Orange County Chefs Dish Their Seasonal Specials

In Orange County, it’s less about the change in season and more about what’s being offered at the market or what warms your belly after the sun goes down. We take a break from the daily grind to check out what local dining rooms are updating their menus with . . . and it’s looking real savory.

Lighthouse Bayview Cafe
At the beginning of the month, Chef Ryan Sumner decided to not only change out a few lunch and dinner items, but he did a few breakfast and brunch upgrades as well. There on a weekday morning? Dive into a Blue Crab Omelet with asparagus and red pepper hollandaise or grub on Chorizo & Egg Tacos. At night, we’re torn between Pan Roasted Halibut over potato puree and Osso Bucco that’s been slow braised and partnered with mascarpone polenta. For brunch—- Croissant French Toast topped with brûléed bananas for the win. Bonus: They offer dockside dining. 1600 W Balboa Blvd, Newport Beach, (949) 933-1001;

Seasonal delights aren’t limited to eating off a plate, as Cocktail Curator Aaron Reid shows us. His handful of specials (and one completely customizable Woodford cocktail) includes a Lushtini of Tito’s, white cranberry and ginger beer. Our bets are on The Southern Graham, made of bourbon, grapes, basil, ginger ale and lemon. You could also lean towards Murphy’s Law featuring Slone Triple Cask Irish Whiskey. Live music gears up at 9 p.m., but DJ’s take it home at the end of the night. 719 W 19th St, Costa Mesa, (949) 536-4389;

Lido Bottle Works
We head back towards the water for upgraded versions of our favorites. It’s no standard Gem Lettuce; we’re talking chili lemon dressing, ricotta salata and polenta croutons. Meatballs are Curried Beef versions blended with Chinese sausage that take a dip in mint yogurt. Best-looking burrata goes to Chef Joel Harrington’s plate, decorated with candied pistachio and puree of roasted squash. While there’s a solid wine and beer listing, we wouldn’t mind a kombucha libation called Shore Break infused with lavender. Weekend brunch includes a mandatory black garlic and eggy LBW Burger, plus a better-than-avocado-toast that factors in cold smoked salmon and green olive relish. 3408 Via Oporto, Newport Beach, (949) 529-2784;

Mix Mix Kitchen Bar
One of our top five restaurants last year, the kitchen helmed by Ross Pangilinan is a study in properly plated produce. Coming off a Golden Foodie Awards win for Best New Restaurant (plus nomination for Chef of the Year), he’s about to celebrate Mix Mix’s one year anniversary. All month long, the dining room is offering a discounted four-course menu for $40. Devour the Shrimp Lumpia with grilled pineapple and tomato salad for starters. Their Crispy Duck Leg includes butternut squash ravioli and pomegranate. And diners who visit on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday can order the TWT Burger, stuffed with peppercorn sauce, mushrooms and truffle aioli. 300 N Main St, Santa Ana, (714) 836-5158;

South Coast Plaza: Water Grill, Hamamori, Leatherby’s, Vaca
Four of South Coast Plaza’s most talented chefs are featured in TASTE Magazine’s current issue. Coincidentally, the same article has us asking James Hamamori, Amar Santana, Damon Gordon and Greg Stillman about their fall and winter contributions to their respective restaurants. Hamamori favors black truffles, while Stillman of Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge enjoys a cornucopia of flavors like cauliflower, parsnips and cranberries. Vaca’s Santana prefers squash, while Water Grill’s corporate chef loves the versatility of wild mushrooms. Choose from one of their diverse menus the next time you’re hangry. 3333 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, (714) 435-2000;

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