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San Clemente Journal

Daily’s Sports Grill “Cheers” to Downtown

Jun 29, 2021 10:51AM ● By Mary Colarik

Built in 1930, the building is on the corner of El Camino Real and Granada.

by Mary Colorick
Steve Vlahos, owner of Daily’s Sports Grill located on South El Camino Real, and his wife Carrie, who manages both their Rancho Santa Margarita location and the newly opened San Clemente operation, were most happy to finally open in town on September 20, 2020 after a long pandemic delay. Although, I did not have the pleasure of meeting Carrie during my visit, Steve told me she is “the heart of the operation.” She has worked at Daily’s Sports Grill in RSM since its opening in 1993. Meanwhile, Steve has a “day job” at Mission Viejo Country Club where he has been the General Manager for the past 20 years. However, he assured me that either he or Carrie are always on site at their businesses.

Vlahos shared that one of the main goals of the San Clemente restaurant is to create a presence in town, “where everybody knows your name,” a CHEERS-like atmosphere that is not just a bar, (notice bar is not mentioned in the restaurant’s name), but also a welcoming spot in a neighborhood that is pedestrian friendly and welcoming to sports enthusiasts and families alike.
The building chosen for their establishment on the corner of South El Camino Real and Avenida Granada has quite a storied and glamorous history. Built in 1930, it is an original Ole Hanson structure. In fact, looking at the old photos framed and hanging on a wall inside near two separate murals depicting the past history of the place, not much has changed. The original wood beam ceilings, large windows, arched front door and long bar look much like it did when Academy Award winning actor, Victor McLaglen, opened his restaurant, The Rendezvous, with its tagline, “between L.A. and San Diego on U.S. 101, San Clemente, CAL.” 

Hollywood actors and actresses, including such notable stars as, John Wayne, Bette Davis and Clark Gable often stopped in for dinner and drinks on their way to the Del Mar Racetrack.  McLaglen had appeared in a few movies with Wayne, winning an Oscar in 1935 for best actor in the movie The Informer.

This was the prohibition era (1920-1933), and it is rumored that the San Clemente Pier along with other Orange County Piers served as drop off spots for the Prohibition Rum Runners and that McLaglen’s restaurant also served as a speakeasy. One of the new specialty drinks at Daily’s, The Rendezvous Rum Runner, is a nod to that illicit past history.

Over the years, this iconic restaurant, located in the triangle area of established San Clemente watering holes, has structurally remained largely unchanged. However, there have been many different owners. When Duke’s ceased operation in 2019, Steve and Carrie thought it was an ideal location for their brand - a community sports grill, featuring lots of big screen TVs for viewing all the weekly sporting events, and offering good food. A perfect place to “chill “with friends. 

Vlahos says he wants their brand to fill the gap between the big chain sports bars like, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse and Buffalo Wild Wings, and the small, sports dive bars. Most important to Vlahos is building community, including supporting local high school sports, sponsoring Little League teams and other community events. His future plans include expanding his brand in more SoCal coastal towns soon.

Luckily, even though their projected opening for Super Bowl Sunday February 2020 was delayed for six months they had a very good fall 2020 football season from their September opening date thru late November. There was a line out the door on the weekends, due to a limited seating capacity with Covid restrictions still in place. The morning football viewing crowd prompted them to add breakfast to their already extensive five-page menu - it was a huge success! Currently, every Saturday and Sunday Daily’s offers a brunch menu from 10am - 2pm, featuring delicious breakfast selections and bottomless mimosas.

Now, that restaurants have opened up indoor dining to more customers, business is continuing to thrive even though late spring in the sports world is what Vlahos refers to as the “filler” professional sport season with baseball season just beginning and hockey playoffs coming up soon. He mentioned that they had a good crowd the weekend of the 2021 Masters Tournament in April. 

To fill the sports lull, Daily’s will be having live music occasionally. A guitar player was featured one Friday night and there are plans for more live music on Sunday afternoons–making it a great place to relax with friends during the summer months.

My daughter, Cassidy and I sampled some of the food on the night I interviewed Vlahos. We were delighted with the Coconut Shrimp that Vlahos himself brought out fresh and hot from the kitchen, stating that it is his “absolute favorite appetizer on the menu.” Cooked to crispy perfection, a tiny pop of coconut in every bite, accompanied by a delicious coleslaw and sweet chili sauce, it did not disappoint. I am personally not much of a coleslaw fan; however, this was definitely yummy - we ate it all.  For our entrees Cassidy ordered the hamburger and fries, and I chose the blackened salmon on a bed of greens with blue cheese crumbles, bacon, tomato and croutons, served with a vinaigrette dressing. The extensive menu features lots of bar type appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, soups and salads, plus another full page devoted to breakfast items, as well as a  kid’s menu with a little something to appeal to all different tastes.
Another feature of the restaurant is weeknight specials, including Taco Tuesday, and Wing Wednesday with one-dollar wings and half off all bottles of wine. Spaghetti and meatballs was the Thursday evening special the night that we dined.

A big shout out for our enthusiastic, high energy server, Sydney; she pointed out the brand-new specialty drink menu that includes tributes to the town’s past and present. Each one aptly named, evoke the beach town lifestyle: Surf Naked, Daily Breeze, Devils Triangle, Del Mar Dirty, and Sunset Martini. Cassidy sampled the Sunset Martini, which my millennial daughter declared, “a strong, aesthetically pleasing drink, very Instagram worthy.” Much to my delight, since I am not a beer or hard liquor drinker, they have put together a nice red and white wine list and I spotted one my favorites - Austin Hope Cabernet, although I opted for a glass of Justin Cabernet with my meal. They offer 16 taps of beer, including a floating tap - which changes monthly, allowing the bar to float beers from local breweries. There is also available a large selection of spirits for mixed drinks.

The ambiance in the establishment is lively, but not loud. There’s a jukebox tucked in a corner with an eclectic list of tunes that amplifies the good vibes. It’s a pleasant atmosphere sure to become the quintessential neighborhood spot where everybody knows your name, and, where one can catch a game on the big screen with a group of friends, or just simply relax while enjoying the tasty food.  

Daily’s Sports Grill, 204 S. El Camino Real, (949) 522-9010.