There’s no denying that Orange County’s restaurant scene has come into its own in recent years. New openings from exciting restaurant groups and known chefs are popping up in all corners for the region, bringing together an impressive collection of culinary destinations set across high-end hotels, shopping plazas, and waterfront developments. From new openings to classic standbys that continue to get the details right, here now are 19 of the hottest restaurants in Orange County.
Removed: Blackmarket Bakery, Mesa, SeaSalt Woodfire Grill, Pizzeria Sapori, Bear Coast Coffee, OoToro, The Royal Hen, Habana
Added: Journeyman’s, Oliver’s Osteria, Terrace by MixMix, Ja Jiaozi, Kitakata Ramen, Louie’s by the Bay, Chaak
1. Journeyman’s Food & Drink
Fullerton, CA 92831
Consider Journeyman’s in Fullerton the OC’s answer to LA’s Vespertine or even Somni, but at a much more affordable price point. Expect modern bells and whistles from chef Zach Geerson, who serves up a nightly four-course menu for $75 per person with the option to add wine pairings at $50 per person.
2. Garlic and Chives
Garden Grove, CA 92844
Garlic and Chives is (still) a certifiable Little Saigon hit. The strip mall space continues to draw legions of fans, eager to try the varied Vietnamese fare, from seafood specialities to soups to noodles on down.
3. Burritos La Palma
Santa Ana, CA 92703
Burritos La Palma is a Mexican food institution around the Southland, known for palm-sized wrapped tacos filled with slowly-braised meats. Simplicity rules here, with diners lining up to catch three, four, or more of the hefty mini-burritos at a clip for one seriously filling lunch or early dinner.
4. Mix Mix Kitchen Bar
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Few restaurants in Orange County have been as lauded in recent years as Mix Mix, the Santa Ana corner spot in the former Little Sparrow space. See what all the fuss is about with a step through for everything from tostadas to pasta, cocktails to wine.
Tustin, CA 92780
Look for modern Yucatan fare from the same folks who operate the popular Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen. The menu celebrates chef Gabbi Patrick’s Yucatecan roots with plenty of Mayan staples, like the cochinita pibil — smoked pork shoulder served with house-made tortillas.
6. JA Jiaozi Authentic Dumplings
Irvine, CA 92602
Operated by the same folks who run Bistro Na’s in Temple City, JA Jiaozi serves up dumplings and house specialties like braised pork belly and braised beef brisket. Don’t miss this sleeper hit.
7. Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai
Irvine, CA 92604
With three locations in and around Irvine, it’s easy to settle in for a bowl of house-made ramen noodles in a delicate broth. A side order of boiled gyoza topped with yuzu and scallion is an absolute must.
8. Taco Maria
Carlos Salgado rightfully continues to earn accolades for his upscale modern Mexican restaurant at the OC Mix Mart, which — besides being delicious — actively seeks out pre-Hispanic ingredients and heirloom products to work with.
9. Terrace by Mix Mix
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Located inside South Coast Plaza, Terrace by MixMix showcases the cooking of former Patina Restaurant Group chef Ross Pangilinan. The menu, inspired by French, Italian, and modern Filipino flavors, features things like pork adobo fried rice and albacore tostada. The $20 prix fixe lunch is particularly notable.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Vaca remains a dining destination for Orange County, thanks to chef Amar Santana’s stint on Top Chef. The Spanish-inflected Costa Mesa restaurant hits on all cylinders, from meat to seafood to fresh produce to one of the best wine lists in the county.
Irvine, CA 92618
San Diego-based Puesto has secured two outlets in Irvine, and continues making all the right moves. The open, airy room features playful takes on contemporary Mexican cuisine that keeps the neighborhood engaged.
12. Playa Mesa
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
Playa Mesa has been lauded by the OC Register as one of the best Mexican restaurants. The crowds have certainly embraced the place, showing up early and often for big, busy lunches and dinners in Costa Mesa.
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Olea’s the Newport Beach strip mall spot with the big, wide bar and inviting patio. The Russ Bendel-owned place keeps racking up well-deserved accolades while turning out casual plates like Jidori chicken schnitzel and beef cheek stroganoff.
14. Louie’s by the Bay
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Piero Selvaggio’s newest restaurant with Ron Salisbury of El Cholo fame is the place to be for all that’s meaty and Italian. Dig into pastas, prime steaks, and chops while taking in the restaurant’s 180-degree view of Newport Bay.
15. Lido Bottle Works
Newport Beach, CA 92663
The stylish Lido Marina Village has found itself a summery anchor tenant in Lido Bottle Works, the drinks-focused hotspot by the beach doing everything from simple roast vegetables and wine to hearty burgers and beer.
Laguna Hills, CA 92653
Laguna Hills’s enduring obsession is Ironwood, a from-scratch eatery doing everything from agnolotti pasta to oysters to charcuterie, drawing big crowds in the process.
17. Marche Moderne
Newport Beach, CA 92657
The beloved Orange County staple has pulled in a new generation of diners at its classic-looking digs inside the Crystal Cove shopping center. Expect top-notch service, white tablecloths, and a menu filled with French classics with a modern twist.
18. Oliver’s Osteria
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Head to Oliver’s Osteria in Laguna Beach for top-notch Italian cooking. Chef Erik De Marchi, who comes from Angelini Osteria, draws inspiration from the cuisine of the Emilia Romagna region in Italy. The cacio e pepe is a must.
19. Hendrix Restaurant and Bar
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Laguna Niguel’s Hendrix Restaurant and Bar continues to fire on all cylinders, offering casual daytime fare like burgers and a catfish sandwich to complement the evening rotisserie meals, weekend brunch, and stiff cocktails.
Original source: Eater Los Angeles