I did breakfast both days at Harbor House, a diner right on PCH in Dana Point, going back on day two because day one’s meal was so good. That first meal was scrambled eggs with chorizo, home fries, and toast. The eggs/chorizo were probably the best I’ve ever had – not overwhelmingly spicy (seriously, I can only take so much heat at 8:30 a.m.), obviously made to order rather than as part of a huge batch – and the home fries were just a pinch of salt away from perfection, with no grease, plenty of crispy browned bits, and soft interiors. The second meal was pancakes, bacon, and eggs; the pancakes were solid-average, good but unremarkable in flavor and – like most pancakes – a little heavy, and while the bacon came in thick slices that could have been fried a little longer to get some crisp to them.
I had one lunch at R.J.’s in Dana Point Harbor, although they’re also open for breakfast and seem to have a local following. The turkey sandwich with feta is pretty much just that, turkey roasted in-house with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and a sprinkling of feta cheese, plus mayo if you’re so inclined (I wasn’t). The turkey was excellent, nothing like the cheap previously-sliced stuff you get in too many restaurants, and the bread (a French roll) was obviously fresh. The sandwich comes with soup or salad; you might want to try the soup, as the salad was drowned twice over in dressing. Getting into the place was kind of tricky; the best way seems to be to go westbound on Dana Point Harbor Drive and pull into the lot just past the intersection with Golden Lantern.
My other lunch was too much of a good thing, a Mexican place called Olemandi right across from the beach. The food was amazing, but the portion sizes were absolutely over the top. Their carnitas are among the best I’ve ever had, moist but with some browned ends, deeply flavored but neither too acidic nor too spicy, allowing the flavor of the meat to still take center stage. The dish comes with a small amount of very good Spanish rice, a large serving of refried beans, plus tortillas, guacamole, sour cream, and so on. All of that plus easily 3/4 pound to one pound of carnitas makes a great value for $16, but it’s also ridiculous to send that much food back when, like me, you have no place to which you can take leftovers. Oh, and the meal comes with tortilla soup, which was very rustic (just a delicious broth and tortilla strips with a little diced tomato) but sort of added to the gluttony. I can’t really complain about having too much food, but sending that quantity of food to the disposal/trash does bother me a lot.
I had one very, very bad meal on the trip, sushi at Gen Kai in Dana Point. The fish was bland, boring, slightly tough, and way too cold. I wouldn’t say it was bad in the sense of going bad, since I wouldn’t have eaten it, but it was unacceptably low quality fish. Even the green tea was a mess (way too hot – green tea should be brewed at around 160 degrees). I did make it up to myself by stopping in Seal Beach en route to the airport and having my last meal of the trip at Koi, amazing as usual and relatively quiet for a place that usually offers a wait for a seat at the sushi bar.