The very best of L.A. & Orange County

Photography by Lee Walters Photography

Love a great breakfast before heading to the beach like we do? We thought so.

It was with that in mind that we searched up and down the Orange County coastline to find the best breakfast spots close to the beach. In fact, most of them are located within walking distance.

Listed below in geographical order, starting in North Orange County and continuing down to Dana Point in South Orange County, are the restaurants we think offer some of the best food to get your day started on the right foot as you head to the beach.

Your favorite spot near the beach not on our list? No worries! Just let us know about it in the comments section or drop us a line and we’ll see about adding it as an update.

Seal Beach

The Crema Café

This European-inspired restaurant and bakery in downtown Seal Beach is right on the thoroughfare that is Main Street. Serving breakfast 7 days a week, its menu has something for everyone. Into omelets’? Try my favorite, the ‘Smoked Salmon Omelet.’ Filled with smoked salmon, tomato, cream cheese, caramelized onions, capers, topped with a mild garlic sauce, and served with a side of roasted potatoes or fresh fruit, and choice of artisan bread. I recommend the ‘Pain de Mie,’ but bring an appetite as you’re going to need it. Or, would you rather be transported to the streets of Paris? Try the ‘Mixed Berry crêpe,’ filled with fresh blueberries and strawberries, and topped with homemade whipped cream, caramel and a touch of powdered sugar. You’ll swear you’re sitting in a French café. Yum! The Crema Café also has an attached bakery were you can choose from a litany of great breads such as raisin pecan, sourdough or, the specialty, 7-grain ‘Crema Multigrain.’ The café also offers a scrumptious line-up of cookies, muffins, scones, sweet croissants and assorted pastries, all made with real butter and wholesome grains. Seating is available on the patio or inside, but opt for the patio. It’s pet-friendly and there’s always a breeze, but be forewarned, it’s a popular spot and there can be a wait, especially if you arrive in the middle of breakfast service. The wait staff has always been on its game during the many occasions I’ve visited.

Exterior of the Crema Cafe in Seal Beach, California
322 Main St.
Seal Beach, CA
6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday
7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday

Huntington Beach

Caffe Caldo

Located in a non-descript strip shopping center, don’t let the outside steer you away from Caffe Caldo. A small, quaint place popular with Huntington Beach locals, there can sometimes be a wait, but I promise you it will be well worth it. I recommend starting your meal off with one of its expertly crafted Turkish lattes. Each one has its own unique design beautifully laid out in the foam and your smartphone camera will likely get a workout. But after you’ve taken plenty of shots for social media posting, drink up as the flavor is every bit as good as the designs. Although the menu is varied and has something for everyone, try the ‘Italian Frittata.’ It’s full of farm fresh eggs, Italian sausage, bell pepper, red onion, tomato, mozzarella cheese and basil, served on a bed of house roasted potatoes. Or, you can substitute toast or fruit for the potatoes, but go with the potatoes. Trust me on this one! Or, try the house combo breakfast with a crêpe of your choice, bacon, eggs, and potatoes. Everything is reasonably priced, generous portions are served, and Caffe Caldo has the market cornered on friendliness.

Mixed berries crepe with whipped cream and turkish latte

21070 Beach Boulevard
Huntington Beach, CA
8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Sunday

Sugar Shack Café

Family-owned and operated since 1967 and coming up on its 50-year anniversary next year, the Sugar Shack Café is a spot for those looking for a good old-fashioned breakfast joint with great food. Your coffee cup never gets empty here, as the wait staff is very attentive and on top of its game. ‘The Keppler’s Breakfast Special’ is one dish you’re going to want to try. An English muffin topped with scrambled eggs, bacon, tomato, and avocado, and smothered in Hollandaise sauce. It’s the Shack’s unique twist on Eggs Benedict, which it also serves, and is a can’t miss. The raisin bread French toast is another fan favorite here if you’re looking for something on the sweeter side. Sit at one of the umbrella-covered tables out front if you want a great place to people watch. Or, if you’re ready to chow down, grab a seat at the counter or one of the inside tables; tourists rarely sit indoors so you can find a seat when there’s a 20-minute wait for one of the tables out front. You may also want to try the back patio as the wait is usually much shorter.

Exterior of Sugar Shack Cafe in Huntington Beach, California
213 Main St.
Huntington Beach, CA
6 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday
6 a.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday
6 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday

Newport Beach

Eat Chow

Vibe! Although a word that’s overused in my opinion, Eat Chow has a SoCal ‘vibe’ and it seems to epitomize the word. Along with good food, it made it an easy choice when we set out to select great breakfast restaurants in coastal Orange County. Although normally not a fan of egg white dishes, ‘Amy’s Egg White Omelet’ is incredible! Filled with tomatoes, mushrooms, caramelized onions, fresh spinach, goat cheese and avocado, it’s served with perfectly seasoned potatoes and your choice of toast. Your taste buds will thank you! Or, try something on the menu Eat Chow calls ‘Mexican Chow.’ A favorite is the ‘Chorizo Scramble,’ a delightful combination of scrambled eggs, spicy chorizo, cheddar cheese, and tortillas. And I’d be conducting journalistic malfeasance if I didn’t mention the ‘Lemon Mascarpone French Toast’ made from an almond encrusted baguette, Mascarpone cheese, fresh lemon curd, fresh berries, and a sweet red wine gastrique. You’ll love the food here and, dare I say, the ‘vibe.’

Exterior of Eat Chow Restaurant, Newport Beach, California
211 62nd St.
Newport Beach, CA
8 a.m. to 11 a.m., Monday through Friday
7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday

Waterline at the Balboa Bay Resort

Is watching multimillion-dollar yachts getting ready to head out to sea or just tied up to the dock one of your hobbies? Well, Waterline at the Balboa Bay Resort is the place for you. And not only is the view of the bay incredible, but so is the food coming out of the kitchen such as the ‘Lobster Omelet.’ Filled with sweet, succulent lobster, spinach, bell pepper, Mascarpone, and topped with chives, along with your choice of toast and citrus yogurt or potatoes. Rather go light and healthy? Try the ‘Fitness Frittata:’ Whipped egg whites, mozzarella cheese, organic tomato, mushrooms, asparagus, spinach with a spot-on pesto sauce and a side of the aforementioned citrus yogurt. Additionally, Waterline has a separate menu for Vegan, Gluten-free and Vegetarian guests that’s a whole lot more than just an afterthought. Valet parking is available and probably the easiest.

Exterior view from Waterline Restaurant in Newport Beach, California
1221 West Coast Highway
Newport Beach, CA
6:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., Monday through Friday
7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday
7 a.m. to 10 a.m.; Brunch 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sunday

Corona del Mar

Rendez Vous

Paris has come to Corona del Mar in the form of this little café located in yet another non-descript strip shopping center on PCH. With none of the pretentiousness you’d find in an actual Paris café, the food will have you saying ‘Merci Beaucoup’ to Olivier and Nathalie Bocchino, the couple from Toulon who opened Rendez Vous. With 10 variations of omelets on the menu you can’t go wrong. I recommend trying the ‘Salmon, Gruyere and Dill omelet’ served with toast and a side of fruit. Very light, fluffy and with a flavor profile different than most. And how can you come to a French café without trying a crêpe? The made-from-scratch ‘La Patisserie,’ filled with fresh strawberry and house custard, is a favorite. And you’ll be thinking about taking home one, or more, of the many to-die for pastries displayed in three cases designed to tempt you and your taste buds. Rendez Vous is pet-friendly so feel free to bring Fido and ask for a table out front.

Exterior of Rendez Vous cafe in Newport Beach, California
3330 East Coast Highway
Corona del Mar, CA
7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.. Monday through Saturday
7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday

Laguna Beach

Urth Caffe

I’ve driven through Laguna Beach many times on PCH and can count on one hand, scratch that, I don’t know that I’ve ever passed this restaurant when there wasn’t a line of people waiting to get in. What on Urth — pun intended — could they be waiting for? Incredible eats that’s what! Where can you go for breakfast and have bread pudding, you’ve been asking yourself? Urth Caffe is your answer! Their warm bread pudding is served with your choice of slow-roasted apples or caramelized bananas and finished with steamed milk. Dessert. It’s what’s for breakfast! Or, looking for hash like no other? Try the ‘Natural Beef Hash’ dish with Heirloom potatoes, bell peppers, onions, parsley. The dish is topped with two organic poached eggs, slowly braised short rib, chopped tomato, basil pesto and Reggiano-Parmesan cheese. And no room for anything else after those two dishes? Order one of the ‘Famous Pecan Sticky Buns’ to take home. ‘Addictive’ is a word they use to describe it and truer words were never spoken. Urth Caffe opens early so if you want to have any hope of dodging the line, set the alarm and get there when the doors open, otherwise be prepared for a reasonable wait.

Exterior of Urth Caffe in Laguna Beach, California
308 North Pacific Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA
6 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday
6 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday

Nick’s Laguna Beach

For those of you who’ve enjoyed Nick’s for lunch or dinner, you’ve got to check it out for breakfast. Only served on the weekends, I highly recommend making reservations as it can be a tough table to get, especially during the summer when Laguna Beach is fully populated with tourists. And be sure to bring an appetite as Nick’s is serving some full-grown meals for breakfast such as its ‘Fried Chicken & Waffle dish,’ made up of boneless buttermilk chicken, served between its signature crisp waffles with a healthy portion of sausage gravy, a side of Nueske’s bacon, straight from Wisconsin, and maple syrup. Or, go for the appropriately named ‘Truckstop Deluxe’ with the requisite biscuit and gravy, two eggs, perfectly seasoned shredded hash browns, and a side of sausage, served ‘skillet-style.’ Request a table on the front deck overlooking PCH as there’s a constant flow of people and cars going by to check out as you’re enjoying any of the 12 items offered on the one-page menu.

Exterior of Nick's Restaurant, Laguna Beach, California
440 South Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA
7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Saturday and Sunday

Driftwood Kitchen

Searching for true waterfront dining? Well, Driftwood Kitchen is the place for you as it literally sits right on the Pacific Ocean. Located adjacent to the Pacific Edge Hotel, the view, and the food, is incredible! One of the most popular items on the menu is the ‘Laguna Beach Omelet.’ Filled with succulent Dungeness crab, Purple Haze goat cheese, and avocado with a side of skillet potatoes, how could it not be? Or, another favorite of Laguna Beach locals and those staying at the hotel, is its take on French Toast made of fresh bread encrusted with granola and served with caramelized hazelnut butter, fresh mixed berries and real Vermont maple syrup. Try it and you’ll see why it’s a favorite. Kean coffee is also served here for those looking for something a little more upscale than your average ‘Cup of Joe.’ Be sure to get here before it opens, as there’s usually a line of people waiting to get in on most days. Waits can be lengthy if you’re timing is a little off. Ask for one of the tables on the deck and let the sounds of breaking waves serenade you as you settle in for a delicious meal.

French Toast at Driftwood Kitchen, Laguna Beach, California

Courtesy of Driftwood Kitchen
619 Sleepy Hollow Lane
Laguna Beach, CA
9 a.m. to 11 a.m., Monday through Friday
9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Brunch Saturday and Sunday

Dana Point

Proud Mary’s Restaurant

Down in south Orange County and looking to watch boats coming and going, and dolphins frolicking in the harbor? You can’t go wrong with Proud Mary’s. The outdoor patio has a spacious dining area with views that can’t be beat. Known for its breakfast burritos, I recommend the ‘Steak Burrito.’ A chock-full of scrambled eggs, grilled tri-tip steak and onions, avocado, made-from-scratch refried beans, topped with cheddar cheese and served with a side of a delicious salsa. It’s a solid choice! Perhaps something on the lighter side? Try the ‘Fitness Scramble’ – egg whites scrambled with mushrooms, onions, spinach and grilled turkey, and served with cottage cheese and sliced tomatoes. You’ll be ready to run around the harbor with all the energy you’ll have after eating this dish. Great service and a laid-back atmosphere will have you adding this one to your rotation of breakfast spots.

Exterior signage of Proud Mary's Restaurant, Dana Point, California
34689 Golden Lantern
Dana Point, CA
8 a.m. to 12 p.m., Monday through Sunday

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