Break your dining habits and seek a culinary adventure at one of Orange County’s newest restaurants. The following eateries stimulate your senses by offering more than just delectable dishes to create a memorable soiree.
31111 Rancho Viejo Road
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Harlow’s believes too much of a good thing is truly wonderful. The décor is rich and elegant representing a mix of 19th century Europe with a New Orleans vibe. It is fine dining without pretentiousness. The dishes at Harlow are GMO, hormone and antibiotic free. The menu is designed to offer farm-to-table California contemporary cuisine like Muscovy Duck breast, Colorado Ribeye Cap or Soft Shell Blue Crab. Tantalize your taste buds in the Gatsby Room or sip on libations handcrafted from Prohibition-era recipes in Apothecary Bar and Lounge. If you’d like to try an off-the-menu item (for those in the know), request the Harlow Burger, brunch style, served with maple bacon and over medium quail egg.
ARC Food & Libations
3321 Hyland Ave Suite F
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
ARC is an American eatery created by Chef Noah Blom, whose style of cooking has been described as “just a dude with fire.” Everything at ARC is made in house or sourced locally. The focus is on flame and flavor. Blom invokes a natural ambiance in every nuance, right down to the serving dishes made from cast iron, wood and black clay. Visually, the restaurant displays weathered wood, open flames, and brick. This Costa Mesa restaurant creates everything over almond wood in a brick hearth or on orange wood in a grill. A fun fact about ARC’s cooking style is the restaurant doesn’t even have a conventional stove top range.
Guests can enjoy dishes served straight from the hearth like pig smoldering on cast iron, laden with maple syrup and herbs or fish with corn, pepper and lime. Dinner at ARC isn’t complete without a signature drink like the Gloom, made from junipero gin, cocchi Americano, and lavender, or the Fighting Chance, made with bourbon, calisaya, and creole bitters.
Saddle Ranch Chop House Restaurant
1870 Harbor Blvd. (at Newport Blvd.)
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
Steak, bulls and rock and roll in Orange County? If you are hunkering for a western ranch-style outing where jeans are appropriate, mosey on down to the Saddle Ranch Chop House. Located on the top floor of The Triangle in Costa Mesa, this chophouse is the sister venue of the famed Sunset Strip restaurant. This may be the only place in Orange County where diners can hop onto a mechanical bull to see how long they can stay on. At the Saddle Ranch, the portions are huge and the cuisine is fit for a cowboy. The menu includes barbecued ribs, steaks, chili and burgers.
Mare Culinary Lounge
Inside Holiday Inn Laguna Beach
696 S. Coast Hwy. (at Cleo St.)
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Nestled inside the Holiday Inn Laguna Beach is the Mare Culinary Lounge, the latest venture of Italian-born and raised Chef Alessandro Pirozzi, owner of Alessa Laguna. Pirozzi is an award-winning chef who combines his charming personality with time-honored family recipes. Guests can dine on authentic recipes from Italy on Pacific Coast Highway. The new restaurant and lounge offer traditional Italian cuisine with Pirozzi’s unique flair. The new lounge serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and features a late night menu.
When dinner ends, the lights come down and the music goes up at Laguna Beach’s newest late-night destination. (Mare is open until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday with full bar and dancing.)
Tamarind of London Restaurant
7862 E. Coast Hwy.
Newport Beach, CA92657
Tamarind of London brings the reputation of its British flagship and adapts it to fit casual Orange County diners. Tucked inside Newport Beach’s upscale Crystal Cove Promenade, the cuisine is a take on an Indian fare. The menu features classic Indian fare like crispy paneer and chicken tikka, as well as main dishes like vegetable kadhi and tandoori shrimp. Perfect for a seaside venue is the steamed PEI mussels served with coconut milk or a tandoori New York steak kebab.
Michelle Mears-Gerst is a writer in South Orange County who can also be found @Sunnynsocal.