I live a few miles from the Dana Point Harbor yet had never dined at The Harbor Grill, which is tucked back just a bit from the main sidewalk along the boats.
My husband recently made reservations for us at The Harbor Grill and I asked how he found it, despite our years of probably walking right by it. His reply: “Google.” He was seeking great wine, fresh seafood, and his icing on the cake was their notation of Thursdays Oyster Day.
Excited to try a new restaurant, we went early, so we could enjoy a cocktail before dinner. I assumed we’d enter an empty restaurant, staff still setting up and irritated at the 5 p.m. diners. On the contrary, the place was packed! The ALL DAY Thursdays oysters had locals in early fighting for the outside deck spots. We settled inside with a bird’s-eye view of the giant grill in the kitchen, within range of the NFL game on TV, and yet still a clear look at the beautiful harbor just beyond.
Not only are the fresh oysters prepared in six styles, but wine pairings are thoughtfully suggested. Best yet, the prices aren’t too offensive. If you’re thinking of more than one glass or sharing, I recommend a bottle purchase. The six oyster variations are a half-dozen for $9.95, and wines by the glass run $8-15, or $29-$49 by the bottle. Though the wine offerings aren’t of the esoteric wine-geek type, they are perfectly paired with that specific oyster style. For example, the Maddalena riesling from Monterey paired with the Thai Steamed Oysters. The oyster’s spicy red Thai chili, ginger, and garlic will be tempered by the sweet dryness of the riesling. How about oysters on the half shell with Roederer Estate Brut Sparkling? A classic! Or the Castro Martin Albarino, a dry, acidic Spanish white, with the Spicy Buffalo Oysters oozing with spicy butter sauce and zesty blue cheese.
As evening turned to night, the tables kept turning, but we held ours tight. We stayed for dinner, ordering the three-course prix-fixe menu of soup or salad, entrée, and a beverage for $39. I was in hog heaven with the New England clam chowder, grilled salmon with a delicious basil and pesto sauce, and a glass of Babich New Zealand sauvignon blanc. It is rare to be able to include your wine or beer in your prix-fixe pricing! The pour wasn’t stingy either.
We left stuffed, happy, and excited to return. The service was exemplary, especially from our waitress, Tricia, who took special notice of our daughters and offered insightful recommendations. The Harbor Grill in Dana Point is a definitely a local’s favorite secret, and I’m finally in the know!
34499 Golden Lantern St., Dana Point