(credit: Nick’s San Clemente)

Ole Hanson put San Clemente on the map in 1925 when he developed “San Clemente by the Sea,” a beach town for folks needing a break from the hustle and bustle of the big city. His original vision of Spanish stucco and red tiled roof homes is still visible throughout the town. Well-known for sun and surfing, San Clemente also has a restaurant scene around the downtown area that is full of eclectic eateries.

(credit: sx.hu szarlota)

9 Style Sushi

102 Avenida Victoria
San Clemente, CA 92672
(949) 366-3669

9 Style Sushi is hidden in a non-descript shopping center just a few blocks from the main downtown street of Del Mar. This is a foodie’s sushi find with interesting combinations of very fresh sushi, sashimi and rolls. The interior is recently renovated with friendly service that extends to children as well. A wallboard lists the specialties but if you’re adventurous ask for the chef’s choice and you’ll always get something interesting.

(credit: Cafe Mimosa)

Café Mimosa

243 Avenida del Mar
San Clemente, CA 92672
(949) 453-1144

Café Mimosa is a slice of France on Del Mar. Walk inside; close your eyes and you could be in a Parisian brasserie. Lunch, dinner and brunch on weekends are served on the patio or in the dining room. Beyond the food, it’s the warm and friendly service that stands out. Whether you come every week or once every six months the staff make you feel welcome. If dining with kids (and they are very accommodating with families), come early as the atmosphere gets quieter later in the evening.

(credit: St. Roy Chef’s Pub At Vine)

St. Roy Chef’s Pub at Vine

211 N. El Camino Real
San Clemente, CA 92672
(949) 361-2079

St. Roy Chef’s Pub is the gastropub that shares separate dining space in the upscale wine-country themed Vine restaurant. St. Roy is not your normal OC-feeling restaurant; there is definitely an LA vibe going on here. It’s lively, and a good place to share entrees and small bites with a group. The extensive list of beer and micro-brews may lead the undecided to try the beer sampler.

(credit: Nick’s San Clemente)

Nick’s San Clemente

213 Avenida Del Mar
San Clemente, CA 92672
(949) 481-2200

Nick’s is well known in Orange County for consistently good service and high quality food. There is always a wait here but if you don’t mind not sitting at a table, the large bar area is open and inviting. The menu is varied with salads and sandwiches to full dinners and works well for groups. If you’re more in the mood for Mexican, walk five minutes to Nick’s South which specializes in Mexican fare and always has a wait too!

(credit: Sonny’s Pizza and Pasta)

Sonny’s Pizza and Pasta

429 North El Camino Real
San Clemente, CA 92672
(949) 498-2540

Known only as Sonny’s, this restaurant is always packed with couples and families and big groups. The thin crust pizza is the draw, the garlic bread is famous and kids, and along with a few adults, think the homemade white macaroni and cheese is as good as it gets. Parking is almost nonexistent in the tiny lot so plan to park on the street or on the street behind the restaurant which has a connecting walkway to the restaurant.

Make it a date night
: Arrive an hour or two before your dinner reservation, park the car near St Roy Chef’s Pub and wine taste before dinner at the San Clemente Wine Company. Afterwards walk to dinner at any of the above restaurants and cap off the night with a walk to Iva Lee’s for live Blues or Jazz music in the hopping bar – they make a mean bourbon Old Fashioned here.

Kristi Marcelle is a travel writer and regular contributor at Ciao Bambino. She loves planning travel adventures with her family, a good glass of wine at the whining hour and the Green Bay Packers. Follow her on Twitter @kristimarcelle.