Best Of Food & Drink

  • Best Restaurant

    Taco María

    We try to pass around this award every year—not only to spread the wealth, but also to acknowledge that chefs come and go and always up their game. But for probably the first time in Weekly history, we have a repeat winner. And the reason isn't because Taco María is...

  • Best Dessert

    Snow Station

    Forget your regular, European-influenced desserts and head to Snow Station for this Taiwanese-style dessert made of ice shaved so fine that each spoonful turns into liquid as soon as it comes into contact with just the warmth of your palate. The flavors here are Asian-American chic, so expect taros and...

  • Best Fish Taco

    El Taco Nazo

    Despite our county being so close to Ensenada, our fish taco game is weak. But El Taco Nazo carries the torch in La Habra, where families fill the booths on weekends for crispy fish and shrimp tacos dressed just as they are south of the border. The secret? The batter!...

  • Best Korean Restaurant

    Kang Hodong Baekjeong

    Orange County's Korean District has been expanding quietly for years, but it came into its own when Kang Hodong Baekjeong opened a branch here to satisfy homesick Korean-Americans who don't want to drive to K-Town in Los Angeles. The grill at Baekjeong ("Butcher") is smaller than normal and circled by...

  • Best Farmers' Market

    Irvine Certified Farmers Market

    Last year, OC's largest farmers' market was asked to move, since it was taking up too many precious parking spots near the In-N-Out on Campus Drive. Irvine Certified Farmers Market then moved down the road to Mariner's Church and spread out a little, and it's busier than ever. It's our...

  • Best Italian Restaurant

    Pizzeria Ortica

    You won't find a better pizza than at this stylish alternative to Il Fornaio, located around the corner from the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. The DOP Margherita pizza, salame piccante and rapini are nice gateway plates, but the homemade tagliatelle and pappardelle pasta are truly inspirational, best served with...

  • Best Back Patio

    Restauration

    Though it has a fun bar up front with a flat-screen TV, several beers on tap and a great wine selection, the real action is on Restauration's patio out back. There, a brick pizza oven competes for space with several tables, all enclosed by a wall with planters full of...

  • Best Punk-Rock Bar

    Johnny's Saloon

    There ain't a hell of a lot of punk bars in OC, but it so happens that Johnny's Saloon is about as good as any punk-rock bar you'll find elsewhere. The iconic Huntington Beach establishment also supports more causes than most charities, from puppies to veterans to those with huge...

  • Best Rock Club

    Johnny's Saloon

    We don't even need a reason to justify our championing this place for the fourth, fifth or sixth year in a row. Nor do we have to justify giving Johnny's Saloon this award and Best Punk-Rock Bar. You mad, haters? Then up your game...

  • Best Place to Pick Up a One-Night Stand

    Woody's Wharf

    While most of Newport Beach is a little douchey to really score an easy hookup without breaking the bank, Woody's Wharf hosts an attractive and irresponsible young crowd in a laid-back atmosphere prime for meeting a new fling. Sure, there are cheaper places to get drunk and leave with someone,...

  • Best Day-Drinking Bar

    Balboa Peninsula

    As with any great day-drinking location, there are enough bars within stumbling distance of one another on the Balboa Peninsula that you'll never have to spend an entire afternoon at one spot. Are you a rowdy sorority girl? Baja Sharkeez. Sea dog? Blackie's By the Sea or Balboa Saloon. Or...

  • Best Pop-Up Menu

    Break of Dawn

    Dee Nguyen's Laguna Hills breakfast-and-brunch spot has won many accolades over the years for its magnificent food, and its crowds have grown even bigger since moving from one end of the Oakbrook Village Shopping Center to another. But this year, Nguyen has put the rest of OC's dining scene on...

  • Best Coffee

    Kéan Coffee

    The sun has barely risen on a Sunday morning, and most of OC is still sleeping, but there are always a dozen bikes chained to every possible place outside Kéan Coffee, where master cafetier Martin Diedrich came home to roast. Done to his specifications, the roasts are lighter than you'll...

  • Best Bread

    Cream Pan

    Épis are almost impossible to make properly. Baguettes are snipped in a way that resembles leaves growing off a branch, and if the "leaves" are too small, they burn and the bread is bitter. If they're too large, they get spongy and unappealing. But at Cream Pan, the obsessive Japanese...

  • Best Thai Restaurant

    Essential Thai Cuisine

    A neon sign in a window humbly beams, "Essential Thai Cuisine," and the restaurant lives up to its lofty name. Beyond satay sticks, the kitchen whips up appetizers such as a pungent larb with a minty, lemongrass-y aroma that's almost a hallucinogen. Being Anaheim and all, there are even Thai...

  • Best Pub

    Anthill Pub

    Chapman might have the hotter coeds, and Cal State Fullerton may have the tougher edge. But anyone who thinks UC Irvine is a bunch of nerds should head to the campus' Anthill Pub come 11 a.m. and see science majors make like lushes...

  • Best Burger

    The Counter

    Ordering from the Counter can resemble taking a high-stakes multiple-choice test, but it's an easy A. The build-your-own-burger chain with three OC locations breaks it all down from the bun (pretzel, Hawaiian, brioche style) to the patty (organic Bison or hormone, antibiotic-free beef), plus everything in between. All the ingredients...

  • Best Greek

    Mad Greek Restaurant

    It's telling that among Stanton's many fenced-in, barren plazas, mom-and-pop restaurants such as the Mad Greek are withstanding hard economic times. Since 1981, this local staple has reliably cranked out greasy Greek goods. Order a gyro combo plate, and you'll get a sandwich stuffed with thinly shaved beef and lamb...

  • Best Sunday Brunch

    Filling Station

    A perfect Sunday brunch requires three things: eggs, comfortable outdoor seating and puppies—mostly puppies. Driving by Filling Station, it's common to spot these things: specifically, corgis and people eating eggs Florentine on a shaded patio. There's no point in going any farther. Park the car, put your name on the...

  • Best Ribs

    Tulsa Rib Co.

    "Legendary ribs, truly tasty barbecue, and friendly people" is Tulsa Rib Co.'s tagline, and, folks, there's no greater truth. Eating here is akin to eating at an uncle's house: The chairs are cushy, the servers are casual and nice, and no one cares how much barbecue sauce gets on your...

  • Best Pho

    Pho 45

    In Orange County, pho is there for you. Whether you're in Irvine or Garden Grove, there's likely a first-rate pho joint run by a family that brought its recipes from Vietnam. But there's only one place that has a broth so extraordinary the Phocumentary guys are even raving about it:...

  • Best Late-Night Dining

    Norms

    Oh, there are great local spots open 24 hours or that close at 3 a.m. But no matter your social station, everyone not only hits up Norms at least once a year, but they do so proudly, with no regrets, asking for extra Tapatío to mask the grease on the...

  • Best Hot Dog

    LinX

    There's no party like a hot dog party, and there's no hot dog party without Belgian frites and beer. This is the philosophy of LinX, a small hot-dog joint in Old Towne Orange that embodies the idea of the great backyard hangout. While both the interior and exterior bring this...

  • Best Crawfish House

    Shackie's Seafood and Oysters Bar

    People in Orange County know all about Vietnamese-Cajun seafood restaurants, but that doesn't mean they're all the same (though Kickin' Crab and Boiling Crab have come close to each other). But Shackie's Seafood and Oysters Bar—formerly known as Seafood Shack—is distinctive: Instead of the hot, oily sauces served at other...

  • Best Ramen

    Ramen Yamadaya

    Ramen cults exist because the deliciousness of ramen has merit, just like the New Testament. Simple enough. But that doesn't mean all ramen bowls are made equal. Sometimes, places make their bowls too oily and unbalanced, but that's never the case at Ramen Yamadaya. Order any tonkotsu bowl—even the kotteri...

  • Best Middle Eastern Restaurant

    Aleppo's Kitchen

    A Syrian rarity in a restaurant landscape dominated by Lebanese cuisine, Aleppo's Kitchen offers such delights as khash khash, a plate of aromatic beef kebabs served next to a big bed of rice and grilled onions with toasted pita slices. Aleppo's is also famous across Southern California for having the...

  • Best California Burrito

    La Sirena Grill

    There's a fine menagerie of dishes available at the "Mex-Eco" La Sirena Grill, from the calamari burrito to the avocado lime salad. But the California burrito deserves a special place in your heart, as it's bound to occupy a large place in your stomach. You'll need to skip breakfast the...

  • Best Falafel Mix

    Kareem's Restaurant

    This restaurant has been named in multiple Best Of issues over the years for its extraordinary falafels. (Fun fact: A musician pal of ours who shall remain nameless but is one of the main songwriters for a legendary band that still plays says he's only had three great falafels in...

  • Best Old-School Food Truck

    El Rincón Del Sabor

    Latinos of all walks—families, old gentlemen, millennials, etc.—come for their fix of food from Morelos and Mexico City. Go beyond the usual tacos and grab one of the many plates El Rincón Del Sabor offers, including tortas, mulitas, tostada de pata (pig's feet tostadas), quesadilla and, El Rincón's specialty, the...

  • Best Soul Food

    Kenneth's Soul Food

    Let's just get this out of the way: OC will never become a bastion of soul food. There are some spots that can throw down on some fried chicken, but we often see restaurants trying too hard to "elevate" down-home cuisine. But just as with the music, soul food is...

  • Best Barbecue

    Robert Earl's BBQ

    It takes a lot of work to dethrone a Best Barbecue winner, and over the past 12 months, no one has managed to unseat Robert Earl's BBQ in Long Beach as our favorite. It's better than Bledsoe's and Phil's; it might even be the Southland's best Texas-style 'cue. The brisket...

  • Best Use of Avocado

    Bánh Mì Che Cali

    We did an entire list of great uses of avocado on Stick a Fork In It earlier this year, so if you're not into avocado in smashed-up, sweetened, blended form, Google "OC best avocado" and improve our SEO for us. Otherwise, check out the avocado smoothie from Bánh Mì Che...

  • Best Ice Cream

    Scoops

    The SanTana outpost of the LA classic is a flavor hound's dream. While other OC ice cream shops tend to keep their lists fairly stable (except for perennial mention/winner Stricklands, of course), Scoops' dozens of varieties rotate daily, save for the brown bread flavor. The list is fanciful and fleeting,...

  • Best Boba

    Class 302

    The heyday of honest-to-goodness boba shops is ending. After all, two of the most exciting Asian-chic drink shops of the past year, Snow Monster and Contra Coffee and Tea, don't even serve the tapioca pearls. That just means it's now as American as nachos, especially when you have them at...

  • Best Pie

    Pie-Not

    Sometimes the pie you want is full of meat, and for those days, head to Pie-Not, that Australian pie purveyor next to Sidecar Donuts in Costa Mesa. This isn't Marie Calendar's pie: The meat pies here have heft, but they leave you feeling more fulfilled than overly full, and they...

  • Best Sandwich

    Shwack Beach Grill

    The grilled-chicken sandwiches are consistently juicy at the Shwack, but our favorite is the Island Chick. To a soft ciabatta bun, the staff add a hoisin-barbecue sauce, Swiss cheese, Shwack's house slaw (it's all about the sesame-ginger vinaigrette) and the aforementioned chicken, then they finish the concoction with a wedge...

  • Best Happy Hour

    Chapter One: the modern local

    Downtown SanTana has many a fine drinking establishment for happy hour, but Chapter One: the modern local lords over them all. The After Office Happy Hour deal lasts from 3 to 7 p.m. every Monday to Saturday, with half-off snack plates that include duck-fat fries, pulled-pork fries, habanero wings and...

  • Best Neighborhood Bar, North OC

    Kelly's Korner Tavern

    Epic trivia nights on Thursdays, fabulous weekend brunches, a Taco Tuesday (more on that in our Best Taco Tuesday entry), a pool table, darts and enough televisions to light the Texas Panhandle at night? Kelly's offers all of this, along with the benefit of being a bona-fide neighborhood bar: in...

  • Best Neighborhood Bar, Central OC

    The Quill

    A bar with one of the oldest liquor licenses in Orange County can't be faulting too hard. There's a reason lushes have haunted the place since before JFK took office and a reason they've recruited a new crop of regulars as each generation turns the big 2-1. The Quill is...

  • Best Neighborhood Bar, Coastal OC

    Balboa Saloon

    You gotta love a place that has a drink called the Balboa Sunday, which is little more than a bunch of domestic beers thrown together in a pitcher...

  • Best Bikini Bar

    Distractions Lounge

    Huntington Beach is the Yellowstone of bikini bars in Orange County, a badlands that also serves as one of the last refuges for this endangered species of tits and taps. And you'll get your Old Faithful on by just looking at the girls at Distractions Lounge. But this place is...

  • Best Bar In Long Beach

    The Blind Donkey

    If you just randomly woke up inside the Blind Donkey in Long Beach's East Village, you'd figure that someone dropped your besotted ass in a swanky LA bar surrounded by financial buildings. Climb up the set of stairs that connect the basement bar to street level, however, and you'll find...

  • Best Lounge

    The Fling Cocktail Lounge

    A good lounge can surround you with beautiful women and handsome men, ripe for the picking. It can offer you the best craft cocktails, served by the county's best mixologists—drinks filled with the finest top-shelf spirits and hand-muddled ingredients. The Fling Cocktail Lounge promises you none of these airs—just a...

  • Best Street for a Pub Crawl

    Avenida del Mar, San Clemente

    Start slowly on the south end of Avenida del Mar, with a glass of wine at Café Mimosa, then move uphill: a martini at Nick's, a cocktail at Beachfire, something to eat and a little more wine at Village Mediterranean Rim. Make a small turn at the top of the...

  • Best Signature Cocktail

    Lola Gaspar

    It's 100 degrees outside, the wind is sucking every drop of moisture out of the air, and you stumble onto the patio at Lola Gaspar. "Paloma," you croak out, and in minutes, you're sipping on tequila, grapefruit soda and lime juice, the deceptively simple and addicting national cocktail of Mexico...

  • Best Brewery

    Barley Forge

    Tucked away in the back of an industrial complex, just as are so many other breweries in Orange County, Barley Forge offers a surprisingly beautiful brewery and tasting room, with a kitchen (and full menu) featuring happy, engaging bartenders and brewers. Though barely a year old, its beers are quickly...

  • Best Sports Bar

    Campus Billiards & Sports Bar

    Great off-campus hangouts aren't just for universities—community colleges have them, too! Case in point: Campus Billiards & Sports Bar, across the street from Cypress College. It's everything a man cave could ever wish to be. There's a long bar that keeps 24 beers on tap served at a frosty 29...

  • Best Bartender

    Joel Anthony Caruso

    Drinking with Joel Caruso behind the stick at Pizzeria Ortica means you'll be learning a lot, whether it's California or Italian wine or any of a dozen or more amari, the postprandial Italian digestifs that somehow lessen the effect of a carbohydrate-heavy Italian meal. He is the MacGyver of Italian...

  • Best Beer Selection

    Hollingshead's Deli

    Got a better choice than this legend? Prove it. We'll wait . . . yep, thought so!...

  • Best Gay Bar

    VLVT Velvet Lounge

    The only drag brunch in the county happens on VLVT Velvet Lounge's runways on Sunday mornings. There's a weekly Taco Tuesday, as well as regular karaoke—with people who can sing! There are bear nights and dance nights and theme nights, and while it's possible to meet the man or woman...

  • Best Dive Bar

    Garf's

    Earlier this year, we asked a bunch of people in the hospitality industry what their favorite dive bar to escape to after a shift was, and the Quill Lounge in Santa Ana, Garf's Sports Lounge in Costa Mesa and the Huddle in Costa Mesa all came out on top in...

  • Best Bar for Dancing

    Rancho de Mendoza

    Downstairs, Rancho de Mendoza offers so-so Mexican food and a lively karaoke scene; upstairs, you're transported to a Mexico City dance party, complete with cumbias, sonideros, guarachas and even the occasional chilena. Find your 5-foot poblano to give you a spin, and get at it...

  • Best Diner

    Flappy Jack's

    It's too bad Flappy Jack's closes by 3 p.m. because this diner—which has a kitsch trifecta of Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Elvis statues in the middle of the restaurant—serves glorious breakfasts that would be great any time of the day or night. Most are egg-centered meals surrounded by satellites...

  • Best Steakhouse

    Chianina

    Have you ever been to a steakhouse that raises its own cattle? Chianina raises cattle on an Iowa ranch from a special 2,200-year-old breed for which the restaurant is named. Until those earmarked bovines are ready for the grill, this steakhouse cooks Piedmontese beef, a similar species prized for leanness...

  • Best Wine Bar

    Old Vine Café

    This venerable Italian-Spanish-fusion gem isn't a wine bar per se, but the proof is in the vino. There are flights, bottles for sale, a bar that looks out into the CAMP and sommeliers who know everything you need for the evening. All great fuel for the wonderful meals created by...

  • Best Wings

    Brü Grill & Market

    The hot wings at Brü Grill & Market are braised in ale and fried to a light crisp before they're brought to your table, serving as a happy complement to its other food options or alongside your favorite craft beer. The question is how hot do you want them? Impress...

  • Best Coffee-Shop Girls

    Café Lu

    Pretty, multicultural, not snobby, with Instagrams up the wazoo—does Café Lu repeat its win in this category from last year? Yep!...

  • Best Vietnamese Iced Coffee

    Contra Coffee & Tea

    At this small SanTana spot, you don't get the T&A of its elders—just sweet, young Vietnamese-American millennials doing jolts of caffeine so strong it makes cold brew about as potent as tap water. But Contra tapers down its take on café sua da in a way that makes it accessible...

  • Best Prix Fixe

    Napa Rose

    Hands down, the best restaurant on Disney property is Napa Rose, and the best way to dine at the marquee attraction at the Grand Californian Hotel is at its Chef's Counter for the prix fixe. This is no ordinary prix fixe: Not only do you get a front-row seat to...

  • Best Local Chain

    Rockfire Grill

    The burger at Rockfire Grill is twice as thick as In-N-Out's and charred in the right places. But it's not the meat that's the star; it's the baked-to-order bread shaped in a clamshell that hugs it. The outer surface is crusty, still hot to the touch and with the crunch...

  • Best Taco Tuesday

    Kelly's Korner Tavern

    Not only does Kelly's Korner Tavern serve up great drinks, but its food offerings are also among the best in the county to soak up working-class booze. And while the burgers, brunch and steak (!) are all great, the best deals come on Tuesday, when this most Placentia of bars...

  • Best Shot

    Chapter One: the modern local

    Every year, our Mexican In Chief gives bourbon bottles to his favorite bars after his annual sojourn to Kentucky. And every year, he reserves his best find for Chapter One: the modern local. On the menu this year? Barton's Chocolate Bourbon Ball Liqueur—think Bailey's, but better, with a base of...

  • Best Poke

    Costco

    There are poke joints everywhere these days. Pokinometry is arguably the best of the bunch, but you know who also does the Hawaiian delicacy right? Costco. Yes, if you've been to the Costcos in Hawaii, you'd know the chain has been offering poke at the deli section in at least...

  • Best Filipino Restaurant

    Crispy House

    If there's anything Filipinos love more than Manny Pacquiao, it's probably pork. And Crispy House is the pork world heavyweight champion. This restaurant behind a Del Taco in Artesia is named after its most popular dish: the crispy pata, a whole, deep-fried, bone-in ham hock the size of a boxing...

  • Best Japanese Restaurant

    Jinbei

    Skip the bentos. Ignore the sashimi and nigiri. Jinbei does both great—spectacular, even—but the rule for ordering food here is to embrace the unfamiliar. The more exotic-sounding it is, the more it'll dazzle. Jinbei features dishes that go so far beyond teriyaki and California rolls; you'll need some assistance deciphering...

  • Best Breakfast

    The Snooty Fox

    This place has been around forever, a relic from an era when the Velvet Turtle was on top of the restaurant food chain. The Snooty Fox's furniture looks as if it were stolen from your meemaw's dining room, and the servers are actual grannies. If it were in Iowa, politicians...

  • Best Secret Dish

    Soho Taco

    So you know about Soho Taco's spectacular tacos, straightforward interpretations of the classics—but do you know about the queko? A taco in which the tortilla is a shell made of melted cheese that's stuffed with meat covered with cheese? You don't? Ask the chef for it, and don't worry about...

  • Best Chinese Restaurant

    Din Tai Fung

    In the new Riviera, the rich don't eat caviar; they eat dumplings—Din Tai Fung's dumplings, to be exact. Since the first OC outpost of the Taiwanese-based chain famous for xiaolongbaos (juicy pork dumplings) landed in South Coast Plaza last year, the insane, multihour wait times have abated only slightly. In...

  • Best Peruvian Restaurant

    La Pollada Peruvian Grill

    You're in a room that looks as though it could be hosed down at the end of the night. From the back, you hear the clang of woks in an unseen kitchen, the clamor of steel-on-steel, the sizzle of saltado stir-fries being seared. Yes, you want some of it, if...

  • Best New Restaurant

    Outpost Kitchen

    Forget that Outpost Kitchen's menu features buzzwords such as paleo and organic. Instead, focus on what this open kitchen space in an industrial section of Costa Mesa is producing: simple ingredients cooked with conviction and clarity of purpose. Flavors come through unobstructed by heavy sauces. Things such as eggs, meat,...

  • Best Pizza

    Fuoco Pizzeria Napoletana

    At Fuoco Pizzeria Napoletana, it's not the imported flour or even the hand-built Stefano Ferrara oven that matters most; it's the guiding presence of owners Franco and Tullio Ceccarelli. They make a pizza for when you've tried everything else. Each masterpiece is enough for two, bigger than most Naples-style pizzas in...

  • Best Sushi

    Bluefin by Abe

    Just go there and say, "Omakase." And bring hundreds of dollars. You're welcome...

  • Best Doughnuts

    Friendly Donuts

    Deep-purple ube doughnuts. Red velvet doughnuts topped with a dollop of cream cheese frosting. Fluffy creations bursting with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Muffiny blueberry rings finished with a delicious glaze. Croissant-doughnut hybrids, here called dossants, stuffed with cream and topped with fresh strawberries and a drizzle of chocolate. These delights...

  • Best Deli

    C4 Deli: The Cure for the Common

    Take your pick: Pickled eggs? Three kinds. Cold salads ready to go? Of course. Cheese-and-meat plates? Damn straight. A list of wines and beers as long as the Summa Theologica? Yep. Trivia nights every Tuesday? You know it! Pop-up restaurants and special dinners? Better believe it, baby. And a menu...

  • Best Vietnamese Restaurant

    Garlic & Chives

    Popular places in Little Saigon are as common as corrupt Vietnamese-American politicians, but there may not be seats more in demand than those at Garlic & Chives. The cuisine is billed as "Gourmet Asian Fusion," but its soul is Vietnamese. Porridge can be had here, followed by a sizzling skillet...

  • Best Vegan Restaurant

    Vegan Nirvana

    If you were blindfolded and served Vegan Nirvana's fish taco alongside one from Rubio's, you probably wouldn't be able to tell which was using the fake fish. And most likely, you'd like the vegan one better. Its texture is spot-on, falling apart into flakes as though actual cod; two huge,...

  • Best Deep-Fried Dish

    T.P. Bánh Bao #2

    Being the county's first bánh bao specialist doesn't immediately put T.P. Bánh Bao #2 on the map. The steamed buns of bread filled with meat and sweets it's named after are already sold at most of Little Saigon's food-to-go shops and bakeries. But so far, only T.P. Bánh Bao #2...

  • Best Seafood Restaurant

    Waterman's Harbor

    At Waterman's Harbor, chef John Cuevas, a James Beard Award nominee, deep-fries an entire black bass whole—the head, the tail, everything intact. Even if you're the type of diner who'd rather have your fish in filets indistinguishable from bars of soap, you want this dish. Or if you're still squeamish,...

  • Best Taco

    Taco María

    Carlos Salgado is rightfully getting nationwide accolades for his paisa-pocho experiments at Taco María (which won our Best Restaurant title this year, también). But just when you think he's left this earthly realm for the alta cocina stratosphere, he'll pull out an honest, stunning taco that makes even the finest...

  • Best Juice/Smoothie Shop

    Organic Tree Juice Bar

    Organic Tree Juice Bar uses the Living Juice Extractor! Not because it sounds menacing, but because not an enzyme is altered as the machine does its thing. Whether you've got deep juice knowledge or are just a regular human wanting the occasional dose of noncaffeinated energy, you'll like this breezy...

  • Best-Looking Patrons (Hottest Crowd)

    Javier's

    A million cougars and MILFs can't be wrong!...

  • Best Restaurant Comeback

    Beach Harbor Pizza

    The original owner had had enough; his longtime staff, Francisco and Mario, wanted to buy the beloved place, but the county stalled its approval for way too long. So the doors shut on Beach Cities Pizza. Decades of devoted pizza eaters and garlic-breadstick lovers and all-you-can-eat-spaghetti-Tuesday regulars were despondent. But...

  • Best Place for Date Night

    Marché Moderne

    Reasonably priced, delicious French food that makes you look like a high-roller instead of the South Coast Plaza imposter you are—even the nerdiest of nerds will at least get a full-breast hug out of here!...

  • Best Martini

    320 Main

    This Hall of Famer can make any drink in Bacchus' realm, but ask the bar to make you a classic martini. Drink it, and your resulting verve makes James Bond seem as suave as Fat Bastard...

  • Best Breakfast Burrito

    Athenian Burgers #3

    One day, we're going to give this title to another place. In the meanwhile, ask for extras of the mysterious orange salsa and ponder how the tortilla gets so orange yet remains so firm, a miracle of structural integrity mightier than the Hoover Dam...

  • Best Burrito

    Taqueria Zamora

    Say goodbye to your comfortable waistband; the initiated know that any meal at Taqueria Zamora is a real commitment, as it offers muy grande portions that all give you the Itis. Plunge into the wet burrito, an oversized, overstuffed beast in a large flour tortilla sitting in a sea of...

  • Best Restaurant Ambiance

    Cucina Enoteca

    It's so urban and hip it doesn't seem to fit into Orange County, let alone Irvine Spectrum or Fashion Island. Each Cucina Enoteca is filled with dramatic chandeliers, bright Moroccan and floral prints, orange statement chairs, and plenty of plush pillows: It's Anthropologie turned into a restaurant. In fact, Cucina...

  • Best Coffeehouse

    Green Bliss

    Here is the epitome of a sustainable coffeehouse. Green Bliss supports Orange County artists with a locals-only boutique wall; offers a community board for jobs, housing and events; only carries products that are organic and fair trade; AND makes a damn fine cup of coffee. It's located in downtown Fullerton,...

  • Best Waterfront Dining

    Driftwood Kitchen

    Two levels over the coastal Pacific, with good food and better drinks? Heaven...

  • Best Food Truck

    The Coconut Truck

    With its intricate and colorful façade, the Coconut Truck attracts you from afar. You come closer when you see a patron sipping from a whole coconut through a straw. And you stay because the menu ignores the usual sliders and mac and cheese that too many luxe loncheras still consider...

  • Best Nontraditional Burger

    Slater's 50/05

    The local chain that started the weirder-is-better burger trend succeeded because it always paid attention to quality: No matter how trippy the offerings were, each was delicious. Case in point: the Peanut Butter and Jellousy Burger—peanut butter, strawberry jelly, bacon and beef, smushed into a mass of sweet-salty beauty...

  • Best Local Roaster

    Lord Windsor

    As with most coffee shops in Long Beach, Lord Windsor is too cool for you. The quaint name and low-lit shop with minimalist décor, exposed-brick wall, and black-and-white checkered floor immediately tell you that you should have rode your fixed-gear bike here and that the coffee is going to be...

  • Best Outdoor Dining

    Hummingbird House Café

    Oceanfront dining abounds in the county's beach cities, but if you're feeling more backyard barbecue than beach-view soirée, try Hummingbird House Café. The entire dining area is the actual back yard of a historical home, the Lupe Combs house, in San Juan Capistrano's Los Rios Historic District. The fresh and...

  • Best Margarita

    South of Nick's

    When you order a flavored margarita, it often comes from synthetic premixes. At South of Nick's, flavored margaritas abound, with a menu full of fresh and inventive cocktails—no premix in sight. Take the spicy watermelon margarita, a salt-rimmed mix of muddled watermelon, Milagro silver tequila, lime, agave and the unexpected...

  • Best Drink to Fuck You Up

    Thai Juan On

    The Blue Phi Phi is exactly what you'd expect from a Thai restaurant named for a drinking idiom. A tropical take on every 21-year-old's worst nightmare, the Adios Motherfucker, it's sweet, smooth and blue enough to appear innocuous, served in a cute tiki glass with cherry and lime to ensure...

  • Best French Fries

    Akropolis Greek Restaurant

    Good french fries involve only two elements: adequate salting and balance between a crisp exterior and fluffy potato interior. Great french fries up the game with fresh garlic, parsley, or other appropriate herbs and spices. The best french fries are accompanied by a crack-like dipping sauce. The fries at the...

  • Best Mexican Restaurant

    Taco María

    In 2012, Miguel Cabrera became the first player in 45 years to win baseball's Triple Crown; this year, American Pharoah won the same honor in horse racing. And now, the same happens to Taco María: Best Restaurant, Best Taco and Best Mexican Restaurant. Yes, cabrones, the restaurant is that extraordinary...

  • Best Indian Restaurant

    Dosa Place

    The most delicious of food comas can be had for $10. South Indian fare swells over Dosa Place's expansive dinner buffet. The plates resemble metal medieval platters, ready to be filled to capacity with the likes of gobi Manchurian—fried dough-coated cauliflower in a spicy sauce—or idli and an array of...

  • Best Bagels

    Koffee Klatch

    At Laguna Beach's Koffee Klatch, it's not about the bagel itself, but rather what's on it. The "love bagel," a name as straightforward as the ingredients, comes with your bagel of choice (the everything variety is recommended), a thick schmear of cream cheese, freshly sliced tomatoes, red onions and lemon...

  • Best Korean Barbecue

    Cham Sut Gol

    This Little Seoul standby offers everything a Korean barbecue spot requires: a galaxy of panchan, the smell of seared meat, the chorus of "Annyeonghaseyo!" every time someone enters. But then comes Cham Sut Gol's golden ticket: a self-serve ice cream cone for dessert. You question the sanitary conditions as you...

  • Best Cupcake

    Susie Cakes

    When it comes to desserts, sometimes the classics are best. Susie Cakes makes its living on this idea, with a whole lot of 1950s nostalgia. You can't beat the beautiful, buttercream cakes made from scratch with simple ingredients, and cupcakes are just a cheaper, mini version. Choose from an array...

  • Best Pancakes

    Original Pancake House

    You can get buttermilk flapjacks just about anywhere, so when you visit your local Original Pancake House, you want the apple pancake. What arrives before you is truly a wonder to behold: fluffy yet solid, as tall as a stack of flapjacks, topped with caramelized apples that have been baked...

  • Best Bar In Orange County

    Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar

    The choice of your favorite bar is as subjective as whether you prefer deciduous or evergreen trees. But we've yet to find anyone who doesn't love Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar. Sure, it's totally Disney, but that also means it's totally magical. At Trader Sam's, no decorating expense is spared,...

  • Best Bakery

    Old Town Baking Co.

    We've no shortage of excellent bakeries in Orange County, but you can't beat the convenience and quality of the Old Town Baking Co. Its reps are slinging loafs at OC farmers' markets nearly every day of the week, everything made fresh that morning. There are often no more than four...

  • Best Neighborhood Bar, South OC

    Sky Ranch Saloon

    This outdoor, second-floor bar surrounds you in year-round coziness with cushiony couches and chairs, fireplaces, and heaters. The best time to imbibe is from sunset to dark so you can watch the light change against the mountains to the east even while you are in the midst of all kinds...

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