The Best of Pasadena’s Holiday Getaway Cuisine

For drivable dining destinations with amazing holiday feasts, we rounded up some new hot spots within a few hours of Pasadena, and old favorites worth a revisit.


If you don’t care about traditional holiday meals but want a quality seafood experience with an ocean view, head to Nobu Malibu and book a stay at Nobu Ryokan—a boutique garden haven of 16 luxury ocean-view rooms with deep teak soaking tubs and indoor-outdoor fireplaces. You can also have omakase sushi and sashimi delivered to your room from a special menu and a Japanese breakfast bento in the morning.


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The French-themed tasting menu at Bell’s in Los Alamos (which just received a Michelin star) is an obvious choice for a special-occasion meal, with Steak au Poivre and a great Pinot, but the same crew just opened Bar Le Côte in Los Olivos in the historic Sides Hardward & Shoes building. The stylish seafood tavern was inspired by seafood capitals of Europe and Executive Chef Brad Mathews’ menu features Santa Barbara Sea Urchin, Dry-Aged Kampachi Crudo, Beef Tartare with fried Pacific Gold oysters, and vegetarian paella with sweet corn, summer squash, and shishito. For unforgettable sweets, it’s Spanish Citrus Olive Oil Cake or a Dark Chocolate Pot de Crème with chili-spiced chocolate soil. You might want to plan this sojourn for after the New Year when The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern (an Auberge luxury resort) will be open so you can make a night of it and go wine tasting the next day.

Nestled in downtown San Luis Obispo, the edible garden at Hotel Cerro is a highlight of the hotel and its dinners with local wines at Brasserie SLO. New Executive Chef Derek Brooks (Resort at Pelican Hill) uses the organic produce for the property’s restaurant (and some of the rooftop cocktails and hotel spa treatments) and guests can walk through while tasting vegetables and fruits. The menu features a Port Poached Pear with Point Reyes blue cheese, Bouillabaisse, and Black Truffle Honey-Glazed Salmon. While the hotel is currently not serving breakfast, newly opened bakery SLO Delicious next door has an array of treats, from Chocolate Molten muffins to croissant sandwiches and coffee cakes. The property is centrally located and only a block or two from Granada Hotel & Bistro (same owner as Skyview Los Alamos and Hotel Ynez), which features a brick patio for brunch with Fried Chicken and Waffles with a Bacon Bloody cocktail.


For an old-school steak and martini splurge, head to Bar Cecil in Palm Springs—a jewel-box setting that pays homage to bon vivant Cecil Beaton. Open New Year’s Eve and the following day, the kitchen is helmed by Executive Chef Gabe Woo, formerly of Holiday House and Sparrows Lodge and a 2019 James Beard House guest chef. Standout menu choices for a celebratory meal include the Fifty Dollar Martini served with a caviar-topped deviled egg, Regiis Ova Ossetra Caviar by Thomas Keller, Colossal Shrimp Cocktail, and Wagyu Tomahawk Steak. Keep the vintage vibe going and stay at one of the refurbished boutique properties nearby, such as Casa Cody or the brand-new Fleur Noire Hotel.


For a Holiday feast with the whole family, Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach has three options: AVEO Table & Bar with an ocean view and traditional dishes; Bourbon Steak Orange County from Michael Mina with a four-course, prix fixe dinner with a contemporary twist on modern cuts, fresh seafood, and vegan and vegetarian options; or Monarch Bay Beach Club, where resorts guests and members can dine beside the sand. You can also pick up custom-order holiday pies and other sweet treats from Part & Parcel Market.

Northern San Diego is having a culinary moment and your first stop should be Carlsbad for award-winning chef Eric Bost (last seen at Auburn and Republique in Hollywood), who is now serving a modern-French, four-course tasting menu from seafood platters to beet tarts, Liberty Farms canard and Snake River Farms Wagyu at 2021 Michelin-starred Jeune et Jolie alongside Beverage Director Jeremy Simpson, another L.A. transplant. The blush-hued, deco-designed space by Bells + Whistles has a newly added large patio. Just a few doors down, the same team is also behind the more casual, live-fire cooking concept, Campfire, which features a nod to camping with whole-roasted seabass plus s’mores for dessert.

You’ll want to stay in Oceanside right on the beach at sister properties The Seabird (with a Cape Code feel) or surf-friendly Mission Pacific (just steps from the pier). This spot also has the standalone flagship Valle by chef Roberto Alcocer from Malva in Baja and Pujol in Mexico City, who also has a south-of-the-border wine selection, including his own label. Designed by Studio Collective with a large veranda and private dining room option, expect elevated Mexican street fare with an ocean view. Also a must visit on the grounds of the hotel, Charlie’s dessert bar is an entire house of sweets located in the historic Victorian Graves property, where Top Gun was filmed.

 For a romantic dining escape, continue South to Alila Marea Beach Resort in Encinitas for lunch or dinner at VAGA by acclaimed local chef Claudette Zepeda—open for holiday meals. The menu might include Mexican-Asian signatures such as Crispy Roots with sunchokes, queso fresco, egg, and bonito or brisket buns. The beauty of the hotel, perched on a secluded coastal bluff with plenty of firepits, unobstructed ocean views, and long stretch of deserted beach, might just keep you there until the New Year.

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