25 Best Restaurants in San Clemente, CA

This article was written by local contributor Yasmin Wallace & edited by the Travel Lens team.

Best Restaurants in San Clemente, CA

Ah, San Clemente, California - the beautiful Spanish Village by the Sea.

One of my favorite things about living in this quaint coastal town is exploring the diverse and delicious dining scene.

With a myriad of options, from casual beachside cafes to upscale culinary experiences, there's something for everyone.

In this article, I'll be sharing my personal favorites and some hidden gems that you won't want to miss.

So, if you're a fellow foodie or just looking to experience the best this charming town has to offer, let's dive in and discover the best restaurants in San Clemente, California!

Drift Distillery & Smokehouse

I recently decided to check out Drift Distillery & Smokehouse with my partner, and I must say - it was an amazing experience.

We shared a combo plate with an extra side of cornbread, which turned out to be just the right amount of food for us for lunch.

I can't stop raving about their pulled pork - it was our favorite, hands down.

Another time, I went there with two of my friends to try out their craft cocktails.

Unlike any other place around, the unique cocktails were impressive.

One of my friends, who never eats leftovers, was blown away by the pork ribs to the extent that she not only took her leftovers home but also ordered an extra plate for her husband.

On another visit, I followed Rachel's recommendation and tried the salad with added brisket – it was like a match made in heaven!

Drift Distillery & Smokehouse also offers a great selection of in-house distilled spirits and a couple of beers on tap.

Drift Distillery & Smokehouse · 940 Calle Amanecer STE K, San Clemente, CA 92673, United States
★★★★★ · Distillery

Gibroni's Pizza

The search for the perfect pizza spot has finally come to an end.

I stumbled upon Gibroni's Pizza, and I couldn't be happier.

The Detroit-style pizza served in this unassuming tavern with a patio is just perfect.

And let me tell you, the pizza was absolutely amazing!

Definitely one of the top five pizzas I've had in my lifetime.

The crispy edges, softcore, zesty sauce, and double pepperoni left me wanting more.

I can't wait to go back and try the other options they have on their menu.

The gluten-free pizza options are a game-changer too.

I have friends with gluten sensitivities, and it's usually tough to find a pizza place that caters to their needs without sacrificing taste.

Gibroni's nailed it!

Their gluten-free crust doesn't taste like cardboard, unlike some other places I've been to.

Another thing I love about this spot is the cozy patio area where I can enjoy my pizza and a drink on a nice day.

Gibroni’s Pizza · 215 S El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · Pizza restaurant

MRK Public

There's no better way to unwind after a long day than to visit MRK Public for a relaxing evening.

The chill atmosphere, friendly service, and delicious food make it a go-to spot for me.

The creative burgers are always a hit, but I usually start with the soup, mussels, and their amazing brussels sprouts.

The sauce for the mussels is so good, it's like a second soup!

And the sprouts are always crunchy and perfectly cooked.

MRK Public also offers an impressive selection of local craft beers, and I always enjoy sampling a few before settling on a great dark beer.

The wine list is also excellent, so there's something for everyone.

The ocean view adds to the overall ambiance, and it's fantastic that they have a dog-friendly patio.

As someone who appreciates vegan options, I love their selection, including the fries and sweet potato cake.

I can never leave without sharing a delectable dessert, which is always the perfect end to a satisfying evening.

MRK Public · 1402 S El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · Gastropub

Nick's San Clemente

I often find myself craving a night out at Nick's San Clemente.

The modern twist on American comfort food always hits the spot, and the festive atmosphere with their delicious cocktails makes every visit memorable.

Recently, I decided to celebrate my birthday there with some friends, and it was nothing short of amazing.

I couldn't resist ordering my all-time favorite, the vegan burger with fries, while my friends went for the full rack of ribs, chicken pot pie, and the incredible kale salad.

As usual, the food was beyond good, and we were all way past full by the end of the meal.

And to top it all off, they surprised me with their famous butter cake for dessert.

Nick’s San Clemente · 213 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · American restaurant

Billy's Meats, Seafood & Deli

I recently stopped by Billy's Meats, Seafood & Deli for a quick lunch, and I wasn't disappointed.

The place is a hidden gem in my neighborhood, and I'm so glad I found it.

Their deli sandwiches are just what I was craving - fresh French rolls and a wide selection of meats and cheeses.

What really caught my attention was their hot pastrami on rye, which was absolutely superb.

I was also happy to see that they had mortadella, one of my favorite deli meats.

Although it's not the cheapest place to eat, I believe it's worth it for the quality of the food.

I tried their hot meatloaf sandwich on sourdough with cheddar, and it was simply delicious.

Billy’s Meats, Seafood & Deli · 111 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · Deli

Active Culture San Clemente

I must say that one of my favorite spots in town is Active Culture.

As someone who values a healthy lifestyle, I really appreciate their focus on nutritious, plant-based meals.

I often find myself grabbing a self-serve yogurt or an açaí bowl, which are both delicious and affordable.

One of my most memorable experiences at Active Culture was when I tried their Grassroots Burger for the first time.

I was absolutely blown away by how incredibly tasty it was!

The patty was cooked to perfection, and the combination of fresh ingredients created a unique and mouthwatering flavor profile.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that I would travel miles just to have that burger again.

Another dish that I really enjoy is their Wholesome Bowl.

It's different from other bowls I've had at other places, as it includes chopped lettuce and their signature AG sauce.

I also like their nachos and the fresh fruit bowl with granola.

Their Huevos Rancheros never fail to satisfy my hunger while still feeling like a clean and healthy meal.

In addition to their food, Active Culture offers an array of drinks, like the Whole Darn Farm, which is packed with all kinds of nutritious ingredients, and their smoothies are always a hit.

Although the prices might be slightly higher than I'd expected, I think it's worth it for the quality of the healthy dishes they serve.

Active Culture · 111 S El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · Health food restaurant

9style Ramen

I cannot rave enough about 9style Ramen!

It has become my go-to spot whenever I crave a warm, comforting bowl of ramen.

The pork is always cooked to perfection, tender, and melts in the mouth.

The broth is rich and flavorful, providing that punch that really elevates the dish.

The noodles at 9style Ramen are unlike any other I've had before – they truly take the dish to a whole new level.

And let's not forget the gyozas; they are incredibly tasty and the perfect appetizer to share with friends or family.

They are always friendly and attentive, making sure each visit is a pleasant experience.

It's also a great spot for families, as they are very accommodating to all ages.

In fact, 9style Ramen has become our new stopping point on road trips as well!

If you haven't tried the spicy tonkotsu with pork or the chicken soy sauce ramen, I highly recommend giving them a shot.

Both dishes are packed with flavor and are incredibly satisfying.

Trust me, once you visit this place, you'll be coming back for more.

9style ramen · 2017 S El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · Ramen restaurant

The Riders Club Cafe

I absolutely love spending my weekends by the beach, and one of my favorite places to grab a bite is The Riders Club Cafe.

This place offers elevated American fast food, such as carnitas sandwiches, along with a fine selection of craft beers and a wine list.

What I personally enjoy the most is the laid-back atmosphere at the cafe.

You simply order your food and choose any available seating area.

The service has always been friendly and quick for me, which is a huge plus.

But what keeps me coming back are their mouthwatering burgers!

They're so juicy, fresh, and not too greasy.

You can really tell that they put a lot of care and effort into preparing their food.

I also love their hot and crispy fries, which are perfectly complemented by the house-made ranch dressing.

And if you're looking for something different, you can try their yummy beets that everyone seems to rave about.

My son, on the other hand, enjoys their hot dogs and the option to choose his own meat and toppings.

The outdoor seating is a bonus, making the overall experience truly enjoyable.

The Riders Club Cafe · 1701 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · Hamburger restaurant

Surfin' Chicken Grill

I absolutely love Surfin' Chicken Grill in San Clemente!

Trust me, their grilled chicken is unbeatable.

Just the other day, I took some friends who were visiting from out of town, and they couldn't stop raving about their flavorful and juicy chicken.

You can literally watch them grilling the chicken right in the middle of the dining room on their website here.

One of my favorite dishes to order is the chicken quesadilla, made with top-quality ingredients and cooked to perfection.

If you're into seafood, you cannot go wrong with their shrimp bowl.

And if you're lucky enough to visit on a day when they serve posole, don't miss out on that either.

Surfin’ Chicken Grill · 71 Via Pico Plaza, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · Chicken restaurant

JD's Kitchen & Bar

I have been a frequent visitor to JD's Kitchen & Bar ever since I moved to San Clemente.

The place is amazing for any kind of celebration or just a casual night out with friends.

I've attended a couple of weddings there, and the rooftop setting was perfect for the intimate events.

The best part about JD's is that they have a rooftop you can rent for private events.

We recently threw a surprise birthday party for a friend there, and it was a huge hit.

We were allowed to bring in our own food, and they even offer the option to order pizza from Gibronis downstairs.

The main floor of the bar is also a great spot for a night out.

They often have live music and a DJ, which adds to the lively atmosphere.

JD’s Kitchen & Bar · 215 S El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · Bar

Captain Mauri's

One of my favorite spots for a delicious meal in town has to be Captain Mauri's.

It's a charming family-owned restaurant that never disappoints with its delectable menu options.

I've tried their Bombay melts, and they were simply mouth-watering!

Their açaí bowls are top-notch, too, making it a perfect treat on a hot day.

You can find their location here.

What makes Captain Mauri's stand out is their commitment to using good quality ingredients, which is evident in their sandwiches and smoothies.

On my last visit, my girl and I decided to split a Chicken Curry Sandwich on Squaw bread, which was just divine.

We're definitely looking forward to going back for breakfast someday.

Captain Mauri’s · 149 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · Vegetarian restaurant

Vine Restaurant & Bar

Recently, I had the pleasure of dining at Vine Restaurant & Bar, a rustic wine bar in San Clemente.

It was the perfect spot for a date night, and I was truly impressed by the exceptional food and outstanding service.

I couldn't resist starting with the ravioli – a seasonal dish I've heard great things about.

It did not disappoint!

For the main course, the Rib-eye was beyond exceptional, and the Oatmeal Crumble for dessert was divine.

My date had the watermelon salad and duck wings, which were also amazing.

The only critique would be the cheesecake – it was a bit too cold and crumbly for our taste.

Despite that minor hiccup, I couldn't help but be impressed by the care and attention that went into each dish.

I even tried their Mexicali Burger on a separate occasion – the flavors were fantastic.

Vine Restaurant & Bar · 211 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · American restaurant

Flights & Irons Urban Kitchen

I absolutely love spending an evening at Flights & Irons Urban Kitchen.

Not only is the atmosphere cozy and welcoming, but the food is also delicious.

Recently, I had the baloney sandwich with a house salad, and although the baloney flavor could've been stronger, it was still well-prepared and enjoyable.

My friends ordered the chicken burger and roasted chicken, which they both raved about, especially the roasted chicken with its "best chicken ever" title and amazing mashed potatoes.

The menu caters to a variety of dietary restrictions, which is great for my partner, who has specific requirements.

Some of our favorites include the cornbread, Loaded Mashed Potatoes, and the S'more dessert.

These dishes are incredibly filling and rival some of the best comfort food we've ever had.

Flights & Irons Urban Kitchen also has a unique and fun menu, which keeps us coming back for more.

On our last visit, we ordered a veggie burger with potato wedges and a ground chicken sandwich with a salad.

The portions were generous, and the food was served hot.

The restaurant can get noisy, but it's only because everyone there is having a great time, chatting and enjoying their meals.

Flights & Irons Urban Kitchen · 376 Camino De Estrella, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · American restaurant

Brussels Bistro

I have to tell you about this amazing gem in our neighborhood, Brussels Bistro.

I've been here several times, and each visit has been an absolute delight.

The moment you step in, you're transported to a cozy European bistro with incredible food and drinks.

One of the things I love most about this place is the fantastic selection of Belgian beers.

When I'm craving a smooth, authentic brew, this is where I go.

The food, on the other hand, is out of this world.

From their mouth-watering escargot to the crispy, tender Trout almondine and Salmon, I'm always left impressed.

As a fellow Belgian, I was thrilled to find a place where I could indulge in my favorite childhood treats like Bitterballen and an irresistible Chocolate Mousse.

The decor and atmosphere truly make you feel like you're in Belgium, and their waffles are not to be missed!

Brussels Bistro · 218 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · Belgian restaurant

Cafe Rae

One of my favorite spots to grab a delicious and quirky breakfast in town is Cafe Rae.

This little gem has a bright, colorful atmosphere filled with batik textiles that make you feel right at home.

I learned to visit earlier, around 9 am, to beat the crowd, as it tends to fill up quickly.

I absolutely love their brisket omelet, which comes with a generous portion of brisket, breakfast potatoes, and toast.

The best part is that you can choose from different breads for your toast, and I usually go with challah.

I've also tried their stuffed French toast special, which never disappoints.

Cafe Rae · 1421 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · Cafe

Antoine's Cafe

I often find myself craving a cozy breakfast spot on weekends, and Antoine's Cafe never disappoints.

With its casual atmosphere and variety of seating options - from bar and booth to patio - it's the perfect place to start my Saturday mornings.

You can check out their website here.

When I'm in the mood for a classic diner experience, I go for their eggs Benedict and a mocha.

The quality of the food is always top-notch, and the service is friendly and efficient.

One of my favorite things about Antoine's is the little touches that make it unique, like the surfboard signed by Kelly Slater that decorates the walls.

Another great thing about Antoine's is its prime location, right between San Diego and Los Angeles.

It's a convenient spot for meeting up with friends who live in either city, and the outdoor seating provides an excellent spot for people-watching and enjoying the Southern California sunshine.

Antoine’s Cafe · 218 S El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · Cafe

Pronto Cucina Italiana

I absolutely love dining at Pronto Cucina Italiana in San Clemente.

As someone who grew up in an Italian family, I can vouch for the authenticity of their homemade pasta dishes and pizzas.

One of my all-time favorite meals is their meat ravioli with butter and sage – it truly is perfection!

And you can't go wrong with their classic Pizza Margherita.

Not only is the food amazing, but the atmosphere is also lovely.

The sunny patio is the perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely lunch with friends or family.

The service at Pronto Cucina Italiana is always friendly and prompt, making every visit enjoyable.

Pronto Cucina Italiana (Pronto Italian Deli) · 221 B Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · Italian restaurant

J'Adore Café

The French-owned J'Adore Café has become my absolute favorite spot for breakfast and lunch.

Their menu is filled with delicious options, but my personal favorites are the Biarritz chicken sandwich and the strawberry chocolate Nutella crepe.

Trust me, they taste as good as they sound!

One of the highlights of this cafe is the charming backyard garden terrace area.

It's the perfect spot to relax and enjoy a meal, especially on a sunny day.

The little teapot gardens they have displayed are simply adorable, adding a whimsical touch to the place.

J’Adore Café · 165a Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · Restaurant

Super Bowl Express

Super Bowl Express is a must-try!

I've been eyeing it for about a decade and finally decided to give it a shot.

I must say, I am extremely impressed.

I ordered the Superbowl special platter and was blown away by the fantastic taste and large portions.

I'm already looking forward to coming back and trying more of their menu.

The customer service was incredibly friendly and welcoming too.

Recently, the place went under new ownership, and it's been a blessing.

Super Bowl Express is the perfect "hole in the wall" with cheerful family ownership and friendly service.

The menu remains the same, but the food quality and facility maintenance have improved significantly.

I cannot recommend their Korean BBQ Pork enough, along with the chicken salad and any sushi roll of your choice.

Super Bowl Express · 1622 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · Japanese restaurant

Hapa J's

Hapa J's is one of the best restaurants in San Clemente.

Whenever I'm craving some authentic Hawaiian cuisine, I always head over to Hapa J's to satisfy my hunger.

I particularly enjoy their plate lunches, mahi mahi, and tacos.

The portions are massive, so it's always a challenge to finish everything on my plate, but I still find myself coming back for more.

The menu offers a unique variety of items that are hard to find anywhere else, making every visit to Hapa J's a delightful experience.

Parking has never been an issue for me, and I appreciate their fast service.

Plus, their happy hour deals are a fantastic bonus.

Hapa J’s · 2016 S El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · Hawaiian restaurant

Sonny's Pizza & Pasta

One of my favorite spots in town has to be Sonny's Pizza & Pasta.

My significant other introduced me to this place a year ago, and since then, we've been making it a point to visit at least every other week.

The charm of this family-owned eatery never fades, and it truly feels like we're stepping into a slice of Italy every time we walk through the doors.

I must say, their wine list is top-notch, with a diverse selection that complements their dishes perfectly.

As for the menu, we can't help but try different plates each time we visit.

While their lasagna special is a crowd favorite, I've come to appreciate their unique pasta dishes, especially the ones with a bit of a kick.

Sonny’s Pizza & Pasta · 429 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · Italian restaurant

Sol Agave

Let me tell you about a gem I recently discovered in San Clemente - Sol Agave.

This place is truly incredible!

They have an amazing happy hour menu that is too good to pass up.

To start things off, they brought over complimentary tortillas and dips that were absolutely delicious.

I couldn't resist trying their loaded fries, which were stacked high and bursting with incredible flavors.

But the real star of the show was their margarita flight.

It was a unique and tasty experience that I simply couldn't get enough of.

And the best part?

It was all on their happy hour menu, making it an incredible value.

I loved dining on their large outdoor patio, which provided a relaxing and enjoyable atmosphere.

The food was not only visually stunning but also phenomenally tasty.

I tried their seafood enchiladas and butter cake with chocolate mousse and vanilla ice cream, which left me speechless.

sol agave - san clemente · 111 Avenida Del Mar suite 1B, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · Mexican restaurant

South of Nick's San Clemente

One of my go-to spots for a delicious Mexican meal is South of Nick's San Clemente, a compact and brightly-colored Mexican Kitchen + Bar in my town.

As someone with Mexican roots, I can vouch for the authenticity and quality of their food.

Their creative take on classic Mexican fare never disappoints, and I've been there multiple times now.

The service at South of Nick's is truly exceptional - it's definitely in my top 5 best service experiences.

Even if the food were subpar (which it's not), I'd still come back just for their outstanding hospitality.

I love indulging in their cocktails and mocktails, which are always expertly crafted and full of flavor.

The menu is full of fresh, upscale Mexican dishes that are perfect for a night out with friends or a special dinner with family.

I particularly enjoy their tortilla soup, which is loaded with chicken, fresh vegetables, and avocado.

When dining with a group, we often order the duo platter so we can sample a variety of enchiladas, tacos, and sides like beans and Mexican corn.

Nick’s San Clemente · 213 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · American restaurant

Iva Lee's Restaurant & Lounge

My friends and I decided to have a night out at Iva Lee's Restaurant & Lounge, a local spot known for its Creole & Cajun dishes, live music, and great atmosphere.

As soon as we arrived, we were drawn in by the lively bar area, filled with people enjoying exceptional live music.

The whole place had an energetic vibe that made us excited to spend our evening there.

We sat down for dinner and were pleased to find a diverse menu with traditional Creole & Cajun options like jambalaya, catfish, and beignets.

As the evening went on, we couldn't help but get up and dance to the fantastic live music featured at the restaurant.

It's a great spot for a fun night out, whether you're with a group of friends or on a romantic date.

Just don't forget to bring your dancing shoes!

Iva Lee’s Restaurant & Lounge · 555 N El Camino Real ste e, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · Southern restaurant (US)

The Shwack Cantina

One of my favorite spots to visit with friends and family in my hometown is The Shwack Cantina.

This vibrant and lively restaurant offers a fantastic atmosphere for a night out with loved ones.

My friends and I often come here to enjoy their delicious Surf & Turf dishes, which are always cooked to perfection and marinated in a mouthwatering blend of seasonings.

I was not disappointed!

The house salad was also a hit, and the pork was so flavorful.

The Shwack Cantina is known for its quick and friendly service, even when the restaurant is bustling with large parties.

My friend ordered the Gnarly Nachos, which turned out to be a fantastic way to fill up without breaking the bank.

Plus, parking was easy, and we were seated right away.

The Shwack Cantina · 1527 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States
★★★★★ · Mexican restaurant

Final Thoughts

San Clemente truly has an incredible dining scene that I'm lucky to experience daily.

From mouth-watering pizza at Gibroni's to the delightful acai bowls at Active Culture, there's always something to satisfy my taste buds.

Whether I'm indulging in a flavorful ramen bowl at 9style ramen or grabbing a comforting meal at Captain Mauri's, I know I can always find the perfect spot for any occasion.

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