“Ohana” is Hawaiian for “family”. And when you’re at Hapa J’s, you feel like you’re a part of their family.
A few friends had told me of this new “cool and casual” place to eat in San Clemente. However, having been spoiled by living in Laguna Beach for the past 35+ years with all its great dining establishments, the thought of driving 20 minutes south to eat did not excite me.
Was it worth it? Boy, we were sure taken aback. It is so nice not to have high expectations. Even had we had high expectations, we would not have been disappointed. Undoubtedly, we will be back there soon and often. It is our newest place to meet friends while in south OC. It is less than a mile off the 5 Fwy on El Camino Real. You can zip right in and back on the road if you are so inclined. However, San Clemente is a really great town to go hang around and catch the surf vibe. So don’t be in such a hurry.
Immediately upon entering the lounge, we felt the laid back Hawaiian warmth. It radiated from the very comfortable seating options to the open beams with the gentle ceiling fans. Plus, there were two large screen HD TVs to catch the games and enjoy some of the latest surf videos.
Being that it was still happy hour, we started off with a couple of cocktails. One of the house favorites recommended by our lovely server, the Rossy Boy Mai Tai, was enough for my lightweight GF. This local version packs a punch just like the local boy it's named after. It’s a combination of Cruzan White and Cruzan Gold Rum with da Hapa Mai Tai mix and topped with La Haina Dark. Easy Kolohe!
I decided on the Braised Short Ribs, garnished with a Plum Wine Demiglaze, served with grilled asparagus (Montreaux seasoning), and garlic mashed potatoes. It was so good I would have licked the plate, however did not want to embarrass myself.
We finished off this over-the-top surprise with one order of another house specialty, Pumpkin Crunch. This is an awesome way to top off your tank. After this pumpkin pie gone nutty (topped with nutmeg-spiced whipped cream), I could hardly make my way out the door.
Hapa J’s is located at 2016 S. El Camino Real, San Clemente (between Budget Lodge and Stewart’s Surf Shop). For more information or to make reservations, call 949-276-6657 or visit hapajs.com
From Oceanside/San Diego: Take 5 North. Exit El Camino Real. Take a right onto El Camino Real. Take a right onto Cornelio. The parking lot is on the left behind Stewart’s Surf Shop.