The Best “Hole in the Wall” Dining Experiences in Downtown San Juan Capistrano
If you live in California, or are visiting, there are so many places to go, especially since the sun is shining over 266 days out of the year. Year round, it’s safe to say you can whip out one of your favorite sundresses or max skirts. One of our favorite towns to do it in is San Juan Capistrano. Famous for the Annual Return of the Swallows, as well as the Mission San Juan Capistrano, it is the “Jewel of the California Missions” and welcomes over 300,000 visitors each year.
One location, we love is Downtown San Juan Capistrano. It is quaint but vibrant. In the last few years, it has been elevated with unique places to dine while keeping its historic charm. Whether it’s a fine dining experience you are looking for, a casual outing, or visiting the historical mission, downtown SJC has something for you.
The first stop we’d recommend is the Rancho Capistrano Winery. This location has amazing food and drinks with plenty of space to have a family gathering or dinner party. The atmosphere at night is amazing with the fireplace giving warmth in the cool, California night air. Not only can you dine here, but there is also a tasting room. There you can try the famous wines from their personal winery. If you are local and enjoy experiencing new wines, they have a wine club that you can join for a small fee, and it’s catered to your tasting pallet. This includes two different wines of the winemakers choosing and discounts on varying items. If you are not a wine gal that is okay, there are eight more places to see!
Trevor’s at the Tracks is the perfect spot to go for a romantic date night. The ambiance is great and very inviting for all ages. If you have little ones, they will love getting to see the train drop off and pick up travelers. Something special about Trevor’s at the Tracks is that they use locally sourced produce and try and lesson their carbon footprint as much as possible. They have music and live events to keep the fun going and provide an avenue for local musicians to play. This restaurant is an experience you must try!
Needing an excuse to dress up and wear that Grace Maxi Dress that has been in your closet? Well now you can. The Tea House on Los Rios has a relaxing presence in the downtown Capistrano district. It has been around for many years and is still run by the original family. There are so many options of where to sit like under the 150-year-old sycamore tree or to a private room in the cottage. This enchanting ambiance will have you breathless and you will leave feeling like you have been touched by magic. This is the perfect spot to settle down and enjoy the presence of the company you are with or a lovely spot to get away from the busyness of life. There are a few different tiers of high tea you can have, but all of them giving a memorable experience.
Ever heard the phrase “everything is bigger and better in Texas”? Why not bring the flavor and experience of Texas BBQ to California? Heritage Barbeque is unique because it feels like you have been transported to the Lone Star State with its southern ranch setting. If you are looking for something a little more casual, this is the perfect spot. Be careful though because the line is usually long, but it is worth the wait! When you’re there, don’t forget to get the banana pudding. (Seriously one of the best!) This is a great experience for families. The picnic table seating is outside, and they have a bar connected with special craft beer pairings! If you are in a rush, we recommend putting in an order online and then finding seating when you arrive! What makes these restaurants so great is the time that they take in procuring their products and curating a menu catered to fresh and tasteful ingredients.
This next restaurant is amazing, because not only do they source local ingredients for their menu items, but they also have a market connected where the customer now has the ability to purchase ingredients that they may have enjoyed in their meal. Whether you are in the mood for a casual dinner or women’s brunch, the Mayfield is the perfect place to wear the Fifi Dress, because Mayfield brings to life your inner flower child. If you are looking for a healthier spot, Mayfield’s slogan is Californian Heart, Mediterranean soul. They curated a menu with a mixture of cultures to bring a healthy locally sourced meal to you. They offer brunch and dinner, and have a natural wine club, where they put a lot of care into what additives and chemicals are being put into the wine. This initiative to find the best ingredients, makes them one of our top favorites in SJC.
Looking for history and charm? The Ysidora Restaurant and Lounge is the place for you. Paying homage to the original Ysidora, who was a socialite with a mission for hospitality, she was the matriarch and head of operations at the Mission San Juan Capistrano, where she accepted anyone regardless of social standing to further her mission of compassion and kindness. Over the years this restaurant and lounge has continued to stay authentic to her mission and the Spanish heritage of the culinary offerings. This is the perfect palace to wind down and experience the original SJC!
While you're in the area we’d highly recommend the Mission of San Juan Capistrano. “Mission San Juan Capistrano, historic landmark and museum, is the Birthplace of Orange County. It was founded more than two hundred years ago as the 7th of 21 missions statewide and features a chapel still standing where Saint Serra once celebrated Mass. Today, it is a monument to California’s multi-cultural history, embracing its Native American, Spanish, Mexican and European heritage. Originally built as a self-sufficient community by Spanish Padres and Native Americans, the Mission was a center for agriculture, industry, education and religion” (https://www.missionsjc.com/history/). Check out their website for more information at https://www.missionsjc.com.
San Juan Capistrano is full of memories and life. Hidden House Coffee shop has many years of serving others. Their motto is “actions speaks louder than words”. So, their mission has been to show every step of how and where the coffee is made and to show how ethically it is produced. This a great place to go when in need of a pick me up and tasty bakery treats. This location is right by a park, so go have a nice walk while sipping on your fresh coffee!
Ramos House Café is known for their southern style cooking and large Bloody Mary’s. This is the best place for a morning brunch and is located in the heart of the Los Rios Historical District in San Juan Capistrano. Whether you are going for a nice brunch in your Sunday best or a more casual outing this is the place for you. The patio seating is amazing, and the food is even better. Of course, the ingredients are local and high quality, as most places in San Juan. This is the perfect spot to get a photo op in your favorite Julia Skirt in Green Tropics with your Julianna One Piece Swimsuit as a bodysuit! The emerald green will look seamless with all the greenery of the fresh produce in the background!
Finally, we have Ellie’s Table at The Egan House. This place is to die for and another picture-perfect spot. The hard work they put into their presentation of the dishes and drinks shows! (And for us … the phone eats first!) Look at those cappuccinos with puppy art! Ellies Table’s motto is “happiness is homemade” and here at Hermoza, we agree. This cafe is also in homage to Eleanor Mastroianni, another powerful female, who used her culinary talents in a world that may have underestimated her. Now many locals and tourists flock to experience and taste her original recipes with a hint of newness.
We hope this guide of unique places in the heart of Downtown San Juan Capistrano gives you inspiration for your next trip! If you are from the area, go take a staycation! While you’re there, shop, eat, drink, laugh, and spend time with people who matter most to you. At Hermoza, we appreciate the hard work of these small businesses who really care about their customers and what they represent in the world today.
Tiffany and Marisa