Teriyaki Burger. Harbor House Cafe.

Harbor House Café

34157 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point. 949.496.9270. www.harborhousecafe.com

The diner is a quintessentially American institution. Home of the 3 a.m. burger, the omelet dinner, the break-up coffee and the shake after the game, the diner serves myriad roles—and myriad foods to serve those moments.

As a diner, Harbor House is unparalleled in Orange County. It’s got everything from the expansive menu to the casual, well-worn seating to the nostalgic wall tchotchkes (though many would rightly argue that vintage cinema posters hardly do tchotchkes make).

So it’s hard to pick one dish to sum up all that Harbor House represents, but the teriyaki burger is a good attempt. It’s both a monument to the juicy diner burger category, and also a reminder that diner food is best when its locally inspired and invokes cautious optimism.

Flung down on a giant beef patty were two rings of gently cooked pineapple, grilled onions and tangy soy sauce. The bun was chewy, and it soaked up the burger’s many juices to retain its flavor.

Accompanied by crispy, battered fries, the plate of food was coziness embodied—which happens to be the diner’s, and Harbor House’s, greatest attribute.

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