Catalina Island is a secluded piece of paradise just off the southern coast of lovely California. From the mainland, you can get there from four ports – Dana Point, Long Beach, Newport Beach, and San Pedro – all of which provide ferry service to the island about an hour away.
Catalina Island only has one main city, Avalon, which may be short on real estate but is perfect for a day trip or short getaway, offering a few compact blocks full of hotels, water sports activities and, notably, quality dining options, which is what we’ll look at here.
This buzzing, rambunctious tiki bar, conveniently located just a few steps from the beach, can be a nice way to start off your trip in Avalon.
The bar is famous for its tropical mixed drinks, notably the Wiki Wacker (brandy, light rum, orange/pineapple juice, and grenadine). Food options include coconut shrimp, oysters, sloppy joes, and Mexican cócteles.
509 Crescent Ave.; 310-510-1919
Descanso Beach Club
Pass the island’s famous Casino (which actually isn’t a casino) and keep walking to find yourself at the Descanso Beach Club.
Descanso is not only a restaurant, but also a public beach and bar rolled into one. It’s the only public beach in the area where you’re allowed to drink, so you won’t even have to leave your lounging area of choice to be served.
Crowds are packed during the usual beach time, but most people make their way back to their hotels around 5 PM for dinner, so a late afternoon arrival can be the ideal visiting window.
Did we mention that half-price happy hour drinks are also served at that time?
1 St. Catherine Way; 310-510-7410
Lunch at the Mt. Ada
Mt. Ada was named after the wife of William Wrigley, Jr., an investor who developed the island in the 1920s. His mansion, now a luxury inn, overlooks Avalon Bay from the top of the hill. The nearby wrap-around terrace offers a restaurant, also open to those not staying at the inn.
For $48, you’ll get a three-course meal where the choices include dishes like crab salad or Waldorf, lamb or beef burgers, pasta or grilled branzino, and, for dessert, sticky toffee pudding.
A couple things to keep in mind: you’ll need to make a reservation beforehand, so be sure to call the inn, and you’ll need to arrange your own transportation to get there.
398 Wrigley Rd.; 310-510-2030
Avalon Grille aims to modernize the otherwise 80s vibe of Catalina island with its décor and function: light brown wood tabletops, wicker furniture, a central bar, and large bay windows that reveal views of Crescent Avenue.
Like many other restaurants on the island, Avalon Grille offers dining options for all three meals of the day. Menu options include salmon with fennel marinated in miso, grass-fed ribeye, sea urchin butter drizzled on grilled halibut, and plenty of sides to complement the main course.
The restaurant also hosts DJ events on weekend nights.
423 Crescent Ave.; 310-510-7494
Maggie’s Blue Rose / Steve’s Steakhouse
Craving Mexican cuisine?
The colorful Maggie’s Blue Rose has you covered for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, with a happy hour every day to boot. Large portions are guaranteed to fill you up every time, with dishes like breakfast burritos filled with cheese, eggs, and chorizo; unique lobster or duck enchiladas, combo meals for two, and bottomless chips and dip.
The restaurant also has an outdoor patio area for scenic al fresco dining.
The owners of Maggie’s Blue Rose offer a second dining option; head upstairs in the same building for longtime favorite Steve’s Steakhouse, a restaurant that serves up cold drinks, fresh local seafood, and steaks cooked to order.
Local favorites include the key lime pie and the Buffalo Milk, a cocktail made with Kahlua, half-and-half, crème de banana and cacao, and vodka. Grab a window seat for nice scenic views of the beach and pier.
Maggie’s Blue Rose: 417B Crescent Ave.; 310-510-3300
Steve’s Steakhouse: 417 Crescent Ave.; 310-510-0333
With only two other California locations in Newport Beach and Redondo Beach, Bluewater Avalon made it to Catalina island only a few years back, but it’s a prime dining choice for all things seafood.
Selections include fish cooked a variety of ways (blackened, grilled, fried, and more), fresh oysters, and favorites like jumbo prawns, mahi mahi sliders and cedar plank salmon.
306 Crescent Ave.; 310-510-3474
Original Jack’s Country Kitchen
Like down-home cooking?
Original Jack’s Country Kitchen offers delicious classic breakfast dining fare like customizable omelets, fried chicken and waffles, eggs and pork chops (or ham), and Portuguese French toast.
Or if you come after 3 pm, you can grab a cup of Kona coffee and take your pick from delicious baked goods, including pie.
If you’d like to eat here for breakfast, bring a big appetite and a lot of patience, as the line to get a delicious meal here goes out the door and doesn’t get any shorter until mid-afternoon.
118 Catalina Ave.; 310-510-1308
The Marlin Club
The oldest bar on Catalina Island turns a regular old dive bar into a hangout that’s cool and aesthetic, with the décor built to reflect that of a Merchant Marines WW2 boat.
The bar’s colorful characters, reasonably-priced drinks, pool tables, and music in the form of jukebox hits or live shows means that patrons will have a fun time here.
108 Catalina Ave.; 310-510-0044
These are just a few of the varied dining options you can find on Avalon. There are cuisine options available to satisfy every palate – from seafood, to Mexican, to country-style cooking – whether it’s fine dining, casual, or something in between.
This makes Catalina Island a neat little culinary destination that foodies shouldn’t miss.