San Clemente has always held a special role in my imagination as something like the last beach community untainted by the various blights of the Orange County coastline (grotesque plastic surgery, obscenely decadent consumption, racist Minutemen, heteronormative gender policing that would do the 1950s proud, etc.). This assumption may not even be remotely true, and I’m well aware of the military base and enormous mammary of a nuclear power plant that might contradict this fantasy. Nevertheless, San Clemente is – in my mind – a sleepy town of surfers unencumbered by the venial sins of the rest of the county. Heck, Ruby’s hasn’t even co-opted their pier yet!
My dear friends J and BC lived in San Clemente for several years and did little to dispel any of these conceptions. Sure, they complained sometimes about their neighbor’s politics, but it seemed like they were pretty tan and eating a lot of fresh-caught fish whenever I came to visit. Whenever I get mad at Corona del Mar (which is basically every day), I tell B that we are moving to San Clemente. We probably never will, but I think it’s important to always give yourself a plan of escape, even if it remains only in your head.
One entirely legitimate reason to move to San Clemente tomorrow is so you could eat at The Rider’s Club every single day. It’s nothing much from the street, but J and BC had raved about their carnitas sandwich for several years, so I was pretty darn psyched to finally try it. Dear lord. Shredded pork on a Challah bun, topped with carrot slaw, cilantro, a creamy sauce, and jalapeños. It’s like a perfect taco made out with a bánh mì on Shabbat. Their burgers are really special too; B claims that a cheddar, roasted green chile, bacon, and avocado combo makes for the best burger in SoCal. The draft beer list is off the chain, with Old Rasputin usually on tap along with other great selections from breweries like Alesmith, Green Flash, and Bear Republic. The soundtrack often veers loud with the Pixies or Love and Rockets blasting out onto the patio, though J and BC inform me that they’ll happily put on cartoons for your kid. The Rider’s Club is basically the perfect post-beach joint, and nothing tastes better after a long day in the sun than a cold beer and salty, fatty grub.
PS. If you really want to put that final sparkle on your evening, the little chocolate puddings housed in Dixie cups are basically all the things you ever wanted chocolate pudding to be. Just so you can’t say that nobody ever told you.