Food & Drink

  • Best Outdoor Dining

    The Beachcomber

    If your own-of-town guests are keen on experiencing quintessential Orange County, take them to the Beachcomber. Here, they'll marvel at a prototypical OC scene: brunching trophy wives toasting one another on snatching deep-pocketed sugar daddies. Oh, the view of the beach is nice, too; reservations for the summer season are booked fast. What surrounds the beachside shack eatery is a… More >>
  • Best Waterfront Dining

    SOL Cocina

    Dropped daintily on Pacific Coast Highway above Newport Bay is SOL Cocina, an elegant establishment dedicated to bringing the flavors of Baja to Orange County. But this is cuisine with a conscience. The environmentally friendly menu boasts low-fat, healthy items, and almost everything is gluten-free. The chefs use only sustainable fish and humanely raised beef and pork—and many dishes can… More >>
  • Best Culinary Experimentalist

    Dave Emery

    What haven't we said about Dave Emery that hasn't already been said? The man is an all-around crazy person—and we mean that with the utmost respect. He insists on making everything he serves at Sol Del Sur Bistro from scratch and doing it all himself, with no assistance from a sous chef or even a dishwasher. All evidence suggests he… More >>
  • Best New Restaurant

    Chapter One: the modern local

    Former Haven Gastropub partner Jeff Hall throws down the gauntlet with Chapter One, a challenge to not only his former colleagues, but also his neighbors at Santa Ana's burgeoning restaurant scene. The bar pours old-man drinks with equal jiggers of expertise and knowledge of the mixological arts. It's also up-to-date on the local beers. Meanwhile, chef Oge Dalken, a culinary… More >>
  • Best Service In a Restaurant

    Old Vine Café

    Old Vine is no stranger to these pages, having won Best Restaurant in 2009—and it has broadened its ambitions since then, hosting wine nights and even leading culinary tours of Italy. But the attention of brothers Mark and Brandon McDonald to the homefront hasn't suffered: You still see Brandon every morning through night, guiding customers old and new through the… More >>
  • Best Place to Ogle the Waitstaff

    Hapa J's

    Service with a smile is nice—but it's better if that smile is bleached white and framed by lip-gloss. The waitresses at Hapa J's are catalog-ready at all times, with effortlessly manicured nails, glossy hair and sun-kissed skin; they're what all of Orange County should look like, if everyone was an extra from, well, The O.C. But the servers here are… More >>
  • Best Restaurant When Someone Else Is Paying

    Raya

    You know you're in it for a few Benjamins when you see the view from your table inside the Ritz-Carlton hotel. It is a soaring panorama of the Pacific Ocean to which only cruise ship passengers are usually privy. But the food is also worth the money. If not yours, then someone who's willing to admit it is a better… More >>
  • Best Restaurant to Take the Kids To

    Pepz Pizza

    The best restaurants for kids are the kind where it doesn't matter if they run around like, well, kids. Pepz (yes, with a Z) is a throwback to pizza parlors of old, where the little ones can disappear into the small arcade in the back. On weekends, each of the branches of this OC-only mini-chain is full of sport teams… More >>
  • Best Restaurant/Art Gallery Fusion

    2nd Floor

    There are several art forms, and 2nd Floor rolls them into one. Primarily providers of culinary art, its walls are lined with paintings from local artists, and it often hosts live music. All of the art featured in its monthly art shows is for sale, with all profits going to the artist. Perched atop the shops of Main Street in… More >>
  • Best Place to Get Some Work Done

    Monkey House Café

    At this sprawling, family-run coffeehouse and café, the menu is your usual fare—coffee drinks, deli and grilled sandwiches, salads, soups, and pastries—though tasty and affordably priced (the delicious Funky Monkey espresso/chocolate/banana blended drink costs less than $4). But this is also an unexpected haven for those needing to get some work done on the ol' laptop. The WiFi is free,… More >>
  • Best Romantic Restaurant

    AnQi

    Though the elegant Charlie Palmer next door at South Coast Plaza is also a strong contender, around here, we like our romantic dining to offer at least a hint of what's supposed to happen after dinner. And if the dark, voluptuous embrace of AnQi doesn't feel sexy to you, check your pulse. Elizabeth An—daughter of Helene An of Crustacean fame—knows… More >>
  • Best Restaurant Décor

    True Food Kitchen

    Should a bee ever make it inside True Food Kitchen, it would be thoroughly confused. Here is a restaurant that could be the Newport Beach outpost of the Secret Garden. The hostess' podium is a sculpted topiary. The fresh fruits aren't just decoration; they're also functional, ending up as blender fodder for smoothies. As in a greenhouse, sunlight floods in,… More >>
  • Best Worst-Kept Secret

    The Secret Spot

    Squirreled away in a run-down strip mall and blocked from sight by a car wash is the Secret Spot. Despite its name, the lunchtime rush usually draws a packed patio and a persistent line that extends well past the doorway; Huntington Beach locals seem to either love the place or have never heard of it, but the number of those… More >>
  • Best Late-Night Dining

    BCD Tofu House

    One of the few 24-hour, sit-down restaurants in Irvine not named Denny's or Norms, BCD Tofu House is a haven for UC Irvine students on an all-night Korean-food bender. Its two 24-hour locations (Irvine's Diamond Jamboree and Garden Grove's Koreatown) are known for magma-hot, stone pots of spicy soon tofu, stews loaded with spicy chili powder and meat. Choose the… More >>
  • Best Reason to Wait for Hours at the Costa Mesa DMV

    Taco Mesa Across the Street

    Any joy left in your being will get sucked right out of you in the DMV waiting area in Costa Mesa. All you have to hold on to is the knowledge you will one day (or week?) leave the place, rewarding your patience across the street. That is where one finds the culinary oasis that is the original Taco Mesa.… More >>
  • Best Place to Congregate and Smoke

    McClain's Coffeehouse

    Remember that monumental coffeehouse explosion in the 1990s? Though the era of Nirvana witnessed big-box coffee brewers making their march toward global domination, there was plenty of competition from smaller mom-and-pop operations. Indie spots such as Rock 'N Java and Gypsy Den offered patrons the quality of corporate coffee with the pre-Hipstamatic ambiance of an alternative-music venue. Though Starbucks' dominion… More >>
  • Best Diner

    Harbor House Café

    Run by the colorful, free-spirited Gary Quick, Sunset Beach's charming red-and-white café is perched in the shadow of the city's historic water tower; it's the place for artists, nomads, surfers, students and tourists hankering for a heaping plate of tasty American fare at any hour. With wood-paneled walls dripping with memorabilia—vintage movie posters, surfboards, signed jerseys—the coastal diner is as… More >>
  • Best Seafood Restaurant

    The Winery

    When three diners order different fish entrées, each of which come out perfectly executed, you'd expect to be sitting in a seafood-only specialty spot. The Winery actually has as much red meat on the menu as fish and shellfish, but the kitchen sources amazing seafood and executes each dish with masterful skill. The seared Mediterranean branzino, for instance, is a… More >>
  • Best Steakhouse

    Agora Churrascaria

    After you've had your fill of steakhouses and their boring slabs of meat, Agora will show you how steak should be done: impaled on metal swords, served by sash-wearing gauchos and offered as an all-you-can-eat. Except maybe the Argentineans, no one can match the Brazilians' love of beef. And in Orange County, no restaurant demonstrates the expression of that love… More >>
  • Best Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurant

    Happy Family

    When you finally tire of the narcissism and self-righteousness that pervades most vegetarian/vegan restaurants, come to Happy Family. Here, meat abstinence isn't a fashionable lifestyle choice; it's religion. Even if you don't quite buy the Buddhist sutras that forbid garlic and onion because they engender anger and irritability in mortals, you won't miss them. Besides, you could do well by… More >>
  • Best Place to Call a Dietary Truce

    Roots Gourmet

    It's not easy being a public vegetarian in Orange County. More often than not, the courteous herbivore will find him- or herself constructing haphazard meals out of side dishes at omnivorous restaurants when out with friends. It doesn't help that avid meat-eaters tend to approach dining out at an exclusively vegetarian restaurant about as enthusiastically as they would a visit… More >>
  • Best Breakfast

    Cappy's Cafe & Cantina

    There has been a Cappy's on the north side of Pacific Coast Highway between Superior and Prospect avenues since 1957; the current owners should wear throwback jerseys—and not just because they've kept the joint grungily retro. Breakfast portions are as huge as they are delicious, which, along with the shapely and friendly waitstaff, ensures Cappy's is jammed on weekends. Start… More >>
  • Best Sunday Brunch

    Loreley Restaurant at the Phoenix Club

    Anaheim's German roots are alive and well at the Phoenix Club, a social watering hole better known for its beer tents and pretzels at Oktoberfest than its Sunday champagne brunch—which is a shame. The Sunday brunch is held in the Loreley Restaurant, a large room that nevertheless manages to not seem cavernous, and the spread in the sun-filled atrium is… More >>
  • Best Mongolian Barbecue

    Great Wall Mongolian BBQ

    Yes, pho is the current "it" dish when it comes to Asian cuisines. And some foodies might argue Mongolian barbecue is pedestrian. Who cares? It's fucking delicious. At Great Wall Mongolian BBQ in La Habra, the waitstaff are super-attentive, greeting incoming patrons with loud hellos, followed by garrulous goodbyes upon departure. But the food is the main event, and there's… More >>
  • Best Vietnamese Restaurant

    Ngu Binh

    The Hue region of Vietnam is home to tinkerers, alchemists and artists who use rice flour as their chosen medium. Ngu Binh should be considered both a laboratory and a master's gallery of these arts, as its dishes are mostly rearrangements of the starch mixed into batter. Steamed in tiny saucers, they're called banh beo. Spread as thin as film… More >>
  • Best Thai Restaurant

    Sutha Thai Kitchen

    Last year, we singled out Sutha as the Best Thai Restaurant Per Square Foot; but this year, it has earned an upgrade, even though the square footage is the same. Do not take our description of its smallness as an exaggeration: Sutha can barely fit 10 people comfortably. In fact, the place feels even smaller as more people discover it.… More >>
  • Best Korean Restaurant

    Kaya

    If you were to judge a Korean restaurant by how many varieties of complimentary panchan dishes are offered, Kaya would automatically triumph. It puts out 10 in all, while most are content in providing half that. Each item tastes of motherly effort and care. Egg enriches the cooling potato salad, the chap chae wiggles, and the stewed potato cubes taste… More >>
  • Best Japanese Restaurant

    Habuya

    First, let's put it on the record: Habuya is an Okinawan eatery, not a Japanese one. It is true that Okinawa is a prefecture of Japan, so it's technically still Japanese food; but that's like saying a pizza from New York is the same as pizza everywhere else. Okinawa has a distinct culinary culture. Unparalleled in their love of pork… More >>
  • Best Sushi

    Gesshin Japanese Restuarant

    This eatery, whose name translates as "heart of moon," may not be as well-known as some OC sushi powers, but it has been open for 20 years and earned a loyal following. Why? For one thing, in addition to the overall menu being actually affordable, it offers good value: There are actual chunks of tuna in the spicy tuna rolls.… More >>
  • Best Stationary Taco Stand for Your Drunk Ass

    Taqueria De Anda

    It's 2:30 a.m., you just closed down one of the bars in Fullerton and are heading north on Harbor Boulevard in the passenger seat of your designated driver's car. Street signs are illegible, and there seems to be an extra set of dividers in the road. Yes, your head is spinning, but more pressing is the insatiable hunger gnawing at… More >>
  • Best Hawaiian Breakfast on the Mainland

    No Ka Oi

    Sandwiched between Huntington Beach's Main Street breakfast staples the Sugar Shack and Longboard is the tastier, less-crowded and slightly pricier No Ka Oi, whose name says it all, translating from Hawaiian to "unparalleled" or "the best." It's a crime the Islands-inspired restaurant and watering hole is not as popular for the most important meal of the day as are the… More >>
  • Best Middle Eastern Restaurant

    Olive Tree

    Anaheim's as-yet-undesignated Little Arabia community centers on Olive Tree, owned by Abu Ahmad, with head chef Um Alaa cooking an astounding list of uncommon Jordanian, Palestinian and Egyptian specialities. While the standard fare of meze and kebabs are available, the thing to do is ask what's in the hotel pans behind the counter. Each day, there are one or two… More >>
  • Best Identity-Confused Cuisine

    Taco Loco

    Fusion can be a loaded term when it comes to cuisine, but Taco Loco wears the adjective like a badge of honor. Incorporating Californian, Southwestern and Cajun flavors into its recipes, Taco Loco delivers deliciously innovative, yet simple renditions of Mexican fare that kick the salivary glands and tame the belly. Although this little seaside joint serves up some mean… More >>
  • Best Italian Restaurant

    Cucina Alessá, Laguna Beach

    Alessandro Pirozzi is three-for-three. His Newport Beach original still puts out the pasta plates that established his street cred. When he built his second, the Huntington Beach Alessá, it quickly became a two-story palace to worship his mastery of the Italian food arts. Order a pizza or the butternut squash ravioli with brown butter and fried sage leaves, and you'll… More >>
  • Best Buddhist-Friendly Food to Go

    Bo De Tinh Tam Chay

    The epitome of hole-in-the-wall dining, Bo De Tinh Tam Chay is little more than a warming station and an open-seating area in a hidden Vietnamese shopping plaza. If you're all about the ambiance, chances are you'll walk out of this place just as quickly as you walked in, but the superficial shall never attain enlightenment! Yeah, the place could use… More >>
  • Best Boiling Crab Imitator

    The Kickin' Crab

    Every entrepreneur wants to cash in on a craze. When it comes to Cajun-Vietnamese, it doesn't get any crazier than the Boiling Crab. It didn't invent the concept; it just made it popular—a two-hour-wait kind of popular. The formula for the food is simple, and thus easy to replicate. Take all manner of sea creatures, but particularly crawfish and shrimp,… More >>
  • Best Shabu Shabu/Hot Pot Restaurant

    The Red Pot

    Last year, we tongue-in-cheekily dubbed the restaurant that preceded the Red Pot as "The Best Restaurant That Will Close Soon." Despite our attempt at a reverse-jinx, Four Seasons Hot Pot still shuttered. But as we mourn its loss, we celebrate the birth of its successor. The Red Pot serves essentially the same food in exactly the same spacious, window-bordered room,… More >>
  • Best Indian Restaurant

    Namastey India

    The best Indian restaurant in Orange County isn't even a restaurant; it's a grocery store with a vegetarian steam table in the back. The table, which might give anyone pause, is an array of the known (saag paneer, chana masala) and the unknown (bitter melon, curried jackfruit, soy "fish" curry). Those who can't bring themselves to order from trays should… More >>
  • Best Mexican Restaurant

    Taquería Zamora

    There are Mexican restaurants, and then there's this standard, almost a template for all that is right about Mexican cuisine in the U.S.: grimy floors; televisions tuned to some soccer match—any soccer match—somewhere in the world; jukebox blasting regional music when there aren't tejana-wearing men going from table to table, ready to trill and strum accordions and guitars for requests;… More >>
  • Best Chinese Restaurant

    Tri Village - CLOSED

    Get the Peking duck. It takes two hours' advance notice and a $30 investment, but in those two hours, an ordinary water fowl is transformed into candy. Roasted to a gleaming mahogany finish, the lacquered bird is presented for inspection table-side before it is carved by servers more attentive than any you'd meet in the San Gabriel Valley. Watch and… More >>
  • Best Peruvian Restaurant

    Aji Limon

    You've had saltado before, but did you know it's not even an indigenous Peruvian dish? A bicultural offspring of Andean ingredients married with Chinese stir-fry technique, saltado is just one of many dishes of comida chifa, the kind of culinary melding that always occurs when the Chinese diaspora moves in. But until Aji Limon debuted, no OC Peruvian restaurant had… More >>
  • Best Taiwanese Comfort Dishes

    A&J

    A&J is like a pair of old sneakers. There are newer, shinier ones out there, but something keeps drawing us back to what we know and love. In the case of this tiny, always-busy, cash-only Irvine deli, it's the broad yet solid roster of traditional Taiwanese dishes at fast-food prices: juicy, pan-fried beef buns, scallion pancakes, crispy pork chops, pungent… More >>
  • Best Crack and Cheese

    The Alley

    The baked mac and cheese at the Alley—the Newport Beach Rat Pack hangout at the Pacific Coast Highway-Superior Avenue entrance to the Peninsula—is one of those appetizers you think about weeks, months and years after you've consumed it. Perfectly prepared noodles swim in a shallow bowl with gooey Gruyère cheese, firm bacon bits and flavor-packed crimini mushrooms. The portion is… More >>
  • Best Biscuits

    Mama's On 39

    This new Surf City restaurant started by Pete Truxaw, co-founder of Salt Creek Grille of Dana Point, and his partner Ryan Tombrello has been hammered by food critics, amateur and professional. But there's no denying the Southern-comfort-food-themed joint has at least one culinary winner going for it: the warm, homemade bacon biscuits served all day. Craggy on top like drop… More >>
  • Best Cow At a Fish Joint

    Billy's At the Beach

    The ownership changed not too long ago, and with it the menu, but this oceanfront dining spot in Newport Beach still specializes in great seafood. You can't go wrong if fresh opakapaka is among the day's catches. The macadamia-nut-crusted salmon and mahi mahi are also winners. Then there's the spicy kick delivered by Cajun-spiced yellowfin tuna. But most surprising of… More >>
  • Best Poke

    Royal Hawaiian - CLOSED

    A staple in Hawaii, poke (pronounced poh-keh) is a refreshing appetizer or side dish typically made with raw fish, limu (algae), inamona (roasted, crushed candlenut) and sea salt. Here on the mainland, it is often reimagined but seldom perfected. Royal Hawaiian gets it right. At the tikitastic Laguna Beach landmark, the dish shines in its simplicity. Chef James Harris takes… More >>
  • Best Steamed Buns

    Myung In Dumplings

    In one hand, a man holds the dough, flattened to a disc. With the other, he spreads the filling of minced cabbage, meat and noodles. Coaxed by his palm, the dough begins to creep up the sides of the mound. His fingers, as nimble as those of a sleight-of-hand artist, seal the top in a series of perfect crimps and… More >>
  • Best Dessert If Someone Else Is Paying

    The Madison Restaurant

    The jumbo-lump, blue crabmeat crab cakes with citrus butter sauce. The warm baby-spinach salad with apple-cider balsamic vinaigrette. The "Fred Astaire" beef Wellington with filet mignon, foie gras and mushroom duxelle wrapped in puff pastry with a shower of Pinot Noir sauce. Yep, if someone else is paying at this hoity-toity restaurant that appears to have been created by The… More >>
  • Best Off-Menu Entrée

    Nick's Pizza Ristorante Italiano

    Before the shopping center at Harbor Boulevard and Wilson Street in Costa Mesa was redone years ago, Nick's was actually behind the businesses facing Harbor, in the kind of spot where you had to know where it was to find it. Fortunately, bustling Nick's is now in a high-profile locale between Harbor and the TJ Maxx. But that's not all… More >>
  • Best Taco

    Alebrije's Grill

    Last year, we named the Alebrije's truck's taco acorazado the best dish in Orange County, and it could top Best Of lists for decades to come, not just because of its story—a regional speciality of Cuernavaca, whose residents have a stranglehold on Orange County's lonchera industry, but concocted here by Albert Hernandez, a native of Guanajuato who helped fight for… More >>
  • Best Pho

    Pho Thanh Lich

    If you can get past the year-round display of Christmas lights strung outside and the front of the house being as faded as the acid-washed denim your parents wore in high school, then you'll discover the reason this stalwart beat all comers in the Weekly's 2011 Final Pho tournament. Our Vietnamese-noodle experts named this the best bowl in our Little… More >>
  • Best Fish and Chips

    Muldoon's Irish Pub

    You can eat fish and chips at Muldoon's the way they need to be eaten: chased by a creamy-headed glass of Guinness. The pairing of fried cod and stout is as natural as cheese and wine. You have three venues within Muldoon's from which to choose your poison: as a proper meal at the restaurant itself; as a measly half-portion… More >>
  • Best Hamburger

    G Burger

    From the Charlie Palmers to the drive-thrus, the humble burger has been both priced up into the stratosphere and practically given away on dollar menus. But at George Makri's La Habra burger stand, there is a middle ground. Here, the often-divergent paths of price and innovation cross. In his G Burger, a rustic hand-formed patty is only the beginning. You… More >>
  • Best $4 Taco

    Matador Cantina

    Downtown Fullerton received an instant upgrade two years ago, when the execrable Rockin' Taco Cantina—and its insufferable dueling piano players—was replaced by the classy Matador Cantina. This upscale Mexican restaurant doesn't pay its rent with the Matador taco; that's the job of the bar and its expansive dinner menu. But if you're there for lunch—and aren't on some crazy carb-free… More >>
  • Best Dessert

    Cafe Hiro

    Hiro Ohiwa isn't a pastry chef by trade, but it would be hard to find a better dessert than his croissant bread pudding. When he retired it, customers demanded its return, so it came back, hopefully for good. Enjoy this warm, eggy masterpiece while you can, sopping it up with an ocean of bitter caramel sauce that has the burned… More >>
  • Best Cupcake

    Oh for Sweet's Sake

    The cupcake craze is petering out, but the Elvis cupcake from the Oh for Sweet's Sake truck may be the epitome of everything that's good about the reinvented classroom treat. A banana cupcake is smeared with a thin layer of peanut butter, then topped with chocolate icing and sprinked with bacon. Salty, sweet, savory and a little meaty; the only… More >>
  • Best Lettuce Wraps

    Ziing's Bistro & Bar

    Though downtown Fullerton is one of the Southland's prime drinking thoroughfares and features lots of opportunities to raise a glass in chic, finely appointed bars, it's also surrounded by one of Orange County's best horse-riding, hiking and mountain-biking trails: the Fullerton Loop. Though not super-technical, the loop is long and physically taxing. Many outdoor enthusiasts prefer to start and end… More >>
  • Ecco Restaurant

    Best Pizza

    Ecco Restaurant

    Costa Mesa is blessed with not one, not two, but three restaurants that specialize in the thin-crusted pizzas of Naples. Think of the pizzaioli at each restaurant as painters with a different vantage point of a model pizza Napoletana. Each rendition is good, but the most perfectly balanced pizza of them all is found at Ecco Restaurant in the Camp.… More >>
  • Best Burrito

    El Toro Bravo

    Costa Mesa's own tortilla factory and taquería griddles carne asada alongside long-cooked slivers of caramelized onion. Loaded into a flour tortilla with flavorful refried beans and Mexican rice to make a burrito the size of your forearm, it mates perfectly with the house-made salsa roja or salsa fresca. Want a reduced-carb burrito that won't take two meals to finish? Ask… More >>
  • Best Hot Dog

    Berkeley Dog - CLOSED

    Founded on the idea of cloning the famous Top Dog in Berkeley with the blessing of that hot-dog godhead and permission to buy from the same purveyors, these kings of NorCal hot dogs have opened three locations in our county in less than two years. So we must either have a lot of UC Berkeley alums who long for the… More >>
  • Best French Fries

    MVP's Grill & Patio

    Tucked into a residential neighborhood on Fourth Street stands MVP's Grill & Patio, a modest-looking, blue-and-white hut that serves a variety of burgers, sandwiches and salads. Menu items bear the names of famous athletes, including the appropriately named "Shaq," a hefty, succulent tower made from double beef patties, cheese, bacon, avocado, lettuce and tomato. But at MVP, the French fries… More >>
  • Best Brewery

    Noble Ale Works

    Jerry Kolbly may not have the high profile of some of the other brewers in Orange County—yet—but the man is everywhere, spreading his infectious love for good, hoppy beers. His Noble Ale Works keeps the longest hours of any dedicated tasting room; it's open Wednesday through Sunday, plus Mondays and Tuesdays when the Angels or Ducks are at home. (Look… More >>
  • Best Milkshake

    Hans' Homemade Ice Cream

    This time of year, ice-cream shops everywhere churn out pumpkin-pie ice cream, and some of that will get turned into tempting seasonal milkshakes. The best comes from one of Orange County's older restaurants, Hans' Homemade, open since 1972. The old-time ice-cream parlor feel is the real deal that corporate chains try so hard to copy—from the marble-topped wooden counters, padded… More >>
  • Best Date Shake

    Gyro Kabob - CLOSED

    The date shake is as quintessentially Southern California as surfboards and sunburns, though as times and taste buds change, it's quickly melting off the Orange County landscape. The most authentic one found today is at Gyro Kabob, a family-run Greek spot on the bustling Sunset Beach stretch of PCH. This mind-twistingly rich concoction is a smooth blend of ice, vanilla… More >>
  • Best Approximation of a Philly Street Pretzel

    Bread Gallery

    A German bäckerei at the beach? Yes, and the pretzels are top-notch: crusty and tangy on the outside, hot and pillowy inside. Take the pretzel home, heat it up in the oven, and devour it with mustard while pretending people are triple-parking in front of you on South Passyunk. Can't get to San Clemente? The pretzels are usually available at… More >>
  • Best Asian Pastries

    85°C Bakery Café

    How to achieve carb nirvana: Stand in the Disneyland-like line outside the glass doors of 85°C Bakery Café in Irvine's Diamond Jamboree. Inhale the buttery aroma of the goodness baking inside. Pass the bakery bouncer, grab a plastic tray and pair of tongs, and go wild. On the well-lit shelves of the airy shop, the first U.S. location of the… More >>
  • Best Spa Food

    Imperial Health Spa Restaurant

    After hours of sweating it out in steam rooms and saunas, we want to re-tox with real grub, not itty-bitty cucumbers and carrot sticks. The restaurant inside Imperial Health Spa gets that, serving up remarkably satisfying Korean fare that would only stink up the lavender-scented air at frillier establishments. In the small, cafeteria-like setting, you'll find substantial dishes of kimchi… More >>
  • Best Bakery

    Au Cœur de Paris

    What do you get when you marry a French baker to a Vietnamese cook, and then plunk them down just outside the limits of Little Saigon, in an unpretentious space in a surprisingly empty stretch of Edinger? You get crackly, fresh baguettes baked twice a day (without the rice flour so common in Little Saigon). You get pains aux raisins… More >>
  • Best Exotic Sausages

    Joe's

    For those skittish about meats that don't hail from cows or pigs, there's no better way to try them than in sausage form, in which (delicious) parts are hidden in a tube and tucked away in a bun. The menu at Joe's boasts a variety of esoteric brats you won't find at Der Wienerschnizel—wild boar, ostrich, rattlesnake and rabbit, as… More >>
  • Best Deli

    Moscow Deli

    Hidden in a multi-ethnic strip mall on Harbor Boulevard in Costa Mesa, Moscow Deli is a tiny slice of a cuisine underrepresented in Orange County. It's run by a pair of the nicest women ever to emigrate from Mother Russia, and the menu is full of a taste of home—if your last name ends in "ski." They've recently branched out,… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Fresh Soy Products

    Dong Phuong Tofu

    This alternative-protein paradise lurks on a tiny substreet, less than a holler away from Little Saigon's Asian Garden Mall. Its obscured location just off the beaten path of Westminster's bustling Bolsa Avenue draws in a predominantly Vietnamese clientele, but the goods it sells are too tasty to keep within the community. Family-owned and -operated, this bare-bones specialty shop has been… More >>
  • Best Potato Chips

    Rusty's Chips

    Leave it to this Huntington Beach-based company to make a hell of a classy and crunchy potato chip. Any old frying oil will do, right? Wrong! Vegetable oil? Yeah, right. Olive oil? Nope. Rusty's is all about safflower oil. And what about the salt? Sun-dried, evaporated sea salt from the French Mediterranean. Class-ay! Now, on to the crunch factor of… More >>
  • Best Old-School Food Truck

    Tortas Ahogadas Los Primos

    Jalisco is the Texas of Mexico. Everything's bigger, better or badder in Jalisco, from its sports teams to its cuisine. The best-known export from the capital of Guadalajara is the torta ahogada, a crusty birote roll stuffed full of carnitas and drowned (ahogada) in sauce. At Tortas Ahogadas Los Primos, a lonchera (emblazoned with the requisite picture of the Chivas,… More >>
  • Best New-Age Food Truck

    Seabirds

    Fresh off an appearance on Food Network's The Great Food Truck Race 2, Costa Mesa's own Seabirds truck now has a national profile. The show benefitted from telegenic truck owner Stephanie Morgan's striking beauty, but you wouldn't know how delicious her inventive all-vegan menu tastes by watching the telly. Where else can you find a tempura-fried avocado taco, or a… More >>
  • Best Farmers' Market

    Old Towne Orange Farmers' Market

    Downtown Orange seems like a natural candidate for a large farmers' market—walkable, with a university and plenty of upper-middle-class residences nearby—but attempts heretofore have been somewhat anemic. A group of chefs including the Crosby's Aron Habiger and Haven Gastropub's Greg Daniels have banded together to throw their collective culinary weight behind a new Saturday-morning market at the Villa Park Orchards… More >>
  • Best Doughnuts

    Lynda Sandwich

    Beignets are a very specific style of doughnut: yeasted dough rolled out thin and fried up puffy and crisp. Unlike at a more traditional doughnut shop, the folks at Lynda Sandwich don't make your beignets until you order them. It might take 10 minutes, but they're worth the wait. Lynda Sandwich is a Vietnamese bánh mì shop that pays equal… More >>
  • Best Bagels

    Benjies

    You'll find bagels hawked around these parts that are syringed full of cinnamon, jalapeño cheese and other flavor bastardizations that convert the doughy vessel into something entirely different, like a bagel-ish or bagel-tini. For God's sake, people, a bagel is yeasted wheat dough, preferably formed into a ring and boiled briefly before being baked. Dense, chewy and crisp, the toasted… More >>
  • Best Ice Cream

    Bruxië

    The frozen custard that Bruxië serves is mere ice cream the way a Ferrari is just a car. It deserves its own category. Unless you're from the Midwest, it will be a soft serve unlike any you've ever tasted, coaxed into an unequaled velvet texture that's smooth down to its molecular speck. The Bruxië boys source this ambrosia disguised as… More >>
  • Best Vietnamese Dessert Shop

    Thach Che Hien Khanh

    Che is hard to define to those who haven't grown up eating it. All che are desserts, but all desserts are not che. The sweet snack can most closely be translated to "pudding," yet it holds no real resemblance to it. Che comes in various flavors and incarnations, but the general unifying factors are sweetness, being served in a cup… More >>
  • Portola Coffee Lab

    Best Coffee

    Portola Coffee Lab

    Jeff and Christa Duggan started Portola Coffee in a tiny alcove of Irvine's Layer Cake Bakery, roasting beans every Saturday morning, building up a loyal following and selling their coffee wherever they could. They didn't brew any of it themselves, though Layer Cake used their beans exclusively. This past spring, the Duggans opened a futuristic, lime-green-and-bamboo space at the OC… More >>
  • Best Coffeehouse

    Coffee Code

    When a newly opened coffeehouse in a notoriously dead commercial block is packed with patrons every weekend night, something must be brewing right. Nearly a year into business, Coffee Code rests in the shadow of Knott's Berry Farm just before the intersection of Beach Boulevard and La Palma Avenue. Don't make the mistake, though, of showing up there for a… More >>
  • Best Teahouse

    Freesoulcaffé

    Lift the cap off one of the palm-sized glass containers displaying the café's wares and inhale deeply: sharp, fruity cranberry black tea; smoothly bitter, refreshing lemon myrtle green; the nutty, flowery sweetness of orchid oolong; cinnamon, cloves, coconut and lemongrass in the white chai. Served in a French press are a good three or four cups of fresh tea. Since… More >>
  • Best Toffee

    The Chocolate Soldier

    In a county full of franchise shopping-mall chocolate shops, the Chocolate Soldier stands out as a mom-and-pop shop, hand-making such treats as caramel-and-nut turtles and chocolate-covered "honeycomb"—the crisp, hard, caramel foam confection Brits might know as a Cadbury Crunchie bar, but here, it's done infinitely better. Among the specialties offered are the almond toffee—dare we say it's the best anywhere?… More >>
  • Best Dance Club

    Butterfly Lounge

    Located in a Costa Mesa industrial park that also houses Jugos Acapulco and Gloria's Mexican Food, Butterfly Lounge is the state's first size-acceptance club. Mainly, it's a BBW (Big Beautiful Woman) club, but the less-Rubenesque are welcome, too. On any Saturday night, you'll find several big-bootied honeys gyrating on the small, wooden dance floor. On one visit, when the DJ… More >>
  • Best Restaurant

    The Crosby - CLOSED

    Okay, so its service can sometimes be spotty, the music is usually a bit too loud, and forget about enjoying yourself after 9 p.m., when the hipsters invade and it becomes a shrine to PBR imbibing. But the culinary talents exhibited at the Crosby, in those precious few hours when it's functioning as a bona fide restaurant, are almost too… More >>
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