Just south of San Clemente’s busy downtown, you’ll find restaurants and shops that cater more to locals than tourists. The quiet pocket boasts a laid-back vibe befitting the beach town. Stop in for breakfast or coffee before going downtown for your holiday shopping.
Mahalo Juice The newcomer cafe serves refreshing smoothies and juices such as Mint Condition, with mint, cucumber, pear, and spinach ($5.50 to $8.50). Tropical flavors of pineapple and mango jazz up the popular acai bowls ($8.25). 804 S. El Camino Real, 949-558-8080, mahalojuice.com
Zebra House Coffee Admire art by locals while you sip pour-over coffee ($2.75) or a rose chai tea latte ($4.50) and nosh on a pumpkin cinnamon muffin ($3.25) or turkey and provolone sandwich ($6.50). 1001 S. El Camino Real, 949-218-6976, zebrahousecoffee.com
Wildflower This floral shop is known for creating dramatic wedding arrangements, but it also offers bouquets of seasonal blooms for less momentous occasions, plus cards, jewelry, and candles. 1001 S. El Camino Real, 949-498-3454, wildflowersanclemente.com
Cassano’s For 30 years, this cozy restaurant has served Italian classics such as meatball sandwiches, lasagna, and calzones. In an adventurous mood? Try the St. Patty’s pizza, with corned beef, mustard sauce, sauerkraut, and mozzarella ($19). 818 S. El Camino Real, 949-388-7611, cassanos.net