Roadside diners in SoCal
May 16, 2007 11:30 PM   Subscribe

Are there any good roadside diners (with classic highway ambiance) in north San Diego county (e.g. Oceanside), or south Orange County (e.g. San Clemente)?
posted by tabulem to Food & Drink (7 answers total)
South OC local here - I live in Lake Forest, which is between Irvine and Mission Viejo.

I don't know if it's a diner per se, but I think there's a food place of some kind between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach heading south on PCH - it's sort of near Crystal Cove beach, on the "ocean" side of the road. I've been out of town for a long time, though, so there might be more.

Aside from a number of breakfast-y places aimed at surfers, as well as your normal-for-California, mind-blowingly-amazing-for-the-rest-of-the-nation Mexican food, you could check out Harbor House Cafe on PCH in Dana Point - it's open 24 hours a day and a little greasy, but hey, it's a diner. I went there once about five years ago, but I don't really recall anything other than that.

You could also check out the restaurant listings of the OC Weekly and the San Diego Reader.

Roadfood might have something, too.
posted by mdonley at 11:54 PM on May 16, 2007

I don't know of anything in particular really, but if you're willing to investigate and drive around a bit, the older "downtown" areas of the north SD coastal communities could quite likely have something like what you're looking for. Just cruise down Old Hwy 101 through O-side, Carlsbad, and Encinitas and see if there's anything worth stopping for. There's a local burger joint called Angelo's that has a few locations up that way (their logo is easy to spot because they're basically trying to rip off In-n-Out as much as possible), but they're really more of a burger joint. There's nothing along the 5.
posted by LionIndex at 7:08 AM on May 17, 2007

There used to be a GREAT diner in Encinitas that I wish was still there. I haven't lived there in years but my recommendation is to get off the five at Leucadia, drive down the 101 and stop by Caldwell's Antiques & say hi to my friend Fred. Ask him about diners. He's on the City Council & he knows the area backwards & forewards.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:40 AM on May 17, 2007

I'm planetkyoto now, but I'm from there. What mdonley refers to is, or was, the bright yellow Crystal Cove Date Shack, but changed it's name to the Shake Shack I know not when and was recently bought by Ruby's . The food might be better, actually. Not really any road trip ambiance, just a view. Harbor House Cafe in Dana Pt. is sorta authentic old-timey theming, good American food, but not a roadhouse. The Swallow's Inn bar (and some food, I can't remember what) is the only real roadhouse in that area I know of, but it's not RIGHT on the coast. Guys ride Harleys and horses right up to the bar, or at least they did.

There is only one Must Try restaurant in coastal OC in my book, and that's The Crab Cooker in Newport, somewhat north of your specified area. I know lots of good restaurants down south, but authentic roadhouse places, ummm, not so much. Gotta go inland. Slim pickings, sorry.
posted by planetkyoto at 8:15 AM on May 17, 2007

Oh! Cooks' Corner is up 5, exit at El Toro Road, head east towards Saddleback Mountain. Motorcycles and country dancing!
posted by mdonley at 3:06 PM on May 17, 2007

Downtown Encinitas MainStreet Association has a good directory of restaurants on or just off Highway 101. 101 Diner and Encinitas Cafe are probably the closest to what you're looking for. Potato Shack another place and is extremely popular for breakfast.

Maybe Hill Street Cafe or Beach Break Cafe in Oceanside.

All the cities up the San Diego coast on 101 (you don't want anything off the 5) have "main street" areas with tons of restaurants and shops, but not sure if I would consider any of them roadside diners.
posted by wsquared at 8:32 PM on May 17, 2007

Wait is the 101 Diner still there????? That's the diner I was thinking of but I thought those guys sold it.

Well waddayaknow I just looked on Yelp & I guess it's still there. So that is now my official recommendation. And after you eat there, go have a latte at the Pannikin in Encinitas in the big old yellow train station. Lordy I miss that place.
posted by miss lynnster at 4:21 PM on May 19, 2007

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