New in South Coast Metro 05-10-18 | 75 Best Places to Eat
These 75 Restaurants are the Best Places to Eat in Orange County in 2018
Through all the highs and lows of an incessant dining routine, my mission is always clear: provide a roadmap to the best places to eat in Orange County. These are the pins on that map.
Although huge American-style steaks really aren’t a thing in Spain, this Spanish steakhouse from Amar Santana and Ahmed Labbate has nonetheless become the undisputed king of Spanish cuisine in Southern California. The house specialty is the 50-day dry-aged ribeyes that weigh upward of 2 pounds. The Spanish hams are superb, too, as are the paellas and tapas, especially the bikini sandwich and the chicken canelon. What to drink: The Vaca tonic is sublime, but you’ll also want to consider a bottle of Spanish wine.
695 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714-463-6060, vacarestaurant.com
Chef Noah Blöm is largely responsible for kindling the wood-fire revolution that has swept America, but unlike most restaurants that have followed in his footsteps, Blöm’s kitchen at Arc is fueled exclusively with wood. No gas. No electric appliances. Everything cooked here is touched by wood fire and smoke: mushrooms with a free-range egg, chicken and broccoli casserole, crab cakes, meatballs, lobster and a burger like you’ve never seen. The sirloin steak with duck-fat potatoes is easily the best steak you will find for $24, but if you dare to splurge, there’s a whole other world of fancier cuts.
3321 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa, 949-500-5561, arcrestaurant.com
#9 Capital Grille
Professional waiters wear white jackets and trade business cards with high-powered customers at this old-school steakhouse at South Coast Plaza, which seems to have gotten better and better over the past couple of years. The dry-aged, bone-in New York strip is as good as it gets, and it gets even better with a stiff Manhattan. For dessert: coconut cream pie.
3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 714-432-1140, thecapitalgrille.com
#10 Taco Maria
Chef Carlos Salgado’s reinvention of Mexican cuisine is one of the most important things to happen to the California food scene this decade. No one else is doing what Salgado does with tortillas and beans, or for that matter with wood-fired arrachera or tongue-searing scallop aguachile. Chorizo, mole, carnitas … the menu (prix fixe most nights) might sound familiar, but the flavors and presentations will have you second-guessing everything you thought you knew about Mexican food. At lunchtime, and on Tuesday nights, Taco María goes à la carte and actually serves tacos, albeit not your typical idea of tacos.
3313 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa, 714-538-8444, tacomaria.com
#13 Mastro’s Steakhouse
Great steaks are expensive. Period. There’s no way around it. If you want a truly special steak, you’re going to have to pay dearly for it. The chef’s-cut 30-ounce ribeye is as hedonistic as it gets, but this is also the finest USDA Prime beef available. The chilled seafood towers are the envy of seafood towers everywhere. Fair warning: Bathroom attendants assist you in the john, even though nobody needs or wants that.
633 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa, 714-546-7405, mastrosrestaurants.com
#30 Din Tai Fung
Taiwan’s most prestigious dumpling chain has several California locations but none swankier than the South Coast Plaza branch. Everyone is here for its famous Shanghai-style xiao long bao, also known as soup dumplings. But the menu goes so much deeper than that. The deeper you dig, the more you will be rewarded. The wait can stretch upward of two hours, so put your name down and go shopping. They’ll text you when your table is almost ready.
3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 714-549-3388, dintaifungusa.com
#59 Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge
The pre-theater menu of this restaurant inside the Segerstrom Concert Hall has been retooled as an intimate steakhouse. The steaks are excellent but not particularly large because most people who eat here don’t want to have to carry a doggy bag into the theater after dinner, which makes sense. Great wines. Terrific foie gras torchon.
615 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714-429-7640, patinagroup.com