Illustration by Bob AulLocal hotels aren't just for immigrant workers, illicit expense-account noontime trysts and tourists from Lichtenstein. They're for us. Some feature high-class restaurants with award-winning chefs that could probably make your couch taste like filet mignon at five-star prices. The following are among the best.
SAVOURY'S, 1287 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 376-9716.The quaintly historical Casa del Camino Hotel is proud to host Brad Toles, winner of four gold medals in the International Culinary Olympics, and his California-cuisine restaurant, Savoury's. Summer's almost over, so rush over and taste Toles' dog-days menu, currently boasting such light, complex entrées as a nuanced pistachio-and-rosemary-crusted chicken over penne leche in a light pesto-cream sauce ($23). NAPA ROSE, 1600 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 635-2300.Located in Disney's Grand Californian Hotel, most Napa Rose dishes feature that Disney magic in their lame names—seriously, Sizzling Beach Rock for an appetizer plate? But the results ain't Mickey Mouse: garlic-powerful shrimp, soy-licked spareribs, and tidbits of lemongrass chicken better than any other hen you'll ever yen. SUNDRIED TOMATO CAFÉ, 3737 W. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 978-9463.The adjoining Countryside Inn looks ready for the wrecking ball, but this restaurant exudes vibrancy with every plate. Definitely try the rack of lamb ($21.95), a giant hock of the gentle creature spruced up with a cabernet-and-dried-cranberry sauce that quiets the bleating in your imagination. BEST WESTERN BAY SHORES INN,1800 W. Balboa Blvd., Newport Beach, (949) 675-3463.Other motor inns may offer the exact same continental breakfast, but none toss in the same open-air, rooftop view of the beach on one side and Newport Harbor on the other. The coffee here is so pleasantly caffeinated guests shake like Katharine Hepburn before she kicked. FIRST CABIN, 1221 W. Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, (888) 445-7153.Expect bumpkins to flock to this brand-new eatery now that the ultrasnooty Balboa Bay Club has opened its premises to the public. We hear great things about this place, though we've yet to eat there ourselves. But we've had great dining experiences at the club. Last time there, we ate at a Mexican buffet that satisfied this Mexican—until one club member asked if I could serve her another plate. True story.