When it comes to picking the best restaurants in San Clemente, the task is very difficult. Being a popular Southern California beach town, San Clemente has many restaurants that cater to so many different tastes and budgets. However, let’s try exploring some of the best restaurants in San Clemente.
San Clemente is a gorgeous California beach town. Small, but quaint, San Clemente is a popular surfing spot as well as a regular weekend attractions for locals from Orange and San Diego counties. We love hitting the best things to do in San Clemente as well as trying local restaurants, every time we visit. So, come along with me as we explore some of the best restaurants in San Clemente. However, as food tastes vary widely, these restaurants are grouped by food style.
1. Pedro’s Tacos (Mexican)
The newer location of Pedro’s Tacos on El Camino Real
See my photos from San Clemente
Pedro’s Tacos opened Orange County’s first fish taco stand in south San Clemente in 1986. The delicious and filling tacos and burritos attracted hungry surfers, who thought Pedro’s served some of the best Mexican food in San Clemente, and ensured its success. This allowed Pedro’s to expand to a second location in downtown San Clemente.
Pedro’s menu is simple and very reasonably priced. In addition to soft tacos and burritos, they make quesadillas and breakfast burritos. The fish and carne asada tacos are popular, as are the fish and shrimp burritos. Unusual taco offerings on the menu are fried chicken and potatoes. The carne asada meat is marinated instead of salt-soaked. A signature burrito, The Trestles, is made with shrimp. All menu items are freshly made to order, making Pedro’s Tacos one of the best restaurants in San Clemente.
Pedro’s downtown location, best described as a hole-in-the-wall, has both walk-up and drive-thru windows. Outdoor seating is available in the parking lot. Pedro’s only accepts credit and debit cards. Delivery is not available.
550 N El Camino Real | Pedro’s Tacos
2. Ranch Market (Mexican)
Pastries and Mexican Pan Dulce at SC Ranch Market
See my photos from San Clemente
The SC Ranch Market is a small grocery store that specializes in ingredients used in Mexican, Central American, and South American cuisine. While the market’s meats, fresh produce, and panaderia/bakery take center stage, it is the kitchen in the back of the market that draws customers in to pick up some of the best Mexican food in San Clemente.
The SC Ranch Market’s kitchen menu features freshly made, delicious, and affordable burritos, enchiladas, tacos, tostadas, quesadillas, chimichangas, platillos, and menudo. Filling choices run the gamut from beef and chicken to the highly recommended al pastor to the authentic tripe and beef tongue. There is a veggie burrito on the menu. A customer favorite is the carnitas platillo, or meat plate.
A breakfast menu features breakfast burritos, chilaquiles, and huevos rancheros. On Fridays, the SC Ranch Market’s kitchen makes four different types of El Salvadorian pupusas. Tuesdays are Taco Tuesdays, where customers can purchase two tacos at a savings of 40 percent off the regular menu price.
SC Ranch Market’s panaderia/bakery offers a wide variety of mouthwatering, homemade pastries for breakfast and dessert along with beautifully decorated custom cakes, and fresh baked bread. Customers rave over the pan dulce, the tres leches cake, and the cookies. Along with regular and iced coffee, the market offers European-style coffee drinks and an ice cream and sorbet counter.
3. Sol Agave (Mexican)
Sol Agave began as a food truck in San Juan Capistrano. The founders wanted to change the perception of food truck cuisine by serving modern, complex, and healthier Mexican dishes. The food truck was a success and Sol Agave now operates five restaurants, including one in San Clemente. With a creative menu, an elegant presentation, and a friendly and attentive staff, Sol Agave has some of the best Mexican food in San Clemente.
There are a dozen starters, with the shrimp taquitos and taquiza (four different street tacos) popular favorites. The main courses are a mix of traditional Mexican entrees and American classics with a Mexican spin. Diners cite Sol Agave’s pork entrees, especially the carnitas and the chile verde as their favorites. The Taste of Sol Agave is ideal for first time diners and includes garlic shrimp, skirt steak with portobello mushrooms, chicken fajitas, and carnitas. A popular dessert choice is the butter cake with vanilla ice cream and Abuelita mousse. A kids’ menu is available. While menu prices are justifiably expensive, the quality and selection of food make Sol Agave one of the best restaurants in San Clemente.
On Mondays, Sol Agave serves six barbecue entrees that aren’t on the regular menu. On Tuesdays, the restaurant offers a taco special, where diners can select four different tacos plus a beer or a margarita for one price.
Sol Agave has a full bar with silver, reposado, anejo, and sipping tequilas. Margaritas rule the beverage menu, with 11 margaritas available. Diners can order a flight featuring four different margaritas. The wine list features 20 different wines sold by the glass or bottle,
Indoor table and bar and outdoor patio seating are available. Dogs are welcome on the outdoor patio. Takeout and delivery via Doordash or Grubhub are available. Sol Agave does not take reservations, but diners can put their name on a same day waitlist via Yelp.
111 Avenida Del Mar suite 1B | Sol Agave
4. Miyako Sushi (Japanese)
Crunchy Rolls from Miyako Sushi
See my photos from San Clemente
Sharing a strip mall just off of Interstate 5 with other restaurants, Miyako Sushi is a throwback to the pre-Internet days. The restaurant has no website, nor does it offer delivery. Instead, Miyako Sushi offers some of the freshest and tastiest rolls around in a warm and cozy atmosphere, attracting diners to one of the best restaurants in San Clemente.
Miyako’s cleverly named rolls are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Some of the favorite rolls are Enter The Dragon, with eel, shrimp tempura, and avocado; the Hola Amigo roll with tuna, capelin fish roe, and deep fried jalapenos; the Leaving Las Vegas roll, a deep fried roll with four different varieties of fish, avocado, and crab meat; and the Crunchy Lobster Roll, made with tempura lobster. Other rolls enjoyed by diners are the Ashley roll, with salmon, yellowtail, and avocado; and the Paparazzi roll, featuring deep fried shrimp and cream cheese topped with avocado and tempura crumbs.
Miyako doesn’t neglect the other menu items. The friendly and personable sushi chef uses the freshest fish to prepare sushi and sashimi. The tempura, teriyaki, udon, and salads are also very tasty. Daily specials are posted on a chalkboard above the sushi bar. Beer, wine, and sake are available. The entire menu is affordably priced.
Indoor, outdoor, and sushi bar seating are available. There is often a wait to be seated. Takeout is available. It is recommended to phone ahead well in advance for takeout orders, which may take up to 90 minutes to fulfill. Photos of Miyako’s menu can be found at Z Menu.com or on Yelp. Delivery is not available.
641 Camino De Los Mares # D120
5. Vine (Local)
Located in downtown San Clemente, Vine offers a seasonal menu with a variety of appetizers, salads, entrees, and desserts. The consistently delicious food, combined with knowledgeable and personable servers and mixologists, and a lively, fun atmosphere, make Vine one of the best restaurants in San Clemente and a great place for date nights and special occasions.
The dishes on Vine’s menu are prepared with locally sourced ingredients, including grass-fed meat, and are presented with attention to detail. Popular starters include crispy Meyer lemon and honey duck wings, homemade sugar pumpkin ravioli, and an artisan charcuterie board. The Kobe Wine Country and Mexicali burgers, 45 day aged bone-in ribeye steak, and Jidori chicken schnitzel with maitake mushrooms are among the favorite entrees. A dark Belgian chocolate cheesecake and a bourbon vanilla bean creme brûlée lead the dessert selections.
Vine’s wine list emphasizes red wines from California, Oregon, Europe, and Chile along with a smaller selection of mostly European roses and white and sparkling wines. The full bar serves a number of craft cocktails, a daily chef’s cocktail, and a seasonal craft mocktail.
Indoor, outdoor, and bar seating are available. Two chef’s table seats provide a full view of the kitchen. Menu prices are expensive, but well worth it. Takeout and delivery via Doordash are available. Reservations can be made through Open Table.
211 N El Camino Real | Vine
6. The Cellar (Wine Tasting)
Perfectly situated on the Avenida Del Mar, The Cellar combines a restaurant specializing in New American cuisine, a wine bar, a cheese shop, and live music with a charming, dark, rustic vibe. Utilizing locally sourced ingredients, the thoughtful menu pairs well with the wine selection, which, combined with the welcoming atmosphere, makes The Cellar one of the best restaurants in San Clemente.
Open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, The Cellar’s menu features a curated and nicely presented assortment of appetizers, salads, flatbreads, sandwiches, pastas, and entrees. Some diners enjoy wine with a plate of 3-7 different cheeses from the cheese shop. The pork chop with pumpkin butternut squash, smoked apple chutney, and maple brussels sprouts is popular. The shepherd’s pie appetizer is well liked, as is The Cellar burger, which can be made vegan-friendly with an Impossible Burger patty. Daily specials are available.
The Cellar’s wine list offers a curated assortment of California, European, Chilean, Australian, South African, and New Zealand wines by the bottle, the glass, and in three-wine flights. The list has a helpful description of each wine’s flavor profile. The beverage menu also features craft microbrews and cocktails.
The Cellar’s small cheese shop, located in the front of the restaurant, sells thoughtfully selected cheeses, charcuterie meats, and gourmet foods and chocolates.
Indoor and outdoor deck seating are available. Menu prices are on the expensive side. Live music takes place five nights a week. Takeout and delivery via Doordash are available. Cheese shop items may also be ordered for Doordash delivery. The Cellar does not take reservations.
156 Avenida Del Mar | The Cellar
7. Surfin’ Chicken (Grill)
Surfin’ Chicken Grill sits in Pico Plaza, located east of Interstate 5. The storefront restaurant specializes in some of the best grilled chicken, ribs, and seafood. The delectable homemade food, generous portions, and reasonable prices, puts Surfin Chicken Grill on the list of best restaurants in San Clemente.
The delicious aroma of grilled meat and seafood greets diners as they enter Surfin Chicken Grill. The menu features whole and half grilled chickens perfect for a family meal. The same delicious chicken is used in the chicken burritos, tacos, enchiladas, bowls, and quesadillas. Grilled red snapper, mahi, and shrimp are just as tasty as the chicken and are served as part of an entree or in tacos and burritos. Surfin’ Chicken’s lunch bowls and salads include grilled chicken, seafood, or carne asada.
Indoor and outdoor dining are available. The restaurant’s interior maintains a surfing vibe with surf photos and surfboards on the wall. Diners can see the grill from the dining room. Takeout and delivery via Doordash or Grubhub are available.
71 Via Pico Plaza | Surfin Chicken
8. Active Culture (Natural)
Active Culture Natural Foods Café was founded on the principle that healthy food can taste great and nourish the body. Everything in the restaurant is made from scratch, including sauces, lentil burgers, and almond milk. Diners looking for affordable, healthy vegetarian and vegan food will find Active Culture one of the best restaurants in San Clemente.
Active Culture’s menu focuses on breakfast and lunch. The breakfast menu offers egg dishes, granola and acai bowls, and bagel sandwiches. The lunch menu features bowls made with quinoa, garbanzo bean, and brown rice; salads; soups; burgers; burritos; nachos; and tacos. Popular menu items include the vegetarian friendly Wholesome Bowl and the Grassroots Burger, made with a lentil burger and falafel sauce. A kids’ menu is available. Menu items are labeled to assist diners with food allergies or special diets. Serving portions are generous.
Active Culture’s menu also includes smoothies, shakes made with a frozen coconut base, and fresh squeezed and blended juices. Self-serve frozen yogurt dispensers line a wall near the order counter. Frozen yogurt is half-price on Friday afternoons. Beer, wine, and hard kombucha are available.
9. Bagel Shack (Breakfast)
The Bagel Shack offers one of the largest selections of freshly baked bagels with 21 different varieties. The very popular and beloved bakery turns the bagels into appetite filling breakfast sandwiches that make the Bagel Shack a place to get the best breakfast in San Clemente.
The Bagel Shack bakes bagels in traditional flavors like plain and everything, and unusual flavors like cinnamon crunch, sun dried tomato, and banana nut. The bagels are sold plain or topped with a choice of spreads.
The Bagel Shack’s breakfast sandwiches pay tribute to San Clemente’s surf spots and beaches. The Lowers egg and cheddar cheese bagel sandwich is named for the Lower Trestles surf spot. The Doheny tomato, feta cheese, and Kalamata olive bagel sandwich is named for Doheny State Beach. The Old Man’s, named for the surfing beach at San Onofre State Beach, is the bagel equivalent of avocado toast with lemon pepper.
The lunch menu at The Bagel Shack features hot and cold sandwiches and salads. Sandwiches are made using freshly made bagels. Sandwich varieties range from traditional deli meat sandwiches to cashew chicken, cranberry turkey, reuben, Philly cheesesteak, and nacho chicken. Hot and cold coffee drinks and smoothies are also available. For breakfast and lunch, Bagel Shack is one of the best restaurants in San Clemente.
There is indoor and outdoor seating. The restaurant is usually crowded, with table saving a must. Menu prices are on a par with other breakfast and sandwich shops. Takeout and delivery via Doordash and Grubhub are available.
777 S El Camino Real | The Bagel Shack
10. Zebra (Coffee)
The family-owned Zebra House Coffee takes their coffee seriously. They roast their own coffee beans in a certified organic small-batch roastery, utilize their own custom-built water system and specialty coffee equipment, and use high-quality ingredients. The great coffee, the menu, the friendly employees, and a laid back vibe add up to Zebra House Coffee having the best breakfast in San Clemente.
Zebra House offers a variety of hot and cold coffee drinks, including unique drinks like lavender cloud tea lattes, honey rose cardamon mochas, white chocolate mochas, peanut butter cold brew, and Irish cream cold brew. Many customers enjoy Zebra House’s signature dark roast coffee, both hot and iced. While the coffee prices are a little more expensive, the artisan quality and care given to the coffee beans are worth the extra money. This custom coffee craft coupled with fresh menu items make Zebra House one of the best restaurants in San Clemente.
The breakfast menu at Zebra House includes bagels, breakfast sandwiches, breakfast tacos and burritos, overnight oats, and a power bowl with scrambled eggs, quinoa, and a protein. A popular breakfast selection is the breakfast burrito, which can be made vegan style. Muffins are baked fresh daily.
Zebra House’s lunch menu features sandwiches, flatbreads, and salads. The personal size flatbreads are especially inviting and come in Buffalo chicken ranch, pepperoni, margherita, and fig heaven, with fig jam and blue cheese. Vegan and gluten-free menu options are available.
Indoor and outdoor dining are available. One wall inside the coffee shop showcases the work of local artists, with a different artist spotlighted each month. Takeout, a drive-thru window, and delivery via Doordash are available.
1001 S El Camino Real | Zebra House Coffee
11. Romano’s (Italian)
Romano’s Pasta and Pizzeria, family owned, is a classic neighborhood Italian restaurant located east of Interstate 5. Romano’s uses freshly made pastas and sauces for their entrees and makes sensational pizzas, while keeping prices affordable, earning its place as one of the best restaurants in San Clemente.
Open for lunch and dinner, Romano’s pasta entrees provide the right balance of pasta, sauce, and protein and come in large portions. Popular pastas include the seafood shells, cheese ravioli, lobster ravioli, spaghetti and antibiotic-free meatballs, and Romano’s Pasta, made with penne, grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts in marinara sauce. Diners rave over the rolls that come with their entrees. Specials may feature short rib ravioli or gnocchi with vodka sauce.
Along with create-your-own pizzas, Romano’s has a few specialty pizzas, including roasted garlic chicken, barbecue chicken, and pesto chicken. Salads, including a caesar salad with salmon, and desserts, featuring tiramisu and cannoli, round out the menu. A kids’ menu is available. The staff will accommodate dietary restrictions. The wine list is impressive.
What is the Best Restaurant in San Clemente?
This is a tricky question and I can’t really answer it, but looking at this list with some of the best restaurants in San Clemente, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of them. In addition, there are many people that will be surprised I didn’t include their favorite restaurant in San Clemente. In the end, just decide what type of food you would want to try and pick your place to try…you will probably have a good time.