By Matt Coker
By Keith Plocek
By Edwin Goei
By Edwin Goei
By Matt Coker
By Edwin Goei
By Dave Mau
I've never cheated on a gal (mostly because of a lack of girlfriends), but if I was the Kobe Bryant type, I'd have one rule for dining out: eat in. Why risk a good thing for pasta and wine? But you can only enjoy so many dinners in a motel room, I imagine. The human animal loves to flaunt its philandering in public. So if you're going to go out in public with your down-low significant other, at least do it right.
259 E. 17th St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
Region: Costa Mesa
15 First St.
Seal Beach, CA 90740
Region: Seal Beach
4973-A Yorba Ranch Road
Yorba Linda, CA 92886
Region: Yorba Linda
The most romantic place for cheating lovers is The Club Bar & Grill (One Ritz-Carlton Dr., Dana Point, 949-240-5008) at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel. It's a two-timers' Paradise: located on the property one of Southern California's premier resorts, situated deep inside the hotel, with tuxedo-bedecked waiters who don't ask questions or raise eyebrows. There are no windows at The Club, the lighting is low, and the country club paintings on the wall distract eaters from noticing everyone else.
The Dining Room attracts mostly fogies enjoying the end of their life and out-of-towners looking for a quiet meal, so your chances of getting discovered are near nil. Enjoy the restaurant's classic American menu, which dates to the time where all good, honest men had a mistress—steaks sauced to your liking, oysters Rockefeller and Caesar salad served just like Sinatra liked 'em. Just don't get up when the excellent house band starts playing "Breakfast in Bed."
Another option is visiting an ignored restaurant. Such is the unfortunate case of Avanti Cafe (259 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, 949-548-2224; www.avantinatural.com). If God was just, lines would form outside Avanti every morning to try the latest vegetarian wonders produced by owner-chefs Mark Cleveland and Tanya Fuqua. As it is, God is a jerk (ask Job) and the only folks I ever see at Avanti are older women and their hipster grandchildren.
Everyone's ignorance is your paramour's gain. Fuqua and Cleveland change the menu often—the lovely pumpkin rutabaga bechamel pasta they prepared recently for Costa Mesa's inaugural 17th Street Restaurant Week is already gone. But the carrot cupcakes remain, wholly organic and topped with a frosting worthy of Herb Alpert.
If empty restaurants aren't your kind of thing, then venture to the ends of Orange County. At the topographical end of our land is The River's End(15 First St., Seal Beach, 562-431-5558), located on the near the mouth of the San Gabriel River that divides Los Angeles and Orange counties. But the restaurant is always crowded, so skip that in favor of The Wild Artichoke(4973-A Yorba Ranch Rd., Yorba Linda, 714-777-9646; www.thewildartichoke.com), located deep in the badlands of Yorba Linda.
Most Orange Countians still don't know about this restaurant even seven years after its opening, partly because it's in Yorba Linda and mostly because its prices are a bit much for food that, while excellent, shouldn't cost a small fortune. But when you eat their Wild Artichoke Napoleon—puff pastry layered with sautéed artichokes—the hassles of juggling two lovers and your credit rating after eating here disappear.
Affairs tend to involve booze, so Proof (215 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, 714-953-2660) in Santa Ana's Artist Village is another good spot. The narrow bar is dungeon-dark throughout the day, and the only lighting at night is neon. Couches allow for private nookie, and there's even a back exit for surreptitious comings-and-goings.
Proof's menu is limited—just gourmet bar food. "Gourmet bar food" seems like an oxymoron, but it's explained by Proof's pedigree. Its owners are also behind the chic Pangea (makers of the favorite lunchtime sandwiches for Weeklings), and the kitchen provides snacks for Proof—chicken bites breaded with butter crumbs and accompanied with a sweet-sour Thai sauce; sweet calamari; great meat skewers. If you want a bigger menu, just take the kitchen door into Pangea (211 W. Second St., Santa Ana, 714-834-0068; www.pangea-cafe.com) which is unfortunately usually as empty as OC Weekly's editorial masthead.
A caveat to cheaters: the above restaurants are not foolproof. The only way you can dine in public successfully without anyone seeing you is Arby's. Happy eating and good luck!