clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
An off-center shot of a white plate with seared steak and a drizzle of orange sauce.
Steak at Vine Restaurant & Bar.
Vine Restaurant & Bar

Orange County’s Essential 38 Restaurants, Summer 2022

A helpful guide to the best, most important places to eat below the Orange Curtain

View as Map
Steak at Vine Restaurant & Bar.
| Vine Restaurant & Bar

Orange County has often been seen in the media as something of an afterthought, at least when compared to the much larger and more densely populated Los Angeles County next door. But the truth is that there’s a vibrant and diverse culinary community in this oceanside locale of more than 3 million people. Inland spots reflect the flavors important to those who live there (particularly in areas like Westminster, where Vietnamese food rules, and along Anaheim’s Little Arabia corridor), while the county’s coastal locations often have upscale, white-tablecloth dining done with modern California touches.

From historic seaside stands serving some of the OC’s most notorious desserts to fine dining stalwarts backed by big names to small mom-and-pop shops that have spent decades perfecting a singular passion, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Orange County.

Here are 38 of the area’s most essential restaurants, right now.

Add: Tacos Manuel, A&J Restaurant, Kareem’s, Sushi ii, Seafood Cove 2, Nep Cafe, Detention/Trust, the Blind Pig, Lola’s by MFK, Vine Restaurant & Bar

Remove: Napa Rose, Honda-ya, Solita, Omomo Tea Shoppe, Vaca, Artisan by 7 Leaves, Porch & Swing, Honey & Butter, Hello Kitty Cafe, Harley Laguna Beach

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
If you buy something or book a reservation from an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

Sushi Noguchi

Copy Link

This nondescript sushi restaurant is a darling with dining critics and sushi lovers both. Here chef prepares two omakase options: A traditional version for $90-150; and Jun’s style, a fusion-style five-course meal with a combination of hot and cold dishes, for $70. Many diners say that this is the best and most affordable omakase in Orange County.

A close up of a tray of sushi in the round, at daytime.
Sushi Noguchi.
Sushi Noguchi

Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen

Copy Link

This Michelin-anointed halal restaurant combines the flavors of India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan with a modern Californian twist. The tender boneless chicken karahi is served with tomatoes and shishito peppers, and the butter chicken with dried fenugreek is one of the restaurant’s more popular dishes. The pani puri with tamarind water, mint, onion, and potato arrives on a mini cart and is intended to be taken as a shooter.

Overhead shot of food from Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen in Fullerton, California.
Khan Saab.
Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen

Chef Shachi Mehra combines her Jersey roots and Indian heritage to create a tangy goat-cheese-filled naan. Her inventiveness garnered her a win on Food Network’s Chopped. Meanwhile, her chef-partner, Sandeep Basrur, combines his background in traditional authentic Indian cooking to prepare classic favorites such as yellow shrimp coconut curry, dal makhni, and creamy cucumber raita.

An overhead photo of Indian food on metal trays and in bowls on a wooden table.
ADYA
ADYA

Kareem's

Copy Link

As one of the first restaurants in Anaheim’s Little Arabia district, Kareem’s has become a go-to place for authentic Middle Eastern food. Owner Kareem Hawari’s closely held family falafel recipe is so popular that the Hawaris started wholesaling it to grocery stores and other restaurants. The babaganoush, grape leaves, and hummus are staples not to miss, but Kareem’s newer menu items — vegetarian wraps, falafel burgers, and feta fries — also offer a modern Mediterranean vibe without sacrificing that traditional flavor.

An overhead photo of crispy pita and hummus and grilled meats in bowls.
Kareem’s
Kareem’s Falafel

Lola’s By MFK

Copy Link

At Lola’s by MFK, Filipino-American comfort food reigns. The brunch menu includes signature dishes such as Lola’s crispy sisig with minced pork, Thai chili, calamansi aioli, fried egg, and garlic rice. Try the chicken adobo fried rice omelet with gravy and fried garlic, or the ube buttermilk ricotta pancakes doused in coconut sauce and toasted coconut flakes. The breakfast bowls with longanisa sausage, spam and tocino (sweet garlic pork) are reminiscent of flavors found on Filipino-American breakfast tables.

Haven Craft Kitchen + Bar

Copy Link

This Old Towne Orange neighborhood hangout is known for its solid cocktail menu and well-sourced beer list, compiled by owner Wil Dee. The skillet cornbread with honey butter; locally made burrata with grilled bread; and Haven’s burger prepared with Flannery California prime beef, cheddar, and bibb lettuce are homestyle dishes not to miss.

A side angle of a blue plate with gooey mushroom toast with cheese.
Mushroom toast at Haven.
Haven Craft Kitchen + Bar

Korean comfort food served in large portions is what Yigah is known for in Orange County. Both the Garden Grove restaurant and its sister location in Irvine at Diamond Jamboree plaza serve steamy gallbi tang, beef short rib soup, as well as the bossam meal with boiled pork belly, napa cabbage, and spicy pickled radish.

A close up of Korean seafood over rice, with a fried egg.
Yigah.
Yigah

Tacos Manuel

Copy Link

Santa Ana’s Tacos Manuel truck, open Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., serves corn tortilla street tacos with carnitas, chorizo, carne asada, al pastor and chicken. Most regulars opt for the offal offerings such as cabeza and tripitas (tripe) served with grilled onions, jalapenos and cilantro. The truck also makes quesadillas, tortas and burritos, but the huaraches topped with beans, lettuce, sour cream and meat are the most popular.

Detention/Trust

Copy Link

The reinvisioned Playground restaurant relaunched into two distinct dining concepts. Detention, a relaxed a la carte and lounge menu for everyday dining, and Trust DTSA, an innovative 18-seat chef’s table “culinary theater” helmed by chef Justin Werner. At Detention, sip a seasonal craft cocktail or OC-brewed Chapman Crafted pilsner with an oyster mushroom “bacon” tartine with fried egg emulsion and chimichurri, or the fancy AF artichoke dip with parmesan, dill and malt vinegar chips. Detention’s weekend brunch service starts Aug. 6 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Omakase by Gino

Copy Link

Sushi chef Gino Choi prepares an intricate omakase for 10 diners at his namesake downtown Santa Ana restaurant. (Choi is also a self-taught carpenter who built the sushi counter, entryway and the partitions himself.) The standout dishes at OMG include a creamy Santa Barbara uni udon garnished with black truffles from Burgundy, Gino’s version of tamago flavored with lobster, and a large scallop dotted with Ossetra caviar and a vibrant rice vinegar, white soy sauce gelee.

A close up shot of wagyu sushi with caviar on top.
Omakase by Gino.
Knife & Spork PR

El Mercado Modern Cuisine

Copy Link

Inventive cocktails with tamarind and mezcal set the tone at Mercado Moderne, but as the meal progresses, diners notice ingredients not typically celebrated at most Mexican eateries. The tlayuda at Mercado Moderne is served with a pea puree, for example, while the blue corn tortilla enchiladas with free-range chicken and Oaxacan cheese offer a new take on familiar flavors.

A close shot of octopus in purple broth with cocktail at far edge of the table.
El Mercado Modern Cuisine
El Mercado Modern Cuisine

Seafood Cove 2

Copy Link

This is one of Orange County’s busiest dim sum restaurants. The original Garden Grove location opened in 1990 and serves an extensive Chinese food menu including whole fried fish, braised sea cucumbers and house special lobster. For diners seeking dim sum on a non-weekend day, Seafood Cove #2, the two-story sister location in Westminster is your destination. It serves Seafood Cove’s signature dishes (clams with basil sauce, honey walnut shrimp, and Peking duck) in addition to daily dim sum from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Cream Pan

Copy Link

The strawberry croissants reign supreme at this French-Japanese bakery. The elements are simple: Whipped cream and sliced fresh strawberries all sandwiched inside a buttery croissant. The bakery sells them by the piece, but most visitors opt for at least half a dozen.

An up close tart photo with lots of colorful fruit on top.
Fruit tart from Cream Pan.
Cream Pan

Quán Mii Restaurant

Copy Link

The menu ranges from Vietnamese spring rolls to vermicelli noodle soups at Westminster’s Quan Mii. But the two dishes not to miss are the banh xeo dac biet “Quán Mii” — a large crispy crepe with pork, shrimp, and squid that diners break into pieces and wrap in romaine lettuce with mint, cilantro and purple basil — and the banh beo “Hue” — steamed rice flour cakes with shredded shrimp.

A close up overhead shot of a blue bowl with lots of Vietnamese noodles and other ingredients inside.
Quán Mii Restaurant
Quán Mii Restaurant

Brodard Restaurant

Copy Link

This timeless restaurant offers a wide array of Vietnamese specialties, starting with 13 types of spring rolls — including the popular grilled shrimp paste with lettuce, carrots, daikon, mint, cilantro, and cucumber wrapped in rice paper. The menu continues with traditional Vietnamese noodle soups, sandwiches, and a whole lot more.

Nem nuong cuon at Brodard Chateau in Garden Grove.
Brodard Chateau.
Cathy Chaplin

Nep Cafe

Copy Link

Nep Cafe is an internet brunch sensation. The French-Vietnamese cafe and daytime restaurant is Kei Concepts way of “paying homage to the traditional Vietnamese morning routine.” From TikTok-worthy coffee drinks such as the Southeast Asian dessert-inspired salted egg yolk topped ca phe trung muoi to delicate dishes including the Dao, a sous vide egg dish with hints of truffle.

A hand uses a ramekin to pour out a green sauce over rice.
Nep Cafe.
Nep Cafe

The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar

Copy Link

Overlooking the Pacific ocean, this Newport Beach restaurant serves YG’s Alsatian pizza, a flatbread topped with applewood-smoked bacon, onions, creme fraiche, and gruyere. Steaks and slow-braised short ribs are popular, but don’t forget to order the creamy roasted butternut squash and potato dauphinoise. The wine menu includes mainly California-sourced vintages including The Boyz, a red wine blend from Paso Robles which was created and bottled by the restaurant’s three co-owners, JC Clowe, William Lewis, and chef Yvon Goetz — who are nicknamed “the Boys.”

A side shot of pumpkin cheesecake with berries on top.
The Winery.
The Winery

Taco María

Copy Link

Since 2013, Taco Maria has celebrated Alta-California food. When the restaurant restarts its lunch service, look out for the blue corn tortilla tacos. They’re inventive and popular with critics, chefs, and taco snobs alike. Try the vegetarian taco with seasoned potatoes; or for dinner, an aguachile bay scallop crudo served with Persian cucumbers, serrano chile, and lime. The mole de pato is not to be missed either, especially when served with the restaurant’s handmade blue corn tortillas.

Taco Maria’s taco omakase, with blue corn tortillas, shown from above.
Tacos from Taco Maria.
Farley Elliott

Terrace by Mix Mix

Copy Link

Chef Ross Pangilinan’s sister restaurant to his award-winning Mix Mix Kitchen + Bar is best known for its open-air patio and the chef’s large raviolo. The  hand-rolled pasta is stuffed with a creamy cheese-herb filling and an egg yolk that drips down as you cut into it. Other popular items at Terrace by Mix Mix include an albacore crostini on a crispy corn tostada, and fluffy brioche French toast for brunch.

An overhead shot of a cooked steak with creamy potatoes.
Steak and potatoes.
Terrace by Mix Mix

Knife Pleat

Copy Link

This modern French-Californian restaurant is intended for celebratory meals. Lobster Caesar salad and champagne for lunch, halibut with braised endive or pasture-raised beef tenderloin with celery root for dinner, and for dessert, a slice of the Louis XV, hazelnut praline layered with chocolate mousse and topped with a gianduja glaze. A pricey but impeccable afternoon tea service is available on Saturdays.

A side angle of an upscale dining room at dusk.
Knife Pleat.
Tom Bonner

A&J Restaurant

Copy Link

This Tawainese restaurant in Irvine serves Chinese-style crispy pork chop over rice and thousand layer pancakes, but the noodle dishes are not to miss. The beef noodle soup and the noodles with ground pork, bean sprouts, and shredded cucumber are gateway dishes to the greater Taiwanese offerings. For diners who enjoy the heat, the menu also features several Szechuan-style dishes including beef tendon noodle soup and spicy wontons.

Sgt. Pepperoni's Pizza Store

Copy Link

From little league teams and soccer moms to students and surfers, locals know that Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza Store is an Orange County favorite. Since 1976, this spot has served New York-style pizza with a California twist. The pies are good but don’t miss Stan’s meatballs. The pork, beef, and fennel blend tastes great in red sauce and works well as a sandwich or slapped on top of a pie.

An overhead shot of pizza and meatballs at an old restaurant.
Sgt. Pepperoni.
Sgt. Pepperoni

Fermentation Farm

Copy Link

At Fermentation Farm, probiotics rule — thanks to nearly a dozen different on-tap kombucha flavors, and food options like a French onion soup with raw cheese and a kraut-filled grilled cheese sandwich. Visit on Thursdays from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. when a farmers market featuring produce from Rosewood Farms and Sunny Cal Farms pops up in the restaurant’s parking lot.

Roast greens and tomatoes on a white plate.
Fermentation Farm
Fermentation Farm

The Blind Pig

Copy Link

The gastropub menu at the Blind Pig mixes gruyere-topped French onion soup with chicken karaage served with shishito peppers, wasabi aioli and charred lemon. The extensive whiskey selection pairs well with heartier dishes like the wild boar albondigas appetizer, classic bacon cheddar cheeseburger, or braised beef shank tacos with salsa negra, avocado, cotija cheese, and cilantro. The Blind Pig’s location, overlooking Rancho Santa Margarita Lake, allows the kitchen to offer spots of coastal far as well, including lobster rolls and trout almondine.

A Restaurant

Copy Link

This cozy, red-boothed hideout on Pacific Coast Highway is known for its Rat Pack atmosphere. The classic martini reigns at the bar and the chicken pot pie is only available on Fridays, but locals love the steaks, Mary’s organic chicken with Carolina gold rice, and Niman Ranch pork chops with Anson Mills grits and creamy Marsala sauce. It’s old-school done right.

An overhead shot of a wooden table and deep red booth inside a historic steakhouse.
A Restaurant
A Restaurant

Fable & Spirit

Copy Link

A meal at Fable & Spirit almost by default starts with the warm Guinness brown bread with European butter and Jacobsen sea salt. From there the Lido Isle restaurant waves between European “meat and potatoes” influences to pure California bliss, like citrusy salads loaded with cara cara and blood oranges, chevre and crispy quinoa.

Overhead black plate of pork belly and roasted tomatoes.
Fable & Spirit.
Fable & Spirit

Sushi II

Copy Link

The splurge-worthy Sushi ii is located in Mariner’s Point in Newport Beach and offers three hyper-seasonal omakase experiences. Named after distinct Japanese pottery, the Oribe, Bizen and Karatsu omakases range from $150-250 per person.  The critically lauded restaurant occasionally offers takeout, but the best way to experience master chef Susumu Ii’s Osakan washoku training, is the omakase paired with sake.

Farmhouse at Roger's Gardens

Copy Link

Chef Richard Mead is a long-standing figure on the Orange County dining scene. At the Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens, the chef showcases the best that the season has to offer from Southern California’s many producers, which means seasonal takes on dishes like sea scallops, as well as shrimp and mussels served in a tomato-Pernod broth with a polenta cake made from blue corn sourced from the Tehachapi Heritage Grain Project.

A tilted overhead wooden table shot with plates of food and wine.
Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens.
Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens

The Crab Cooker

Copy Link

The fire-engine-red building with white trim and green-striped awning is a landmark on the Newport peninsula. Since 1951, this establishment has served seafood classics: oysters, Dungeness crab, Alaskan crab claws, clam chowder, and anything offered in the fish market.

An evening image of a corner red restaurant serving seafood.
The Crab Cooker
The Crab Cooker

Sugar 'n Spice

Copy Link

The Balboa Bar, a chocolate-dipped vanilla ice cream bar covered in nuts, as well as the chocolate-dipped banana, are said to originate from Newport Beach’s Balboa Island. Sugar N Spice is one of the oldest spots serving this nostalgic Orange County dessert. (Dad’s is another popular spot located next door that also claims to be the home of the Balboa Bar.)

A hand holds a frozen chocolate banana on a yellow background.
Sugar ‘n Spice.
Sugar ‘n Spice

Five Crowns

Copy Link

This neighborhood spot in Corona del Mar features two restaurants in one location. Five Crowns is the traditional old English steakhouse with prime rib, creamed spinach and Yorkshire pudding; while SideDoor serves more casual gastropub fare. Standout dishes at SideDoor include the octopus starter with chorizo, saffron potatoes and squid ink aioli, the prime rib chili cheese fries, and the classic pub favorite: fish and chips.

Cut steak fanning out on a white plate.
Five Crowns.
Five Crowns.

The Beachcomber

Copy Link

This quintessential Orange County surfside restaurant is located at historic Crystal Cove State Beach. The picturesque view, combined with a blue crab Benedict for breakfast or a lobster BLT sandwich (with substantial pieces of claw meat and ripe avocado) for lunch, sets the tone for a sublime day at the beach.

Seared ahi tuna and avocado at a seaside patio at daytime.
The Beachcomber.
The Beachcomber

Marché Moderne

Copy Link

Florent and Amelia Marneu’s white tablecloth restaurant is a stalwart in the Orange County fine dining scene. The Newport Beach restaurant serves traditional French favorites such as steak tartare, roasted bone marrow, and duck confit. It also combines both French and Californian flavors in dishes like tuna tartare served with an avocado sorbet and a yuzu emulsion.

A close up white plate with poached lobster at a a fine dining restaurant.
Poached lobster from Marche Moderne.
Marche Moderne

Broadway by Amar Santana

Copy Link

At this Laguna Beach restaurant, Bravo Top Chef alum Amar Santana serves what he calls “progressive American” food. Since it opened in 2011, Broadway combines Santana’s East Coast roots with West Coast produce. Side dishes include a variation on Chinese takeout that combines sweet-and-sour-style Brussels sprouts with Chinese sausage.

A chef in whites drizzles sauce on top of bread and meat inside of a new restaurant.
Broadway by Amar Santana.
Broadway by Amar Santana

Selanne Steak Tavern

Copy Link

Laguna Beach locals love this place for its white tablecloths, award-winning wine program, and stellar steaks. The vibrant red beet ravioli stuffed with cheese is a striking starter, while the monkey bread dessert is a comforting sweet finish to any meal. Sidenote: Former Anaheim Ducks hockey player and six-time Olympian Teemu Selanne is a co-owner, so this place is an under-the-radar spot for A-listers.

A tilted look at red steak and red wine.
Selanne Steak Tavern
Selanne Steak Tavern

Heritage Barbecue

Copy Link

San Juan Capistrano’s award-winning pitmaster Daniel Castillo elevates barbecue with Heritage’s wood-smoked brisket, sausages, turkeys, ribs, chickens, and more. First-timers load up on the brisket and ribs, while the regulars order pork belly banh mi sandwiches, brisket tacos prepared with Burritos La Palma tortillas, and creamy banana pudding layered with pound cake and vanilla wafer cookies.

A tray of barbecue and sides held in two hands from above.
Heritage Barbecue
John Troxell

Chef Laurent Vrignaud opened the French bistro, boulangerie, and patisserie in 2014. Since then, the Moulin brand has expanded and opened six locations in Orange County. The croque madame sandwich with creamy bechamel and fried egg, as well as the sweet strawberry jam crepe, are excellent ways to start the day. But don’t forget to swing by the pastry case. The Saint Honore dessert is decorated with petite cream puffs with chantilly cream and salted caramel.

A tilted look at a cafe table with pastries and orange juice.
Moulin Orange County.
Moulin

Vine Restaurant & Bar

Copy Link

This south county restaurant’s craft cocktails get a lot of buzz. The menu, which is similar to its OC sister restaurants (Olea, Ironwood and Sapphire), includes California pub-style food. Crispy Jidori chicken schnitzel with maitake mushrooms and lemon verbena poached Scottish salmon. Most diners order the Mexicali burger. Made with American Kobe beef, queso fresco, chile de Arbol creme, and sweet onion slaw, the burger is served with hand-cut fries.

An off-center shot of a white plate with seared steak and a drizzle of orange sauce.
Steak from Vine Restaurant.
Vine Restaurant & Bar

Loading comments...

Sushi Noguchi

A close up of a tray of sushi in the round, at daytime.
Sushi Noguchi.
Sushi Noguchi

This nondescript sushi restaurant is a darling with dining critics and sushi lovers both. Here chef prepares two omakase options: A traditional version for $90-150; and Jun’s style, a fusion-style five-course meal with a combination of hot and cold dishes, for $70. Many diners say that this is the best and most affordable omakase in Orange County.

A close up of a tray of sushi in the round, at daytime.
Sushi Noguchi.
Sushi Noguchi

Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen

Overhead shot of food from Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen in Fullerton, California.
Khan Saab.
Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen

This Michelin-anointed halal restaurant combines the flavors of India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan with a modern Californian twist. The tender boneless chicken karahi is served with tomatoes and shishito peppers, and the butter chicken with dried fenugreek is one of the restaurant’s more popular dishes. The pani puri with tamarind water, mint, onion, and potato arrives on a mini cart and is intended to be taken as a shooter.

Overhead shot of food from Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen in Fullerton, California.
Khan Saab.
Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen

ADYA

An overhead photo of Indian food on metal trays and in bowls on a wooden table.
ADYA
ADYA

Chef Shachi Mehra combines her Jersey roots and Indian heritage to create a tangy goat-cheese-filled naan. Her inventiveness garnered her a win on Food Network’s Chopped. Meanwhile, her chef-partner, Sandeep Basrur, combines his background in traditional authentic Indian cooking to prepare classic favorites such as yellow shrimp coconut curry, dal makhni, and creamy cucumber raita.