Orange County is a prime dining destination during the warm summer months, thanks to the area’s breezy beaches and cool, coastal valleys. Sure, there are plenty of essential standby restaurants that are worthy of return visits, but the county’s booming modern food scene means there are also plenty of new hot spots to discover. For example, big names like Texas chef John Tesar have stepped in to offer stunning seafood and ocean views to Dana Point locals, while longtime friends (and Michelin-rated operators) Ross Pangilinan and chef Nicholas Weber have teamed up to open Populaire Modern Bistro at South Coast Plaza. That’s all to say: there’s a lot happening in Orange County at the moment.
Here now are five new restaurants worth knowing about this summer.
Petrossian at Tiffany & Co.
Famous caviar destination Petrossian quietly opened inside the Tiffany & Co. in South Coast Plaza in March 2022. This luxe new restaurant offers a variety of dishes, from simple speckled lettuce salads, oysters, and beef tartare to smoked salmon flatbreads and soft scrambled eggs with caviar. For novices, a Petrossian gateway experience is the Tiffany caviar tasting, served on four mother-of-pearl spoons that are each topped with a few grams of various grades and styles of caviar. All in all, the restaurant is everything one would expect from a Petrossian hidden inside a jewelry store.
South Coast Plaza, Suite 1236, 3333 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa.
Boil & Bake
At Costa Mesa’s Boil & Bake, Carlos Perez and Luke Bramm have opened what they call “a California deli of sorts.” The duo first built their audience by serving naturally leavened bagel sandwiches as part of a roving pop-up, selling at spots like Newport Beach’s Daydream Surf Shop and Neat Coffee. Perez, who grew up in the bagel business, and Bramm, who oversees the kitchen, have since gone official, moving into their own space as of July 11. As for the food, expect dishes like the Fully Loaded, a lox sandwich with house-cured salmon, sprouts, and capers, and the Cheesecake for Breakfast bagel with lemon-blueberry compote. Other menu items include the O.G. with longaniza sausage, soft scrambled eggs, and aji cilantro crema.
270 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa.
Sandbar Cocina y Tequila
This new modern Mexican concept comes courtesy of the Baja Sharkeez Restaurant Group, which has taken over Huntington Beach in recent years. Sandbar Cocina y Tequila is well within walking distance of the beach, and is already pulling in big crowds on weekends. First founded out of Santa Barbara, the restaurant offers retro vibes with a Surf City meets Baja appeal, including vintage photos direct from the International Surf Museum. The food is an amalgam of Mexican-American dishes, from ribeye tacos with avocado-tomatillo salsa to Tex Mex-style fiery fajitas. Though a tad kitschy, Sandbar fits in with the laid-back city’s energy, and true to its name, there are large menu slots devoted entirely to margaritas and tequilas.
221 Main Street, Huntington Beach.
While Orange County has no shortage of quality noodle options, the new Zabon Ramen is still promising something a bit different. Located inside the Anaheim Packing House, the restaurant is an offshoot pulled direct from Japan, where chef Tetsuro Ishino first opened a location in Shinjuku in 1978. The late-night spot grew a following, and eventually Ishino expanded to Torrance, making this Anaheim location just the second in the U.S. The menu offers spicy miso and vegetarian styles, as well as the namesake Zabon bowl served in a southern Japanese-style broth made with pork, chicken, and soy sauce. Charred chashu, fried onions, and lots of cabbage top each dish. The Zabon Ramen in Anaheim also serves sushi rolls, which aren’t available at the Torrance location.
Anaheim Packing House, 440 S. Anaheim Boulevard, Anaheim.
Mayor’s Table at Lido House
Okay, so the Mayor’s Table isn’t really new in a traditionalist’s sense. Still, the restaurant within the Lido House hotel has been pretty extensively overhauled thanks to new chef-partner Riley Huddleston, who is overseeing three in-house dining options: the Mayor’s Table, Topside Rooftop Bar and Lounge (the only rooftop bar on the Balboa Peninsula), and Crew Coffee + Cremerie.
Lido House, in general, is one of the scene-iest OC hangouts of the year. The Mayor’s Table, named for its location as the former site of Newport’s town hall, is the place for a fancy night out in Newport Beach. Starters range from sea bass ceviche with yuzu to wagyu bao buns with ponzu butter, while entrees include options like a housemade Maine lobster pasta. At brunch, expect mimosas and larger “wow factor” dishes like an oversized Dutch oven pancake. On the drinks front, Huddleston has also revamped the property’s entire cocktail program, having previously spent time developing cocktails at chef Grant Achatz’s acclaimed Chicago cocktail concept Aviary. So while the Mayor’s Table and associated Lido House projects aren’t new as in newly built, they are completely different from before — and seriously in demand right now
3300 Newport Boulevard, Newport Beach.