Monthly Archives: July 2015

Spotlight on: Top 10 Underrated South Orange County Restaurants

You won’t find South of Nick’s or the world-famous Raya at the Ritz Carlton on this list. We all know those restaurants are great. This post is dedicated to the restaurants you may not have heard of. Consider them for your next evening out.

Iva Lee’s
555 N El Camino Real, San Clemente
(949) 361-2855
iva lee'sWe’ve dined here a few times now and it’s one of the best dining experiences I’ve had in Orange County–and it isn’t even because of the food. The food is good, but the ambiance and service are what make this place special.  There is kind of a dark, saloon vibe. The bar area is great. Live music is great (and not so loud that you can’t hear the person sitting next to you).

As for the food, we got the fried green tomatoes to start. The goat cheese made that dish. I got the red snapper with the cheesy grits and collard greens. It was nice to have something DIFFERENT for a change. They have great cocktails, several good beers on tap, and an extensive wine list.

Surfin’ Cowboy
34235 Doheny Park Rd, Capistrano Beach
(949) 272-5957
When we moved to Capo Beach, we were obsessed with finding “our place”–somewhere unpretentious where we could watch sports, drink good beer, and eat some acceptable food. I think this is the spot.

Don’t be fooled by the sort of odd location or the blacked out windows. It looks shady from the outside, but it’s fun inside. It definitely feels like a “local hangout.” Even though it’s a bar, lots of families come here. It’s a really chill, friendly atmosphere.

They have a great beer list–lots of craft selections. And the menu is surprisingly varied. I always get one of their huge burgers and I’m never disappointed.

24312 Del Prado Ave, Dana Point
(949) 661-6500
If you like good Italian food, Luciana’s is an excellent choice. The ambiance is great–dim mood lighting, cozy decor, laughter, wine flowing. It has a very homey, authentic Italian vibe. The food? Good, overall. Try the calimari fritti or the lasagna and you will not be disappointed. Prices are reasonable. It would be good for a date or for a family dinner–anything really. We’ll be back!

Tavern on the Coast
34212 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point
(949) 415-5888
We’ve been here for brunch and dinner and they’ve always impressed us with quality food and stellar customer service.  The short rib lasagna was very rich and delicious.  For brunch, I’d highly recommend the breakfast burger with one of their morning cocktails. The bar area is really nice. They have a TV and it’s a more laid-back vibe than the rest of the restaurant–though the whole place is pretty casual. We’ll be back… at the bar!

24582 Del Prado Ave # A, Dana Point
(949) 276-4990
Very cool outdoor seating, swanky couches and intimate tables inside, a big, central bar with a TV, and a dude playing a guitar. What could be better? They have a pretty good happy hour menu, with $3 domestic beers and $4 craft/international beers. Not bad. We got the flatbread toscana and the bruschetta sampler off their happy hour menu too. VERY GOOD. This is a perfect place for sharing lots of small plates. Their menu has a ton of options.

The Cellar
156 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente
(949) 492-3663
The only negative thing I have to say is that it’s crowded. That’s not really their fault, though. They’re just that awesome. Our waitress got us beers while we waited, so that helped. It’s first come, first served–no reservations taken–so be prepared to wait a bit.

Everything we ordered was delicious: Black bean hummus, Crostino, Kale and black bean flatbread, Mac n’ cheese. But the best part about this place is the great wine and beer selection. Service is super friendly. Piano music starts at 7pm. What else can I say? We love it.

211 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672
(949) 361-2079
We really, really loved this place. It’s charming, aka small. I’d recommend reservations. We sat on the patio, which was nice and mellow. The inside is more of a pub atmosphere. Everything we ate was great: english pea and garlic confit ravioli, Mediterranean sea bass, mac-and-cheese, chocolate souffle. You get the sense that real people run this place– not some distant company. We’ll be back.

Gen Kai
34143 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, CA 92629
(949) 240-2004
gen kai
This is the best sushi restaurant in South Orange County.  I feel like I have said enough.  End of review.

Angelina’s Pizzeria

32860 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, CA 92629
(949) 429-1102
Sometimes I think, “Pizza is just pizza.” Then there are places that totally impress me and superlatives like “best” come flying out of my mouth. This place has the BEST authentic, Italian pizza. We went on our honeymoon in Italy and realized what sets that pizza apart from American pizza–fresh, flavorful sauce + top notch cheese. The red sauce on Angelina’s pizzas is just like what we had in Italy. I would have enjoyed drinking a glass of it.  Try the Margharita or the Vesuvio, those are our favorites!

Sambuca Italian Bistro
31161 Niguel Rd, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
(949) 429-7900
We had a wonderful experience here. The restaurant is small, with an open kitchen overlooking small tables clustered together. This wouldn’t be good for a big group (unless you arranged with them ahead of time to push together multiple tables). The service is superb. I think our waitress owns the place because she was very attentive and invested in explaining the menu and giving recommendations. The food was excellent. It reminded me of a little cafe in Florence we visited when we were in Italy. They’re known for their black linguini with shrimp and lobster.  I cannot comment on many other entrees on their menu because I haven’t been able to get off their black linguini yet!

The Nixon Estate, aka La Casa Pacifica, aka The Western White House

Do you have $75 million lying around? If you do, take a gander at this 5.45-acre oceanfront estate in San Clemente. It’s not just any estate. It’s known as President Nixon’s Western White House.

4100 Calle Isabella is located in Cypress Shores, up at Cotton’s Point in southwest San Clemente. It was built by Hamilton Cotton, a financial partner of San Clemente founder Ole Hanson. Cotton was a Democratic Party supporter who entertained President Franklin Roosevelt at the residence. It’s said they played poker together.

Ironically, a Republican bought it in 1969. Richard Nixon. He paid $340,000 (a fortune at the time) and dubbed it La Casa Pacifica. When Nixon resigned from office, he returned to La Casa Pacifica to write his memoirs. He moved to New York in 1980 and sold the home and 26 acres to Gavin S. Herbert and 2 developers (George Argyros and Donald Koll). You may not have heard of Herbert, but he’s a big name. He founded pharmaceutical giant Allergan with his father in 1950.

A bit about the property: It has some 15,000 square feet among all the structures, including a 9,000-square-foot main residence. Noteworthy features include: a pavilion with a grand main room, bar, guest suite and den, a two-bedroom guest house, pool and pool terrace, lighted tennis court, gazebo on the bluff, expansive lawns, vegetable and succulent gardens, a greenhouse, catering facility, four staff residences, security annexes and a private well for landscaping water.

The estate remains a historic property, even after a large part of the estate’s acreage was divvied up into lots for private residences. In 2009, Herbert entered into a 10-year preservation agreement on the home with the city of San Clemente in exchange for a tax break.

“We’ve always regarded it as a historic property,” Herbert told the City Council. “It’s like owning a big boat on the ocean. It gets a little rusted. We have projects going on literally every month to keep the property in order.” (Source)

Herbert, now 83, says it was a very hard decision to sell the property. He told the Wall Street Journal, “I think (my wife and I) felt we were caretakers. We care a lot about who the next caretakers would be.”

The property has been on the market for a little over a month. Any takers?

f President Richard  Nixon and Wife Pat NIxon   Home house 4 house 5 house 6 house 7 house 8 house 9

>> More photos (and a virtual tour) on the Sotheby’s website.

New Online Real Estate Tools

There are so many real estate tools today that doing research online can be a little overwhelming for the average house hunter.

Courtesy © auremar –

Courtesy © auremar –

I am here today to muck things up a little more by introducing a few new tools you may have never heard of.

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If you’re looking to rent a place, PadMapper is an excellent tool.  Not only does it have a ton of filters and map view options, but it ties in rental listings from multiple sources like CraigsList,, and It even ties into Google Street View, which is a great feature I use all the time to get a feel for the neighborhood. It doesn’t update as quickly as I would like it to, so be prepared to call multiple listings because some may not be available. However, the pros definitely outweigh the cons and I’d definitely recommend checking out this site.


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Check out this app if you’re in the market to buy a house. The great thing about this app is that it draws in all kinds of lifestyle options like entertainment, transportation, education, and community amenities. If, for example, you’re a young, active couple seeking action and adventure, visually map your search by local nightlife and hiking trails in the area. In fact, Keller Williams offers its own white-labeled application to clients that is based on SmarterAgent technology.  Watch this YouTube video to get a better idea of how it works.


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HomeSeekers is an app that agents can share with clients, equaling high-value convenience.  The HomeSeekers app extends CRMLS Matrix access to your iPhone or Android device.  Once installed, login using your CRMLS Matrix credentials and your contact information will be automatically pulled in making the app ready to share via social, email and text.  After sharing the app with clients you can begin messaging with them and viewing their favorite properties in real-time. Download for free in iTunes or Google Play.


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Listingbook allows you to search just like an agent and provides you access to Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data, public records, recent and past sales, community and school information, taxes, loan calculator, shopping and recreation, and much more.

Add your e-mail address to our list and we will keep you up to date on all the community, real estate, and financing news for your area.  And you can sign up for access to Listing Book where you can do property searches, by entering your Name and e-mail address below, along with any search parameters you prefer such as price, location, etc.


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This is a for-fee, subscription-based website and only offers limited information for free, but it’s an incredible resource if you want to really do your homework on the neighborhood you may be moving into. Crime rates, school ratings, walking scores, appreciation rates, this website is truly the only tool you’ll need to learn everything you need to know about your future community!

108 E Portal

This week’s listing is a triplex in central San Clemente–great for an investor.

108 E Portal
Unit A (Lower): 3 bedrooms, 1 3/4 bathrooms
Unit B (Upper): 2 bedrooms, 1 3/4 bathrooms
Unit C (Upper): 2 bedrooms, 1 1/2 bathrooms
3,100 total square feet

house 1 house 2 house 3

Here’s why I think this is a great buy:

  • The location couldn’t be better: Off El Camino Real, between Pico and Del Mar. This is prime real estate in San Clemente
  • It’s move-in ready. No work needs to be done
  • It has a cap rate of 5%, which is good for the area (cap rate is yearly income divided by purchase price)
  • The cash flow is good: About $65,000 annual gross rents (about $60,000 net income)
  • An investor could stand to turn a profit. Sample scenario: Put down 20%, take out a mortgage of $960,000. That would be cost about $4,865/month, or $58,000 per year (versus the $60,000 in net income)
  • The price per square foot is competitive at $386. In the past year, most multi-unit investment properties in this area have sold for over $400/square foot
  • There are ocean views from the top units, and a nice courtyard with the lower unit
  • There are 3 garages and 3 driveway spaces, for a total of 6 parking spots. This is essential for this area as parking can be tough, especially in summer

Want to check it out? Contact me today.

33061 Sea Bright Drive

This week’s listing is a great property in Dana Point.

33061 Sea Bright Drive
3 bed, 2.5 bath
2,458 square feet

home 1 home 2 home 3 home 4

Here’s why I think this is a great buy:

  • It’s in a great neighborhood–the Thunderbird tract of Dana Point, adjacent to Dana Woods
  • It’s high up on a hill, so you get canyon views while also being close to downtown Dana Point, the beach, and the harbor
  • The price per square foot is competitive at $350. Recent sales in Thunderbird West have been closer to $400/square foot
  • No HOA fees
  • No Mello Roos taxes

Want to check it out? Contact me today.

2111 Via Viejo

This week’s listing is a priced-to-sell property in San Clemente.

2111 Via Viejo
4 bed, 3 bath
2,900 square feet

house 1 house 2 house 3 house 4

Here’s why I think this is a great buy:

  • The price per square foot is very competitive at $275. There are only a few properties for sale in this area and they are all around $300/square foot. Historically, over the last 18 months, properties in the area are selling at around $315/square foot
  • It’s dated, but the location in Forster Ranch makes up for the need to upgrade
  • Forster Ranch is a great family neighborhood, with ocean and canyon views, parks, hiking trails, and close proximity to the beaches
  • The schools are awesome: Truman Benedict Elementary School is a 9, Bernice Ayer Middle School is an 8, and San Clemente High School is an 8

Want to check it out? Contact me today.

27682 Paseo Barona

This week’s listing is a great property in San Juan Capistrano. It’s not often that homes in this neighborhood go up for sale, so this one won’t last long.

27682 Paseo Barona
4 bed, 2 bath
3,016 square feet

house 1 house 2 house 3 house 4 house 5

Here’s why I think this is a great buy:

  • It has a great price per square foot of only $290
  • It’s in a cul-de-sac of a small, private neighborhood that backs up to a greenbelt
  • It’s close to Ortega Hwy for easy freeway access
  • Nice updates include a gourmet kitchen, energy efficient air conditioner and heater, and solar
  • The backyard has citrus trees and an herb garden
  • Marco Forster Middle School and San Juan Hills High School are both rated 8

Want to check it out? Contact me today.