Orange County's 15 Hottest Restaurants, Fall 2018

Posted by Admin Echelberger on Thursday, November 15th, 2018 at 2:29pm.

While Orange County is undoubtedly Los Angeles’s sister county to the south, there’s no denying that the region has come into its own on the restaurant front. New openings from exciting restaurant groups and known chefs pop up all over the county, representing an impressive culinary variety spread across high-end hotels, shopping plazas, and waterfront developments. From new openings to classics that continue to get the details right, here are 15 of the hottest restaurants to know about in Orange County right now, presented from north to south.

1. Garlic and Chives

9892 Westminster Blvd #311
Garden Grove, CA 92844
(714) 591-5196
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Garlic and Chives is (still) a certifiable Little Saigon hit. The strip mall space continues to draw legions of fans, eager to try the varied Vietnamese fare, from seafood specialties to soups to noodles on down.

2. Burritos La Palma - Santa Ana

410 N Bristol St
Santa Ana, CA 92703
(657) 266-0575
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Burritos La Palma is a Mexican food institution around the Southland, known for palm-sized wrapped tacos filled with slowly-braised meats. Simplicity rules here, with diners lining up to catch three, four, or more of the hefty mini-burritos at a clip for one seriously filling lunch or early dinner.

3. Mix Mix Kitchen Bar

300 N Main St
Santa Ana, CA 92701
(714) 836-5158
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Few restaurants in Orange County have been as lauded in recent years as Mix Mix, the Santa Ana corner spot in the former Little Sparrow space. See what all the fuss is about with a step-through for everything from tostadas to pasta, cocktails to wine.

4. Taco Maria

3313 Hyland Ave, Costa Mesa
CA, 92626

Carlos Salgado rightfully continues to earn accolades for his upscale modern Mexican restaurant at the OC Mix Mart, which — besides being delicious — actively seeks out pre-Hispanic ingredients and heirloom products to work with. Taco Maria is, in many ways, still helping to change the way Orange County thinks about Mexican food.

695 Town Center Dr Suite 160
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 463-6060
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Vaca remains a dining destination for Orange County, thanks to chef Amar Santana’s stint on Top Chef. The Spanish-inflected Costa Mesa restaurant hits on all cylinders, from meat to seafood to fresh produce to one of the best wine lists in the county.

6. Mesa

725 Baker St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 557-6700

Costa Mesa dinner and lounge option Mesa is a special kind of place, with its inviting interior and wide array of shareable items. Everything is comforting and approachable but done with love, including the craft beer and boutique wine list that attracts a weekend crowd.

7. Blackmarket Bakery

2937 Bristol St Ste D100A
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 662-3095
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One of Orange County’s finest bake shops, this Costa Mesa pastry institution now serves Santa Ana and San Diego as well. Breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dessert are all on the table here.

2222 Michelson Dr
Irvine, CA 92612
(949) 222-0688

Upscale Oo Toro Sushi is a hit for the spendy faction of Irvine, working a menu of top notch fish and decadent add-ons like Wagyu beef from a clean, slick space off Michelson Drive.

9. SeaSalt Woodfire Grill

21214 Beach Blvd
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
(714) 804-5545
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It’s rare enough to find a Santa Maria-style meat restaurant outside of the Central Coast, to say nothing of SeaSalt’s Huntington Beach location just up from the water. The address is hardly the point here, as the focus is instead on meat in its many forms, including tri-tip and big bone-in steaks.

10. Habana Restaurant

708 Spectrum Center Dr
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 419-0100
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Irvine Spectrum staple Habana continues to wow crowds with its modern Cuban takes, available across both lunch and dinner. Look for classic empanadas as well as plenty of seafood and lots of drinks.

11. Puesto

8577 Irvine Center Dr
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 608-9990
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San Diego outlet Puesto has secured its space in Irvine, and continues making all the right moves. The open, airy room features playful takes on contemporary Mexican cuisine that keeps the neighborhood engaged.

12. Playa Mesa

428 E 17th St
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
(949) 287-5292
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Playa Mesa earned rave reviews this summer from the OC Register, when they called it one of the best new Mexican restaurants to come around the county in a while. The crowds have certainly embraced that statement, showing up early and often for big, busy lunches and dinners in Costa Mesa.

13. Olea. Cellar,Craft,Cook

2001 Westcliff Dr #100
Newport Beach, CA 92660
(949) 287-6807
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Is there a hotter new restaurant in Orange County right now than Olea, the Newport Beach strip mall spot with the big, wide bar and inviting patio? The Russ Bendel-owned place keeps racking up well-deserved accolades while turning out casual plates like Jidori chicken schnitzel and beef cheek stroganoff.

14. Lido Bottle Works

3408 Via Oporto Suite 103
Newport Beach, CA 92663
(949) 529-2784
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The stylish Lido Marina Village has found itself a summery anchor tenant in Lido Bottle Works, the drinks-focused hotspot by the beach doing everything from simple roast vegetables and wine to hearty burgers and beer.

15. Pizzeria Sapori

1080 Bayside Dr
Newport Beach, CA 92660
(949) 644-4220
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The old-school Italian destination Sapori got a nice boost with the opening of Pizzeria Sapori next door. The attached casual offshoot features blistery pies and plenty to drink, making it a draw for marina types and locals looking to relax while still dining well.

Previously published in Eater Los Angeles

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