I lived in LA for 20 years and Orange County was never known for it’s culinary scene. But I am returning after all these years, as I have a customer in the area, so researching the top spots to eat.  Hopefully times have changed and I will be delightfully surprised!

  • 21 Oceanfront – 2100 W. Oceanfront, Newport Beach, 949-673-2100 – an ode to opulence – the  chandelier sparkle, black tie service and deep burgundy plush in this oceanfront historic landmark.
  • A&O Kitchen & Bar – Balboa Bay Resort, 1221 W. Coast H’way, Newport Beach, 949-630-4285 – one look at the menu will show you just how much fun Rachel Haggsterom and her team have in the kitchen.  There’s the Popcorn and Pig small bite, and the Go Bananas dessert.  Also on tap at this gastropub are cocktails, craft brews and wine.
  • Anaheim White House –  877 S. Anaheim Blvd, Anaheim, (714) 772-1381 – A historic landmark in the heart of Anaheim, this former home was transformed into a restaurant in 1981 and has been serving up elegant northern Italian cuisine since 1987. Serving classic Italian food, steaks, and major desserts.
  • Antonello Ristorante – 3800 South Plaza Drive, Santa Ana, (714) 751-7153 –  Northern Italian cuisine in an old school surrounding but have tried to update it as late (ate her over 20 years ago).  They now have a cafe with, of course, small plates and updated takes on the classics.  Excellent wine list.
  • Bruno’s Trattoria – 210 W. Birch Street, Brea – In lively downtown Brea, serving Northern Italian food in a modern atmosphere.  Great cocktails.
  • Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens – 2301 San Joaquin Hills Road, Corona del Mar, 949-640-1415 – Field-to-fork restaurant where the chef and owner, Rich Mead, has forged strong relationships with area farms during his 35 year career.
  • Marche Moderne – 3333 Bristol St #3001, Costa Mesa, (714) 434-7900 – Rustic French cuisine meets modern and sophisticated fare in a major shopping mall (right next to Nordstrom).   Locals think it may be one of the best French restaurants in OC.  Try the foie gras and chestnut agnolotti or coq au vin.

  • Mesa – 725 Baker St, Costa Mesa, (714) 557-6700 – Restaurant and lounge with an inviting interior and wide array of small plates. The place is comfortable featuring craft beer and boutique wines.
  • Oo Toro Sushi – 2222 Michelson Dr, Irvine, (949) 222-0688 – Upscale sushi and Japanese food with decadent add-ons like Wagyu beef from a clean, slick space.
  • Playground – 220 E 4th St, Santa Ana, (714) 560-4444 – Downtown Santa Ana is having a renaissance, and Playgound is doing it’s part in helping speed that along.  Part gastropub, part fine dining, allows diners to move from high-end pork buns to fried chicken to lamb belly all in one dining experience.

  • Sushi Roku –327 Newport Center Drive,Newport Beach, (949) 706-3622 – this sushi restaurant offers a little something extra over all the myriad sushi restaurants in Southern Cal.  The modern design of wooden tables, unique lantern-style lights and bonsai trees makes it unique the moment you enter. Creative sushi, rolls, an American favorites are also served for those who don’t eat raw fish.
  • Vaca – 695 Town Center Dr Suit 160, Costa Mesa, (714) 463-6060 – This seems to be THE restaurant in Orange County, since it’s chef, Amar Santana’s stint on Top Chef. The Spanish-inflected restaurant does a great job in all areas… meat, seafood, and fresh produce.  Also has an excellent wine list.

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