John Grossman understands the “Laguna Beach aesthetic” as well as anyone. As the Creative Director for Classic Hotels & Resorts, he has made a name for himself with design elements that pay homage to the sleepy, surf-meets-art vibe of the old Laguna village. In the guest rooms at the company’s new project, Laguna Beach House, Grossman has gone so far as to shape surfboards to hang above the beds.
This connection to the ocean and design isn’t just for effect—Grossman is both a waterman and a creative spirit and his love for Laguna Beach is evident in his work. This week, Grossman shared his memories of growing up around the Southern California surf scene, his go-to breakfast spot, and his favorite place to watch the sunset.
When I have a free morning, I like to head down to Thousand Steps beach and watch the surf. I first “discovered” this beach about 20 years ago on a family trip, and just love how secluded it feels. I know there are many other nooks and crannies along the “Gold Coast,” but this is the one I know best, and the one I’ve visited most—so it holds a special place for me.
Sundays start with checking the surf. If there are waves I’ll try to get in the water before breakfast, which is almost always at Zinc Café. After that, I’ll take a stroll through town with my girlfriend for some window-shopping, which usually ends at Main Beach, and then up into Heisler Park. It’s hard not to enjoy a slow stroll around Laguna…and that’s what Sundays are for.
The food scene in Laguna feels underrated. Whenever I have guests in town, I’ll send them a list of my favorite places to eat and they’re consistently impressed. My go to spots are Nick’s, Three-Seventy Common, and Watermarc.
Everyone knows about Laguna’s beaches—but we also have such great access to the outdoors here. I usually steer friends towards the Top of the World park for a hike or bike. In the late afternoon light just before sunset, it’s hard to find a prettier place to enjoy Laguna.
I’m biased, but my favorite place to watch the sunset is from The Inn at Laguna Beach’s Pacific Terrace Rooftop Bar. We have a cozy row of banquettes facing the ocean, and it’s a great, low-key place, to enjoy a glass of wine.
I like playing tour guide for visitors to this town. When I have friends staying at The Inn or our new property, Laguna Beach House, I’ll suggest a late afternoon walk through Heisler Park, then on to Main Beach, where I send them south to The Deck or The Rooftop Lounge for a sunset drink. From there, I recommend that they continue south to Agate Street, for dinner and live music at Mozambique. After that, I’ll send them back in to downtown for some gelato or a nightcap at The Saloon.
Surf-vagabonding legend Dick Metz is a long time, dear friend of my uncle. Over the years, he’s told many a great story of the old days in Laguna and his far-flung adventures, some of which aren’t fit to print! It’s really great to experience Laguna Beach through the eyes of someone like Dick, who’s seen a lot of exciting change, but remains so humble and low key. He’s definitely an inspiration for me.
I grew up in a surfing family, spending weeks of each summer at San Onofre, where my dad has been surfing since the ‘50s. On those trips, we would invariably end up in Laguna Beach to cruise around town, or have dinner. I can’t quite remember the first time I was in Laguna, because it was so long ago, and I was so little. But I do have a collection of vivid, and fond memories, of walking the streets of town, and hanging under an umbrella on Main Beach.