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Mitla Cafe, San Bernardino
Noam Bleiweiss

10 Southern California Restaurants That Are Worth the Drive

Single destination restaurants that can be reached within two hours

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Mitla Cafe, San Bernardino
| Noam Bleiweiss

While Los Angeles has a wealth of great places to dine, sometimes hitting the road is just the right answer to life’s problems. Not that taking a trip is going to solve any real problems except for wanderlust. Eater has compiled a handy list of restaurants and eateries to hit up within a relatively short drive, between one and two hours, in case a bout of wanderlust strikes. Venture into the hills nearby Malibu and Agoura for a rustic experience at The Old Place, or have a suave tasting menu at Dana Point’s elevated Stone Hill Tavern, a gem in the Michael Mina empire. Here now, ten Southern California restaurants that are worth the drive.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Suzanne's Cuisine

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502 W Ojai Ave
Ojai, CA
(805) 640-1961
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Spend any time with the local of Ojai, and expect to hear about Suzanne's Cuisine. The charming restaurant offers one of the best patios in town, with upscaled cuisine that makes for a perfectly elegant evening out among the hills and trees. The restaurant has been keeping those same customers happy since 1992, and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down now.

Approximate drive from Downtown without traffic: 1 hour and 45 minutes

2. Lure Fish House

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60 S California St
Ventura, CA 93001
 (805) 567-4400
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The party is always on at Lure Fish House in downtown Ventura. The large, open dining area really cranks on weekends (especially during the summer), when locals and tourists alike line up for drinks or wait for a table. The effort usually pays off thanks to an expansive menu that includes line-caught fish, fresh oysters, and lots of grilled lobster. Lure boasts multiple locations across the Ventura area, but this flagship is the one to try.

Approximate drive time from Downtown without traffic: 1 hour and 15 minutes

3. Himalayan Restaurant

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672 Pine Knot Ave
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
(909) 878-3068
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Big Bear is known for its shimmering lake and big mountain vistas, but the food is often considered rather lackluster. That's why so many folks flock to Himalayan Restaurant, a joint Nepalese-Indian outfit that isn't afraid to play the hits. Explore curries, masalas, and naan bread baed in a tandoor, but don't skip on the mo-mos, hefty Himalayan dumplings that seem to hit every table, all night long.

Approximate drive time from Downtown without traffic: 2 hours and 10 minutes

4. Moqueca Brazilian Cuisine

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3550 Harbor Blvd #201
Oxnard, CA
(805) 204-0970
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This terrific Brazilian seafood restaurant serves a true specialty: moqueca, a hearty cauldron filled with shellfish, fish, aromatics, and peppers served with a side of rice. Drawn from the Brazilian state of Espiritu Santo, the delicacy is served in traditional clay pots and comes in shareable sizes.

Approximate drive time from Downtown without traffic: 1 hour and 20 minutes

5. The Pines

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777 San Manuel Blvd
Highland, CA 92346
(909) 425-4889
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The San Manuel Casino in Highland, CA is hardly the place one might expect to find upscale dining done right, but the recently renovated steakhouse The Pines is trying to change all that. Fine cuts of beef match well with a surprisingly substantial wine list, with customers trickling in from the gaming floor or the nearby community. And truly, what better way to work off some of that hard-earned cash than with an opulent white tablecloth kind of meal? Don't sleep on the weekend brunch buffet either.

Approximate drive time from Downtown without traffic: 1 hour and 10 minutes

6. The Topanga Table

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1861 N Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Topanga, CA
(310) 752-6241
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This breakfast and lunch destination tucked away in the Topanga Canyon is a great place for hikers and mountain bikers to start their day. With hearty breakfast sandwiches using house baked English muffins to a fluffy three-egg salmon scramble, it’s one of the most compelling destinations for early birds in the hills between Malibu and Agoura.

Approximate drive time from Downtown without traffic: 50 minutes

Breakfast Sandwich Los Angeles Joshua Lurie

7. Mitla Cafe

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602 N Mt Vernon Ave
San Bernardino, CA 92411
(909) 888-0460
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San Bernardino legend Mitla Cafe offers a bit of history. Not only is the restaurant considered by some to be the unofficial birthplace of the Taco Bell hard-shelled taco, it's also traditionally been a haven for politicians, activists like Cesar Chavez, and the community as a whole. No wonder it's lasted 80 years, and continues to turn out big plates of tacos (hard-shelled is still the celebrated way of doing things), beans, rice, and more.

Approximate drive time from Downtown without traffic: 1 hour

8. Inn of the Seventh Ray

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128 Old Topanga Canyon Rd
Topanga, CA 90290
(310) 455-1311
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This popular wedding venue and restaurant was the historic Chumash Indian site and also the place of Aimee Semple McPherson’s private retreat in the 1930s. The property was then rehabbed in the 1970s and has been a meeting place for local artists and hippies ever since. The whole vibe’s a little on the culty side, with a focus on wholesome, organic food, but the romantic environs are undeniable.

Approximate drive time from Downtown without traffic: 40 minutes

9. Stone Hill Tavern

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1 Monarch Beach Resort N
Dana Point, CA 92629

This modern fine dining restaurant inside the Monarch Beach Resort is a treat for gourmands and serious food lovers wanting an elevated experience in Orange County. The Michael Mina outlet sports a reasonably priced $125 tasting menu with a $75 wine pairings. There’s an a la carte menu for tables that want to go that route too.

Approximate drive time from Downtown without traffic: 1 hour and 10 minutes

10. The Old Place

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29983 Mulholland Hwy
Agoura Hills, CA 91301
 (818) 706-9001
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A true find in the Topanga Canyon, The Old Place is a lovely Western-style lodge with wood-fired grill cooking that time seems to have forgotten. Founded in the 1970s, the place was spruced up after the son of the original owner took over ownership in 2009. With a classic steakhouse-style menu, try the bone-in oak-grilled ribeye.

Approximate drive time from Downtown without traffic: 50 minutes

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1. Suzanne's Cuisine

502 W Ojai Ave, Ojai, CA

Spend any time with the local of Ojai, and expect to hear about Suzanne's Cuisine. The charming restaurant offers one of the best patios in town, with upscaled cuisine that makes for a perfectly elegant evening out among the hills and trees. The restaurant has been keeping those same customers happy since 1992, and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down now.

Approximate drive from Downtown without traffic: 1 hour and 45 minutes

502 W Ojai Ave
Ojai, CA

2. Lure Fish House

60 S California St, Ventura, CA 93001

The party is always on at Lure Fish House in downtown Ventura. The large, open dining area really cranks on weekends (especially during the summer), when locals and tourists alike line up for drinks or wait for a table. The effort usually pays off thanks to an expansive menu that includes line-caught fish, fresh oysters, and lots of grilled lobster. Lure boasts multiple locations across the Ventura area, but this flagship is the one to try.

Approximate drive time from Downtown without traffic: 1 hour and 15 minutes

60 S California St
Ventura, CA 93001

3. Himalayan Restaurant

672 Pine Knot Ave, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315

Big Bear is known for its shimmering lake and big mountain vistas, but the food is often considered rather lackluster. That's why so many folks flock to Himalayan Restaurant, a joint Nepalese-Indian outfit that isn't afraid to play the hits. Explore curries, masalas, and naan bread baed in a tandoor, but don't skip on the mo-mos, hefty Himalayan dumplings that seem to hit every table, all night long.

Approximate drive time from Downtown without traffic: 2 hours and 10 minutes

672 Pine Knot Ave
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315

4. Moqueca Brazilian Cuisine

3550 Harbor Blvd #201, Oxnard, CA

This terrific Brazilian seafood restaurant serves a true specialty: moqueca, a hearty cauldron filled with shellfish, fish, aromatics, and peppers served with a side of rice. Drawn from the Brazilian state of Espiritu Santo, the delicacy is served in traditional clay pots and comes in shareable sizes.

Approximate drive time from Downtown without traffic: 1 hour and 20 minutes

3550 Harbor Blvd #201
Oxnard, CA

5. The Pines

777 San Manuel Blvd, Highland, CA 92346

The San Manuel Casino in Highland, CA is hardly the place one might expect to find upscale dining done right, but the recently renovated steakhouse The Pines is trying to change all that. Fine cuts of beef match well with a surprisingly substantial wine list, with customers trickling in from the gaming floor or the nearby community. And truly, what better way to work off some of that hard-earned cash than with an opulent white tablecloth kind of meal? Don't sleep on the weekend brunch buffet either.

Approximate drive time from Downtown without traffic: 1 hour and 10 minutes

777 San Manuel Blvd
Highland, CA 92346

6. The Topanga Table

1861 N Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, CA
Breakfast Sandwich Los Angeles Joshua Lurie

This breakfast and lunch destination tucked away in the Topanga Canyon is a great place for hikers and mountain bikers to start their day. With hearty breakfast sandwiches using house baked English muffins to a fluffy three-egg salmon scramble, it’s one of the most compelling destinations for early birds in the hills between Malibu and Agoura.

Approximate drive time from Downtown without traffic: 50 minutes

1861 N Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Topanga, CA

7. Mitla Cafe

602 N Mt Vernon Ave, San Bernardino, CA 92411

San Bernardino legend Mitla Cafe offers a bit of history. Not only is the restaurant considered by some to be the unofficial birthplace of the Taco Bell hard-shelled taco, it's also traditionally been a haven for politicians, activists like Cesar Chavez, and the community as a whole. No wonder it's lasted 80 years, and continues to turn out big plates of tacos (hard-shelled is still the celebrated way of doing things), beans, rice, and more.

Approximate drive time from Downtown without traffic: 1 hour

602 N Mt Vernon Ave
San Bernardino, CA 92411

8. Inn of the Seventh Ray

128 Old Topanga Canyon Rd, Topanga, CA 90290

This popular wedding venue and restaurant was the historic Chumash Indian site and also the place of Aimee Semple McPherson’s private retreat in the 1930s. The property was then rehabbed in the 1970s and has been a meeting place for local artists and hippies ever since. The whole vibe’s a little on the culty side, with a focus on wholesome, organic food, but the romantic environs are undeniable.

Approximate drive time from Downtown without traffic: 40 minutes

128 Old Topanga Canyon Rd
Topanga, CA 90290

9. Stone Hill Tavern

1 Monarch Beach Resort N, Dana Point, CA 92629

This modern fine dining restaurant inside the Monarch Beach Resort is a treat for gourmands and serious food lovers wanting an elevated experience in Orange County. The Michael Mina outlet sports a reasonably priced $125 tasting menu with a $75 wine pairings. There’s an a la carte menu for tables that want to go that route too.

Approximate drive time from Downtown without traffic: 1 hour and 10 minutes

1 Monarch Beach Resort N
Dana Point, CA 92629

10. The Old Place

29983 Mulholland Hwy, Agoura Hills, CA 91301

A true find in the Topanga Canyon, The Old Place is a lovely Western-style lodge with wood-fired grill cooking that time seems to have forgotten. Founded in the 1970s, the place was spruced up after the son of the original owner took over ownership in 2009. With a classic steakhouse-style menu, try the bone-in oak-grilled ribeye.

Approximate drive time from Downtown without traffic: 50 minutes

29983 Mulholland Hwy
Agoura Hills, CA 91301

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