Now that the summer rush has slowed a bit, we took the opportunity to have lunch at The Cliff, a well-known but somewhat hidden gem “view-restaurant” in the Laguna Village (Pacific Coast Hwy at Legion St). In previous blogs we’ve discussed our trepidation about ocean view eateries. It’s sad but true that many of them know they’ve got a captive audience and therefore just don’t put a lot of effort into food and service. We were pleased to discover that, on the day we were there, the food at The Cliff was quite good and the service was acceptable for a busy outdoor restaurant in a bustling resort town. We waited until after our experience to check out The Cliff’s reviews on TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc. Based on our personal experience and the reviews, it seems clear that service slows down a bit when the place fills up with demanding tourists. So don’t go there expecting to order, chow down, and hit the road in 30 minutes. Go there with the expectation that your meal and your experience will be worth the time invested.
The Cliff serves lunch and dinner (and breakfast, but if you’re staying Casa Laguna you don’t need to know about that). After viewing the dinner menu and photos on the website, we definitely plan to go back soon to experience The Cliff after sunset. Their menus have something for everyone—although you’re certainly not going to see anything listed that you haven’t seen somewhere before. The lunch menu is weighted toward seafood, as might be expected, but includes a wide selection of starters, sandwiches, burgers, and more. I’ve always thought that one the best ways to judge lunch quality is to order a burger. If the chef is thinking, “it’s just a burger, who cares” the product will clearly show where his/her head is at. My burger ($10.75) was done exactly as I asked (the server didn’t ask me), not overdone, well-made and tasty. My husband had the Shrimp & Chips ($20.75) and was pleased to find they were not overly greasy, as can sometimes be the standard for deep-fried seafood. We were both impressed that the food arrived hot and fresh enough to survive the cool seaside breeze—the better-than-average French fries that accompanied both dishes were still warm and crispy after the rest of the food had been consumed.
Our server was friendly and courteous, as were the bussers who busily passed by. We initially sat a bit longer than we would have preferred before being approached, and after the food arrived it was some time before we were asked about refills on our drinks. Neither failing was cause for complaint. We kept a close watch on the tables around us, and it seemed they were being adequately serviced and that the other patrons were thoroughly enjoying their drinks and food. The other dishes we observed nearby (and passing by) appeared to have the same consistent quality as our own.
The bottom line is that The Cliff provides fresh tasty food in a beautiful seaside setting. (Check out the “Photo Gallery” section on their website and you’ll be hooked.) And while the service won’t win any speed awards, The Cliff is not a place to go when you’re in a hurry anyway. The patios fill up quickly in the evenings and on weekends, so if you go during those times be prepared to wait a bit, maybe even up to an hour or so, and then sit back, relax, and enjoy the view, knowing that good food and drink is on its way.