My family and I had the time of our lives on our recent first-time trip to Catalina Island. We enjoyed amazing hospitality as the guests of the Island Company and dined at several restaurants, including at the Inn on Mt. Ada, where we stayed. The Inn is not currently open to non-guests for meals, but they are planning to start that later this year, so stay tuned.
Lunch at Inn on Mt. Ada
We were served lunch on the patio of this historic Inn as we took in the spectacular views. The view is so good, the food there almost doesn’t have to be, and yet it’s terrific. I had a Portobello mushroom sandwich without the bread, my son had a bison burger with mushrooms, and my husband had a delectable crab salad that in retrospect I wish I’d asked for the recipe. Plus my perpetual picky-eater had a great grilled cheese with fries. They even had a fancy chocolate caramel dessert tart for us. Breakfast, which, along with lunch, is served to guests as part of the room fee, is cooked-to-order pancakes, French toast, omelettes, eggs over easy or steel-cut oatmeal with fresh fruit. We loved it all.
Dinner at the Avalon Grille
The Avalon Grille has spectacular food in a lovely, dark-wood setting. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal, which included some surf, some turf, and even some grilled cheese for my picky eater.
I started with a cocktail – a dragon berry mojito, which was actually a little too sweet for me, but the fresh strawberries were a nice touch. My husband had a great craft beer they had on tap. I switched to a terrific glass of Rusack Chardonnay and that was just perfect with my meal.
We ordered a crab cake to start since it’s my son’s favorite, and it was really fresh and tasty, as well as a Caprese salad with some of the most delicious burrata I’ve ever tried.
For dinner, I had the seared scallops and they melted like butter, my son had the fish sandwich, which was delicately battered and very tasty, and my husband had the buffalo short ribs, which were just as rich and tasty as you can imagine. The Avalon Grille’s grilled cheese was just what Mr. Picky wanted – and the fries were enjoyed by all.
Lunch at Descanso Beach Club
Descanso Beach Club is fairly new, created as a “private beach, open to the public” in order to allow for alcohol consumption on the beach, an otherwise illegal activity in California. There are cabanas available for rent as well as lounge chairs on a secluded section of sand, or if you’re just here for the dining (or drinking), there’s a bar and table area.
We had a lovely lunch, just steps from the sand, of bison burger, sticky sweet-hot Sriracha wings with a cilantro dipping sauce, and the obligatory grilled cheese and fries. My husband sampled a Cucumber Cooler, made with gin and St. Germaine, and I tried a Stormy Sailor – their take on the Dark and Stormy. Theirs is made with a nice spicy rum and homemade ginger beer, a new favorite of mine. What could have been very standard fare was much better than that – with very fresh ingredients and a spectacular setting.
Descanso Beach Club also has private facilities available for weddings or meetings, with state of the art lighting and audio-visual capabilities, and coming by this Summer they’ll also have a new café with packaged sandwiches and salads, smoothies made to order, crepes and coffee drinks.
Dinner at Bluewater Avalon
This restaurant occupies some of the choicest real estate in Avalon Harbor, right on the water, which is amazingly clear, by the way. The deck is the perfect spot to have a drink, watch the boats bobbing in the bay, sit back and enjoy life. Part of a small restaurant chain which began in San Diego, Bluewater is the only one allowed on Catalina – notice you won’t find any McDonald’s, Taco Bells or Starbucks here.
Always a sucker for scallops, I had them grilled on a skewer with a set of shrimp done the same way. My son had the swordfish and my husband had the snapper. My picky eater buddy had – guess what? Grilled cheese – but served this time in a bento box, which was a nice touch.
We could tell how fresh the fish was and the sides were nice and simple. Fresh sautéed vegetables, spinach, cole slaw – perfect with the fish.
We even let ourselves have a bit of dessert, since it looked so amazing. The turtle cheesecake was moist and the crust was crunchy and nutty, and crème brulee was delicate. Just the right ending to the meal.
Other Dining Options on Catalina Island
There are plenty of restaurants around Avalon that we look forward to trying the next time we come – everything you could want, from pizza, burgers, steak, Mexican, and even a Chinese restaurant. And there’s no shortage of fish places for sure. Not to mention there’s something about a beachside town that makes people crave sweets and ice cream, so you’d be crazy to miss Lloyd’s for saltwater taffy or any other of their sweet treats, or Big Olaf’s is another spot for ice cream, the perfect accompaniment to strolling along the boardwalk in Avalon.
Sarah Auerswald is the co-Founder of MomsLA.com. She and her family were guests of The Island Company for their stay on Catalina Island. Many of their meals were provided in order to write this review.