Ruby’s is a great diner for kids with delightful options for the determined adult dieter

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

In two weeks’ time myself and 11 other Laguna Beach moms head to Mexico to celebrate one of our party’s “Big Birthdays” – cue many group photographs and postings by a luxurious infinity pool.  

Therefore like most women (those of us who admit it) my calorie intake has reduced and my workout rate has dramatically increased so that I don’t represent a beached whale in Cabo San Lucas.

So imagine my horror when my food report schedule brings up Ruby’s Diner. Not the place (or so I thought) I should be eating at so close to this impending vacation.

Ruby’s Diner is a legacy, with more than 35 years of experience and over 35 restaurants in the USA. This American diner has stood the test of time in delivering a diner inspired vibe and an enormous menu in keeping with that. 

Run on the beach inspires Ruby’s

The idea for Ruby’s Diner was born in 1980 after a run on the beach. Doug Cavanaugh had just returned to his native Southern California after successfully restoring and running a restaurant on Nantucket Island off Cape Cod. One evening he was brainstorming about business opportunities with his father, and remembered that he had seen a dilapidated building at the end of Balboa Pier while jogging along the beach. Although the building was in pretty bad shape, Cavanaugh noticed its architecture really lent itself well to that of a 1940’s diner. With his father’s encouragement, Cavanaugh started to make the restaurant a reality.  The restaurant’s name came from his mother Ruby, as did the logo of the brand.

The location I visited was in South Laguna. It is a bright white and red building (as are all the diners) with an array of vintage vehicles located outside, it reminds me of a scene out of Happy Days, and delights visitors (especially children) daily. In fact, I always make sure that when families visit me from the UK and they have children that this is where we bring them for a true “diner experience.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Ruby’s Laguna Beach

For this report, I took along two children, one of whom doesn’t enjoy red meat and one who is burger crazy.

We were greeted by the manager of the Laguna Beach location, Victoria Douglas, who has been with Ruby’s for 15 years (although she doesn’t look old enough!). Victoria took us upstairs to our table, where we had a beautiful ocean view. 

The menu is large and takes some reading, there is a full page dedicated to Ruby’s famous 16 different flavor shakes so obviously that’s where the girls decided to start.

 They chose an Oreo child’s milk shake and a chocolate banana milkshake. Each milkshake is handmade to order, so don’t expect these to be rushed out, but believe me it is totally worth the wait.

Click on photo for a larger image

The shakes are great

As I mentioned before Ruby’s menu is vast, there’s a kids menu, appetizers and sides, fresh salads, chilis, soups, shakes, premium burgers, extraordinary burgers, all American sandwiches, big plates, classic burgers, turkey burgers, all day breakfasts and desserts.

As I scoured the menu, I was amazed at all the options and then I felt I had struck gold, Ruby’s really does cater for everyone. There is a full section of DE-LITE-FUL dishes to choose from all under 650 calories! All of a sudden the Mexico swimsuit anxiety lifted.

The children ordered, one child going for the chicken fingers with fries. Ruby’s fries are completely trans fat free and there is an option of a fries refill upon request.  The chicken fingers were tasty, succulent white chicken in a crispy breadcrumb coating. Just to make sure we got our greens that day, we also ordered a side Caesar salad, which was very tasty. 

The other child ordered a kid’s cheeseburger, fully loaded with added Ruby’s sauce, which tastes a lot like a Thousand Island dressing, but has added spices. This was delicious and a large burger for a child. 

I decided to go for the DE-LITE-FUL garden burger, a garden burger patty served on a whole wheat (or gluten free) bun with non fat mayo, half cheese, crisp lettuce and tomato accompanied by a side salad. This was seriously good, and felt much more naughty than 650 calories! 

Click on photo for a larger image

The garden burger was less than 650 calories

The children decided not to go for the dessert option, way too full from the shake and the main meal. And I obviously did not want to spoil my healthy momentum. 

Ruby’s Diner is really great, its food is good, the atmosphere great and for children it’s a little bit magical.

The restaurant offers weekly promotions and on a Tuesday evening kids eat free. It really is fun for the whole family and there is an option to be healthy if you’re under a little pressure.

Ruby’s Laguna Beach 30622 S. Coast Hwy, is open 7a.m  – 9 p.m. Call (949) 497 7829 or go to for more information.