San Juan Capistrano is a delightful historical town in Orange County, California — a 15 minute drive from Laguna Beach or under 2 hour train ride from L.A. via Amtrak. If you are in the area, I HIGHLY recommend spending a few hours here — breakfast or lunch at Ramos House Cafe followed by a visit to the beautiful Mission. There are also plenty of boutiques to browse, and walks through old town to view the quaint board-and-batten cottages or the adobes prevalent here. The train station is conveniently located in this area, FYI.
Ramos House Cafe has been a favorite brunch spot for me ever since my in-laws introduced it to me in the 90’s. Housed in a cottage built in 1881, it exudes charm. Tables are located on the covered patio in the garden, located directly across the tracks from the railroad station. The whistle-stops just add to the allurement.
This excerpt from the cafe’s website pretty much sums up their cuisine and philosophy.
“The idea of the Ramos House Cafe is simple. As in the old days, the owner lives and works at the house. The wines are kept in the cellar, the herbs are grown in the garden and the ice cream is turned out back. The menu is seasonal and pretty much changes daily. We specialize in contemporary American cuisine with an obvious tilt towards breakfast and the South.”
The food and ambience are exceptional here. Service is casual and pleasant. Note that the restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch; no dinners served here. Brunch is served on Saturday’s and Sunday’s — $40 for three delectable courses.
Plan to spend 1-2 hours at the Mission depending on how in-depth you like to explore. For me, I am fine skipping most of the interiors, while happily exploring the photographer’s garden-paradise, camera in hand. Take a moment or two inside the Serra Chapel for some peace and meditation. Even kids will enjoy the grounds between the fun of listening to the complimentary audio tour, checking out the giant koi in the center fountain, and tossing some coins in the fountain near the chapel.
Here’s a few photos from my day spent in S.J. Capistrano this past weekend.