Looking for a few new places to add to your restaurant rotation? Sick of the same old ethnic digs? If you're on the prowl for a few new places to eat, here's our list of best restaurants for 2015, featuring everything from best seafood to best Mexi and best patio dining. This list joins our two already existing best things to eat and drink lists for 2015. Tomorrow? The best places to drink, but until then, bon appetit.
Best Restaurant Orange County 2015 – Taco María
We try to pass around this award every year–not only to spread the wealth, but also to acknowledge that chefs come and go and always up their game. But for probably the first time in Weekly history, we have a repeat winner. And the reason isn't because Taco María is the only restaurant to have appeared on 2014 best-restaurant lists for this paper, the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles, or because Food N Wine recognized chef Carlos Salgado as one of the country's 10 Best New Chefs earlier this year. It's because, despite getting invites from across the country from folks eager to taste the next generation of Mexican food, Salgado hasn't let fame go to his head; if he's in town, Salgado is hustling on the line alongside the rest of his crew. And who else in OC gets up before dawn every day to make masa from heirloom blue corn purchased directly from farmers in Mexico and is planning to launch a masa revolution by spreading its gospel? His aguachile? Entire restaurants have created less. Enough philosophizing–go eat!
3313 Hyland Ave. Costa Mesa, CA 92626. 714-538-8444. http://www.tacomaria.com/
Best Korean Restaurant Orange County 2015 – Kang Hodong Baekjeong
Orange County's Korean District has been expanding quietly for years, but it came into its own when Kang Hodong Baekjeong opened a branch here to satisfy homesick Korean-Americans who don't want to drive to K-Town in Los Angeles. The grill at Baekjeong ("Butcher") is smaller than normal and circled by compartments containing hot kimchi, corn cheese, slowly cooking egg, and onions with peppers. And the servers must have eyes everywhere because they bustle through so quickly–replacing panchan, barley tea, beer and soju–you might not notice them.
5171 Beach Blvd. Buena Park, CA 90621. 714-739-9678
Best Italian Restaurant Orange County 2015 – Pizzeria Ortica
You won't find a better pizza than at this stylish alternative to Il Fornaio, located around the corner from the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. The DOP Margherita pizza, salame piccante and rapini are nice gateway plates, but the homemade tagliatelle and pappardelle pasta are truly inspirational, best served with a Friuliano or Sangiovese from the restaurant's extensive wine list. And don't forget to get a cocktail from Joel Caruso, who gets a shoutout elsewhere in this issue.
650 Anton Blvd. Costa Mesa, CA 92626. 714-445-4900. http://www.pizzeriaortica.com/
Best Pop-Up Menu Orange County 2015 – Break of Dawn
Dee Nguyen's Laguna Hills breakfast-and-brunch spot has won many accolades over the years for its magnificent food, and its crowds have grown even bigger since moving from one end of the Oakbrook Village Shopping Center to another. But this year, Nguyen has put the rest of OC's dining scene on check by hosting multicourse pop-up dinners that are more intricate than DNA code yet fill you up better than two double-doubles. Make sure to follow him on Instagram: The chingón chinito offers these pop-ups whenever he feels like, each one selling out within hours of him revealing it.
24291 Avenida De La Carlota. Laguna Hills, CA 92653. 949-587-9418. http://www.breakofdawnrestaurant.com/
Best Back Patio Orange County 2015 – Restauration
Though it has a fun bar up front with a flat-screen TV, several beers on tap and a great wine selection, the real action is on Restauration's patio out back. There, a brick pizza oven competes for space with several tables, all enclosed by a wall with planters full of vegetables and herbs used in the kitchen. There's a happy-hour menu that features tapas-sized versions of some of the more popular dinner fare, but even the regular-priced dinners are worth sharing–somehow, they taste better when divvied up. On any given evening, you could find yourself sitting next to a group of elderly divas in sunhats or, say, celebrity drummer Josh Freese and his entourage.
2708 E. 4th St. Long Beach, CA 90814. 562-439-8822. http://restaurationlb.com/
Best Thai Restaurant Orange County 2015 – Essential Thai Cuisine
A neon sign in a window humbly beams, "Essential Thai Cuisine," and the restaurant lives up to its lofty name. Beyond satay sticks, the kitchen whips up appetizers such as a pungent larb with a minty, lemongrass-y aroma that's almost a hallucinogen. Being Anaheim and all, there are even Thai tacos! But at Essential Thai Cuisine, it's the curries that are, well . . . essential. The beef panaeng is king, with tender chunks smothered in a savory red curry. Don't skirt past the noodle dishes; instead, dial up the sweat bead-inducing heat with spicy noodles flecked with chile peppers while trying in vain to cool off by guzzling Thai beer.
2415 W. Lincoln Ave. Anaheim, CA 92801. 714-761-4585.
Best Greek Orange County 2015 – Mad Greek Restaurant
It's telling that among Stanton's many fenced-in, barren plazas, mom-and-pop restaurants such as the Mad Greek are withstanding hard economic times. Since 1981, this local staple has reliably cranked out greasy Greek goods. Order a gyro combo plate, and you'll get a sandwich stuffed with thinly shaved beef and lamb slivers. There are also hefty plates of kofta kebab or chicken souvlaki. And who doesn't appreciate fried zucchini, onion rings and mushrooms being dubbed a "veggie combo"? Enjoy the old-school menu while it lasts: The owner was overheard saying a revamp has been long overdue. Maybe the decadent new baklava shake is a good sign of things to come.
12120 Beach Blvd. Stanton, CA 90680. 714-898-5181. http://www.themadgreekrestaurant.com/
Best Middle Eastern Restaurant Orange County 2015 – Aleppo's Kitchen
A Syrian rarity in a restaurant landscape dominated by Lebanese cuisine, Aleppo's Kitchen offers such delights as khash khash, a plate of aromatic beef kebabs served next to a big bed of rice and grilled onions with toasted pita slices. Aleppo's is also famous across Southern California for having the largest variety of kibbeh, meatballs fried, skewered or even served raw. And if the food wasn't definitive enough, no dining ambience in Little Arabia is more radiant. The restaurant features a stunning mural of the Citadel of Aleppo, an ancient historical monument damaged by recent strife but pristine in the dining room.
513 1/2 S. Brookhurst St. Anaheim, CA 92804. 714-991-5000
Best Sunday Brunch Orange County 2015 – Filling Station
A perfect Sunday brunch requires three things: eggs, comfortable outdoor seating and puppies–mostly puppies. Driving by Filling Station, it's common to spot these things: specifically, corgis and people eating eggs Florentine on a shaded patio. There's no point in going any farther. Park the car, put your name on the waitlist, find a spot between a couple of cute dogs and wait. When your name is called some 20 to 60 minutes later, you'll be ready for your own eggs Florentine, a masterful display of poached eggs, spinach and bacon, served on an English muffin alongside hash browns.
201 N. Glassell St. Orange, CA 92866. 714-289-9714. http://www.fillingstationcafe.com/
Best Late-Night Dining Orange County 2015 – Norms
Oh, there are great local spots open 24 hours or that close at 3 a.m. But no matter your social station, everyone not only hits up Norms at least once a year, but they do so proudly, with no regrets, asking for extra Tapatío to mask the grease on the omelets and steaks. Did we say grease? We meant "awesome sauce"!
1550 E. Katella Ave. Orange, CA 92867. 714-639-7562. http://www.normsrestaurants.com/
Best Crawfish House Orange County 2015 – Shackie's Seafood and Oysters Bar
People in Orange County know all about Vietnamese-Cajun seafood restaurants, but that doesn't mean they're all the same (though Kickin' Crab and Boiling Crab have come close to each other). But Shackie's Seafood and Oysters Bar–formerly known as Seafood Shack–is distinctive: Instead of the hot, oily sauces served at other restaurants, the one at Shackie's is sweet, butterier and has way more garlic. The seafood is served differently, too: Instead of getting your seafood in a plastic bag, a waiter brings the seafood to your table, dumps it in a silver bowl and mixes it up for you. Don't miss the Cajun garlic fries sprinkled with Cajun powder and chopped garlic–fais-dodo, mon cher!
7681 Westminster Blvd. Westminster, CA 92683. 714-899-6100. http://facebook.com/SeafoodShackOC
Best Old-School Food Truck Orange County 2015 – El Rincón Del Sabor
Latinos of all walks–families, old gentlemen, millennials, etc.–come for their fix of food from Morelos and Mexico City. Go beyond the usual tacos and grab one of the many plates El Rincón Del Sabor offers, including tortas, mulitas, tostada de pata (pig's feet tostadas), quesadilla and, El Rincón's specialty, the pambazo–a large sandwich with bread dipped in guajillo sauce, then deep-fried, giving it a red-colored coat. Grilled onions and nopales are complimentary and served upon request.
Fifth and Mortimer streets. Santa Ana, CA 92701
Best Soul Food Orange County 2015 – Kenneth's Soul Food
Let's just get this out of the way: OC will never become a bastion of soul food. There are some spots that can throw down on some fried chicken, but we often see restaurants trying too hard to "elevate" down-home cuisine. But just as with the music, soul food is not about using new tricks or quirky innovation. There's no harm sneaking over to Long Beach to Kenneth's Soul Food to see what that means: impeccably crispy fried chicken, plus the gloriously flavorful and filling sides of simple mac and cheese, collard greens, baked beans, and cornbread. Never had an oxtail before? Then you're definitely in need of a soul-food education dunked in gravy, and this is the place you go to learn. Everything is simply–and very tastily–done. It's a drive-up, order-your-food, get-on-the-road kind of place, so don't plan on lingering (not that you'd really want to in this part of LBC). Get what you came for, then sneak back over the county line; your OC suburbanite friends will be none the wiser.
1782 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Long Beach, CA 90813. 562-599-7685. https://www.facebook.com/Kenneths-SoulFood-264721977051699/
Best Barbecue Orange County 2015 – Robert Earl's BBQ
It takes a lot of work to dethrone a Best Barbecue winner, and over the past 12 months, no one has managed to unseat Robert Earl's BBQ in Long Beach as our favorite. It's better than Bledsoe's and Phil's; it might even be the Southland's best Texas-style 'cue. The brisket is a must, of course, but the rib tips and beef ribs are amazing, if you can get them. For dessert, the banana pudding is ridiculous. Rumor has it Robert Earl is looking to open an Orange County location; now to find the right, receptive city. . . .
703 E. Artesia Blvd. Long Beach, CA 90805. 562-726-1116. https://www.facebook.com/R.E.bbq
Best Happy Hour Orange County 2015 – Chapter One: the modern local
Downtown SanTana has many a fine drinking establishment for happy hour, but Chapter One: the modern local lords over them all. The After Office Happy Hour deal lasts from 3 to 7 p.m. every Monday to Saturday, with half-off snack plates that include duck-fat fries, pulled-pork fries, habanero wings and stuffed jalapeños, plus $5 mini-mac-and-cheese bowls. Enjoy $3 off beer drafts, 20 percent off bottled beers and $5 house wines, as well as tapas for half off on Tuesdays, half-off wine on Wednesdays, and $3 champagne glasses on Thursdays. And throughout the week, enjoy the bar's beautiful Moscow mule, spicy and refreshing to the last drop, for only $6.
227 N. Broadway. Santa Ana, CA 92701. 714-352-2225. http://www.chapteronetml.com/
Best Diner Orange County 2015 – Flappy Jack's
It's too bad Flappy Jack's closes by 3 p.m. because this diner–which has a kitsch trifecta of Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Elvis statues in the middle of the restaurant–serves glorious breakfasts that would be great any time of the day or night. Most are egg-centered meals surrounded by satellites of other foodstuffs. The hash browns are in crispy shaved ribbons. The omelets are gigantic flotillas that overflow with protein, vegetables and cheese. And wouldn't it be great if you could have the Dutch pancake–a fluffy, eggy, thicker version of a crepe–for supper as though it were some sort of fruit-filled burrito?
Best Steakhouse Orange County 2015 – Chianina
Have you ever been to a steakhouse that raises its own cattle? Chianina raises cattle on an Iowa ranch from a special 2,200-year-old breed for which the restaurant is named. Until those earmarked bovines are ready for the grill, this steakhouse cooks Piedmontese beef, a similar species prized for leanness and a BMI so low it's reportedly healthy for you. When you eat it, you notice the meat is taut but not tough. You have to chew it; there's a slight resistance to your bite. But the beefiness is rich, and because it's coming from the muscle rather than the fat, it finishes clean. As for the healthiness? Well, that went out the window when you ordered one of the five different kinds of potato side dishes, most of them buttery and decadent.
Best Prix Fixe Orange County 2015 – Napa Rose
Hands down, the best restaurant on Disney property is Napa Rose, and the best way to dine at the marquee attraction at the Grand Californian Hotel is at its Chef's Counter for the prix fixe. This is no ordinary prix fixe: Not only do you get a front-row seat to the kitchen, but chef Andrew Sutton and his crew will also ask the members of your party about their likes and dislikes. When Sutton cooks the meals, he custom-makes every course, noting everyone's taste preferences. This means each member gets a different dish than everyone else. Dine with three friends, and you'll potentially see at least 20 distinct plates being eaten, without the same one showing up twice. No other prix fixe restaurant in OC does this willingly. Napa Rose thrives on it.
1600 S. Disneyland Drive. Anaheim, CA 92802. 714-781-3463. http://disneyland.disney.go.com/grand-californian-hotel/napa-rose/?name=NapaRoseDiningPage
Best Local Chain Orange County 2015 – Rockfire Grill
The burger at Rockfire Grill is twice as thick as In-N-Out's and charred in the right places. But it's not the meat that's the star; it's the baked-to-order bread shaped in a clamshell that hugs it. The outer surface is crusty, still hot to the touch and with the crunch of a fresh-out-of-the-oven ciabatta. So far, Rockfire only has two locations, but if owner Raj Syal's ambitions are met, you'll see more soon in OC–and then everywhere.
28251 Marguerite Pkwy. Mission Viejo, CA 92692. 949-364-3473. http://www.rockfire-grill.com/
Best Taco Tuesday Orange County 2015 – Kelly's Korner Tavern
Not only does Kelly's Korner Tavern serve up great drinks, but its food offerings are also among the best in the county to soak up working-class booze. And while the burgers, brunch and steak (!) are all great, the best deals come on Tuesday, when this most Placentia of bars goes Mexican. All day, it offers carne asada, carnitas and chicken, all accompanied by a green salsa that'll wow you with its wabiness. Each week's mystery taco is revealed on Instagram: could be buffalo chicken, Korean barbecue or other beauties. No matter what, be sure to tip Carmen well because she deserves it.
909 E. Yorba Linda Blvd. Placentia, CA 92870. 714-961-9396. http://www.kellyskornertavern.com/
Best Filipino Restaurant Orange County 2015 – Crispy House
If there's anything Filipinos love more than Manny Pacquiao, it's probably pork. And Crispy House is the pork world heavyweight champion. This restaurant behind a Del Taco in Artesia is named after its most popular dish: the crispy pata, a whole, deep-fried, bone-in ham hock the size of a boxing glove that's packed with stringy flesh and melting blubber, with the crunchy skin still attached. It's a knockout. Yet there's an even-better pork dish in the sisig, a divine hog hash consisting of deep-fried pork belly chopped into fragments, then dressed in citrus juice, onions and peppers. This one will have you down for the count on the first round–better odds on that happening than Floyd Mayweather agreeing to a rematch.
11869 Artesia Blvd. Artesia, CA 90701. 562-865-7340
Best Japanese Restaurant Orange County 2015 – Jinbei
Skip the bentos. Ignore the sashimi and nigiri. Jinbei does both great–spectacular, even–but the rule for ordering food here is to embrace the unfamiliar. The more exotic-sounding it is, the more it'll dazzle. Jinbei features dishes that go so far beyond teriyaki and California rolls; you'll need some assistance deciphering what most of them are. Order what the staff will tell you is raw octopus, and you'll discover bracing wasabi lubricating slippery tentacles that slide down your gullet. Marvel at the simplicity and softness of braised squid cooked with kabocha squash. And if you've never had unagi in any other state than lacquered in sticky sauce on a caterpillar roll, the vinegared eel and cucumber here is a must.
3915 Portola Pkwy. Irvine, CA 92602. 714-544-2800
Best Breakfast Orange County 2015 – The Snooty Fox
This place has been around forever, a relic from an era when the Velvet Turtle was on top of the restaurant food chain. The Snooty Fox's furniture looks as if it were stolen from your meemaw's dining room, and the servers are actual grannies. If it were in Iowa, politicians would converge upon it for campaign photo-ops to show they're men of the people. The food is made with care from scratch, every plate still garnished with a sprig of parsley. You want the corned beef, which is always crisped on the edges like lace and pudding-like throughout. Also, you need to side every egg with "Those Potatoes," crispy hash browns with bits of onion and peppers. Since you're not coming here on a weekday morning, go ahead and order the Spinach Delite, a three-egg behemoth filled with spinach, mushrooms and bacon that's gilded inside and out with cheese. Then take a nap for the rest of the afternoon.
23028 Lake Forest Drive. Mission Viejo, CA 92653. 949-770-7761
Best Chinese Restaurant Orange County 2015 – Din Tai Fung
In the new Riviera, the rich don't eat caviar; they eat dumplings–Din Tai Fung's dumplings, to be exact. Since the first OC outpost of the Taiwanese-based chain famous for xiaolongbaos (juicy pork dumplings) landed in South Coast Plaza last year, the insane, multihour wait times have abated only slightly. In the waiting area, you see workers creating the dumplings from behind a window: flattening the dinner-mint-sized pellets of dough into thin discs, smearing them with the ground pork and aspic filling, then knitting the tops into spiraling folds that crimp the dumplings shut. Grouped 10 to a basket and steamed, the aspic melts into soup, and the xiaolongbaos are beautifully born.
3333 Bristol St. Costa Mesa, CA 92626. 714-549-3388. http://www.dintaifungusa.com/
Best Peruvian Restaurant Orange County 2015 – La Pollada Peruvian Grill
You're in a room that looks as though it could be hosed down at the end of the night. From the back, you hear the clang of woks in an unseen kitchen, the clamor of steel-on-steel, the sizzle of saltado stir-fries being seared. Yes, you want some of it, if only because the now-classic fusion dish of Chinese-Andean roots is what everyone orders the first time around. Second-timers to La Pollada Peruvian Grill move on to the tallarines, linguine stir-fried with the same saltado ingredients to make a chow mein no Cantonese chef had ever imagined. When you turn pro, you take on the chupe de camarones, a thick, orange-hued shrimp soup enriched with milk and cheese that also has rice, large chewy kernels of choclo, about 20 shrimp and a whole egg cracked into it.
933 S Euclid St. Anaheim, CA 92802. 714-600-0730
Best New Restaurant Orange County 2015 – Outpost Kitchen
Forget that Outpost Kitchen's menu features buzzwords such as paleo and organic. Instead, focus on what this open kitchen space in an industrial section of Costa Mesa is producing: simple ingredients cooked with conviction and clarity of purpose. Flavors come through unobstructed by heavy sauces. Things such as eggs, meat, bread and greens are transformed into an Aussie scramble so well-balanced with a dewy salad it'll be the first time you'll call an egg breakfast refreshing. For lunch, try a salmon steak that's tossed with a lime-dressed pile of greenery, plus grated coconut, peanuts, bean sprouts, Thai basil and cilantro–the most thrilling thing you'll consume all year.
1792 Monrovia Ave. Costa Mesa, CA 92627. 949-873-5123. http://outpostkitchen.com/outpost-kitchen/
Best Sushi Orange County 2015 – Bluefin by Abe
Just go there and say, "Omakase." And bring hundreds of dollars. You're welcome.
6198 Pacific Coast Highway. Newport Coast, CA 92657. 949-715-7373. http://www.bluefincrystalcove.com/
Best Deli Orange County 2015 – C4 Deli: The Cure for the Common
Take your pick: Pickled eggs? Three kinds. Cold salads ready to go? Of course. Cheese-and-meat plates? Damn straight. A list of wines and beers as long as the Summa Theologica? Yep. Trivia nights every Tuesday? You know it! Pop-up restaurants and special dinners? Better believe it, baby. And a menu of sturdy sandwiches, with new ones piling onto the offerings every day? C4 Deli: The Cure for the Common takes the best of Brooklyn, fuses it with the finest of California, and delivers OC's best deli this year and as long as it wants it.
200 N. Broadway. Santa Ana, CA 92701. 714-263-1555. http://www.c4deli.com/
Best Vietnamese Restaurant Orange County 2015 – Garlic N Chives
Popular places in Little Saigon are as common as corrupt Vietnamese-American politicians, but there may not be seats more in demand than those at Garlic N Chives. The cuisine is billed as "Gourmet Asian Fusion," but its soul is Vietnamese. Porridge can be had here, followed by a sizzling skillet of steak and eggs, then garlic-butter noodles akin to the kind Beverly Hills' Crustacean serves to celebrities. Everything, even the dishes that are more Seoul than Saigon, is great. But in the lightly floured-and-fried salmon-belly appetizer lies the reason Garlic N Chives is on everyone's must list. You don't eat this dish; you experience it with wide-eyed disbelief that salmon could melt so readily as ice cream in your mouth.
9892 Westminster Ave. Garden Grove, CA 92844. 714-591-5196
Best Vegan Restaurant Orange County 2015 – Vegan Nirvana
If you were blindfolded and served Vegan Nirvana's fish taco alongside one from Rubio's, you probably wouldn't be able to tell which was using the fake fish. And most likely, you'd like the vegan one better. Its texture is spot-on, falling apart into flakes as though actual cod; two huge, fried pieces of it are stuffed into each soft corn tortilla fold with the proper amount of cabbage, pico de gallo and vegan white sauce. You should also get the BLT Awakening, a sandwich that has all the requisite crispness and smokiness that any bacon-loving American would require of a good BLT–perhaps the most convincing argument that veganism is an achievable dietary choice.
7862 Warner Ave. Huntington Beach, CA 92647. 714-847-4080
Best Seafood Restaurant Orange County 2015 – Waterman's Harbor
At Waterman's Harbor, chef John Cuevas, a James Beard Award nominee, deep-fries an entire black bass whole–the head, the tail, everything intact. Even if you're the type of diner who'd rather have your fish in filets indistinguishable from bars of soap, you want this dish. Or if you're still squeamish, you can slurp the usual dockside fare of clam chowder and munch on fish and chips–both house-made and great. But you'd be missing out if you pass up the crab beignets: greaseless, deep-fried balls of pure crabmeat encased in a crunchy batter. They're as much a stinging indictment of soggy crab cakes as this restaurant is an indictment of Red Lobster.
34661 St. of the Golden Lantern. Dana Point, CA 92629. 949-764-3474. http://watermandp.com/
Best Place for Date Night Orange County 2015 – Marché Moderne
Reasonably priced, delicious French food that makes you look like a high-roller instead of the South Coast Plaza imposter you are–even the nerdiest of nerds will at least get a full-breast hug out of here!
3333 Bristol St. Costa Mesa, CA 92626-1873. 714-434-7900. http://www.marchemoderne.net/
Best Restaurant Ambiance Orange County 2015 – Cucina Enoteca
It's so urban and hip it doesn't seem to fit into Orange County, let alone Irvine Spectrum or Fashion Island. Each Cucina Enoteca is filled with dramatic chandeliers, bright Moroccan and floral prints, orange statement chairs, and plenty of plush pillows: It's Anthropologie turned into a restaurant. In fact, Cucina Enoteca has an online store at which it sells the exact trinkets and furniture found in the restaurants. It's the perfect combination of delicious, pricy food on really big plates and a hipster, bohemian teepee.
532 Spectrum Center Dr. Irvine, CA 92618. 949-861-2222. http://www.cucinaenoteca.com/
Best Food Truck Orange County 2015 – The Coconut Truck
With its intricate and colorful façade, the Coconut Truck attracts you from afar. You come closer when you see a patron sipping from a whole coconut through a straw. And you stay because the menu ignores the usual sliders and mac and cheese that too many luxe loncheras still consider edgy cuisine. The girlfriend/boyfriend team inside the truck make Cambodian-inspired street food with healthy, wholesome ingredients: try an all-natural chicken, steak or non-GMO tofu sandwich marinated in coconut cream, with lemongrass and spices stacked between the halves of a soft brioche bun. The reason you'll run for the tropical truck every time you see it, however, is its taro fries. These beautiful, freshly cut fries simmer in a bath of chile-cilantro dressing, fried shallots and soy pulled pork that tastes as good, if not better, than the real thing.
Best Mexican Restaurant Orange County 2015 – Taco María
In 2012, Miguel Cabrera became the first player in 45 years to win baseball's Triple Crown; this year, American Pharoah won the same honor in horse racing. And now, the same happens to Taco María: Best Restaurant, Best Taco and Best Mexican Restaurant. Yes, cabrones, the restaurant is that extraordinary. If you haven't been, you deserve to be deported to Rick Bayless' house.
3313 Hyland Ave. Costa Mesa, CA 92626. 714-538-8444. http://www.tacomaria.com/
Best Outdoor Dining Orange County 2015 – Hummingbird House Café
Oceanfront dining abounds in the county's beach cities, but if you're feeling more backyard barbecue than beach-view soirée, try Hummingbird House Café. The entire dining area is the actual back yard of a historical home, the Lupe Combs house, in San Juan Capistrano's Los Rios Historic District. The fresh and hearty Mediterranean food and coffee are stellar, but the pet- and people-watching-friendly patio makes it amazing, only surpassed by the invitation to bring your own beer and wine (no corkage fee required).
26711 Verdugo St. San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675. 949-443-5090. http://www.hummingcafe.com
Best Indian Restaurant Orange County 2015 – Dosa Place
The most delicious of food comas can be had for $10. South Indian fare swells over Dosa Place's expansive dinner buffet. The plates resemble metal medieval platters, ready to be filled to capacity with the likes of gobi Manchurian–fried dough-coated cauliflower in a spicy sauce–or idli and an array of chutneys. As if the buffet weren't gluttonous enough, the meal includes soft yet crispy dosas filled with masala-mashed potatoes and full chile peppers. If you're a spice fiend, the surprising heat level of the dishes will please you. If not, there's abundant creamy, refreshing curd rice to cool the fire.
13812 Red Hill Ave. Tustin, CA 92780. 714-508-7788. http://www.dosaplace.com/
Best Korean Barbecue Orange County 2015 – Cham Sut Gol
This Little Seoul standby offers everything a Korean barbecue spot requires: a galaxy of panchan, the smell of seared meat, the chorus of "Annyeonghaseyo!" every time someone enters. But then comes Cham Sut Gol's golden ticket: a self-serve ice cream cone for dessert. You question the sanitary conditions as you wait behind others getting their own scoops from the fridge, but you shrug and have three orders of the green tea ice cream that tastes exactly like the color green. Make reservations (must be for six people) at your next visit, but don't worry when you forget: It's totally worth the inevitable wait.
9252 Garden Grove Blvd. Garden Grove, CA 92844. 714-590-9292