9 Seaside Restaurants with Great Wines on Deck

Head for the shore to enjoy these impressive wine cellars
9 Seaside Restaurants with Great Wines on Deck
Sierra Mar in Big Sur, Calif., is a Grand Award winner with a striking cliffside setting overlooking the Pacific Ocean. (Courtesy of Sierra Mar)
Mar 25, 2021

A trip to the tranquil seaside sounds especially appealing after a tough 2020. An ocean breeze, a sun-soaked beach, a glass of wine in hand—now more than ever, the simplest pleasures make for the best memories. Make some new ones at these nine Wine Spectator Restaurant Award–winning beach-town destinations, from Miami to Big Sur, Calif., to Maui, Hawaii, with wine lists as broad as the horizon and as deep as the blue sea.

This is just a small sample of excellent wine restaurants by the sea. To check out more wine-and-food destinations around the world, see Wine Spectator’s nearly 3,800 Restaurant Award–winning picks, including the Grand Award recipients that hold our highest honor.

Do you have a favorite you’d like to see on this list? Send your recommendations to restaurantawards@mshanken.com. We want to hear from you!

Note: Opening hours and menus are subject to change as the industry continues to adjust to evolving regulations.


Sierra Mar

Post Ranch Inn, Highway 1, Big Sur, Calif.
Telephone (831) 667-2800
Website www.postranchinn.com
Grand Award

 Sierra Mar restaurant exterior at sunset
Sierra Mar juts out over the Pacific Ocean for breathtaking views. (Courtesy of Sierra Mar)

This Grand Award–winning restaurant boasts floor-to-ceiling views of the Pacific Ocean from its perch on a cliff just off Route 1 in Big Sur, Calif. Sierra Mar is part of the luxurious Post Ranch Inn and serves local California cuisine paired with a 3,400-selection wine list. Chef Jonny Black’s menu marries the familiar and the unexpected through dishes like scallop crudo with winter truffle and green apple, venison with carrot and sesame and little gem lettuce with burrata and bone marrow. Black’s counterpart is wine director Mark Buzan, whose program delves into wines from California and the best of France—highlighted by Burgundy, the Rhône, Bordeaux, Champagne and the Loire—as well as Italy and Spain. Wine pairings with the $125 prix-fixe menu of four courses costs an additional $95 per person, and the by-the-glass choices change weekly. Due to the pandemic, the restaurant is temporarily only available to guests of the inn, but will be open to the public once it’s safe to do so.


Charleston Grill

Belmond Charleston Place Hotel, 224 King St., Charleston, S.C.
Telephone (843) 577-4522

Website www.charlestongrill.com
Best of Award of Excellence

 A plated fish dish from Charleston Grill
The menu at Charleston Grill presents a balanced list of dishes from land and sea. (Courtesy of Charleston Grill)

Just blocks from the Atlantic Ocean is Charleston Grill, a jazz-fueled fine-dining spot inside the Belmond Charleston Place hotel. Off-shore activities include cruises showcasing the historic homes along the shore of Charleston Harbor, while back on land, chef Michelle Weaver’s menu draws influence from Southern recipes, French techniques and global ingredients, and the wine program has diversity to match. California, Burgundy, Italy and Champagne are all standout regions on the list of nearly 1,300 labels crafted by wine director Rick Rubel, earning a Best of Award of Excellence consistently since 2007. There are plenty of bottles under $100, as well as collectibles and substantial verticals from producers such as Bodegas Vega Sicilia, Opus One and Château Latour.


Lahaina Grill

127 Lahainaluna Road, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Telephone (808) 667-5117
Website www.lahainagrill.com
Best of Award of Excellence

 A fish dish with carrots at Lahaina Grill
Fresh, local fish is a backbone of the menu at Lahaina Grill. (Courtesy of Lahaina Grill)

Dining at Best Award of Excellence–winning Lahaina Grill is a colorful experience. Amid the bright hues of the new American cuisine like sautéed local mahi-mahi and seared lion-paw scallops, this Maui restaurant values fresh local seafood and offers a substantial wine list. Wine director Richard Olson III’s 410-selection list focuses on hard-to-find, low-production selections from California and France. The restaurant just reopened this week, with safety precautions for pandemic safety outlined on its website.


Sea Salt St. Pete

183 Second Ave. N., St. Petersburg, Fla.
Telephone (727) 873-7964
Website www.seasaltstpete.com
Best of Award of Excellence

 Tables set around the bar at Sea Salt St. Pete
From the fresh seafood dishes to the aqua decor, Florida’s Sea Salt St. Pete is inspired by the sea. (Pezz Photo)

As its name suggests, Sea Salt St. Pete is all about the ocean. The menu changes daily depending on fresh catches, and the dining room’s aqua tones with gold accents reflect the colors of sand and sea. At the center of the open-air space is a 22-foot-tall cellar storing more than 4,000 bottles. Sea Salt St. Pete holds a Best of Award of Excellence for the wine list of nearly 800 selections with strengths in California, Spain and France, overseen by wine director Jacqueline Eash. The moderately-priced list comprises selections from all over the world including Lebanon and Argentina. The extensive California section complements chef Kenneth Tufo’s coastal cuisine like crab-crusted swordfish and snapper with saffron crema.


Seablue Restaurant & Wine Bar

501 Highway 17 N., North Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Telephone (843) 249-8800
Website www.seabluewinebar.com
Best of Award of Excellence

For a rewarding meal after a day of golfing in one of the many nearby courses, Seablue Restaurant & Wine Bar presents an upscale dining experience in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., not far from the city’s main beach and even closer to the Intracoastal Waterway. This Best of Award of Excellence–winning restaurant features a 450-selection wine list overseen by wine director, chef and co-owner Kennenth Norcutt, with a wide range of labels available by the glass. The list is strongest in reds from California, France and Italy, and there are also robust Port and whiskey selections. Norcutt’s cuisine is similar to that of a steak house; think tomahawk veal chop and Wagyu beef–bacon cheeseburgers.


Splashes

Surf & Sand Resort, 1555 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, Calif.
Telephone (949) 376-2779
Website www.surfandsandresort.com/splashes
Best of Award of Excellence

The Pacific Ocean offers plenty of fresh ingredients for surfside dining, and Splashes restaurant in Laguna Beach, Calif., celebrates that bounty. Located at the Surf & Sand Resort, the restaurant’s wine list of nearly 400 selections has held a Best of Award of Excellence since 2018. Californian and French picks are the core of wine director Joe Baumgardner’s program, which features a strong by-the-glass section. There’s plenty of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from top estates like Hirsch, as well as many Napa Cabernets (including multiple verticals). Chef Ronald Fougeray’s seafood-focused menu showcases ingredients sourced from nearby waters with dishes like crisp octopus with roasted jalapeño–hummus, tuna crudo with candied kumquats and seared scallops with saffron-cauliflower puree. Though the bar is currently closed, guests can dine on the outdoor patio, or in the main dining room with sweeping ocean views.


The Surf Club Restaurant

Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club, 9011 Collins Ave., Surfside, Fla.
Telephone (305) 768-9440
Website www.surfclubrestaurant.com
Best of Award of Excellence

 Lobster thermidor at the Surf Club Restaurant
Lobster thermidor is among the luxe dishes at Thomas Keller’s Surf Club Restaurant. (Deborah Jones)

Located at the Four Seasons’ Surf Club hotel in Surfside, Fla., Thomas Keller’s Surf Club Restaurant mixes coastal luxury with the high-caliber wine-and-food menus the chef is so well-known for. Sommelier Zach Gossard oversees a wine list of more than 600 labels, which helped earn the restaurant its first Best of Award of Excellence the same year it opened. The list is strongest in France (especially Bordeaux and Burgundy), California and Italy. Impressive bottles from Champagne, the Rhône, Piedmont, Tuscany and Spain give guests more options to pair with chef Manuel Echeverri’s menu. American classics are served with refined flair, with some items prepared tableside, like Caesar salad and steak tartare. Seafood lovers can look to the menu’s sea bass, lobster thermidor and Dover sole, and there are several cuts of beef as well.


Cara

The Chanler at Cliff Walk, 117 Memorial Blvd., Newport, R.I.
Telephone (401) 847-2244
Website www.thechanler.com
Award of Excellence

With its coastal vistas, grand estates and opulent hotels, Newport, R.I., has long been a destination of luxury seaside dining. Award of Excellence winner Cara—formerly Spiced Pear Restaurant—continues this tradition at the Chanler at Cliff Walk hotel, housed in a mansion and overlooking Easton Bay. Wine director Christopher Giglietti built the list of more than 300 labels, which shines brightest in California and France. Following a considerable small-format selection, Cara offers many Champagnes from top houses. California Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon are also well-represented, with additional bottles from Tuscany and Bordeaux. Chef Jacob Jasinski matches the list with a seasonal and ever-changing prix-fixe menu of French and regional dishes, often using locally sourced ingredients.


The Harbor House Inn

5600 S. Highway 1, Elk, Calif.
Telephone (800) 877-3203
Website www.theharborhouseinn.com
Award of Excellence

 The Harbor House Inn’s dining room with a view of the water
A picturesque backdrop awaits diners at the Harbor House Inn. (Courtesy of the Harbor House Inn)

The Harbor House Inn is located on the coast of California’s Mendocino region, so it’s no surprise that the restaurant’s wine program excels in California. The restaurant at the boutique inn holds an Award of Excellence for its list, which is managed by wine director Marsella Charron and also excels in Burgundy. A commendable Champagne section lists several cuvées from Jacques Selosse, plus wines from top producers in Austria, Germany, Bordeaux and Italy. While Cabernet Sauvignon is featured, Pinot Noir forms the core of the red selection. Well-regarded wineries are tapped for the dessert list, such as Port house Quinta do Noval. Seafood-focused Californian cuisine is featured on chef Matthew Kammerer’s menu. Guests can expect complex and intricate dishes like oyster with yuzu, giant clam with wasabi arugula, sea lettuce–sourdough and abalone roasted in kelp. It’s all served in a 25-seat oceanfront dining room with a patio space.


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