7 of the best outdoor dining spots in Orange County with killer views (2024)

As temperatures soar in Orange County, the idea of turning on the oven or standing over a hot stove is hardly anyone’s idea of relaxing fun. Luckily, thanks to our region’s al-fresco lifestyle, Orange County has an abundance of outdoor dining oases from which to choose, replete with patios and terraces perfect for enjoying summer’s scorch.

To help you better choose where to dine to cool off while maximizing visual tranquility, here are seven outdoor eateries that also come with jaw-dropping views. While Orange County comes with a stellar roster of restaurants rife with striking views of our famed coastline and its sun-kissed tides, it also has an embarrassment of eateries that offer congested parking lot panoramas and staid shopping plaza scenery. Most of these spots offer choice views of the ocean, but a couple of spots also show the splendor of Orange County not rooted in our coastline.

Keep in mind that this isn’t a comprehensive list, but a jumping off point for your next outdoor culinary excursion.

180 Blu

1 Ritz Carlton Drive, Dana Point; 949-240-2000, www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/snarz-the-ritz-carlton-laguna-niguel/dining/

Sure, the Dana Point harbor has choice nautical views at nearly each of its restaurants, but the one found a couple miles north at 180 Blu, the outdoor restaurant/co*cktail bar perched above Salt Creek Beach at the Ritz-Carlton, is my favorite. The northern Pacific vista is joined by views of the multimillion-dollar abodes that dot the landscape, providing some contrast to the sea. Sunset hours are ideal for catching the sun dipping into the Pacific as you enjoy sweet potato fries, ahi tuna ceviche, pulled Jidori chicken salad, craft co*cktails, beer and wine. Also of note are the comfy couches and fire pits that lend 180 Blu a casual vibe that provides much needed contrast against the pinkies-up hotel. While the Ritz-Carlton does offer valet service, patrons can park at the nearby lot found a few yards down from the hotel on the opposite side of Ritz Carlton Drive.

ALSO SEE: 15 restaurants to enjoy al fresco dining in Los Angeles County this summer

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Crystal Cove Shake Shack

7703 East Coast Highway, Newport Beach; 949-464-0100, crystalcoveshakeshack.com

Nestled along Pacific Coast Highway along Newport Coast, Crystal Cove Shake Shack (not to be confused with the national chain bearing a similar name) offers a handful of burgers (like the Bacon Cove Deluxe or the Jalapeño Deluxe), sandwiches, soups, hot dogs, fish and chips, fries and more to pair with the 180-degree views of the Pacific and Crystal Cove State Beach. Don’t miss out on one of the roadside stand’s 24 shakes, including date, orangesicle, strawberry banana, butterfinger and salted caramel, to name a few. A warning: The ample views at this roadside stand come with a side of parking scarcity. And how. With only a handful of parking spots, cars idling along PCH waiting for a spot to open is a common occurrence. If you can swing it, park in a lot inside Crystal Cove State Beach and make the trek up to the Shake Shack.

ALSO SEE: 6 places to enjoy al fresco dining in the Inland Empire

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Ola Mexican Kitchen

21040 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach; 949-969-7300, olamexicankitchen.com/locations/huntington-beach

Be it overcast gloom or blue skies, the patio at Ola Mexican Kitchen will give you awe-inspiring views of the Pacific. Highlights at this causal joint include a dozen different tacos (from carnitas and blackened shrimp to lobster and pork belly), small plates like chicken taquitos and queso fundo; and big plates like burritos, posole, chiles relleno and ribeye fajitas. And if the crystal clear views of the cobalt blue waters prove too stunning, feel free to blur your vision at the bar, which features more than 50 tequilas and mezcal co*cktails galore and a choice lineup of Mexican beers.

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Orange Hill

6410 E. Chapman Ave., Orange; 714-997-2910, www.theorangehillrestaurant.com

This upscale hilltop restaurant, which features koi ponds and waterfalls, comes with an expansive patio setting ideal for taking in the arboreal views of the nearby hills of El Modena and beyond. The best time to secure a reservation is at sunset or, even better, at nightfall when the cityscape in the distance twinkles alive. Steak and seafood are the specialties at the 52-year-old institution. For a celebratory note that will add more viewing pleasure to your already dazzling suppertime setting, order the seafood tower ($98) for two. The Neptunian monolith comes with chilled oysters, shrimp co*cktail, snow crab, a whole Maine lobster, Jonah crab claws, Peruvian scallops, salmon poke and wakame.

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ALSO SEE: These are some of the oldest restaurants in Orange County

Rooftop Lounge

1289 S. Coast Highway, 4th floor, Laguna Beach; 949-497-2446, www.rooftoplagunabeach.com

Of the bonanza of seaside restaurants found in Laguna Beach (like Las Brisas, Lost Pier Cafe, Driftwood Kitchen, to name a few), Rooftop Lounge rises above the rest — literally. Located on the top floor of La Casa del Camino Hotel along Pacific Coast Highway, this lunch, brunch and dinner spot offers 360-degree panoramic views of both the ocean and the hills. Really, there’s no bad seat in the house. Menu highlights here include beef and ricotta meatballs, fried chicken sandwiches, smashburgers, fish tacos, churros and more. co*cktails include a mojito with Mahina Platinum Run, a pomegranate martini, a tropical negroni, an Oaxacan old fashioned made with Lost Explorer Espadin and chocolate bitters, and a highball made with green chartreuse. Located away from the busier downtown area, Rooftop Lounge is also a better height-of-summer option when Laguna Beach congestion is at an all time high.

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Rosewood Social

31781 Camino Capistrano, #301, San Juan Capistrano; 949-503-2693, rosewoodsocial.com

Not all O.C. restaurants need to come with oceanic views in order to drop jaws. Take, for example, Rosewood Social, which has an expansive outdoor dining terrace perched above the corner of Verdugo Street and Camino Capistrano. This Franciscan Plaza restaurant offers views of the dramatically weathered circa-1776 Mission San Juan Capistrano just off in the distance. If you want an eyeful of California’s (checkered) Mission-system history, this is the place to go. The South County eatery, which offers American and Asian fare, has a menu featuring papaya salad, lobster spring rolls, filet mignon, jumbo prawn tandoori, karaage chicken sandwich, fish tacos and more.

ALSO SEE: The secrets of Southern California speakeasies: How to find one, how to get in

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Tavern House Kitchen + Bar

333 Bayside Dr, Newport Beach; 949-673-8464, www.tavernhousekb.com

Replete with panoramic views of the harbor docks and the Newport Bay (cue Otis Redding), David Wilhelm and Gregg Solomon’s ode to American cuisine is an ideal spot for watching the tide roll away. The menu here, which offers a wide array of sustainable seafood and comfort food, features such dishes as calamari, spicy ahi poke, chilled oysters, lobster bisque, flatbreads, sole in Veracruzana sauce, buttermilk fried chicken, French onion-ified filet mignon, short rib stroganoff, burgers and more. Don’t miss out on “comfort food Mondays” that offer discounts on rib-sticking meals that pair nicely with the spectacular oceanic vistas. Monday blues, be gone!

7 of the best outdoor dining spots in Orange County with killer views (2024)
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