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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.
Dory Deli has opened its doors next to the Newport Beach pier. The restaurant's name references the area’s historic fish market. It serves up a list of breakfast items and salads, along with a host of traditional and artisanal sandwiches, including several vegetarian offerings. The eatery also features a wine and beer list highlighted by the presence of several local craft brews. Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner daily. Dory Deli, 2108 3/4 West Oceanfront, Newport Beach, CA 92663, 949-220-7886.
Anaheim Marriott has opened its new restaurant concept nFuse Bar & Kitchen. The new venue offers guests another iteration of the trendy shared plates concept with a menu of contemporary cuisine with a Californian influence. The new spot also features an outdoor dining deck with a cozy fire pit for patrons to gather while eating or enjoying a craft cocktail or one of the 24 beers on tap. Dinner nightly. nFuse Kitchen & Bar, Anaheim Marriott, 700 West Convention Way, Anaheim, CA 92802, 714-750-8000.
The chef-driven, farm-to-table concept Tempo Urban Kitchen is now open in Brea. The eatery’s executive chef, Derrick Foster, comes to Orange County by way of New York City and Colorado, and delivers a menu of modern American and global cuisine built around ingredients that are fresh and scratch-made --- all the way down to the salt. The venue will also feature an eclectic list of handcrafted cocktails, craft beers and international wines. For more information, visit www.tempourbankitchen.com. Lunch & Dinner daily. Tempo Urban Kitchen, 1060 Imperial Hwy., Brea, CA 92821, 714-529-2900.
Eats Kitchen & Bar, Orange County’s latest foray into the swelling gastropub genre, has opened in the newly renovated Hotel Irvine, formerly the Hyatt Regency Irvine. Executive chef Jason Montelibano, who previously oversaw the kitchen of Chapter One: The Modern Local in Santa Ana, has cobbled together a small plates menu consisting of updated versions of classic comfort food. The restaurant, which will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, also features a host of craft beers and wine flights. For more information, visit www.hotelirvine.com. Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner daily. Eats Kitchen & Bar, Hotel Irvine, 17900 Jamboree Rd., Irvine, CA 92614, 949-230-4452.
The contemporary Chinese restaurant Twenty Eight opened its doors in the heart of Irvine’s original business district on December 10, 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, 949-852-2828.
Lillie’s Q, the Chicago-based restaurant concept known for its barbecue and Southern side dishes, has opened an Orange County location. The venue is located in downtown Brea. In addition to serving up Southern cuisine and barbecue entrées, such as slow-smoked pork shoulder, baby back ribs and tri-tip, the venue is also partnering with neighboring restaurant TAPS Fish House & Brewery to feature specialty craft beers. Lunch & Dinner daily. Lillie's Q, 240 S. Brea Blvd., Brea, CA 92821, 714-482-2001.
TLT Food, the brick-and-mortar version of the award-winning mobile kitchen The Lime Truck, is now open at The Irvine Spectrum. The restaurant, which also has a sister location in Westwood Village in Los Angeles, marks a return to Orange County for co-owner/executive chef and Irvine native Daniel Shemtob. Like his initial building-based locale, the venue will feature a menu of New American cuisine featuring several items inspired by the former food truck’s own gourmet street food creations. Lunch & Dinner daily. TLT Food, Irvine Spectrum, 705 Spectrum Center Dr., Irvine, CA 92618, 949-727-1450.
Pueblo, the newest restaurant to take up residence in Costa Mesa’s trend-setting shopping center OC Mix at South Coast Collection, has opened. Executive chef Michael Campbell, who made his bones as executive sous chef at RN74 in San Francisco, serves up a collection of Spanish-style tapas for lunch and dinner, which are crafted by using locally sourced meats and produce. The cozy venue also features a compact menu of beer, as well as wines primarily culled from California and Spain. Lunch & Dinner daily. Pueblo, 3321 Hyland Ave. Suite D, Costa Mesa, CA 92626, 714-340-5775.
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! 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!, 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.
Unpretentious Wine Thursdays at Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street hosts Unpretentious Wine Thursdays, a monthly get-together designed to take the perceived starch out of wine tasting. Guests gather in the downtown Fullerton restaurant’s heated outdoor patio to enjoy pairings of wines from a selected vintner with the restaurant’s Cajun-inspired contemporary fare. The cost of the event is $20, and is slated to run from 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. The event occurs on the third Thursday of the month. Bourbon Street, 110 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, CA 92832, 714-626-0050.
Brunch for Lunch at SOCIAL Costa Mesa
SOCIAL Costa Mesa is putting together a special Brunch for Lunch program throughout January. Every Sunday during the month, the restaurant will be donating $2.50 from each brunch entrée purchased to Project Hope Alliance, a local non-profit organization focused on ending childhood homelessness in Orange County. The brunch itself features several Southern-inspired dishes crafted by executive chef Jeffrey Boullt, and the venue’s bar director has created a host of special brunch cocktails to go with these entrées. SOCIAL Costa Mesa, 512 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627, 949-642-2425.
Dine Newport Beach Restaurant Week Takes Place January 19–February 1
During the Dine Newport Beach Restaurant Week, January 19-February 1, 2015, participating restaurants will be serving up prix-fixe menus, with lunches available for $10, $15, $20 or $25 and dinners for $20, $30, $40 or $50. For more information, visit dinenb.com/restaurant-week
Return of Orange County Restaurant Week
Orange County Restaurant Week returns March 1-7, 2015, to shine the spotlight on the various dining experiences that exist within the collection of OC’s different cities. The seventh-annual weekend fête features specially crafted prix fixe lunch and dinner menus from more than 100 participating restaurants, covering a wide array of cuisines, dining concepts and price points. Select participating restaurants include AnQi Gourmet Bistro by Crustacean, Lucca Café, Prime Cut Café, Golden Truffle and The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon. Lunch menus range from $10-$20, and dinner options range from $20-$50. For more information, visit www.ocrestaurantweek.com
Scott Brandon is no longer the executive chef at Fireside An American Tavern. No reasons for his departure was announced. The Costa Mesa venue, which is housed inside the Crowne Plaza Costa Mesa hotel, has not named a replacement chef. Fireside An American Tavern, Crowne Plaza Costa Mesa Orange County, 3131 S. Bristol St., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, 714-913-9061.
Manny Velasco is no longer the executive chef at Savannah Chop House. He departed the Laguna Niguel restaurant in order to operate his own food-truck-based concept. No replacement chef has been named. Savannah Chop House, 32441 Golden Lantern, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677, 949-493-7107.
El Cholo closed the doors to the Irvine location at the end of 2014. However, the restaurant will be resurfacing in Corona Del Mar, as it will be taking over the location previously occupied by Landmark. The restaurant’s new locale is slated to open in the spring of 2015. El Cholo, 5465 Alton Pkwy., Irvine, CA 92604, no phone.
OC Wine Mart has closed its Irvine location, citing a sharp increase in property rent as the reason for the shuttering. The Yorba Linda location of the popular wine bar and market will remain open, and will continue to offer a selection of artisanal cheeses, meats and other snacks, in addition to its enomatic wine-tasting service. OC Wine Mart, 2272 Michelson Dr., Irvine, CA 92612, no phone.
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.
View our calendar of Wine Dinners & Tastings in Orange County