Thursday, September 25, 2014

Orange County: Where to Eat

“Where to eat” is an ongoing list series that will be updated frequently

Pricing key:
$: Price per person, before alcohol, under $20
$$: Price per person, before alcohol, under $40
$$$: Price per person, before alcohol, under $60



Cuisine: American
  • Bandera ($$-$$$) Situated under the Hillstone restaurant umbrella, Bandera evokes the company's traditionally dim, somewhat romantic atmosphere and reliable eats and drinks. 
  • Chapter One: The Modern Local ($$)
  • Great Maple ($-$$)
  • Oak Grill ($$)
  • Orange Inn ($) A solid - and very small - sandwich spot/cafe located in the heart of Laguna Beach.
  • Splashes ($$$) This is my favorite restaurant in Laguna Beach.  What's not to love (...except the prices and the noise level)?  Seaside dining and cocktails/wine at its absolute best.
  • Summer House ($$) Intimate, yet warming and inviting, Summer House is the perfect venue for a casual family - or date - meal in the neighborhood.
  • The Loft ($$$) Coastal casual in the Montage Laguna Beach Hotel - dog friendly patio
  • The Quiet Woman ($$-$$$) Fabulous cocktails, live music on Tues-Sat, decent - albeit pricey - grub, and some of the best cougar sightings in town!
  • True Food Kitchen ($$) Healthy food that doesn't suck.  Period.  The location at Fashion Island in Newport Beach comes equipped with a spacious outdoor patio and...drum roll, please...alcohol! 
  • Wilma's Patio ($-$$) My favorite spot on Balboa Island boasts a multi-faceted menu with something for everyone.  I am particularly fond of their Mexican cuisine.
Cuisine: Bakeries, coffee, sweet shops
  • B Candy ($) One of the cutest candy shops that I've encountered in a very long time, not to mention legit.  Why do I say that?  Because, in addition to candy, they carry an assortment of delicious, handmade frosted cookies and uniquely flavored, artisanal ice creams.  I highly recommend the cookies (my favorite is the frosted surf board).
  • Cafe Lucca ($) While I cannot comment on the rest of the menu, Cafe Lucca's handmade gelato is, without a doubt, the best I've had in the country. 
  • Portola Coffee Lab ($) The closest thing to an artisanal NYC coffee shop this side of Brooklyn.  I recommend the "flat white," which is similar to a Cuban cortado (espresso and warm milk).
  • Sweet Jill's Bakery ($) Fudge and chocolate chip cookie dough-topped brownies.  Need I say more?  Didn't think so.
Cuisine: Chinese, dim sum
  • Din Tai Fung ($-$$) After having eaten at DTF locations in Singapore and Hong Kong, I wasn't sure what to expect from a location outside of Asia.  However, in true DTF fashion, consistency remains congruent.  And excellent.  Do not miss the pork xiaolongbao or the cucumbers!
Cuisine: Italian
  • Andrea ($$$)
  • Pirozzi ($$-$$$) It's hard to believe that this hot new Italian once housed a KFC!  Indulge in fabulous fare - think great pizzas and steaks - much of which is cooked in the wood-burning oven.  Try to score an al-fresco table over looking the bustling Pacific Coast Highway.  
Cuisine: Japanese, sushi
  • Sota Sushi ($$) While we didn't particularly enjoy the rolls, Sota's plated dishes are fantastic, namely the carpaccios, and the "sizzles."
Cuisine: Mexican
  • Avila's El Ranchito($-$$) Traditional Cal-Mex at its best; no frills, just solid plates of delicious - albeit greasy - Mexican food (just the way I like it).
  • Sol Cocina ($$) Come here for the views and the location; stay here for the gratis chips, salsa, and black bean dip.
Cuisine: Steakhouse
  • Fleming's Prime Steakhouse ($$$) Although it's a chain, Fleming's runs its steakhouses like tight, well-oiled ships.  You can depend on a sexy, masculine-modern atmosphere, skilled and knowledgeable employees, a nice array of wines and cocktails and, most importantly, tasty grub.    
  • Mozambique ($$-$$$) Perfectly situated, multi-level space boasting a rooftop with one of the best unobstructed ocean views of Laguna Beach.  Menu is a bit confused, it seems, as the restaurant is more of a mish-mash of global cuisines; not a traditional/proper "steakhouse."  Are there even steaks offered on the menu? 
  • The Bungalow($$$) Quite possibly, my favorite steakhouse in the country because of its unique, "non-chain" atmosphere, steaks so tender that you could cut them with a fork, strong cocktails, and excellent sides.   


Lindsay, Beverly Hills Bites