Orange County’s robust dining scene has been on a massive roll of late, adding big-name newcomers, very familiar chefs, and buzzy strip mall finds alike. The county, some 3.5 million people strong, was already known for its taquerias, Vietnamese food, and coastal dining enclaves, but these days the region is growing in seemingly a million new directions at once. From the most talked-about new bagel shop to a Filipino brunch destination and a Newport Beach power lunch hotspot, here are the must-visit new spots happening in Orange County right now.Read More
Orange County's 16 Hottest Restaurants, Spring 2023
From Southern California’s hottest new bagel shop to steakhouses, seafood spots, and more
Rodeo 39 Public Market
The Rodeo 39 Public Market in Stanton is a testament to endurance and perseverance. Opened in the pandemic, this do-it-all food hall features a rotating collection of existing and up-and-coming talent like Kra Z Kai’s BBQ, Shootz, and Steel Pan Pizza, making it a must-stop for Angelenos on the way through Orange County.
Chef Ivan Calderon (founder of Taco Rosa and Taco Mesa) has partnered with his son Nico and Max Moriyama to open Taco Mesita in historic old town Tustin, bridging different generations with food and fun. The mole-topped tamal is based on a family recipe and made with heirloom masa. But the place also doesn’t shy away from pops of color and a bit of playful social media. Another bonus: It has a drive-thru.
Kin Craft Ramen & Izakaya
This strip mall ramen and izakaya specialist from the Kei Concepts team is turning out some of Orange County’s most flavorful new food — especially the creamy, coconut milk-infused seafood laksa ramen. Lunch offers the chance for speedier service and sides beyond ramen like karaage, furikake fries, and rice bowls.
Calico Fish House
Slapfish founder Andrew Gruel and his wife Lauren opened Calico Fish House in February 2023. The menu centers on simply-grilled seafood that’s considered certified sustainable by Aquaculture Stewardship Council. The menu leans into shareable plates that double as finger foods, including house-baked rolls with lobster butter, lobster corn dogs, and pretzel-crusted crab tots. For more “elevated dining,” the seafood chophouse also offers daily crudo and a raw bar.
ROL Hand Roll Bar
This reborn Huntington Beach restaurant on Warner is the new Orange County hotspot for hand rolls, done in a casual style. Takoyaki, unagi donburi, and other treats round out a steady menu that moves between set six-piece boxes, a la carte rolls, and donburi. There’s an outlet in Fountain Valley as well.
The second location of the artisan bakery Rye Goods has arrived in Tustin. The Newport Beach location on Lido grew a following with its bread, carmelized onion brie croissants, and pastries, but in Tustin it’s all about sandwiches. From bagel egg morning options to lunchtime sandwiches paired with soup specials, there’s something for everyone. For Challah loaves, swing by on the weekends.
This busy Korean fried chicken stall traded its location at Zion Market in Irvine and upgraded to a brick-and-mortar restaurant. The crispy wings, glazed with soy garlic sauce, are still just as good, and the different variations of whole and half Furai fried chickens remain the best sellers. Now the menu includes rice skewers, chicken and egg stuffed creations, and desserts like Belgium waffles, too. There are also locations in La Habra and Garden Grove.
Butcher’s House Brasserie
Meat is the focus of French chef Jeoffrey Offer’s Costa Mesa restaurant, with masterful 38-ounce ribeye or more petit filets for dinner. But don’t skip the butcher’s burger or the weekend brunch, which features charcuterie, sausages, and eggs cooked in just about every way.
This casual seafood restaurant serves classic fish house comfort food, meaning lots of New England clam chowder, fried clams, steamed wild clams by the pound, cioppino with garlic bread, and of course crispy fish and chips. It’s a sit-down restaurant but with a casual vibe, so expect two-taco combination plates and margarita specials on Tuesdays, plus a daily kids menu to keep the family happy.
Boil & Bake
Carlos Perez and Luke Bramm 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 grew up in the bagel business and Bramm oversees the kitchen. The gateway menu items are the Fully Loaded Lox sandwich with cured salmon, sprouts, and capers, and the O.G. with longganisa sausage, soft scrambled eggs, and aji cilantro crema double. Looking for loosies? Boil & Bake offers plain, everything, black and white sesame versions alongside cheesy cheddar Fresno and cacio e pepe. The bagel box includes an eight-ounce tub of cream cheese and six bagels of your choice.
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Noted vegan chef Matthew Kenney hit Costa Mesa with Veg’d, converting a former Del Taco drive-thru into a destination for plant-based snacks and comfort fare. Breakfast is available with Just Egg inside sandwiches or classics like avocado toast, while lunch is a mix of bowls, burgers, and other comfort staples.
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East LA-born executive chef Gabriela Gomez takes influences from her mom’s cooking to create her style of modern Mexican food. Gomez spent time in the kitchens of Taco Maria, Jungsik, and Electric City Butcher, and her food reflects (in part) her Oaxacan heritage. Signature dishes include scallop aguachile, mole temporal, and birria tatemada.
Fable & Spirit
One of Newport Beach’s biggest hits is Fable & Spirit, an upscale dinner and brunch spot that leans into Irish, Italian, and California flavors. There’s Guinness brown bread to start, fish and chips, wood-fired pizzettas, and lots of vegetables and salads to go along with cocktails and wine.
Joey Newport Beach
The hot new OC power lunch spot is Joey at Fashion Island in Newport Beach. While the food isn’t groundbreaking, it’s reliable enough to work for the upscale-casual ambience and lively crowds. Expect starters like hummus and tzatziki with crispy pita, plus shareable mains like steak and ravioli bianco with barely-cooked shrimp.
Bloom Restaurant + Bar
Bloom Restaurant & Bar in San Juan Capistrano, located across from Mission San Juan Capistrano is the next addition to Russ Bendel’s empire, occupying the town’s former first post office. Bendel, who is also involved with Sapphire in Laguna Beach, Olea, and Ironwood, moved with his family to San Juan Capistrano recently, so he was eager to bring the same kind of neighborhood watering hole to his new hometown. He’s brought on chef-partner Jared Cook to conjure the rustic menu that includes country-fried prime hanger steak, sweet corn succotash, and a homey applewood smoked bacon-wrapped meatloaf. Bloom now also serves brunch.
Filipino Islander-inspired brunch restaurant Breezy took over after the Ramen Shack shuttered in 2022. The team behind Shootz Hawaiian serves reimagined breakfast foods that they grew up eating as kids. Longganisa sausage and rice features heavily on the menu, but so are amalgams of Southern California staples, including a shredded pork adobo breakfast burrito with garlic rice, adobo chilaquiles, and ube French toast.
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