How we sum up OC Restaurant Week: An opportunity to check out places we normally wouldn't. You can also think of it as a week of tasting menus. While we can't guarantee an acceptable price-to-portion-size ratio, we are happy to report there are more selections than ever. When your 'chains' include the likes of The Winery, Slapfish, Tommy Bahama's and Slater's 50/50, it ain't bad at all. Plus, the range in price is vast; as little as $10 for lunch and upwards of $50 for dinner. Here is the all-important link to the complete list of restaurants. And we've attached some handy-dandy links along the way for your reading pleasure. By the way, restaurant week is going on from this Sunday to the following Saturday.
We opted for a different approach to last year's recommendations. With a couple of exceptions, we tried to avoid naming a place referenced last year. Only eateries we've dined at previously made the list. Oh, we also lumped them into three categories: “Shiny”, “Mainstays” and “Yes, Chef!”.
Our Shiny and new spots weren't around this time last year. It may be three, six or even nine months new– but you haven't tried their Restaurant Week menu before. From the north, there's Tempo Urban Kitchen in Brea. We're digging their seafood options. Along the water, Dory Deli wants you to chill in Newport while chowing on creative sandwiches. White collars will like the chic vibe of Twenty Eight in Irvine (we hear dessert is a crowd pleaser). Laguna Beach's Tortilla Republic wants to wow you with four courses, plus optional people-watching at lunch for $15. Either way, you've hit one of the spots people have talked about.
The Mainstays have been there, done that, like Old Faithful. Down by John Wayne Airport, you've got your surf and turf. Sushi Dave serves the real deal at lunch insideTen Asian Bistro, while Mick's Karma Bar is legendary in the office complexes of Irvine. Lunch at a Laguna Beach resort for $20 is unheard of, unless you're The Loft at Montage. That's hard to pass up, and you can't beat the location. Costa Mesa gets our vote for a well-oiled machine that is Scott's Restaurant, where there's always a crowd. For hips that don't lie, head over to Marrakesh for a full on dining experience. Chef Manny is getting his foie gras on in Brea at TAPS, busting out an indulgent (exception to the rule) menu at dinner.
“Yes, Chef!” is exactly that. We aren't questioning their menus. They can walk the walk and talk the talk like no other. These chefs stand by their cuisine, and it is legit. Alan Greeley's Golden Truffle easily comes to mind. Sit down, shut up and enjoy whatever he brings out. If you are familiar with the food of Chef Ryan Adams, then you'll understand why both 370 Common and The North Left are in this category. Yes, North Left is also Shiny– making it twice as nice. The same can be said for Cathy Pavlos and her duo of tastes. Her original Lucca Cafe holds its own, while Provenance is near the top of our list. Now go figure out your category and book that res!
A contributing writer for OC Weekly, Anne Marie freelances for multiple online and print publications, and guest judges for culinary competitions. A Bay Area transplant, she graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management from Cal Poly Pomona. Find her on Instagram as brekkiefan.