Best of OC

Best Of 2015


  • + Aliso Viejo
  • + Anaheim
  • + Arcadia
  • + Avalon
  • + Azuza
  • + Bakersfield
  • + Balboa
  • + Bellflower
  • + Beverly Hills
  • + Brea
  • + Buena Park
  • + Burbank
  • + Cabazon
  • + Capistrano Beach
  • + Carlsbad
  • + Carson
  • + Cerritos
  • + Chatsworth
  • + Chino Hills
  • + Claremont
  • + Colton
  • + Corona
  • + Corona Del Mar
  • + Costa Mesa
  • + Coto de Caza
  • + Covina
  • + Culver City
  • + Cypress
  • + Dana Point
  • + Diamond Bar
  • + Downey
  • + El Segundo
  • + Encino
  • + Escondido
  • + Fallbrook
  • + Fontana
  • + Foothill Ranch
  • + Fountain Valley
  • + Fresno
  • + Fullerton
  • + Garden Grove
  • + Gardena
  • + Glendale
  • + Granada Hills
  • + Hawaiian Gardens
  • + Hermosa Beach
  • + Highland
  • + Huntington Beach
  • + Indio
  • + Irvine
  • + Julian
  • + La Canada Flintridge
  • + La Habra
  • + La Jolla
  • + La Mirada
  • + La Palma
  • + Ladera Ranch
  • + Laguna Beach
  • + Laguna Hills
  • + Laguna Niguel
  • + Lake Forest
  • + Lakewood
  • + Las Vegas
  • + Lawndale
  • + Lomita
  • + Long Beach
  • + Los Alamitos
  • + Los Angeles
  • + Malibu
  • + Manhattan Beach
  • + Marina Del Rey
  • + Maywood
  • + Midway City
  • + Mission Viejo
  • + Montclair
  • + Mountain Center
  • + Mt Baldy
  • + Newport Beach
  • + North Hollywood
  • + Northridge
  • + Norwalk
  • + Oceanside
  • + Orange
  • + Out of Town
  • + Palos Verdes Peninsula
  • + Panorama City
  • + Paramount
  • + Pasadena
  • + Pioneertown
  • + Placentia
  • + Pomona
  • + Portola Hills
  • + Rancho Cucamonga
  • + Rancho Palos Verdes
  • + Rancho Santa Margarita
  • + Redlands
  • + Redondo Beach
  • + Riverside
  • + Rossmoor
  • + Rowland Heights
  • + San Bernardino
  • + San Clemente
  • + San Diego
  • + San Francisco
  • + San Juan Capistrano
  • + San Marino
  • + San Pedro
  • + Santa Ana
  • + Santa Monica
  • + Seal Beach
  • + Sherman Oaks
  • + Sierra Madre
  • + Signal Hill
  • + Silverado
  • + Solana Beach
  • + South El Monte
  • + South Gate
  • + South Pasadena
  • + Stanton
  • + Studio City
  • + Sunset Beach
  • + Temecula
  • + Torrance
  • + Trabuco Canyon
  • + Tustin
  • + Twentynine Palms
  • + Universal City
  • + Unknown
  • + Venice
  • + Villa Park
  • + Westminster
  • + Whittier
  • + Wilmington
  • + Woodland Hills
  • + Yorba Linda
Map It

Sports & Recreation

Food & Drink

Arts & Entertainment

Shopping & Services


Best Of :: Food & Drink

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 much more than the place where you used to be able to smoke inside. There's nothing special about this little bar on the surface: Cheap basic beers and two-ingredient cocktails make up the lifeblood of this bar. But it's the bartenders, the clientele, the history and how they bring that glory into today that keeps them relevant. And oh, those crowds: Chapman kids who've strayed from the Circle, blue-collar men and women just off work, Latinos and gabachos, and elderly patrons who have been drinking here faithfully since before you were born all blend together better than a fancy-ass cocktail stirred just up the road in the trendy-ass DTSA.

1630 Mabury St., Santa Ana, 92701
Best Restaurant
Taco María Critics' Pick
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 the only restaurant to have appeared on 2014 best-restaurant lists for this paper, the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles, or because Food & Wine recognized chef Carlos Salgado as one of the country's 10 Best New Chefs earlier this year. It's because, despite getting invites from across the country from folks eager to taste the next generation of Mexican food, Salgado hasn't let fame go to his head; if he's in town, Salgado is hustling on the line alongside the rest of his crew. And who else in OC gets up before dawn every day to make masa from heirloom blue corn purchased directly from farmers in Mexico and is planning to launch a masa revolution by spreading its gospel? His aguachile? Entire restaurants have created less. Enough philosophizing—go eat!

3313 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa, 92626
Best Dessert

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 various teas and Asian fruits. If you're feeling extravagant, go for one of the premade combos that range from banana split to S'mores, but for regular weekday treats, there's nothing better than a simple green tea shaved snow topped with some condensed milk.

Multiple Locations
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! Plus, the chiles güeritos are so popular the chefs had to start doling them out from the counter to keep customers from devouring the whole tray.

121 Beach Blvd., La Habra, 90631
Best Korean Restaurant

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 compartments containing hot kimchi, corn cheese, slowly cooking egg, and onions with peppers. And the servers must have eyes everywhere because they bustle through so quickly—replacing panchan, barley tea, beer and soju—you might not notice them.

5171 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, 90621
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 Hollywood, our Santa Monica, a tourist attraction in its own right. Same Saturday-morning hours, same beautiful chaos. Come hungry, leave inspired.

5001 Newport Coast Dr., Irvine, 92603
Best Italian Restaurant
Pizzeria Ortica Critics' Pick
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 a Friuliano or Sangiovese from the restaurant's extensive wine list. And don't forget to get a cocktail from Joel Caruso, who gets a shoutout elsewhere in this issue.

650 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa, 92626
Best Back Patio
Restauration Critics' Pick
Jennifer Fedrizzi

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 vegetables and herbs used in the kitchen. There's a happy-hour menu that features tapas-sized versions of some of the more popular dinner fare, but even the regular-priced dinners are worth sharing—somehow, they taste better when divvied up. On any given evening, you could find yourself sitting next to a group of elderly divas in sunhats or, say, celebrity drummer Josh Freese and his entourage.

2708 E. 4th St., Long Beach, 90814
Best Punk-Rock Bar
Johnny's Saloon
Taylor Hamby
The Ring of Fire!

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 medical bills. If you're more concerned with the booze and bar life than altruism, Johnny's offers a tremendous selection of whiskeys, brews and all the bar activities you can handle, from shuffleboard and pool to trivia and facial-hair competitions. Oh, and the music rocks, regardless of date and time.

17428 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, 92647
Best Rock Club
Johnny's Saloon
Taylor Hamby
The Ring of Fire!

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.

17428 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, 92647
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, but Woody's is the right mix of a (generally) good-looking club without all of the bruh-ness that generally occurs in Newps. Additionally, the back patio looks out over a handful of docked boats and the water, which is a perfect place to seal the deal. In the event you can't close with anyone in the bar, you'll be let out into the rush of the inebriated meat market that is the Peninsula at 2 a.m., when everyone is fair and game.

2318 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, 92663
Best Day-Drinking Bar

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 try Cassidy's or Muldoon's—go to them all. And if you get tired of the bar scene, there's always the beach. Where better to throw on a tank top and frat it up all afternoon?


Best Neighborhood Bar, Central OC: The Quill


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