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Food & Drink

  • Best Coffee

    Kéan Coffee

    The only downside to Kéan Coffee is that it's not a countywide or nationwide chain like Diedrich Coffee or Starbucks, which is a shame because unless you live in Newport Beach or Costa Mesa, you're probably going to settle for a more generic cup rather than battle the traffic on the 55 Freeway. Founder Martin Diedrich—yep, the surname is no… More >>
  • Best Croissant

    Le Croissant Dore

    When you're looking for a good croissant in Orange County, go to Vietnam. A mix of Parisian and Vietnamese tastes makes the meaty croissants at Le Croissant Dore in Westminster's Little Saigon something of a cross between a hearty Chilean empanada and a flaky Turkish baklava. In addition to the varieties listed in Vietnamese—chicken (gá con) and raisin (nho kho)—you'll… More >>
  • Best Bakery

    JJ Bakery

    Here's a bakery that does it all and does it well. The petite cakes are topped with fresh fruit or layered with ganache; neither too sweet nor too rich. The fried bread is stuffed with breaded pork cutlets, and the white bread loafs have their crusts already removed. Airy buns are glazed to a mirror shine, and the curry puffs… More >>
  • Best Boba Tea

    TenRen's Tea

    No doubt you've heard the array of monikers (tapioca ball, pearl tea, black pearls, boba, bubble, milk tea) that make ordering that milky, pastel-colored cold drink with a fat straw and dark marbles on the bottom of the cup a little tricky. The craze was born in Taiwan about 25 years ago, when stands sold the cold teas as an… More >>
  • Best Non-Chain Chai

    Tandoor Cuisine of India

    Forget the watered-down Starbucks bastardizations of chai. Or the powdered Trader Joe's, for that matter. If you're going to do chai tea, do it good and proper. Tandoor Cuisine of India has the right idea with their masala chai, or "spiced tea," boiled to perfection with milk, water and spices. The warm concoction is slightly bitter on its own, but… More >>
  • Best Snacks That Look Like Your Grandmother

    BeBe Kho Bo Snacks & Candies

    Isn't it ironic how the folks who eat prunes the most tend to look just a little bit like them? Perhaps it's for that reason that some stores have taken to calling the withered snacks "dried plums." Whether you're a youngster who actually enjoys such things, or an oldster desperate for some variety in the regularity-inducing sweetmeats, BeBe Kho Bo… More >>
  • Best Baguettes

    Zon Baguettes

    This place serves a variety of French-influenced Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches and noodle specialties, but it makes our list because here's where you can find the freshest, biggest, saltiest and Frenchiest baguettes in Orange County. A large loaf will put you back just $1.75. Just make sure you eat that bread—or stick it in an airtight breadbox—the same day. Unlike… More >>
  • Best Crepes

    Crepes del Mar at Felix Continental Café

    This Orange Circle staple serves up a delicately chewy confection stuffed with crabmeat and drowning in a slightly spicy Cajun broth that's crave-inducing. (The broth also adds zing to the dish's accompanying Spanish rice.)… More >>
  • Best Snails

    Food Court at Asian Garden Mall

    Orange County isn't immune to the frozen-yogurt craze sparked by LA's Pinkberry. And this is even before Pinkberry has had a chance to open a single outlet here. With lines akin to geeky movie premieres, Yogurtland is fast becoming Orange County's own fro-yo phenom. There is the original store in Fullerton, but the action is centered on the new Irvine… More >>
  • Best Pizza

    Pascale's Pizza

    Someday we'll get burned out on pizza, we're sure. It will probably be on the same day we get tired of fresh ingredients; a thin, smoky crust; a sense of authenticity; and thick, stretchy cheese that bends from here to the shores of the Mediterranean. On that day, we will stop going to Pascale's, home of Orange County's finest pizza.… More >>
  • Best Halal Pizza

    Best Halal Pizza

    Beef pepperoni. Turkey bacon. Turkey ham. Pizza never tasted so good for OC's many Muslim residents who usually have to defer to veggie pieces when ordering their slices. But San Giovanni's offers pizzas with halal-certified meat (no pork; beef and poultry slaughtered and blessed by a Muslim), which is purchased from local halal grocery stores. For those who are not… More >>
  • Best Place to Drink Sake By Yourself or With Friends (If You Have Any)

    Kappo Honda

    It may sound more like a car dealership than a killer place to down a glass of sake, but don't hesitate to step in—you won't be sorry. Plopping yourself onto a chair at the counter is a capital idea if you're on your own. From there, you'll get a view of the snazzy Japanese grill master and his swashbuckling moves,… More >>
  • Best Cheap Drinks at Fashion Island

    Red Robin

    You don't often hear "cheap" and "Fashion Island" together. There are certainly plenty of places to drink, from the upscale Daily Grill to the seaside view of the bar in the Cheesecake Factory. And if you're a guy, there are also plenty of reasons to drink—chances are you're only there to humor your lady's shopping fix, and there aren't a… More >>
  • Best Place to Get Advice About Wine

    Symposium Wine Bar

    Wine bars are making a big showing in this year's Best of OC, and there's a reason for that: It's where adults go to have a few drinks, where the floors aren't wet with beer and . . . something wet, and where a jukebox isn't blasting the immortal hits of Journey, Boston or Aerosmith. At the Symposium Wine Bar,… More >>
  • Best Ice Cream

    Strickland's

    Strickland's is the lone California outpost of an Ohio franchise. Their claim to fame: soft-serve "frozen custard" sold within minutes of churning from steel contraptions that look like they came out of a '50s sci-fi flick. The ice cream is silken, smoother than Haagen Dazs before it hardens. Always offered is chocolate and vanilla, while two special Flavors of the… More >>
  • Best Pie

    Lemon Meringue at Bonert's Slice of Pie

    Driving up to Bonert's Slice of Pie's outlet store, sandwiched between factories in Santa Ana, we were skeptical. The place looked too industrial to house the best pie in town. But we were gloriously, fantabulously wrong. Stepping into the little pie shop at the side of the hulking structure, we found the best lemon meringue we've ever tasted. Thick and… More >>
  • Best Cheap Surprise

    Kinder Surprise Egg

    For $2.25, you can have some of the best chocolate on the market—and a wacky German toy to tinker with while you stuff it down your trap. That's the beauty of Ferrero's Kinder Surprise Egg, available by the piece or dozen at Huntington Beach's Euro Market, Bakery & Deli. Beneath the crinkly orange-and-white wrapper lies an egg-shaped layer of smooth,… More >>
  • Best Chocolate Shop

    Bodega Chocolates

    The now-famous home of the chocolate "Virgin of Guadalupe" also happens to make and sell damn good chocolate. Headquartered in Fountain Valley, the chocolatier sells dark, creamy confections that the truest connoisseur would appreciate.… More >>
  • Best Restaurant in Orange County

    White Horses

    If you're looking for the best place to buy two tacos for a buck—plus free pineapple juice—then we'd give this award to Tacos el Chavito. But this title demands class, a place where you can dress up and play rich. And that place is White Horses, a stunning, cozy bistro at the bottom of Avenida Victoria, below a bed and… More >>
  • Best New Restaurant

    Old Vine Café

    Old Vine Café has been open only a couple of months, but it's already besting veterans with its affordable gourmet entrées such as Spanish omelets (stuffed with artichoke hearts, red bell peppers, shitake mushrooms, proscuitto and Manchengo cheese) and a tapas-style dinner menu that guarantees many nights of swapping. But this tiny restaurant's best specials are in the refrigerator, where… More >>
  • Best Restaurant When Someone Else Is Paying

    Bluefin

    As of this writing, the omakase meal at Bluefin runs $75 per person. But don't count on it staying that way, especially now that this classy sushi bar is becoming better known outside its exclusive Newport Coast neighborhood. Omakase, a meal set in six courses, is the best way to taste the creativity at work. There'll be an amuse bouche,… More >>
  • Best Restaurant for Cheapskates

    Nha Hang $1.99 Restaurant

    For cheapskates, it doesn't get better than this place. The entire menu fits on the back of their business card. And yes, with the exception of four items, everything on it is $1.99. There are three types of noodles (rice, vermicelli and egg) that swim in soups, get fried to a crisp, or jiggle in a cooling salad with tiny… More >>
  • Best Romantic Restaurant

    Chat Noir

    Red is the color of passion, and it's used in ample amounts in velvet and silk at Chat Noir. Dimly lit and as sultry as your date, the rooms are inspired by the Moulin Rouge as imagined by Baz Luhrmann (minus the grating presence of John Leguizamo as Toulouse-Lautrec). Snuggle over French food prepared with a Parisian flair and feed… More >>
  • Best Late-Night Dining

    Lee's Sandwiches

    Norms is always great, and the Shore House Café chain will make pancakes at all hours. But for the past couple of years, ever since a cute Vietnamese girl broke our hearts but left the cheap Vietnamese sandwiches called bánh mìs in its place, we've fulfilled our midnight munchie cravings at the Lee's Sandwiches in Garden Grove. The prices at… More >>
  • Best Soul Food

    Rick's Secret Spot

    Rick's is in the unlikeliest of spots—on the San Clemente frontier east of Interstate 5, up a winding road, toward the back of an industrial park, a cubbyhole where the scent of sauces and meats smacks your senses like the summer sun dipped in molasses. Get there early— Rick prepares his barbecue and okra in the morning, but it's usually… More >>
  • Best All-You-Can-Eat Vegetarian Buffet

    Gauranga's Vegetarian Buffet

    You don't have to shave your head or drink the Krishna Kool-Aid to enjoy the dirt-cheap vegetarian feast every Sunday. Get in touch with the "source" as you meditate to instrumental music and, if you like, chant along. For just a $3 suggested donation, you'll be catered to by robed monks carrying a variety of delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes.… More >>
  • Best Vegan-Friendly Restaurant

    Native Foods

    Even in California today, being a vegan isn't easy. Many restaurateurs seem to think vegans are members of an esoteric religious cult who remain best ignored, not a hungry demographic deserving of at least a few centimeters of menu space. Thankfully, a handful of enlightened entrepreneurs in Orange County sate vegans' picky palates, the most satisfying and worry-free of which… More >>
  • Best Raw Food Restaurant

    Good Mood Food Café

    Leave your expectations at the door when you enter the tiny Zen space at Good Mood Food Café. Don't let the idea of "raw" discourage you, though—what you'll find here is scrumptious, unusual and energizing. Diners can munch on vigorous salads, their own sandwich creations, or such Good Mood favorites as Ursula's Famous Nutburger (a hearty patty of mashed raw… More >>
  • Best Japanese Restaurant

    Honda-Ya

    Being that Honda-Ya is a pub, it's not open for lunch. But come 5:30 p.m., the beer starts to flow, and it doesn't stop till 1 a.m. The best seats are in the tatami room, where you sit cross-legged on a woven mat of reeds. Start the evening by ordering one of the Big Three beers: Sapporo, Kirin or Asahi.… More >>
  • Best Vietnamese Restaurant

    Brodard

    To pick one restaurant out of the hundreds lining the streets of Little Saigon is tricky. For one thing, with Vietnamese cuisine, there are subgenres. But we like Brodard because it's got a little of everything. Fried yams served with mountains of herbs. Plates of rice with grilled meats. Noodles swimming in soup or stir-fried with crab meat. But no… More >>
  • Best Thai Restaurant

    Thai Nakorn

    Without so much as a plane ticket, you can eat Thai food at its most authentic, here in Orange County. The place: Thai Nakorn. Sure, there are plenty of other Thai restaurants to choose from, but none has a fan base so devoted that one patron actually offered to pay for a new restaurant when the first burned to the… More >>
  • Best Filipino Restaurant

    Kapamilya

    Orange County lacks the great Filipino joints our neighbors in Artesia and Cerritos take for granted. So where to go to satisfy your adobo addiction and other Pinoy pinings? Kapamilya in Fountain Valley, where the turo-turo is tasty-tasty and eight different almusals (the Filipino answer to the all-American breakfast) are served throughout the day, complete with a fresh tomato, a… More >>
  • Best Indian Restaurant

    Dosa Place

    Dosa Place has made our Best of OC list for the past couple of years, and with good reason. It remains the county's sole restaurant to specialize in dosas: cheap, crepe-like leviathans accompanied by a spicy soup and made 17 different ways—stuffed with potatoes, melted with Cheddar cheese, crammed with ground curried goat meat, or plated hollow, in a presentation… More >>
  • Best French Restaurant

    Marché Moderne

    Even if it weren't in the toniest part of South Coast Plaza (above Tiffany's), Marche Moderne would still be one of the best French restaurants in the county. Impeccable service by actual Frenchmen, a gorgeous patio with potted fruit trees, and a food tour de France prepared by owner/executive chef Florent Marneau that marches through bistro staples like steak frites… More >>
  • Best Pâtisserie

    Café Blanc

    Do yourself a favor the next time you finish a meal at a fine restaurant: skip dessert. Then drive to Costa Mesa and go to Café Blanc, a pâtisserie (cakes and tarts), glâcerie (gelato and sorbetto) and confiserie (chocolates and candies) crammed in a space no larger than your average taco stand. If you eat in, they'll doll up your… More >>
  • Best Mexican Restaurant

    Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen

    We're still waiting for a table at Gabbi's, the Old Towne Orange restaurant that hasn't had a slow night since its opening last summer. And as long as Gabbi Patrick continues to cook up a fine overview of Mexican regional favorites—Yucatecan sopes (called panuchos), fried cheese slathered in a mild green mole, and the hottest salsa around—the wait will still… More >>
  • Best Restaurant Décor

    Mesa

    Imagine hundreds of ivy plants glued to one wall of Mesa, the latest decadent restaurant to hit the Lab/Camp complex. Imagine the bar roof allowing a view of the nighttime sky and retracting during balmy eves. Imagine large, luxurious dining booths. If you can't quite imagine this, then you must visit because the Mesa owners arrogantly won't allow people to… More >>
  • Best French Toast

    Starling Diner

    Eeeeevery now and then, it's okayto treat yourself to some nostalgically wonderful, sugary confection of a breakfast food. Especially if it's the Broiled San Francisco Stuffed Toast from the ever-adorable Starling Diner. The place is decorated with all sorts of precious tchotchkes and gramma-'n'-pop-pop sort of wall art. Wicker chairs and Mason jars used as cups top off the charming… More >>
  • Best Bagels

    Blue Mountain Bagels

    Who doesn't love a good bagel in the morning. And Blue Mountain Bagels knows how to bake a killer bread circle. Try their cranberry bagel. Cut in half and toasted, then topped with cream cheese, tomato slices and lemon pepper, it's a bagel-lover's dream. They also make some killer coffee. But wake up early—this bagel bakery closes its doors at… More >>
  • Best French Fries

    Houston's

    Fries these addictive should not just belong in a restaurant like Houston's. They should be sold on every street corner and for pennies, not as a side to a piece of steak that will cost significantly more. But we suppose it just provides an excuse to eat the steak. Houston's fries are of the shoestring variety; as thin as matchsticks,… More >>
  • Best Chicken Wings

    Wingnuts

    You can't really compete with the West Coast's first restaurant to specialize in chicken wings, one that offers 30 different sauces ranging from roasted garlic parmesan to honey mango habanero. Of course, if the only flavor you want on your wings is "hot," they can do that too—the Double Dog Dare sauce is recommended only for masochists, though for the… More >>
  • Best Gelato

    Gelato Paradiso

    You can get ice cream anywhere. But gelato? No, you have to look for gelato. Why? Well, anyone with a freezer and a scoop can sell ice cream. Gelato, on the other hand, has to be made fresh on site. Gelato Paradiso is the best of those places, where it's presented in rippled heaps and in more flavors than Newport… More >>
  • Best Birthday Cake

    Marble Cake at French's Cupcake Bakery

    French's marble cake, covered in frosting and laden with twists of vanilla and chocolate sponge cake, is childhood in a box. Even if it's not your birthday today, it'll sure feel like it as you dig into those choco-vanilla (with a touch of almond) depths, watching co-workers dig plastic forks and fingers into the rest of the cake. It'll be… More >>
  • Best Steakhouse

    Mastro's Steakhouse

    In every human lives a carnivore. When you decide to feed it the meat it craves, there's no better place than Mastro's. Their specialty? Steak. Beefsteak served sputtering in melted butter on a plate heated past the temperature of magma. Every slice you make will be an effortless task. The meat will offer little resistance to your knife. Order it… More >>
  • Best Restaurant for Tolkien Geeks

    The Hobbit

    You wouldn't want to work where two of the unluckiest Disneyland "cast members" do: inside a truck with a deep fryer parked at the end of Main Street. But their sweat and toil produce one of the best (if not the only edible) treats inside the park: the corn dog. Theirs is a thick and juicy wiener, hand-dipped in cornbread… More >>
  • Best Two-Hour Wait for Food

    Anjin

    Japanese barbecue places can be tricky. One wrong move, and you end up at a bland, touristy teppanyaki like Benihana, where semi-impressive food tossing is abundant, but taste isn't. A general rule of thumb: Head where the crowds are. And Anjin has crowds. The wait can be almost unbearably, dissuadingly long—as long as two hours on the weekends. The trick… More >>
  • Best Chinese Restaurant

    369 Shanghai Place

    For a couple of reasons: First, the name. Maybe it signifies something in Chinese (mystic, no doubt, in accordance with the ways of Celestials), but we like it for its faithfulness to multiples of three. We also enjoy its unassuming location in a shopping plaza, which tricks you into believing it's just another Chinese restaurant and not one that specializes… More >>
  • Best Outdoor Dining

    La Galette Creperie

    There's a certain magic in San Clemente's rolling, Spanish-named streets, almost all of which end up in Avenida Victoria, the basin just across the street and sand from the San Clemente Pier. Enjoy this view from La Galette Creperie—along with the requisite hot chicks, fat tourists and occasional Amtrak train—while inhaling the yummy crepes.… More >>
  • Best Italian Restaurant

    Onotria Wine Country Cuisine

    Massimo Navaretta is a fixture on the county's dining scene, and many local eaters still fondly remember his late Scampi restaurant. They're all now at his newest place: Onotria, which continues to expand its culinary horizons every month with the freshest organic produce, artisan ingredients flown in from Italy and various dining events. With all the attention placed on ensuring… More >>
  • Best Fusion Restaurant

    Cafe Hiro

    "Fusion" is a restaurant buzzword that's fallen out of favor. But for lack of a better term, that's what we'll call chef Hiro Ohiwa's food ("French and Italian-influenced Japanese" just doesn't roll off the tongue). Seaweed meets spaghetti; uni flavors the risotto; osso bucco collapses at the touch of a fork. Entrées come with a homemade soup of the day… More >>
  • Best Service In a Restaurant

    Angelo's Burgers

    Girls in skirts and roller skates: What more does man need to go along with his dinner? Nowadays, this pleasure can only be found at Angelo's Burgers.… More >>
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