Breakfast, lunch or dinner—doesn’t matter! You’ll find a dish for any occasion, day or night, at these hip Orange County restaurants. From burger joints and sushi spots to upscale eateries overlooking the coastline, OC’s hotspots provide a variety of settings for which to enjoy your favorite foods. With finely decorated interiors and innovative ways of presenting cuisine, there’s plenty to experience in OC’s dining scene. These are Orange County’s best restaurants right now.
Montage Laguna Beach
30801 South Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Located at Montage Laguna Beach, one of the beach town’s finest resorts, The Loft sits on the fourth floor overlooking the gorgeous seaside below. The panoramic views and creative dishes blend together to provide a casual upscale environment perfect for dining at any point during the day. The menu features starters, soups and salads in addition to artisan sandwiches and cuisine filled with fresh produce, fish, chicken, steak and lamb. Their dessert menu has a seasonal selection of ice cream and sorbets, red berry cheesecake, a honey soufflé and chocolate flan with mandarin oranges. In addition to the main dining areas, The Loft has a cheese bar where guests can sample 150 different types of cheese alongside seasonal fruits, crackers and a variety of housemade jellies, butters and spreads. An additional extension of the restaurant, The Loft Bistro, has a more laid back menu, with burgers, soups, salads and sausages.
solita Tacos & Margaritas
7631 Edinger Avenue
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
Mexican food is typically much of the same—tacos, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas. But even though the dishes are standard, the taste varies greatly based on the ingredients and sauces used. solita’s chefs use wood and charcoal grills to whip up some of the best Mexican food around in a laidback environment. Their all-day menu features a definite variety that includes some special starters like ceviche with bits of tropical fruit and spicy shrimp simmered in tequila. Since tacos are their specialty, expect to find many different kinds: chipotle chicken, carnitas, crispy fried fish, chile tofu, even chorizo and sweet potato tacos. Much of their cuisine features housemade sauces like their tomatillo salsa and red chile salsa. Their other specialties—margaritas—come in unique flavors as well. Choose from the house margarita or sip on a guava, watermelon or kiwi-strawberry-infused cocktail. solita also has plenty of different types of tequila to choose from. On weekends, diners can also enjoy specialty brunch items like breakfast burritos and huevos rancheros.
1025 East Ball Road
Anaheim, CA 92805
The Ranch is so much more than simply a restaurant, making it one of the most exciting spots for dinner and nightlife in OC. The restaurant itself has a regional focus, including ingredients from California’s own farms and ranches as well as locally sourced produce, bread and cheese. On top of that, they include sustainable seafood like salmon and bass as well as ribeye, lamb chops and short ribs from reliable sources across the country. After enjoying a meal, those that enjoy country music can head over to the saloon where bands and musicians perform live while visitors partake in some good old-fashioned line dancing. The atmosphere is electric as the dance floor is right in front of the raised stage. Wine lovers can also pay a visit to the restaurant’s wine cellar, which is filled with a selection of wines from across the globe.
Harbor Grill Restaurant
34499 Street of the Golden Lantern
Dana Point, CA 92629
Situated alongside the Dana Point Harbor, dining at Harbor Grill Restaurant provides plenty of beautiful scenery along with some delicious seafood. With the building set right on the water and large glass windows, diners can take in views of the boats lined up in the marina or heading out to sea. Known especially for its grilled seafood, the cuisine at Harbor Grill combines techniques and ingredients from various cultures and cooking styles; from Mediterranean to Cajun, there are plenty of creative dishes that make the food stand out. While the restaurant offers rainbow trout, swordfish and grilled scallops, diners should switch it up and order something like the Cajun Blackened Seabass or the Caribbean Spiced Rubbed Mahi Mahi—which comes with tequila tomato salsa. These innovative dishes provide unique takes on classic pieces of fish, which isn’t typical of seafood restaurants.
SOCIAL Costa Mesa
512 West 19th Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
This New American restaurant is all the rage for OC foodies right now. Based in Costa Mesa, it’s trendy interior is filled with unique décor—oversize light-up letters, an Ernest Hemingway quote on the wall and wood-framed TVs playing vintage films. Their fresh ingredients are often locally sourced as well, and they incorporate new and innovative ingredients that sound like they might clash. But guess what? They don’t, and it’s obvious by SOCIAL’s success. Their menus for both food and drinks change with the seasons, but recent offerings include a citrus salad, wood fired oysters, Spanish octopus and High Plains bison. With beignets and vanilla panna cotta under the menus “Sweets” section, you won’t want to skip dessert either. In addition to their unique dining, SOCIAL is known for their specialty crafted cocktails made by expert mixologists with their own housemade syrups. Drinks like the Risky Business include passion fruit and citrus flavors (with plenty of bubbles) while the French Corset includes French brandy, pear and an egg white.
725 Baker Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Entering through a rectangular concrete building, one wouldn’t guess that the inside of mesa is so spectacular—but it is. A giant tree surrounded by candles provides a stark contrast to the exterior, creating a warm and welcome vibe inside. The roof of the lounge opens up to let in either sun or starlight, which just adds to the environment. On top of the aesthetics, the food at mesa is pretty great. Some of their best cuisine is their pizza, cooked in a wood oven to perfection. They only offer margherita, sweet and spicy or mushroom and leek, but there are generally rave reviews for these pies. They also offer a selection of meats and fish, like steelhead salmon, angus steak and both regular and veggie burgers. Don’t worry if you came for happy hour—small plates are available as well in savory appetizers that are perfect for sharing. Choose from artisanal cheeses, cured salami, beef sliders, grilled shrimp and more.
1080 Bayside Driver
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Pizzeria Sapori isn’t your average American pizza joint. The restaurant takes pride in the simplicity and heritage behind their menu, offering thin-crusted Neapolitan pizza that differs from the standard cheesy slices we’ve come to know and love. They stick to tradition at Pizzeria Sapori: the dough is fermented for 72 hours and cooked in a very specific manner—using important ingredients like tomatoes imported especially from Italy. While the selection isn’t vast, the restaurant focuses on perfecting the types they do have so the experience can be even better for their customers. With extra virgin olive oil and spices like basil or oregano, these pizzas have plenty of flavor. If you’re looking for a snack before your meal or a smaller plate, Pizzeria Sapori also offers antipasti like fried calamari, green olives, meatballs, rosemary focaccia and four different salads.
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
1 Ritz Carlton Drive
Dana Point, CA 92629
For an intimate dining experience at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, consider making a reservation at enoSTEAK, a luxury steakhouse known for its quality ingredients that all come from less than 200 miles away from Dana Point and Laguna Niguel. All meat served at enoSTEAK comes from grass-fed, pasture-raised animals plus the produce is all organic; the herbs are even grown on-site at the resort. With basted lamb chops, glazed chicken breast, pan seared sea bass and bone-in ribeye available, it’s safe to say that protein is their main attraction. With signature sauces like black truffle butter and béarnaise sauce, the flavors are enhanced tremendously post-cooking. Small tables and dark wooden accents provide an intimate atmosphere that keeps OC locals as well as hotel guests coming back, making it a great spot for a date night, an evening out with friends or a small family get-together.
327 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Sushi restaurants are all over the place after the sushi boom of the last decade, but Sushi Roku offers a little something extra that makes it stand out above the rest. Part of that is handled by the incredible ambiance of the Newport Beach restaurant. The modern design features wooden tables, unique lantern-style lights and bonsai trees. Daily happy hours serve a selection of wine, sake and martinis as well as small plates of things like shrimp ceviche, skewers, basic rolls and edamame. Whether you’re looking for sushi, sashimi or rolls, you’ll find an impressive list of delicious choices. Signature rolls at Sushi Roku include the baked crab, crunchy spicy tuna or tuna jalapeno rolls. In addition to standard sushi dishes, Sushi Roku offers prime rib, chicken, salmon and even filet mignon. The restaurant also has many gluten-free selections for those who require it.
695 Town Center Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Another hotspot in Costa Mesa is Vaca, the newest creation from Top Chef contestant and Laguna Beach-based Broadway chef Amar Santana. While American components are blended in, Vaca focuses on dishes that include quality meats and influence from Spanish cities including Andalucía, Barcelona, Madrid and Sevilla. In typical Spanish style, Vaca makes big use of tapas, or small plates carefully crafted with snacks like marinated olives, grilled calamari and braised beef tendon. Their menu also includes a variety of cheeses (or quesos), different types of paella and many different steaks. Classy cocktails are served, mixed with sherry, gin and vermouth. Nearly all of the wines at Vaca are also Spanish, although some come from France and California. Although they have only been open for a few months, Vaca is sure to find success following the explosion of business at Santana’s Broadway.
Reunion Kitchen + Drink
5775 East Santa Ana Canyon Road
Anaheim, CA 92807
With a menu crafted out of foods diners are already known to love, Reunion Kitchen + Drink provides subtle changes that make their dishes especially unique. The dim atmosphere highlighted by wooden accents and a sleek design make it easy to feel relaxed with no distractions so diners can focus on the food and the overall experience. The restaurant also features an exhibition-style kitchen so those eating in the restaurant can watch dishes being prepared, a special element that not only makes Reunion Kitchen stand out but one that also breaks down an invisible wall between the chefs and those eating their food. The menu includes some fantastic starters like loaded potato skins, bacon wrapped jalapenos and crispy asparagus spears. For entrees, burgers and sandwiches are always popular, especially with offerings like a barbecued hickory burger and a honey chicken Brie sandwich. Visitors can also order comfort foods like chicken and biscuits, slow braised short ribs, barbecue glazed meatloaf and turkey pot pie.
220 East 4th Street
Santa Ana, CA 92701
With the cultural renovation of downtown Santa Ana, it’s no surprise that trendy restaurants like Playground are popping up. Playground in particular started out as a burger place but has transformed into much more than that. This is another restaurant with an open kitchen area, creating a closeness between the staff and their customers. Watch as they prepare meals—see firsthand what you’re going to be eating and how it’s made. Although Playground is still known for having some pretty amazing burgers, they offer plenty of other types of cuisine as well. From fried chicken and maple glazed pork chops to grilled halibut and smoked scallops, the selection is more vast than many restaurants in the area. Even the desserts include unique treats; try the pomegranate sorbet, gingerbread churros with white chocolate cream cheese or macaron ice cream sandwiches. On top of the food, Playground has become a go-to spot for local craft beers with 15 rotating choices on draft.
The Resort at Pelican Hill
22701 South Pelican Hill Road
Newport Coast, CA 92657
Newport Coast’s The Resort at Pelican Hill is known for its luxury environment and its restaurant, Andrea, is no different. Formally referred to as Andrea Ristorante, the restaurant carefully blends Italian cooking techniques with the freshest California ingredients. Lunch visitors can choose from a variety of pasta dishes, grilled salmon or chicken, cous cous or a salad. The dinner menu is more extensive, serving eight different pasta dishes featuring the restaurant’s own housemade pasta, which is handmade on-site each day. Andrea also offers stuffed quail, veal, lamb and a signature risotto prepared right at the table. Side dishes featuring seasonal vegetables are also offered along with a selection of soups, salads and appetizers. Dine inside or sit on the airy patio to enjoy the breeze and ocean views.
4249 Campus Drive
Irvine, CA 92612
With locations in Irvine, Brea, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, Slapfish has quickly become one of the biggest fast casual restaurants in OC. Considering they serve seafood, that’s an interesting feat! The simple, fresh ingredients have gained quite a following among locals and the restaurant advocates sustainable seafood, an aspect that is especially pleasing to nearby ocean-lovers and sustainability advocates. Those dining at the casual seaside (for the most part) shacks can get fish tacos, a fish sandwich, fish and chips or a shrimp roll. They also have a fantastic Clobster Grilled Cheese, featuring a mix of crab and lobster, as well as a Surf N Turf Lobster Burger that combines beef and lobster. Choose from four signature sauces, including the creamy chile Awesome Sauce, the housemade tartar sauce and their lemon herb “Jersey” sauce. Those looking for simple snacks have some really creative options to choose from; the chowder fries are smothered in clam chowder while the pickles come either chilled or fried.
Fig & Olive
151 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660
As you might guess from their name, Fig & Olive features dishes prepared with the finest olive oils. Although this Newport Beach restaurant is not new, it still remains one of the best throughout orange County. Most of their dishes are inspired by ingredients and famous meals from France, Italy and Spain, where olive oils have always been a large part of local cuisine. The popularity of Fig & Olive may stem from the ever-changing menu that focuses on including meals and ingredients that fit the season. Newport Beach’s new spring menu features plenty of colorful dishes filled with fresh produce like carrots and asparagus as well as citrus components. Choose from pasta, risotto, salmon, paella del mar, roasted chicken and lamb chops. The restaurant also offers a few dishes that are made for parties of two to share. Located within Fashion Island, the restaurant is designed after the French Riviera, with plenty of olive trees and green spaces outside as well as outdoor seating.