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|After decades of languishing in the shadows of Los Angeles, the Orange County food scene has as of late been able to craft a strong identity all its own. Find out GAYOT's picks for the 10 Must-Visit Restaurants in Orange County.
Amar Santana, executive chef and owner of Laguna Beach’s Broadway by Amar Santana, has announced plans for a second restaurant. The new venue, Vaca, is slated to open in summer 2015 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, no phone.
This industrial-style space that once housed a shipbuilding site has been transformed into a comfortably breezy restaurant that effortlessly captures the coolness of Costa Mesa’s East Bay neighborhood. Boathouse Collective's aesthetic hallmark is its massive outdoor patio, which is festooned with artwork, plant life and communal seating areas for guests to chill and enjoy the restaurant’s contemporary cuisine. People can also go inside, hang out at the rustically appointed bar, and order up artisanal cocktails. The restaurant also features a brunch every Sunday. Boathouse Collective, 1640 Pomona Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92627, 949-646-3176.
Eureka! Burger has opened up a second Orange County location to go along with its Huntington Beach venue. The new spot is in Irvine, across the way from UC Irvine’s sprawling campus. Like the Huntington Beach venue, the Irvine location will be featuring handcrafted burgers, salads and other American fare prepared with fresh ingredients. The venue will also feature a fully stocked bar with craft beer, specialty cocktails and small-batch whiskeys. Lunch & Dinner daily. Eureka! Burger, 4143 Campus Dr., Irvine, CA 92612, 949-596-8881.
The Island Hotel Newport Beach is launching Market Place, an in-house store featuring an assortment of snacks and grab-and-go items for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Guests can expect to see various hot and cold artisanal bites such as sandwiches, salads, breakfast items and Italian coffee; the items will be a combination of locally made food products and items crafted by the hotel’s own culinary team. Market Place marks the third new culinary-based enterprise opened by the Island Hotel in 2014, and it follows the opening of the venue’s flagship eatery, Oak Grill, and its trendy bar concept, Aqua Lounge. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner daily. Market Place, Island Hotel Newport Beach, 690 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, CA 92660, 949-759-0808.
Moulin, a cafe designed to capture the feel of a vintage French bistro, has opened its doors. The Newport Beach venue serves up iterations of classic French cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as prepared by the venue’s native French executive chef Anthony Bar. Dishes range from savory crêpes stuffed with rotisserie chicken and steak frites to classics like coq au vin and boeuf bourguignon. The venue also features more than 70 varieties of wine, French beer and freshly baked breads. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner daily. Moulin, 1000 N. Bristol St., Newport Beach, CA 92660, 844-376-6243.
The city of Costa Mesa welcomes another new restaurant into the fold with the debut of SOCIAL Costa Mesa. Executive chef Jeffrey Boulit, who previously made a name for himself locally as the sous chef at Playground in downtown Santa Ana, offers his take on the popular chef-driven culinary concept, utilizing artisanal and locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. The venue will also feature craft cocktails, late night bites and brunch on the weekends. Dinner Tue.-Sun., Brunch Sat.-Sun.
Cucina Enoteca has rolled out a second Orange County location, in Newport Beach’s famed shopping center Fashion Island. Like the original OC space, the new space features an array of rustic Italian cuisine and an extensive list of wines that may be purchased at retail prices. Cucina Enoteca, Fashion Island, 401 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, CA 92660, 949-706-1416.
The contemporary Chinese restaurant Twenty Eight will be opening its doors in the heart of Irvine’s original business district in Fall 2014. The restaurant is the brainchild of executive chef and partner Shirley Chung, whose pedigree includes an appearance on Top Chef and a successful stint as executive chef at China Poblano by Jose Andres. Chung promises to bring regional Chinese dishes to the venue, made with local seasonal ingredients and progressive flavors. Twenty Eight, 19530 Jamboree Rd., Irvine, CA 92612, no phone.
La Bella Moda on Sundays in November at Andrea
Andrea at The Resort at Pelican Hill hosts La Bella Moda every Sunday in November. The fashion and Prosecco brunch event features different themes each week to exhibit seasonal fashion trends from casual chic to festive gowns. The event is in collaboration with luxury designers from Fashion Island, and offers a prix-fixe Prosecco brunch menu with cuisine by chef Marco Criscuolo. Each event is $49 per person, which includes the Prosecco brunch and a gift bag. All events begin at 11 a.m. For more information, visit www.pelicanhill.com. Andrea, The Resort at Pelican Hill, 22701 Pelican Hill Rd. S., Newport Coast, CA 92657, 949-467-6800.
GourMondays at AnQi Gourmet Bistro by Crustacean
AnQi Gourmet Bistro by Crustacean hosts GourMondays, a multi-course dining experience designed to highlight exquisite takes of epicurean expression. The meal pairs with carefully selected wines with a varying number of dining courses constructed on an evolving theme. Some of these themes touch on the South Coast Plaza-based restaurant’s adherence to fusion, while others focus on the enjoyment of traditionally indulgent dishes. Seats are limited to 18 patrons. The cost of the meal varies and excludes tax and tip. The dinners are slated to start at 6:30 p.m. on the first Monday of the month. AnQi Gourmet Bistro by Crustacean, South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, 714-557-5679.
Frites Grill Menu at Mimi's Cafe
Chef Katie Sutton, the head of the culinary team at Mimi’s Cafe restaurants, spent two months in France perfecting her version of the French frite that’s crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The results can now be found on the Frites Grill menu, offering steak frites, grilled salmon & frites, grilled chicken & frites, mussels & frites, and roasted chicken & frites. For more information and locations, visit www.mimiscafe.com
Two-Course Lunch Express Menu at Andrea
Andrea, the flagship restaurant of The Resort at Pelican Hill, offers a two-course menu espresso (express menu) at lunch served in 45 minutes or less Wednesday through Sunday. Diners select one appetizer, soup or salad to begin, followed by one hand-made pasta dish or lunch entrée. The meal concludes with coffee service. The cost is $45 per person, plus tax and gratuity Andrea, The Resort at Pelican Hill, 22701 Pelican Hill Rd. S., Newport Coast, CA 92657, 949-467-6800.
Roy Hendrickson has left his post as executive chef at Zimzala, the flagship restaurant at the Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach. Hendrickson has migrated south to San Diego, where he oversees the kitchen at Vessel Restaurant, the flagship eatery at the Kona Kai Resort & Marina. The replacement for Hendrickson has not been officially announced. Zimzala, Shorebreak Hotel, 500 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, CA 92648, 714-861-4470.
Ways & Means Oyster House in Old Town Orange has closed. The restaurant plans to re-open in Newport Beach. Ways & Means Oyster House, 513 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, CA 92866, no phone.
House of Big Fish + Ice Cold Beer in Laguna Beach has closed. The venue closed because the owners of the restaurant decided to concentrate exclusively on their hotel properties. A new restaurant, Big Fish Tavern, has moved into the space. The new venue, which is owned by the same group that owns The Bungalow in Corona Del Mar, has retained a lot of the old restaurant’s seafood-centric menu, which also features an impressive amount of craft beers. House of Big Fish + Ice Cold Beer, 540 S. Coast Hwy., Ste. 200, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, no phone.
Landmark in Corona Del Mar has closed its doors. The restaurant, which was known for its steaks and its late-night scene, held its final day of operation May 10. Plans for a new restaurant to occupy the now-vacant space have been announced, although the actual dining concept is still under wraps. Landmark, 3520 E. Coast Hwy., Corona Del Mar, CA 92625, no phone.
View our calendar of Wine Dinners & Tastings in Orange County