Sundried Tomato Bistro –
For the last year or so, I’ve been on a Perfect Steak Salad Hunt. It doesn’t seem that a mix of beef, greens and dressing could be such a terribly difficult thing to put together, but I can assure you – after 30 or more tries – it must be much more difficult than we mere humans suppose.
Yesterday, though, I came awfully close to ending my quest when I lunched at Sundried Tomato American Bistro in downtown Laguna on Forest Avenue.
In a corner nook of one of Laguna’s busiest streets, I’m not sure that everyone actually sees Sundried Tomato from the street, but it’s certainly one of our more consistently busy restaurants, no matter the season. While Sundried has three locations in South Orange County, the Laguna Beach restaurant has been with us more than 10 years, and its fresh menu and usually attentive service will keep it on Laguna’s roster of favorites for a long time to come.
Along with starters such as Bacon-Wrapped Jumbo Scallops and Black Mussels with Saffron Cream, Sundried Tomato has a daily, home-crafted soup that puts just about any other soup offering in Laguna Beach to shame. They offer a healthy handful of salads and if you can’t make a decision, they’ll give you a hearty Salad Sampler of three. These are not wimpy salads, mind you. My Prime Top Sirloin Steak Salad arrived with 4 very healthy cuts of filet, grilled to perfection and nestled in a pile of arugula with a sprinkling of asiago and pine nuts. Their whipped creamed horseradish on the side was a delightful addition. This was a seriously filling plate of food.
Among a handful of monstrous sandwiches and burgers, Sundried Tomato also offers pasta dishes, my favorite being Blackened Chicken over Bowtie Pasta with sundried tomato puree and three cheeses. On my last dining experience, I tried their Shrimp Scampi on Angel Hair as Angel Hair pasta tends to be one of the more finnicky dishes you can serve in a restaurant. It arrived a perfect al dente, and the shrimp was light and fresh, a perfect hit.
Not to be outdone, there are still more entreés on the Sundried Tomato menu, including seared Ahi Tuna, Mahi Mahi in Miso Glaze, Root Beer Marinated Baby Back Ribs and Pasta-Less Vegetarian Lasagna, to name a few.
When readers ask me for a quieter restaurant that actually allows them to talk with their friends, I suggest Sundried Tomato
Whether you eat on the open patio or inside the quaint place, you may find it bustling and active, but it’s never a cacophony as so many of our Laguna Beach restaurants are becoming. And, while the tables are close together, they aren’t so crowded that you feel you’re intruding on your neighbor.
I’ve only had one experience at Sundried when I felt that my party of three was being loomed over in an effort to bustle us out the door to turn the table. Apparently, we had overstayed our one-hour welcome. Given that the Sundried Tomato menu offers entreés at a higher price than most in Laguna Beach, I don’t think it’s fair to rush any patron at any time. I will say that most of my experiences at Sundried have been quite friendly and efficient without the front door management stalking us.
Better still, Sundried Tomato allows your pooch to join you on the patio – it’s best that you call ahead to reserve a spot when you plan to bring your dog, remembering that lunch crowds are usually less demanding for patio seating.
Sundried Tomato particulars:
Address: 361 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach, 92651
Hours of Operation: Sunday – Thursday, 11:30 a.m. – 9:30 pm., Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Reservations recommended at (949) 388-5757 or online at: S undried Reservations
Happy Hour: 2-7 p.m. every night in bar
Corkage fee: $15
Dogs: Allowed on patio