The 38 Essential Orange County Restaurants

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Overhead black plate of pork belly and roasted tomatoes.
Pork belly from Fable & Spirit.
Fable & Spirit

Where to find pani puri shooters, uni udon with black truffles, and duck mole below the Orange Curtain

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Pork belly from Fable & Spirit.
| Fable & Spirit

Orange County has often been seen in the media as something of an afterthought, at least when compared to the much larger and more densely populated Los Angeles County next door. But the truth is that there’s a vibrant and diverse culinary community in this oceanside locale of more than 3 million people. Inland spots reflect the flavors important to those who live there (particularly in areas like Westminster, where Vietnamese food rules), while the county’s coastal locations often have upscale, white-tablecloth dining done with modern California touches.

From historic seaside stands serving some of the OC’s most notorious desserts, to fine dining stalwarts backed by big names, to small mom-and-pop shops that have spent decades perfecting a singular passion, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Orange County.

Here are 38 of the area’s most essential restaurants.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

18507 Yorba Linda Blvd

Yorba Linda, CA 92886

This nondescript sushi restaurant is a darling with dining critics and sushi lovers both. Gayot and the major Orange County newspapers have been raving about this place for years. The chef prepares two omakase options: A traditional version for $90-150; and Jun’s style, a fusion-style five-course meal with a combination of hot and cold dishes, for $70. Many diners say that this is the best and most affordable omakase in Orange County.

A close up of a tray of sushi in the round, at daytime.
Sushi Noguchi.
Sushi Noguchi

229 E Commonwealth Ave Unit A

Fullerton, CA 92832

This Michelin-anointed halal restaurant combines the flavors of India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan with a modern Californian twist. The tender boneless chicken karahi is served with tomatoes and shishito peppers, and the butter chicken with dried fenugreek is one of the restaurant’s more popular dishes. The pani puri with tamarind water, mint, onion, and potato arrives on a mini cart and is intended to be taken as a shooter.

Overhead shot of food from Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen in Fullerton, California.
Khan Saab.
Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen

Anaheim Packing House, 440 S Anaheim Blvd Unit 201

Anaheim, CA 92805

Chef Shachi Mehra combines her Jersey roots and Indian heritage to create a tangy goat-cheese-filled naan. Her inventiveness garnered her a win on Food Network’s “Chopped.” Meanwhile, her chef-partner, Sandeep Basrur, combines his background in traditional authentic Indian cooking to prepare classic favorites such as yellow shrimp coconut curry, dal makhni, and creamy cucumber raita.

An overhead photo of Indian food on metal trays and in bowls on a wooden table.
ADYA
ADYA

1313 Disneyland Dr

Anaheim, CA 92802

Napa Rose is a California-wine-country-inspired fine dining restaurant located inside Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. The menu conceived by chef Andrew Sutton changes seasonally, but dishes to start with are the comforting Wine Country Pot Pie with Petaluma-raised chicken fricassee, the sauteed diver scallop, and succulent duck meatballs with chianti jus.

A side shot of two customers dining inside a daytime restaurant, food in hand.
Diners at Napa Rose.
Napa Rose

190 S Glassell St

Orange, CA 92866

This Old Towne Orange neighborhood hangout is known for its solid cocktail menu and well-sourced beer list, compiled by owner Wil Dee. The skillet cornbread with honey butter; locally made burrata with grilled bread; and Haven’s burger prepared with Flannery California prime beef, cheddar, and bibb lettuce are homestyle dishes not to miss.

A side angle of a blue plate with gooey mushroom toast with cheese.
Mushroom toast at Haven.
Haven Craft Kitchen + Bar

8562 Garden Grove Blvd

Garden Grove, CA 92844

Korean comfort food served in large portions is what Yigah is known for in Orange County. Both the Garden Grove restaurant and its sister location in Irvine at Diamond Jamboree plaza serve steamy gallbi tang, beef short rib soup, as well as the bossam meal with boiled pork belly, napa cabbage, and spicy pickled radish.

A close up of Korean seafood over rice, with a fried egg.
Yigah.
Yigah

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304 N Main St

Santa Ana, CA 92701

Sushi chef Gino Choi prepares an intricate omakase for 10 diners at his namesake downtown Santa Ana restaurant. (Choi is also a self-taught carpenter who built the sushi counter, entryway and the partitions himself.) The standout dishes at OMG include a creamy Santa Barbara uni udon garnished with black truffles from Burgundy, Gino’s version of tamago flavored with lobster, and a large scallop dotted with Ossetra caviar and a vibrant rice vinegar, white soy sauce gelee.

A close up shot of wagyu sushi with caviar on top.
Omakase by Gino.
Knife & Spork PR

301 N Spurgeon St

Santa Ana, CA 92701

Inventive cocktails with tamarind and mezcal set the tone at Mercado Moderne, but as the meal progresses, diners notice ingredients not typically celebrated at most Mexican eateries. The tlayuda at Mercado Moderne is served with a pea puree, for example, while the blue corn tortilla enchiladas with free-range chicken and Oaxacan cheese offer a new take on familiar flavors.

A close shot of octopus in purple broth with cocktail at far edge of the table.
El Mercado Modern Cuisine
El Mercado Modern Cuisine

556 El Camino Real

Tustin, CA 92780

Founded in 1993, this Japanese izakaya serves more than 300 dishes – sushi, sashimi, udon, ramen, chazuke, but the yakitori is the reason to dine here. Other traditional snacks done well are the takoyaki with chunks of octopus and the cold kabocha squash with soy and sesame seeds.

A daytime exterior of a Japanese restaurant with table out front.
Honda-Ya.
Honda-Ya

602 El Camino Real

Tustin, CA 92780

The strawberry croissants reign supreme at this French-Japanese bakery. The elements are simple: Whipped cream and sliced fresh strawberries all sandwiched inside a buttery croissant. The bakery sells them by the piece, but most visitors opt for at least half a dozen.

An up close tart photo with lots of colorful fruit on top.
Fruit tart from Cream Pan.
Cream Pan

7631 Edinger Ave

Huntington Beach, CA 92647

The tacos at Solita chart ownership’s travels from across Mexico, tweaking familiar flavors from foods like elote and turning them out onto a tortilla. Meanwhile, the “Loco BBQ” taco takes chipotle rib tip meat and solita barbecue sauce to make a damn good combination.

An overhead shot of chorizo tacos with guacamole sauce.
Solita Tacos & Margaritas
Solita Tacos & Margaritas

16031 Brookhurst St

Fountain Valley, CA 92708

The menu ranges from Vietnamese spring rolls to vermicelli noodle soups at Westminster’s Quan Mii. But the two dishes not to miss are the banh xeo dac biet “Quán Mii” — a large crispy crepe with pork, shrimp, and squid that diners break into pieces and wrap in romaine lettuce with mint, cilantro and purple basil — and the banh beo “Hue” — steamed rice flour cakes with shredded shrimp.

A close up overhead shot of a blue bowl with lots of Vietnamese noodles and other ingredients inside.
Quán Mii Restaurant
Quán Mii Restaurant

16105 Brookhurst St

Fountain Valley, CA 92708

This timeless restaurant offers a wide array of Vietnamese specialties, starting with 13 types of spring rolls — including the popular grilled shrimp paste with lettuce, carrots, daikon, mint, cilantro, and cucumber wrapped in rice paper. The menu continues with traditional Vietnamese noodle soups, sandwiches, and a whole lot more.

14435 Culver Dr

Irvine, CA 92604

This popular tea shop has two busy locations in Irvine. The iced blended grapefruit refresher decorated with slices of fresh grapefruit, as well as the creamy avocado smash with fresh strawberries and caramel, are sweet Californian takes on Southeast Asian desserts.

A tall photo of a green, white tea drink with oreos on top.
Oreo brulee green tea.
Omomo Tea Shoppe

2647 Park Ave

Tustin, CA 92782

Overlooking the Pacific ocean, this Newport Beach restaurant serves YG’s Alsatian pizza, a flatbread topped with applewood-smoked bacon, onions, creme fraiche, and gruyere. Steaks and slow-braised short ribs are popular, but don’t forget to order the creamy roasted butternut squash and potato dauphinoise. The wine menu includes mainly California-sourced vintages including The Boyz, a red wine blend from Paso Robles which was created and bottled by the restaurant’s three co-owners, JC Clowe, William Lewis, and chef Yvon Goetz — who are nicknamed “The Boys.”

A side shot of pumpkin cheesecake with berries on top.
The Winery.
The Winery

3313 Hyland Ave

Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Since 2013, Taco Maria has celebrated Alta-California food. When the restaurant restarts its lunch service, look out for the blue corn tortilla tacos. They’re inventive and popular with critics, chefs, and taco snobs alike. Try the vegetarian taco with seasoned potatoes; or for dinner, an aguachile bay scallop crudo served with Persian cucumbers, serrano chile, and lime. The mole de pato is not to be missed either, especially when served with the restaurant’s handmade blue corn tortillas.

3333 Bear St #316

Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Chef Ross Pangilinan’s sister restaurant to his award-winning Mix Mix Kitchen + Bar is best known for its open-air patio and the chef’s large raviolo. The  hand-rolled pasta is stuffed with a creamy cheese-herb filling and an egg yolk that drips down as you cut into it. Other popular items at Terrace by MixMix include an albacore crostini on a crispy corn tostada, and fluffy brioche French toast for brunch.

An overhead shot of a cooked steak with creamy potatoes.
Steak and potatoes.
Terrace by Mix Mix

695 Town Center Dr Suite 170

Costa Mesa, CA 92626

The paella and aged steaks are the big-ticket items at Top Chef alum Amar Santana’s Spanish-inspired eatery. But, here the tapas and small plates shine. Start with the pan con tomate, charred Spanish octopus, and potato croquettes.

Vaca’s overhead paella with rice and seafood.
Paella from Vaca.
Vaca

3333 S Bristol St

Costa Mesa, CA 92626

This modern French-Californian restaurant is intended for celebratory meals. Lobster Caesar salad and Champagne for lunch, halibut with braised endive or pasture-raised beef tenderloin with celery root for dinner, and for dessert, a slice of the Louis XV, hazelnut praline layered with chocolate mousse and topped with a gianduja glaze. A pricey but impeccable afternoon tea service is available on Saturdays.

A side angle of an upscale dining room at dusk.
Knife Pleat.
Tom Bonner

10065 Garfield Ave

Fountain Valley, CA 92708

7 Leaves Cafe partnered with Crema Artisan Bakery to launch a breakfast and lunch eatery. The space has a drive-thru where diners can order boba tea and croffles (croissant dough pressed in a waffle iron and dusted with powdered sugar) to go. Opt to dine in so you can taste the truffle mushroom omelet and smashed fingerling potatoes with caramelized shallots. The crispy Mochiko popcorn chicken is another tea shop appetizer not to miss.

A handheld brioche bun and egg and bacon breakfast sandwich.
Bacon breakfast sandwich.
Artisan by 7 Leaves

2010 Main St Suite 170

Irvine, CA 92614

Porch & Swing’s menu is inspired by Charleston, South Carolina, but it changes often due to availability of ingredients. The Sea Island blue cornbread and warm biscuits evoke much welcomed Low Country flavors, and a more recent menu can find everything from lamb neck ragu with gnocchi and berebere creme fraiche to black tiger shrimp with corn and chow-chow, a Southern-style pickled relish.

Lamb chops in a wide bowl with red wine on a wooden table.
Porch & Swing.
Porch & Swing

2300 SE Bristol St Ste F

Newport Beach, CA 92660

From little league teams and soccer moms to students and surfers, locals know that Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza Store is an Orange County favorite. Since 1976, this spot has served New York-style pizza with a California twist. The pies are good but don’t miss Stan’s meatballs. The pork, beef, and fennel blend tastes great in red sauce and works well as a sandwich or slapped on top of a pie.

1125 Victoria St Suite R

Costa Mesa, CA 92627

At Fermentation Farm, probiotics rule — thanks to nearly a dozen different on-tap kombucha flavors, and food options like a French onion soup with raw cheese and a kraut-filled grilled cheese sandwich. Visit on Thursdays from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. when a farmers market featuring produce from Rosewood Farms and Sunny Cal Farms pops up in the restaurant’s parking lot.

633 Spectrum Center Dr Suite 633

Irvine, CA 92618

The cute macarons at this shop are a social media sensation, thanks to its limited-edition cookies, which are shaped like popular video game and anime characters. The signature Milk & Honey macaron tastes like honey-infused frosting, and the Enchanted Berries blends strawberry, raspberry, and black currant all into a smooth buttercream filling.

A tall photo of two macarons on a moody purple background.
Honey & Butter Macarons
Honey & Butter Macarons

860 Spectrum Center Dr

Irvine, CA 92618

The reason to visit Hello Kitty Cafe is the afternoon tea and cocktail service in the backroom. Decked out in white, dusty pink, and gold, the room is hidden behind a small door. Once you enter, Hello Kitty-shaped tea sandwiches, mini cakes, and pies set the tone for a Sanrio-inspired meal. The thinly sliced cucumber sandwich and scones with strawberry jelly are the most notable bites, though the Hello Kitty cocktails are served in cute character glasses too.

Hello Kitty Cafe’s pink and gold interior, at daytime.
Hello Kitty Cafe
Jakob Layman

3334 West Coast Hwy

Newport Beach, CA 92663

This cozy, red-boothed hideout on Pacific Coast Highway is known for its Rat Pack atmosphere. The classic martini reigns at the bar and the chicken pot pie is only available on Fridays, but locals love the steaks, Mary’s organic chicken with Carolina gold rice, and Niman Ranch pork chops with Anson Mills grits and creamy Marsala sauce. It’s old-school done right.

An overhead shot of a wooden table and deep red booth inside a historic steakhouse.
A Restaurant
A Restaurant

3441 Via Lido

Newport Beach, CA 92663

A meal at Fable & Spirit almost by default starts with the warm Guinness brown bread with European butter and Jacobsen sea salt. From there the Lido Isle restaurant waves between European “meat and potatoes” influences to pure California bliss, like citrusy salads loaded with cara cara and blood oranges, chevre and crispy quinoa.

Overhead black plate of pork belly and roasted tomatoes.
Fable & Spirit.
Fable & Spirit

2301 San Joaquin Hills Rd

Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

Chef Richard Mead is a long-standing figure on the Orange County dining scene. At the Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens, the chef showcases the best that the season has to offer from Southern California’s many producers, which means seasonal takes on dishes like sea scallops, as well as shrimp and mussels served in a tomato-Pernod broth with a polenta cake made from blue corn sourced from the Tehachapi Heritage Grain Project.

A tilted overhead wooden table shot with plates of food and wine.
Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens.
Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens

2200 Newport Blvd

Newport Beach, CA 92663

The fire-engine-red building with white trim and green-striped awning is a landmark on the Newport peninsula. Since 1951, this establishment has served seafood classics: oysters, Dungeness crab, Alaskan crab claws, clam chowder, and anything offered in the fish market.

310 Marine Ave

Balboa Island, CA 92662

The Balboa Bar, a chocolate-dipped vanilla ice cream bar covered in nuts, as well as the chocolate-dipped banana, are said to originate from Newport Beach’s Balboa Island. Sugar N Spice is one of the oldest spots serving this nostalgic Orange County dessert. (Dad’s is another popular spot located next door that also claims to be the home of the Balboa Bar.)

A hand holds a frozen chocolate banana on a yellow background.
Sugar ‘n Spice.
Sugar ‘n Spice

3801 East Coast Hwy

Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

This neighborhood spot in Corona del Mar features two restaurants in one location. Five Crowns is the traditional old English steakhouse with prime rib, creamed spinach and Yorkshire pudding; while SideDoor serves more casual gastropub fare. Standout dishes at SideDoor include the octopus starter with chorizo, saffron potatoes and squid ink aioli, the prime rib chili cheese fries, and the classic pub favorite: fish and chips.

Cut steak fanning out on a white plate.
Five Crowns.
Five Crowns.

15 Crystal Cove

Newport Coast, CA 92657

This quintessential Orange County surfside restaurant is located at historic Crystal Cove State Beach. The picturesque view, combined with a blue crab Benedict for breakfast or a lobster BLT sandwich (with substantial pieces of claw meat and ripe avocado) for lunch, sets the tone for a sublime day at the beach.

Seared ahi tuna and avocado at a seaside patio at daytime.
The Beachcomber.
The Beachcomber

7862 Pacific Coast Hwy

Newport Beach, CA 92657

Florent and Amelia Marneu’s white tablecloth restaurant is a stalwart in the Orange County fine dining scene. The Newport Beach restaurant serves traditional French favorites such as steak tartare, roasted bone marrow, and duck confit. It also combines both French and Californian flavors in dishes like tuna tartare served with an avocado sorbet and a yuzu emulsion.

A close up white plate with poached lobster at a a fine dining restaurant.
Poached lobster from Marche Moderne.
Marche Moderne

328 Glenneyre St

Laguna Beach, CA 92651

At this Laguna Beach restaurant, Bravo Top Chef alum Amar Santana serves what he calls “progressive American” food. Since it opened in 2011, Broadway combines Santana’s East Coast roots with West Coast produce. Side dishes include a variation on Chinese takeout that combines sweet-and-sour-style Brussels sprouts with Chinese sausage.

A chef in whites drizzles sauce on top of bread and meat inside of a new restaurant.
Broadway by Amar Santana.
Broadway by Amar Santana

370 Glenneyre St

Laguna Beach, CA 92651

You can trust chef Greg Daniels with classics like deviled eggs, fried chicken, cheeseburgers, and mac and cheese at Harley Laguna Beach. The burger in particular is a neighborhood favorite and award winner. The spot reflects Daniels’ love for family; the restaurant’s name is an ode to the chef’s grandfather.

A side angle of a fried chicken sandwich with fries.
Fried chicken sandwich.
Harley Laguna Beach

1464 S Coast Hwy

Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Laguna Beach locals love this place for its white tablecloths, award-winning wine program, and stellar steaks. The vibrant red beet ravioli stuffed with cheese is a striking starter, while the monkey bread dessert is a comforting sweet finish to any meal. Sidenote: Former Anaheim Ducks hockey player and six-time Olympian Teemu Selanne is a co-owner, so this place is an under-the-radar spot for A-listers.

A tilted look at red steak and red wine.
Selanne Steak Tavern
Selanne Steak Tavern

31721 Camino Capistrano

San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

San Juan Capistrano’s award-winning pitmaster Daniel Castillo elevates barbecue with Heritage’s wood-smoked brisket, sausages, turkeys, ribs, chickens, and more. First-timers load up on the brisket and ribs, while the regulars order pork belly banh mi sandwiches, brisket tacos prepared with Burritos La Palma tortillas, and creamy banana pudding layered with pound cake and vanilla wafer cookies.

2 Ritz Carlton Dr

Dana Point, CA 92629

Chef Laurent Vrignaud opened the French bistro, boulangerie, and patisserie in 2014. Since then, the Moulin brand has expanded and opened six locations in Orange County. The croque madame sandwich with creamy bechamel and fried egg, as well as the sweet strawberry jam crepe, are excellent ways to start the day. But don’t forget to swing by the pastry case. The Saint Honore dessert is decorated with petite cream puffs with chantilly cream and salted caramel.

A tilted look at a cafe table with pastries and orange juice.
Moulin Orange County.
Moulin

Link copied to the clipboard.

A close up of a tray of sushi in the round, at daytime.
Sushi Noguchi.
Sushi Noguchi

This nondescript sushi restaurant is a darling with dining critics and sushi lovers both. Gayot and the major Orange County newspapers have been raving about this place for years. The chef prepares two omakase options: A traditional version for $90-150; and Jun’s style, a fusion-style five-course meal with a combination of hot and cold dishes, for $70. Many diners say that this is the best and most affordable omakase in Orange County.

18507 Yorba Linda Blvd

Yorba Linda, CA 92886

Overhead shot of food from Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen in Fullerton, California.
Khan Saab.
Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen

This Michelin-anointed halal restaurant combines the flavors of India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan with a modern Californian twist. The tender boneless chicken karahi is served with tomatoes and shishito peppers, and the butter chicken with dried fenugreek is one of the restaurant’s more popular dishes. The pani puri with tamarind water, mint, onion, and potato arrives on a mini cart and is intended to be taken as a shooter.

229 E Commonwealth Ave Unit A

Fullerton, CA 92832

An overhead photo of Indian food on metal trays and in bowls on a wooden table.
ADYA
ADYA

Chef Shachi Mehra combines her Jersey roots and Indian heritage to create a tangy goat-cheese-filled naan. Her inventiveness garnered her a win on Food Network’s “Chopped.” Meanwhile, her chef-partner, Sandeep Basrur, combines his background in traditional authentic Indian cooking to prepare classic favorites such as yellow shrimp coconut curry, dal makhni, and creamy cucumber raita.

Anaheim Packing House, 440 S Anaheim Blvd Unit 201

Anaheim, CA 92805

A side shot of two customers dining inside a daytime restaurant, food in hand.
Diners at Napa Rose.
Napa Rose

Napa Rose is a California-wine-country-inspired fine dining restaurant located inside Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. The menu conceived by chef Andrew Sutton changes seasonally, but dishes to start with are the comforting Wine Country Pot Pie with Petaluma-raised chicken fricassee, the sauteed diver scallop, and succulent duck meatballs with chianti jus.

1313 Disneyland Dr

Anaheim, CA 92802

A side angle of a blue plate with gooey mushroom toast with cheese.
Mushroom toast at Haven.
Haven Craft Kitchen + Bar

This Old Towne Orange neighborhood hangout is known for its solid cocktail menu and well-sourced beer list, compiled by owner Wil Dee. The skillet cornbread with honey butter; locally made burrata with grilled bread; and Haven’s burger prepared with Flannery California prime beef, cheddar, and bibb lettuce are homestyle dishes not to miss.

190 S Glassell St

Orange, CA 92866

A close up of Korean seafood over rice, with a fried egg.
Yigah.
Yigah

Korean comfort food served in large portions is what Yigah is known for in Orange County. Both the Garden Grove restaurant and its sister location in Irvine at Diamond Jamboree plaza serve steamy gallbi tang, beef short rib soup, as well as the bossam meal with boiled pork belly, napa cabbage, and spicy pickled radish.

8562 Garden Grove Blvd

Garden Grove, CA 92844

A close up shot of wagyu sushi with caviar on top.
Omakase by Gino.
Knife & Spork PR

Sushi chef Gino Choi prepares an intricate omakase for 10 diners at his namesake downtown Santa Ana restaurant. (Choi is also a self-taught carpenter who built the sushi counter, entryway and the partitions himself.) The standout dishes at OMG include a creamy Santa Barbara uni udon garnished with black truffles from Burgundy, Gino’s version of tamago flavored with lobster, and a large scallop dotted with Ossetra caviar and a vibrant rice vinegar, white soy sauce gelee.

304 N Main St

Santa Ana, CA 92701

A close shot of octopus in purple broth with cocktail at far edge of the table.
El Mercado Modern Cuisine
El Mercado Modern Cuisine

Inventive cocktails with tamarind and mezcal set the tone at Mercado Moderne, but as the meal progresses, diners notice ingredients not typically celebrated at most Mexican eateries. The tlayuda at Mercado Moderne is served with a pea puree, for example, while the blue corn tortilla enchiladas with free-range chicken and Oaxacan cheese offer a new take on familiar flavors.

301 N Spurgeon St

Santa Ana, CA 92701

A daytime exterior of a Japanese restaurant with table out front.
Honda-Ya.
Honda-Ya

Founded in 1993, this Japanese izakaya serves more than 300 dishes – sushi, sashimi, udon, ramen, chazuke, but the yakitori is the reason to dine here. Other traditional snacks done well are the takoyaki with chunks of octopus and the cold kabocha squash with soy and sesame seeds.

556 El Camino Real

Tustin, CA 92780

An up close tart photo with lots of colorful fruit on top.
Fruit tart from Cream Pan.
Cream Pan

The strawberry croissants reign supreme at this French-Japanese bakery. The elements are simple: Whipped cream and sliced fresh strawberries all sandwiched inside a buttery croissant. The bakery sells them by the piece, but most visitors opt for at least half a dozen.

602 El Camino Real

Tustin, CA 92780

An overhead shot of chorizo tacos with guacamole sauce.
Solita Tacos & Margaritas
Solita Tacos & Margaritas

The tacos at Solita chart ownership’s travels from across Mexico, tweaking familiar flavors from foods like elote and turning them out onto a tortilla. Meanwhile, the “Loco BBQ” taco takes chipotle rib tip meat and solita barbecue sauce to make a damn good combination.

7631 Edinger Ave

Huntington Beach, CA 92647

A close up overhead shot of a blue bowl with lots of Vietnamese noodles and other ingredients inside.
Quán Mii Restaurant
Quán Mii Restaurant

The menu ranges from Vietnamese spring rolls to vermicelli noodle soups at Westminster’s Quan Mii. But the two dishes not to miss are the banh xeo dac biet “Quán Mii” — a large crispy crepe with pork, shrimp, and squid that diners break into pieces and wrap in romaine lettuce with mint, cilantro and purple basil — and the banh beo “Hue” — steamed rice flour cakes with shredded shrimp.

16031 Brookhurst St

Fountain Valley, CA 92708

This timeless restaurant offers a wide array of Vietnamese specialties, starting with 13 types of spring rolls — including the popular grilled shrimp paste with lettuce, carrots, daikon, mint, cilantro, and cucumber wrapped in rice paper. The menu continues with traditional Vietnamese noodle soups, sandwiches, and a whole lot more.

16105 Brookhurst St

Fountain Valley, CA 92708

A tall photo of a green, white tea drink with oreos on top.
Oreo brulee green tea.
Omomo Tea Shoppe

This popular tea shop has two busy locations in Irvine. The iced blended grapefruit refresher decorated with slices of fresh grapefruit, as well as the creamy avocado smash with fresh strawberries and caramel, are sweet Californian takes on Southeast Asian desserts.

14435 Culver Dr

Irvine, CA 92604

A side shot of pumpkin cheesecake with berries on top.
The Winery.
The Winery

Overlooking the Pacific ocean, this Newport Beach restaurant serves YG’s Alsatian pizza, a flatbread topped with applewood-smoked bacon, onions, creme fraiche, and gruyere. Steaks and slow-braised short ribs are popular, but don’t forget to order the creamy roasted butternut squash and potato dauphinoise. The wine menu includes mainly California-sourced vintages including The Boyz, a red wine blend from Paso Robles which was created and bottled by the restaurant’s three co-owners, JC Clowe, William Lewis, and chef Yvon Goetz — who are nicknamed “The Boys.”

2647 Park Ave

Tustin, CA 92782

Since 2013, Taco Maria has celebrated Alta-California food. When the restaurant restarts its lunch service, look out for the blue corn tortilla tacos. They’re inventive and popular with critics, chefs, and taco snobs alike. Try the vegetarian taco with seasoned potatoes; or for dinner, an aguachile bay scallop crudo served with Persian cucumbers, serrano chile, and lime. The mole de pato is not to be missed either, especially when served with the restaurant’s handmade blue corn tortillas.

3313 Hyland Ave

Costa Mesa, CA 92626

An overhead shot of a cooked steak with creamy potatoes.
Steak and potatoes.
Terrace by Mix Mix

Chef Ross Pangilinan’s sister restaurant to his award-winning Mix Mix Kitchen + Bar is best known for its open-air patio and the chef’s large raviolo. The  hand-rolled pasta is stuffed with a creamy cheese-herb filling and an egg yolk that drips down as you cut into it. Other popular items at Terrace by MixMix include an albacore crostini on a crispy corn tostada, and fluffy brioche French toast for brunch.

3333 Bear St #316

Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Vaca’s overhead paella with rice and seafood.
Paella from Vaca.
Vaca

The paella and aged steaks are the big-ticket items at Top Chef alum Amar Santana’s Spanish-inspired eatery. But, here the tapas and small plates shine. Start with the pan con tomate, charred Spanish octopus, and potato croquettes.

695 Town Center Dr Suite 170

Costa Mesa, CA 92626

A side angle of an upscale dining room at dusk.
Knife Pleat.
Tom Bonner

This modern French-Californian restaurant is intended for celebratory meals. Lobster Caesar salad and Champagne for lunch, halibut with braised endive or pasture-raised beef tenderloin with celery root for dinner, and for dessert, a slice of the Louis XV, hazelnut praline layered with chocolate mousse and topped with a gianduja glaze. A pricey but impeccable afternoon tea service is available on Saturdays.

3333 S Bristol St

Costa Mesa, CA 92626

A handheld brioche bun and egg and bacon breakfast sandwich.
Bacon breakfast sandwich.
Artisan by 7 Leaves

7 Leaves Cafe partnered with Crema Artisan Bakery to launch a breakfast and lunch eatery. The space has a drive-thru where diners can order boba tea and croffles (croissant dough pressed in a waffle iron and dusted with powdered sugar) to go. Opt to dine in so you can taste the truffle mushroom omelet and smashed fingerling potatoes with caramelized shallots. The crispy Mochiko popcorn chicken is another tea shop appetizer not to miss.

10065 Garfield Ave

Fountain Valley, CA 92708

Lamb chops in a wide bowl with red wine on a wooden table.
Porch & Swing.
Porch & Swing

Porch & Swing’s menu is inspired by Charleston, South Carolina, but it changes often due to availability of ingredients. The Sea Island blue cornbread and warm biscuits evoke much welcomed Low Country flavors, and a more recent menu can find everything from lamb neck ragu with gnocchi and berebere creme fraiche to black tiger shrimp with corn and chow-chow, a Southern-style pickled relish.

2010 Main St Suite 170

Irvine, CA 92614

From little league teams and soccer moms to students and surfers, locals know that Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza Store is an Orange County favorite. Since 1976, this spot has served New York-style pizza with a California twist. The pies are good but don’t miss Stan’s meatballs. The pork, beef, and fennel blend tastes great in red sauce and works well as a sandwich or slapped on top of a pie.

2300 SE Bristol St Ste F

Newport Beach, CA 92660

At Fermentation Farm, probiotics rule — thanks to nearly a dozen different on-tap kombucha flavors, and food options like a French onion soup with raw cheese and a kraut-filled grilled cheese sandwich. Visit on Thursdays from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. when a farmers market featuring produce from Rosewood Farms and Sunny Cal Farms pops up in the restaurant’s parking lot.

1125 Victoria St Suite R

Costa Mesa, CA 92627

A tall photo of two macarons on a moody purple background.
Honey & Butter Macarons
Honey & Butter Macarons

The cute macarons at this shop are a social media sensation, thanks to its limited-edition cookies, which are shaped like popular video game and anime characters. The signature Milk & Honey macaron tastes like honey-infused frosting, and the Enchanted Berries blends strawberry, raspberry, and black currant all into a smooth buttercream filling.

633 Spectrum Center Dr Suite 633

Irvine, CA 92618

Hello Kitty Cafe’s pink and gold interior, at daytime.
Hello Kitty Cafe
Jakob Layman

The reason to visit Hello Kitty Cafe is the afternoon tea and cocktail service in the backroom. Decked out in white, dusty pink, and gold, the room is hidden behind a small door. Once you enter, Hello Kitty-shaped tea sandwiches, mini cakes, and pies set the tone for a Sanrio-inspired meal. The thinly sliced cucumber sandwich and scones with strawberry jelly are the most notable bites, though the Hello Kitty cocktails are served in cute character glasses too.

860 Spectrum Center Dr

Irvine, CA 92618

An overhead shot of a wooden table and deep red booth inside a historic steakhouse.
A Restaurant
A Restaurant

This cozy, red-boothed hideout on Pacific Coast Highway is known for its Rat Pack atmosphere. The classic martini reigns at the bar and the chicken pot pie is only available on Fridays, but locals love the steaks, Mary’s organic chicken with Carolina gold rice, and Niman Ranch pork chops with Anson Mills grits and creamy Marsala sauce. It’s old-school done right.

3334 West Coast Hwy

Newport Beach, CA 92663

Overhead black plate of pork belly and roasted tomatoes.
Fable & Spirit.
Fable & Spirit

A meal at Fable & Spirit almost by default starts with the warm Guinness brown bread with European butter and Jacobsen sea salt. From there the Lido Isle restaurant waves between European “meat and potatoes” influences to pure California bliss, like citrusy salads loaded with cara cara and blood oranges, chevre and crispy quinoa.

3441 Via Lido

Newport Beach, CA 92663

A tilted overhead wooden table shot with plates of food and wine.
Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens.
Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens

Chef Richard Mead is a long-standing figure on the Orange County dining scene. At the Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens, the chef showcases the best that the season has to offer from Southern California’s many producers, which means seasonal takes on dishes like sea scallops, as well as shrimp and mussels served in a tomato-Pernod broth with a polenta cake made from blue corn sourced from the Tehachapi Heritage Grain Project.

2301 San Joaquin Hills Rd

Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

The fire-engine-red building with white trim and green-striped awning is a landmark on the Newport peninsula. Since 1951, this establishment has served seafood classics: oysters, Dungeness crab, Alaskan crab claws, clam chowder, and anything offered in the fish market.

2200 Newport Blvd

Newport Beach, CA 92663

A hand holds a frozen chocolate banana on a yellow background.
Sugar ‘n Spice.
Sugar ‘n Spice

The Balboa Bar, a chocolate-dipped vanilla ice cream bar covered in nuts, as well as the chocolate-dipped banana, are said to originate from Newport Beach’s Balboa Island. Sugar N Spice is one of the oldest spots serving this nostalgic Orange County dessert. (Dad’s is another popular spot located next door that also claims to be the home of the Balboa Bar.)

310 Marine Ave

Balboa Island, CA 92662

Cut steak fanning out on a white plate.
Five Crowns.
Five Crowns.

This neighborhood spot in Corona del Mar features two restaurants in one location. Five Crowns is the traditional old English steakhouse with prime rib, creamed spinach and Yorkshire pudding; while SideDoor serves more casual gastropub fare. Standout dishes at SideDoor include the octopus starter with chorizo, saffron potatoes and squid ink aioli, the prime rib chili cheese fries, and the classic pub favorite: fish and chips.

3801 East Coast Hwy

Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

Seared ahi tuna and avocado at a seaside patio at daytime.
The Beachcomber.
The Beachcomber

This quintessential Orange County surfside restaurant is located at historic Crystal Cove State Beach. The picturesque view, combined with a blue crab Benedict for breakfast or a lobster BLT sandwich (with substantial pieces of claw meat and ripe avocado) for lunch, sets the tone for a sublime day at the beach.

15 Crystal Cove

Newport Coast, CA 92657

A close up white plate with poached lobster at a a fine dining restaurant.
Poached lobster from Marche Moderne.
Marche Moderne

Florent and Amelia Marneu’s white tablecloth restaurant is a stalwart in the Orange County fine dining scene. The Newport Beach restaurant serves traditional French favorites such as steak tartare, roasted bone marrow, and duck confit. It also combines both French and Californian flavors in dishes like tuna tartare served with an avocado sorbet and a yuzu emulsion.

7862 Pacific Coast Hwy

Newport Beach, CA 92657

A chef in whites drizzles sauce on top of bread and meat inside of a new restaurant.
Broadway by Amar Santana.
Broadway by Amar Santana

At this Laguna Beach restaurant, Bravo Top Chef alum Amar Santana serves what he calls “progressive American” food. Since it opened in 2011, Broadway combines Santana’s East Coast roots with West Coast produce. Side dishes include a variation on Chinese takeout that combines sweet-and-sour-style Brussels sprouts with Chinese sausage.

328 Glenneyre St

Laguna Beach, CA 92651

A side angle of a fried chicken sandwich with fries.
Fried chicken sandwich.
Harley Laguna Beach

You can trust chef Greg Daniels with classics like deviled eggs, fried chicken, cheeseburgers, and mac and cheese at Harley Laguna Beach. The burger in particular is a neighborhood favorite and award winner. The spot reflects Daniels’ love for family; the restaurant’s name is an ode to the chef’s grandfather.

370 Glenneyre St

Laguna Beach, CA 92651

A tilted look at red steak and red wine.
Selanne Steak Tavern
Selanne Steak Tavern

Laguna Beach locals love this place for its white tablecloths, award-winning wine program, and stellar steaks. The vibrant red beet ravioli stuffed with cheese is a striking starter, while the monkey bread dessert is a comforting sweet finish to any meal. Sidenote: Former Anaheim Ducks hockey player and six-time Olympian Teemu Selanne is a co-owner, so this place is an under-the-radar spot for A-listers.

1464 S Coast Hwy

Laguna Beach, CA 92651

San Juan Capistrano’s award-winning pitmaster Daniel Castillo elevates barbecue with Heritage’s wood-smoked brisket, sausages, turkeys, ribs, chickens, and more. First-timers load up on the brisket and ribs, while the regulars order pork belly banh mi sandwiches, brisket tacos prepared with Burritos La Palma tortillas, and creamy banana pudding layered with pound cake and vanilla wafer cookies.

31721 Camino Capistrano

San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

A tilted look at a cafe table with pastries and orange juice.
Moulin Orange County.
Moulin

Chef Laurent Vrignaud opened the French bistro, boulangerie, and patisserie in 2014. Since then, the Moulin brand has expanded and opened six locations in Orange County. The croque madame sandwich with creamy bechamel and fried egg, as well as the sweet strawberry jam crepe, are excellent ways to start the day. But don’t forget to swing by the pastry case. The Saint Honore dessert is decorated with petite cream puffs with chantilly cream and salted caramel.

2 Ritz Carlton Dr

Dana Point, CA 92629

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