The Taco Surf empire grew from the dream of a father and son who, in 1988, decided to found a restaurant that captured the distinctive flavors as well as the festive spirit of Baja California. Basing the menu on generations-old family recipes, the duo stick to tradition by making everything from crispy tortilla chips to tamales in-house. Charbroiled flank steak, slow-cooked pork, and grilled chicken appear throughout the menu; however, the ocean's influence is unmistakably prominent. The iconic Baja tacos arrive brimming with breaded white fish and drizzled with a signature spicy Baja sauce, which the restaurant generously sells by the bottle and by the thimble.
Seafood staples and baja barbecue standbys are awash with Pacific flavor on The Fish Bucket's sun-drenched menu. Take flight with a pound of island chicken wings, doused in a tangy szechuan-style sauce, bedazzled with sesame seeds, and served with ranch dressing and a black box to document the experience ($9). The california burger plants a cheddar-laden beef patty beneath a garden of avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and ranch dressing with a haystack of fresh-cut french fries ($9). Transpacific tastes are tempered with two baja-style tacos bursting with beer-battered cod, melty pepperjack, cabbage, and tartar sauce ($7). Sweetly cap off the meal by basking in the glow of the bonfire brownie, served warm with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, and toasted marshmallows ($5), an ideal compliment to a spooky ghost story or pathologically sentimental sing-along.
Stacks Pancake House’s extensive menu teems with specialty omelets, syrupy french toast, and hearty sandwiches. Diners can dig into a fluffy three-egg meat-lover’s omelet bursting with bacon, ham, and portuguese sausage ($8.50), or the loco moco, a hamburger patty served on top of rice and crowned with gravy and two eggs ($6.95). Or put an exotic twist on a morning tradition with an omu-rice omelet, stuffed with japanese fried rice ($7.50) and teamed with a tasty tower of pancakes with topping varieties such as macadamia nut, blueberry, and strawberry ($1.00–$2.00). A decadent plate of Nutella s’mores french toast ($6.95) charms sweet teeth with slices of hawaiian sweet bread stuffed with graham crackers and gooey marshmallows for easy adherence to a dining partner’s forehead, while belgian waffles fill their battery compartments with crunchy add-ons such as pecans ($5.50), oreo cookies ($6.95), or 5-franc coins.
Overlooking the Pacific coast from a cliff in Dana Point Harbor, Cannons Seafood Grill assembles a team of creative kitchen gurus who reinterpret traditional seafood and steak dishes. The menu sates seafood cravings more effectively than devouring a vintage copy of The Old Man and the Sea, turning fresh catches into comestibles such as scallops tossed with linguine, shiitake mushrooms, and asparagus in lobster sauce ($24.95). More hauls range from grilled Atlantic salmon ($23.95) to Alaskan-king-crab legs and Australian lobster tails (each market price). The slow-roasted, herb-crusted prime rib ($25.95) or sizzling mushrooms with garlic bread ($7.95) sate turf-centric taste buds. While diners savor Cannons' creations, the open outdoor terrace and glass-walled indoor dining space entice ocular orbs with views of sailboats, coastal lights, and the sun cannonballing into the ocean horizon.
Vivo Rooftop Lounge proves that the view from the top is spectacular. The open-air lounge overlooks a stretch of waterfront park along the Pacific Ocean from a fourth-floor perch. It’s the perfect spot to catch the sunset over cocktails, especially since Vivo specializes in classic manhattans and the treetini, a mix of Veev açai spirit, pomegranate liquor, lime juice, and Sprite. In an effort to promote environmental sustainability, the restaurant will plant one tree for every treetini served.
A selection of gastropub dishes—available after 5 p.m.—rounds out the menu. Diners can enjoy burgers, pizzas, and grilled seafood on plush, outdoor couches while roaring fire pits and patio heaters keep chilly ocean breezes and confused snowmen from Antarctica at bay.
Eno pours world-class wines and combines them with fine cheese and chocolate pairings. Focusing on regions throughout California, France, and Italy, Eno boasts a collection of nearly 500 varietals by the glass, bottle, or aged Italian leather boot. Flights come presented in Riedel crystal on handsome hickory boards and include trios of sauvignon blancs, pinots, and ports ($19–$40). Pair your wine flight with a cheese flight ($17). Samplings from a rotating selection of more than 50 fromages, varying from cacciattone to camembert, are served on marble slabs with charcuterie ($22), Spanish Marcona almonds ($6), and olives ($6). Sate your sweet tooth with chocolates hand-crafted by international chocolatiers, including Jin Patisserie ($15 for six pieces) and Dallmann's, as well as local artisans.