Just a quick update -- and thanks again for your suggestions.
As it turned out, I didn't eat near SNA after all. A friend of mine asked me to meet her in Dana Point for a late lunch, so we went to the Harbor House Cafe
, recommended by Metroplex Jim
. The place itself is a great old 1939 diner, in a red-painted frame building. Inside, you have a choice of tables, booths or the counter. We chose a booth. The diner has dozens of old movies posters and lobby cards on the walls and ceiling (we were sitting right under the poster for "Five Easy Pieces").
The service was outstanding -- attentive and prompt. I arrived before my friend, and was greeted right away, invited to sit wherever I chose, and my beverage order was taken immediately. I had Coke, which was refilled multiple times during our visit. It was a good fountain Coke, too. My friend tried to order a glass of white wine, but they were out of her choice, so she stuck with water.
Both my friend and I had the fried chicken dinner plate. We were too early for "dinner," which includes multiple sides, but we each chose a small side salad and onion rings (which looked great from a distance). The salad with fine, though nothing extraordinary. The chicken was freshly prepared and good, though not world-class. The onion rings were a big disappointment -- doughy, and just not very tasty. Nevertheless, I had enough to eat that I didn't have room for dessert -- and the pies did look good.
On the plus side, we weren't rushed at all -- far from it -- though I think the odd time we ate (2:30) may have had something to do with that. Perhaps we should have followed Metroplex Jim
's advice and had breakfast instead of lunch. That said, I would definitely go back, and I would have breakfast, or at least, pie. But it was worth it for the history, decor and the fine service.
On Saturday, my friends picked me up and we went to EdSails
' suggestion, Fisherman's Restaurant
in San Clemente. It was a nice day (after a rainy one), plus a Saturday, so it was busy. We couldn't get in to the main restaurant without a long wait, so we had to settle for the oyster bar across the way. We did get to eat outside. The oyster bar has a limited menu. My friends each had chowder, with one adding an ahi sandwich. I had the fish tacos. Everything was fresh and tasty, and the portions were certainly adequate for lunchtime. I normally eat oysters, but I had eaten something earlier that had disagreed with me a bit, so I skipped them, but I'd certainly opt for them next time.
For dinner that night we went to Chez Jay's
in Santa Monica, which says it specializes in sand dabs. http://www.chezjays.com/dinner.htm
It's a small, quirky, funky place, and I loved it. We arrived for our 6:30 reservation, and certainly needed it, as the place filled up very quickly, apparently mostly with regulars, who ran the gamut in terms of age (which I always think is a good thing) and were very nice and welcoming. It's dark and wood-paneled, with small Christmas lights festooning the ceiling, old celebrity photos, and some nautical touches (like a ship's wheel ).
Service was warm and attentive. We all had sand dabs, which were very good, served with (in my case) a good baked (not foil-wrapped) potato, and al dente green beans which I skipped. There was also a choice of soup (sausage vegetable that day) or salad. My companions had the soup and really enjoyed it, saying it was neither too sausage-y or vegetable-y -- nice balance. They chose other potato options, which I frankly forget, but I think they enjoyed them.
I had the salad with their special sherry dressing (the waiter insisted on bringing it on the side, "in case you don't like it"). It was a little unusual, but I enjoyed it very much. We also had a basket of hot garlic bread which they refilled as often as we wanted, and a small relish tray.
I really liked this place. I don't know what kind of reputation it has or whether it is considered a tourist trap, but it was most enjoyable. They may not have the BEST EVER sand dabs, but they were certainly good ones.
So, that's it. Thanks again to everyone for your great suggestions!
<message edited by rumaki on Mon, 02/11/13 2:19 PM>