans, cafe style light wood and stainless steel chairs. Portions are large here so be sure that you arrive with an appetite.
If you are looking for something different for an Appetizer you could try the Spicy Miso Tako Poke for $10.75, This dish is octopus with chili paste and white miso. The Hapa Nachos are huge and big enough to share. The nacho chips are made in house, and you can add pork, chicken or beef if you would prefer.
The Classic Hawaiian Teriyaki Burger is a popular choice. Priced at $11.75 it includes a sweet teriyaki sauce, pineapple and onions served on a sweet bun. Uncle Miguel’s Albacore Melt with Avocado is also a great choice. It is a delicious tuna and mayo sourdough baguette for $11.75.
A lot of the menu is meat based, but vegetarians can order the Shaken Tofu for $9.75 a plate or $5.99 for a bowl.
If you have room for dessert you should try the Madam Pele’s Chocolate Lava Cake for $9.75. It is served with berries and a lilikoi mascapone topping.
There is an interesting cocktail menu with innovative names such as Rossy Boy Mai Tai, Haole J’s Refreshing Beverage, and Li Hing Mui Margi. They have a good selection of beers on tap, as well as some bottled beers. These include some Hawaiian beers.
2016 S El Camino Real
Phone number (949) 276-6657
If you have a craving for Colombian food you will enjoy La Colombiana restaurant in San Clemente. It is a relative newcomer to the San Clemente restaurant scene but it has made a lasting impression since opening in 2014. It is owned by Colombian born Eddy who always dreamed of opening a restaurant which served her beloved Colombian cuisine. Eddy is very much a "hands on" presence in the restaurant, and she will often greet you in person when you arrive.
The restaurant is small, but nicely furnished with wooden floors, dark wood furniture, and white table cloths. This is not fine dining, but the food and the service are excellent.
The menu is small and is subject to change. All of the recipes are Edd's personal favorites. Menu items include Tostadas, Empanadas and Colombian Quesadillas.
They have a decent selection of wines starting a $7 for a glass. They also serve Latin American beers including Aguila from Colombia, Famosa Gallo from Guatemala, and Suprema from El Salvador. All are priced at a very reasonable $5 for a bottle. They also have a good selection of American craft beers. The cocktail menu is small, but includes popular favorites such as Bloody Mary, Mimosa and Skinny Margarita.
1640 N El Camino Real
Phone number (949) 441-7656
Village Mediterranean Rim
The Village Mediterranean Rim is a very popular restaurant on Avenida Del Mar in San Clemente. It is a great spot for a romantic meal or a night out with friends. The cuisine has a distinct Mediterranean flavor and draws influences from Morocco, Italy, Spain and France. There is even some Southern Californian influence thrown in there too! Whatever the inspiration, the food tastes really good, and the ambiance is very welcoming. They use organic fresh ingredients wherever possible.
The Mezza is a traditional Mediterranean dish which is perfect for sharing. It is available for $14 and includes falafel, hummus, salad and pitta bread.
A specialty is the Moroccan Tagine selection. These are available for either one person or a second portion can be added for $11. Choices include the traditional Lamb Tagine, as well as Seafood, Chicken, Seafood, or a vegetarian option.
A popular entree choice is the Moroccan Chicken Curry for $18, or the Grass-Fed Angus Flat Iron Steak for $24.
Vegetarians have a choice of Wild Mushrooms, Asparagus Fettuccine for $16.There is also the Vegetable Tagine. There is also the Greek style Vegetable Moussaka for $21. There is a selection of salads including Poached Pear or Hazelnut Crusted Goat Cheese Salad.
The desserts are heavily influenced by Italian cuisine. The Organic Lemon Mascarpone Zabaglione is very tempting.
They have a wine list which has a choice of mostly domestic wines from California. Wine is available by the glass with prices starting at $9 and bottles starting at $30
Village Mediterranean Rim
123 Avenida Del Mar
Phone number (949) 361-8970
If you are searching for a lively restaurant with great tasting Creole style Southern food you need look no further than Iva Lee’s. The restaurant is named after the owner's grandmother Iva Lee. The recipes which you will experience here have been handed down the generations for hundreds of years. This restaurant offers a very special taste of New Orleans in San Clemente. This is also a great place to hear live music every day. Bands play every day except Monday and Tuesday.
The menu has a good selection of Southern food favorites. The Fried Green Tomatoes are delicious, and so are the Hush Puppies which are served with red pepper jam for $7. A great appetizer to share is the Cheese and Charcuterie. The Artisan Cheese Plate is $10, and the Meat Plate is $12. You can order a combination of the two for $20.
No Southern menu would be complete without Southern Fried Chicken and Shrimp 'N' Grits. Either of these tasty dishes is well worth sampling at Iva Lee's.
Vegetarians have one choice of entree with a Spinach Ravioli for $19. There is also a selection of salads starting at $8.
The Chicory Coffee Creme Brulee is a nice twist on a classic dessert, and the N'Awlins Bread Pudding has a very definite Southern cooking influence.
There is a good selection of cocktails. One of our favorites is the very refreshing Mint Julep for $10. If you want something a little more adventurous you could try the Snake Bite Martini with Southern Comfort, Rose Lime and Tabasco. It has a serious kick for $13.
555 N El Camino Real
Phone number (949) 361-2855
If you have never tasted Peruvian cuisine you really should give it a try. Inka Mama’s in San Clemente is an excellent place to enjoy something just that little bit different for a change. Peruvian food is a fusion of many different cuisines. It is kind of Asian with some Spanish and Italian influences. If you like cilantro you will definitely enjoy Peruvian food. Inka Mama's offers a variety of different protein choices, but seafood is definitely a staple of Peruvian cuisine.
This is the fourth location for the family owned Inka Mama's. It has only been open a short time but it has already had a very positive impact on the San Clemente restaurant scene. The interior design is very modern and welcoming. The service is excellent and very attentive. You should really not be put off by the strip mall location. This place is a hidden gem in San Clemente.
You have probably never heard of Causas but you really should try this Peruvian dish as an appetizer. They are whipped potato cakes which are layered with shrimp or chicken salad and infused with lime. If you want something rather more familiar sounding you should order the Ceviche. This version is flavored with cilantro, and served with potatoes, sweet potatoes and cancha.
One of the House Specialties is the Arrez con Mariscos. This traditional Peruvian dish is calamari, shrimp and mussels which are sauteed with garlic. They are served with cilantro rice, and lime marinated red onions.
A very Italian influenced dish is the Scampi which can be ordered with either shrimp or chicken. This is cooked in a spicy cream sauce and served with pasta, and flavored with cilantro. It is an unusual combination of flavors but you really do have to try it.
They also have a Bar Menu which includes such choices as the delicious Lobster Ceviche, Yucca Parmesan, and Chicharron de Chancho.
There is an interesting selection of desserts which includes Sweet Francesca. This is a crepe which is filled with fried plantains and caramel. It sounds like an unusual combination but it works. It is served with lucama ice cream and chocolate sauce. The Alfajores are very tasty traditional shortbread caramel cookies, and definitely worth trying!
821 Via Suerte
Phone number (949) 369-6262
Sunday to Monday 11:30 am to 9:00 pm
Friday and Saturday 11:30 am to 10:00 pm
We hope that you enjoy your dining experience in San Clemente. It really does offer a very diverse and high quality range of dining choices. There is something for everyone in San Clemente!
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