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The historic Newport Beach watering hole District Lounge has expanded, re-branded and re-opened as Stag Bar + Kitchen. The name change comes with historic roots --- the space was originally launched in 1908 as Stag Bar, before being re-named in 2006. In addition to serving up cocktails, craft beers and small-batch whiskeys, the expanded 21-and-over venue also offers a compact bar menu of scratch-made pizzas, seasonal salads, artisanal meatballs and other bar food. Lunch & Dinner daily. Stag Bar + Kitchen, 121 McFadden Pl., Newport Beach, CA 92663, 949-673-4470.
The juggernaut Orange County-based quick-service eatery Slapfish has opened up its latest OC location. Situated in the Village at La Floresta retail center in Brea, the venue will serve up concept creator/executive chef Andrew Gruel’s popular array of sustainable seafood creations, ranging from lobster rolls to the poutine-like chowder fries. This marks the fifth county-based location for the restaurant, which also has outposts in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Irvine and Laguna Beach. Lunch & Dinner daily. Slapfish, The Village at La Floresta, 3405 E. Imperial Hwy., Brea, CA 92823, 657-444-2291.
Ola Mexican Kitchen has officially opened at Huntington Beach’s new retail and dining center Pacific City. Set against a view of Surf City’s legendary coastline, the venue features a menu in which traditional Mexican comfort food and regional fare are presented in an elevated form, from sautéed lobster tacos served on blue corn tortillas to Jidori chicken mole. These dishes can be paired with margaritas, beers or a selection from their Napa/Sonoma-heavy wine list. Lunch & Dinner daily.
The restaurant collective behind True Food Kitchen has made their second foray into Orange County with the launch of North Italia in Irvine. Located in the bustling Park Place business and entertainment complex, the restaurant features a menu built on a foundation of Northern Italian-style cuisine, including pizzas, salads and several dishes crafted with pasta made in-house daily. A compact list of Italian and Pacific Coast wines are also available. North Italia, Park Plaza, 2957 Michelson Dr., Irvine, CA 92612, 949-629-7060.
Amar Santana, executive chef and owner of Laguna Beach’s Broadway by Amar Santana, has opened a second restaurant. The new venue, Vaca, is across the way from South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. The restaurant marks a return to Costa Mesa for Santana, who built up a solid following among dining patrons as executive chef at Charlie Palmer’s at Bloomingdale’s South Coast Plaza. Vaca, 695 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, 714-463-6060.
Fermented food purveyor Farm & Culture Co. is open for business in Costa Mesa’s popular dining and retail spot OC Mix. The unique fast-casual spot specializes in shining the spotlight on the complex flavors and singular health benefits behind fermented cuisine, from seasonally cultivated dishes like vegan kimchi to broths and natural sodas locally crafted from filtered water and kombucha cultures. Lunch & Dinner daily.
The seafood restaurant Ways & Means is slated to return to Orange County. The venue, which had closed its lone Orange location in October 2014, is going to be located in Huntington Beach’s Pacific City shopping and dining complex. As was the case in the old location, executive chef Justin Odegard will be overseeing a seafood-centric menu with an emphasis on fresh, sustainable products and “ocean to table” motifs. Guests will also be able to enjoy oceanfront views with seasonal cocktails and selections from a globally inspired wine list. Dinner nightly. Ways & Means Oyster House, Pacific City, 21022 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, CA 92648, no phone.
The team behind the Selanne Steak Tavern has opened TS Gourmet Shoppe, a cozy specialty food store located next to the popular Laguna Beach restaurant. The store will feature cut-to-order, sustainable steaks and chops prepared by Selanne’s executive chef, Joshua Severson, and his trained butchering team. Patrons will also be able to peruse an array of fresh seafood, assorted cheeses, artisanal delicacies like caviars and sea salts, and farmers' market soups. Additionally, the store will stock several gifts, including apparel and items associated with the restaurant/store co-proprietor and Southern California hockey icon, Teemu Selanne. Selanne Steak Tavern, 1464 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, CA 92651, 949-715-9881.
The restaurant team behind the popular San Clemente restaurant Vine has unveiled their latest dining concept, Ironwood. The restaurant, which will be located in Laguna Hills, is slated to open in the spring of 2016. Vine’s executive chef, Jared Cook, will also oversee the kitchen, which will feature farm-to-table cuisine made from locally sourced ingredients. The venue will also offer craft cocktails and beers, as well as more than 25 wine selections by the glass. Dinner nightly. Ironwood, 25200 La Paz Road Ste. 110, Laguna Hills, CA 92653, no phone.
The L.A.-based restaurant/cafeteria Lemonade has opened its third Orange County location. The new venue is in Huntington Beach’s Pacific City shopping and dining complex. Like the Newport Beach and Irvine outposts, the Huntington Beach locale offers an array of freshly made salads, soups, braises and lemonades, featuring seasonal and health-conscious ingredients. Lunch & Dinner daily. Lemonade, 21016 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, CA 92648, 714-604-1072.
The latest downtown Laguna Beach dining concept, Skyloft, is now open for business. Restaurateur Ivan Spiers, who already has found success with Mozambique, has retooled the city’s historic Heisler building to house this massive project. It encompasses several different dining rooms, bars and a rooftop featuring panoramic views of the city and nearby ocean. The restaurant serves seasonal “Authentic Americana” cuisine culled from different parts of the country, along with craft beers, coastal California wines and handcrafted cocktails. For more information, visit www.skyloftoc.com. Lunch & Dinner daily. Skyloft, 422 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, CA 92651, 949-715-1550.
The team behind Huntington Beach’s popular SeaLegs Wine Bar has announced their second restaurant concept, SeaSalt Woodfire Grill. Slated to open in January, the new restaurant will be a stone’s throw from SeaLegs and will feature a unique spin on California cuisine, built around grilling meat Santa Maria-style. SeaLegs’ executive chef Alexander Dale will oversee the menu, and he will also create several house-made flavored sea salts to season the grilled meats. For more information, visit www.seasaltwoodfiregrill.com. SeaSalt Woodfire Grill, 21214 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, CA 92648, 714-414-5683.
The Los Angeles-based seafood restaurant Water Grill is coming to Orange County. The new eatery is slated to open in August 2016. Like its sister restaurants in downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica and San Diego’s Gaslamp District, the restaurant will present a rotating menu of upscale seafood dishes, emphasizing sustainable ingredients. Water Grill, 3300 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, no phone.
Kona Grill is opening up its first California location in Orange County. The venue will be located in the Irvine Spectrum, and is slated to open in February 2016. Like the other locations, guests can expect an array of sushi and Pacific Rim-inspired contemporary entrees. You'll also be able to pair your meal with wine, beer, cocktails or sake. Kona Grill, Irvine Spectrum, 71 Spectrum Center Dr., Irvine, CA 92618, no phone.
Orange County Restaurant Week Returns March 6-12
The eighth-annual Orange County Restaurant Week returns to shine the spotlight on some of OC’s most popular venues March 6-12, 2016. As in previous years, 100 restaurants will be featuring special prix fixe menus at price points designed to encourage guests to dine out at multiple times during the week. Participating restaurants include AnQi Gourmet Bistro by Crustacean, Provenance, Pizzeria Ortica, SeaLegs Wine Bar and Selanne Steak Tavern. For more information, visit Orange County Restaurant Week's website Orange County Restaurant Week, South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, 714-557-5679.
Matador Cantina Introduces Agave Room
Downtown Fullerton’s Matador Cantina has expanded their private dining capabilities with the launching of the Agave Room. Much like the restaurant’s adjacent main dining space, the new facility boasts exposed brick and reclaimed wood finishes that taps into the building’s historic turn of the 20th century nature. The space comes with its own dedicated full bar and private dining for up to 82 seated guests. Matador Cantina, 111 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, CA 92832, 714-871-8226.
Selanne Steak Tavern has announced that Stephanie Driggs has taken over the reins as pastry chef. Driggs brings more than a decade’s worth of local professional experience to the Laguna Beach restaurant, including an extensive stint as pastry sous chef at The St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point. Selanne Steak Tavern, 1464 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, CA 92651, 949-715-9881.
The North Left has permanently closed its doors. The downtown Santa Ana concept, which had opened in 2014 in the space formerly occupied by restaurant/nightclub The Crosby, gave no reason for its shuttering. Plans for a replacement venue have not been announced. The North Left, 400 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, CA 92701, no phone.
Foxfire: An American Chophouse has announced it is closing its doors. No reason was given for shuttering. The venue, which features steaks and chops, along with a well-honed reputation for being a hangout for older single women, will cease service after the first week in February. No plans for a replacement venue have been revealed. Foxfire: An American Chophouse, 5717 E. Santa Ana Cyn Rd., Anaheim Hills, CA 92807, 714-974-5400.
The restaurant 118 Degrees, a vegan and raw foods eatery located in the Costa Mesa alternative mall The Camp, has closed its doors. The concept has shifted north to Los Angeles County, where it has opened in Tarzana. Its proprietor, Jenny Ross, has also re-emerged in Orange County with a new spot in downtown Santa Ana’s 4th Street Market called Be Well Kitchen. It specializes in creating seasonally based raw and vegan entrées, which are available for pick up or delivery. The restaurant also provides catering services and hosts on-site cooking demos. 118 Degrees, The Camp, 2981 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, no phone.
Scott's Restaurant & Bar in Costa Mesa has closed its doors after 26 years. The restaurant had long been an iconic dining venue among the city’s South Coast Plaza and theatre district. The location is slated to be filled with the Los Angeles-based, high-end seafood concept Water Grill by August 2016. Scott's Restaurant & Bar, South Coast Plaza, 3300 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, no phone.
Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour & Restaurant closed its Mission Viejo location. The restaurant, known for its kid-friendly fare, generously portioned desserts and boisterous ambiance, served its last meals January 3. The restaurant’s sister location in downtown Brea will remain open. Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour & Restaurant, The Shops at Mission Viejo , 799 The Shops at Mission Viejo, Mission Viejo, CA 92691, no phone.
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