The Best Restaurants in Orange County, 2014

The Best Restaurants in Orange County, 2014
Photo by Rickett & Sones

Well everyone, its that time of the year again. We've pondered ever so hard and have come up with a list of what we think are the best everything in Orange County. Now, for those of you who can't click over to the Best Of section of our website, or pick up a paper copy (Seriously though, they're glossy! And pretty!), I've glued together all of the best restaurants in this blog post. There's a lot of them -- from best bread to best breakfast and, well, best restaurant -- so start reading, and have a great Best Of 2014.

Best Fish and Chips Orange County 2014 - England Fish & Chips

An honest-to-Flying Spaghetti Monster chippy right in Long Beach, the kind of place where they'll fry just about anything, including spears of pineapple (something probably never envisioned in the cold, ananas-less void that is the Great Britain of yore), but you should start with two enormous pieces of fish--flaky, moist and encased in a batter that stays crunchy even when doused in vinegar. The fries? Well, if you must--but the onion rings are better.

Best Vietnamese Restaurant Orange County 2014 - Ngoc Thuy

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"Rollicking good time" and "Vietnamese restaurant" don't often show up in the same sentence together, but Ngoc Thuy is the most popular quan nhau in Little Saigon for a reason. Maybe it's the beer, maybe it's the beautiful Vietnamese women sitting and chatting with you, maybe it's the karaoke that starts around 10 . . . or maybe it's that the food is miles ahead of any other Vietnamese bar in the county. Grilled razor clams, fried-fish croquettes, whole crab with garlic, grilled quail, hotpot--you can settle in for hours here and not wince too badly at the bill after they serve you a free dish of fruit.

Best Vegetables Orange County 2014 - Boldo Bol

They say the best vegetables are the ones that grow in your back yard. But if you live in an apartment or have no back yard, the best alternative is Boldo Bol, which buys the vegetables from local farmers and backyard growers throughout the county, then cooks them simply. The specific dishes vary daily based on what's been bought, but at these prices, you can afford to experiment.

Best French Fries Orange County 2014 - Marché Moderne

Of course, the best French fries are going to come from a French restaurant. Marché Moderne makes them to go with its moules-frites, but you can order them as a side dish for anything, and you should. They're fried correctly--once in warm oil to cook the potato, then in blindingly hot oil to crisp the outside--and they go wonderfully with the aioli you'll ask for on the side. The fact that they're named after another OC publication famous for its food critic's finicky taste in frites (Brad A. Johnson, the James Beard-winning food critic for the Orange County Register who obsesses about French fries in all his reviews--even for those about Mexican restaurants) just makes them that much more enjoyable.

Best Meal You Might Regret Orange County 2014 - Harry's Grill

There are few feelings better than those you get when starting an avocado cheeseburger at Harry's Grill in Sunset Beach. And there are few feelings worse than when you finish one. The burgers are stacked tall and loose, heavy and dripping, and they are brought to you on a tray. Two flimsy buns barely contain the fat patty and the weighty wedges of avocado. The tomatoes slightly lack flavor, but not juice--it's as if they exist to drip down your forearm and back onto the plate. Pair your meal with an icy, thin, yet somehow satisfying milkshake--you're going to feel heavy at the end of this meal, so you might as well. And feel free to enjoy it before or after going to the beach; it all depends on whether you like your food coma on the sand or on the couch.

Best Filipino Restaurant Orange County 2014 - Jollibee

Ask anyone actually from the Philippines where they go for a taste of home, and each one answers the same: Jollibee. We know, we know--it's fast food! But it's also actually tasty. Order the "chickenjoy" and the spaghetti, and you have a meal fit for a beloved president: crispy chicken alongside a plate of noodles smothered with an impossibly sweet sauce that hides bits of ham, sausage and ground beef, all of it topped with a yellow cheese. It's comfort food for the Pinoy soul you never knew was in you.

Best Restaurant Ambiance Orange County 2014 - Javier's

Oh, don't go to Javier's for the food--oh, God, no. But as a place to party, a restaurant to which you go with a group of friends or by yourself looking to hook up with someone while fueled by tequila, with a layout that encourages roaming halls and running off to spots for making out, nothing beats Javier's. And it doesn't matter whether you're hitting up the ritzy Crystal Cove spot or the middle-class Irvine location: Both are masters at setting the scene for OC to play up to its Real Housewives worst. Even people who despise those stereotypes can spend at least one snarky night bemoaning the spectacle of it all with other Hipster Helens. Besides, even the biggest Mexican-food purist should succumb at least once to the siren call that is multiple MILFs whispering in your ear about how their high-school-aged kids are off with their dads at soccer camp.

Best Waterfront Dining Orange County 2014 - The Galley Café

The waterfront-restaurant rule goes like this: The better the view, the worse the food. High-priced, special-occasion, lousy restaurants on nosebleed-expensive real estate keep packing in the crowds because the location guarantees it, not because the food deserves it. Then you have the Galley Café, a wallflower of a diner that makes no effort to call attention to itself beyond a newfangled website. It manages to make the rent while serving inexpensive meals because the building was paid off before you were born and has been offering food since 1957. Back then, the grassy bluffs near the newly built Jamboree Road allowed motorists an unobstructed view of the harbor below, and you would have been able to see the café's neon sign from Coast Road. The food remains just as glorious: breakfast all day, burgers loosely hand-formed from beef ground fresh every morning. The nostalgic will want that burger served open-faced as a chili size, which means it's topped by a chili with beans that is made daily with the same spice blend that has been used for 60 years.

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