Orange County definitely has a bustling bar scene, often getting credit with some of the best bars in Southern California. The level of food is just as high, with a lot of bars, pubs and restaurants combing the two and making for a foodie heaven. There are plenty of reasons to avoid the big chains when there is such quality local food and drink in the beach’s backyard. A foodie will find a bevy of good food in the beach cities, from fresh seafood to deconstructed classics. No bar can earn its stripes without good drinks, so make sure to check out the on-tap and specialty crafts offered in the area as well.
220 E. 4th St.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Playground takes the cake when it comes to the best combination of food and drink as it offers three full courses of to-die-for meals. It even employs a ciceron, a certified pairer of beer and wine with one’s meal, adding a level of sophistication only found in a few hundred places around the world. Playground’s variety of craft beers will keep your spirits up while enjoying its well-priced and marvelous menu, which gets crafted on a weekly basis. All of the food is purchased from farmers, far and wide, adding a human element to the cooking and serving process. This attention to detail and love of food makes Playground the best choice for foodies in Orange County.
131 1/2 Main St.
Seal Beach, CA 90740
If there is one local legend in the Orange County foodie bar catalog, it is Beachwood BBQ. This bar is always filled with the best in local and exotic beers on tap, but its barbecue and variety of meats is spectacular. The always-on “HopCam” shows off the big board of brews, with some special selections limited to order just for one day. The appetizers are so good that you have to at least share something with another guest, making sure more than one person tries either the smoked portobello fries or baked mac and cheese. Finish the night with some of the finest brisket in the land or a real buffalo sloppy joe, but no choice is the wrong one at this foodie paradise.
400 N. Broadway
Santa Ana, CA 92701
The Crosby is another bar and lounge that alters the menu as often as the seasons change, always allowing fresh ideas to infiltrate a clean and professional environment. The attention to detail and distinct modern style separates this entry completely, giving Santa Ana another medal in its battle for best eateries. Add in some musical performances and a casual vibe at the stocked bar and you have a the makings for a memorable foodie-friendly experience. The Crosby’s $2 Tuesday has some delicious food on the cheap, from pork Colorado tostadas to shrimp cocktail. The drinks are made with enough love (and booze) to keep your libation addiction going just for one more great bite.
1000 Bristol St. N., Suite 11
Newport Beach, CA 92660
There does not seem to be a dearth of one-word superbars in Orange County, but Juliette offers the style of modern cuisine and collection of spirits that a foodie and barfly might raise a glass to. Its ever-evolving menu ranges from wild boar salami to angels duck prosciutto. The brandy and cognac offer a wider range of alcohol than most places and the extra-long list of available wines will keep the party going all night. Getting to Juliette between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. will ensure a taste of the “late lunch” menu, offering an even more rare menu than what is offered night and day.
Chapter One: The Modern Local
227 N. Broadway
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Do not let the eccentric title keep you away, as Chapter One: The Modern Local offers something most places do not in Orange County, bringing a gastropub atmosphere to the people. Its farm-grown, high-end food is a touch above the rest, with an eclectic menu that includes tempura frog legs, jerk salmon nachos and etouffee fries. Beyond that vibrant appetizer list, its take on the fish and chip, mac and cheese and good old fashioned sandwich is a must-have experience. Match this list of quality food with a global list of beer and wine and it’s easy to see how paying just a bit more can be worth every penny.
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Jesse Seilhan is a writer, editor and photographer from the California Bay Area. After moving to Long Beach, Jesse continues his passion for writing and music by covering concerts, interviewing top artists, and giving a dose of wisdom in a crazy, mixed-up musical world. His work can be found at Examiner.com.