The location: The Pier Diner.

Q. What is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. A small cafe / diner (with green booths) on the pier, where the main cast members hang out. Except for the school and the Pier in general, this diner may have been used more than another other location. Yet I don't think it even has a name on the show. But you know it when you see it.

Q. Where is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. On the Balboa Pier, in Newport Beach. But there is only one building on the real Balboa Pier, the beloved Ruby's, a 1940's themed diner that features bright red booths and chrome accents. This definitely isn't it.

Q. When did we see it on the show?

    A. The diner appears in multiple episodes (especially in Season two), beginning with the pilot episode. You'll recognize it as the small yellow cafe filled with green booths (and a big gumball machine).

    In the pilot (episode 1, season one), we see the kids stop at the diner for pancakes. Ryan has an unfortunate encounter with (the then-hostile) Luke. Ryan punches Luke in the face, then he and Seth run for it up the pier. We see the diner again in Episode 27 of season one (where Ryan discusses leaving Newport to be with the pregnant Theresa), and again in Episode 6 of season two (when it's decorated for Christmas). And again in Episode 9 of Season two, when Summer meets Zach there, and in Episode 12, where Seth broods there (after he thinks Summer slept with Zach). Seth is back at the diner in Episode 13 (stuffing his face with relief when he discovers that Summer didn't sleep with Zach after all).

Q. What is it actually in real life?

    A. An actual restaurant on a pier.

Q. Where can I find it in real life?

    A. At the Redondo Beach Pier, in Redondo Beach, CA. In real life, it's called the Redondo Coffee Shop, a rather humble name befitting a rather humble establishment. Unlike Newport, the Redondo Pier is a working-class spot, so don't expect any frills - just coffee-shop simple. You're far more likely to encounter an earthy fisherman here, or a local tourist, than you are a moneyed denizen of Newport Beach. If you look closely during the show, you'll see people fishing off the pier right outside the windows, and there's a metal sink where they can clean the fish they catch just outside the door of the diner - so don't be surprised if, on a crowded day, the surrounding area smells of fish. But it's OK inside.

    The exact address is 141 Fisherman's Wharf, on the pier, but that won't help you much. Take a look at this map of the pier before you go.

    The Redondo Pier is shaped somewhat like a horseshoe. The oldest section of the pier is the straight "fishing pier" on the left (south) side (sometimes referred to as Fisherman's Wharf), and that's where you'll find the Redondo Coffee Shop: at the very (west) end of that south side (the southwest corner of the pier), near the fishing area. It's a simple, pale yellow cafe.

    I shot the photo below in 2006.

    Forget the take-out window that you'll find outside (on the south side), just go inside and look around, and you'll instantly recognize the place. Yes, you can have a meal here, in one of those familiar aqua green booths, just like Seth & Ryan (although the prices are a little bit higher than the looks of the place might lead you to believe). They even have that big gumball machine you see on the show. The producers occasionally stick a few palm plants outside the windows (to make it look a little more tropical), but other than that, what you see is what you get.

    Like many spots on the pier, it has a great ocean view. They serve breakfast, lunch & dinner, and at least you get waiter service. (And yes, you can get pancakes here! I tried them on my last visit, and they're not bad...)

    They also used the Diner location to create a fake Mexican sidewalk cafe in two different episodes. See the separate page on "Hanging' Taco" to read more about that imaginary cafe...

    The Redondo Beach Pier is the most-used location on "The O.C." and it includes not only this pier diner, but also The Bait Shop, Sandy's beach office, the family planning clinic (where Theresa learned she was pregnant), and multiple picturesque vantage points where virtually all of the cast have met, walked, bicycled, skateboarded, sat and grieved throughout the run of the show.

    To get to the Redondo Pier itself, just follow Torrance Blvd west all the way to where it ends at the pier. Pull into the parking area and park on the roof of the parking garage, then walk down to the pier.

    Here's a map link to the location.

    And here's a link to a web page about the coffee shop and the Redondo Pier.

    And here (to the right) is a photo of their actual menu (which was posted in the window on my last visit to the pier). Click on it for a much larger image (but ignore the reflections, I shot it through glass).

    UPDATE!: On a visit in early 2009, I noted that they had repainted the diner building.  It is no longer yellow with a green awning, it is now a dark blue (with a yellow awning). But the restaurant inside remains the same. See the photo below:

Q. How the heck did you figure out where it was?

    A. This was an easy one. As a resident of the South Bay, I've been to the Redondo Beach Pier many times. The first thing to grab my eye on the show were those sail-like art forms that decorate the Redondo Pier - you can't miss them.

    I wasn't familiar with the Coffee Shop itself (I usually eat at the nearby El Torito on the pier, or grab a slice of pizza at another small spot), but I knew it was on the pier, and knew that I'd have no trouble finding it. I just wandered down to the pier and looked around for a small yellow cafe. Since the diner has an ocean view that includes the Palos Verdes hills, I knew it was on the south side of the pier - so I didn't even have to look hard. There it was - just a short walk west of El Torito.

    Actually, I was surprised that I had never really noticed it before. But then again, it's not much of an eye-grabber - unless you're a fan of "The O.C.", of course.

    Here's another amusing observation. In one episode (see the photo to the right), Seth is looking at a menu at the diner. Look closely, and you'll see that the menu reads "Redondo Coffee Shop". Yes, they used one of the actual menus from the restaurant and apparently forgot that it's supposed to be in Newport, not Redondo. (Or perhaps they just didn't expect someone to freeze-frame the scene.)

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