Best of OC

Upscale Fast-Food

Healthy Restaurants 


Eat Chow (Costa Mesa and Newport) Great food and breakfast beer! Recommend: The parmesan truffle fries.

Break of Dawn (Lake Forest) Traditional breakfast dishes with a creative funky  Vietnamese flair. Recommend: the bacon (pork belly) and tempura eggs; the smoked salmon with an oatmeal pancake, poached egg, and preserved kumquat.

Bruxie (Costa Mesa) Waffle sandwiches. Recommend: pastrami and gruyere.

Tea House in San Clemente (San Clemente) Cute tea house with amazing scones.

Capital Seafood (Irvine) Go for the dim sum.

The Original Pancake House (Laguna Niguel) Classic American breakfast food. Get the Dutch baby.


Broadway (Laguna Beach) Upscale American food. Menu changes seasonally.

230 Forest (Laguna Beach)  Great seafood.

Opah (Aliso Viejo) Same owners as 230 Forest. Upscale American dishes.

Nirvana Grill (Laguna Beach) Vegan and gluten-free menu.

370 Common (Laguna Beach) Unique gourmet dishes. Recommend: the prosciutto wrapped figs and the “presley” (cinnamon toast with caramelized banana peanut butter ice cream).

SideDoor (Corona del Mar) Gastropub with secret entrance.

Beachwood BBQ (Long Beach and Seal Beach) Wide selection of beer. Recommend: the pulled pork sandwich.

Social (Costa Mesa) Voted best Californian cuisine. Modern-rustic food.

Eureka! (Irvine) Artisan burgers and beer with live music.


Shik Do Rak (Irvine) My family’s favorite Korean BBQ place.

Bistro Anju (Aliso Viejo) Chef Saito was on Iron Chef. Saito mixes French and Italian with Japanese. Recommend: the Sashimi roll (yellowtail, spicy tuna, salmon, avocado), Amberjack Yellowtail, Lemon Salmon roll, and the green tea crème brûlée.

Urban Seoul (Irvine Spectrum) Modern and trendy Korean food. Urban Seoul adds a Korean twist to Mexican/American dishes. They have a kimchi quesadilla, gogi sliders, and pork belly tacos. The food is spicy and flavorful. Recommend: the Kalbi burger and Bibimbap (a classic Korean rice dish). See Upscale Fast-Food.

Yigah (Irvine, Diamond Jamboree) Authentic Korean food. Not for the uninitiated. Popular with local Korean community. Long wait. Don’t go for the service. Dongkaksu (breaded pork cutlet) is great and served both Korean and Japanese style. My mom ordered the Yook kae gang (spicy beef stew)  that is bright red. Everybody around us was eating beef rib soup so I’ll get that next time. Go to get your daily quota of bone broth. You’ll have to get your veggies elsewhere. Not vegan or vegetarian friendly.

Fins (Mission Viejo) Simple and fresh poke bowls. The setup is like Chipotle. You choose a fish (tuna, albacore, spicy crab, or salmon) and rice (brown or white). Then there are a variety of toppings and sauces to add on top. Recommend: The salmon and sesame dressing. See Upscale Fast-Food.

East Borough (Costa Mesa and Culver City) New age Vietnamese café that uses fresh ingredients. Recommend: the pho baguette, the borough spring roll, and pickled mango kale salad. Iced coffee is good too. See Upscale Fast-Food.


Taco Mesa (Costa Mesa) Authentic Mexican food. Recommend: Blackened fish tacos.

Pedro’s Tacos (San Clemente) Popular taco joint.Local favorite. Cheap and close to the beach. Recommend: Fish tacos and breakfast burrito.

Baja Fish Tacos (Laguna Niguel,Laguna Hills, and Mission Viejo) Fresh and delicious Mexican food with high-quality meat. Not as authentic as Taco Mesa or Pedro’s Tacos. Casual and very popular. Order in the front. Recommend: Steak burrito, fish tacos, and blackened salmon.

Javier’s Cantina (Irvine Spectrum and Newport) Upscale Mexican food. Recommend: Enchiladas and the fried ice cream.


Pie-Not (Costa Mesa) Flaky and decadent Australian pies. Next to Sidecar Doughnuts.

Cha for Tea (Irvine) Recommend: the rose tea and potstickers.

The Melt (Irvine Spectrum) Upscale fast-food.  Simple menu with burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches. You can add grilled bell peppers for free. Recommend: the cheese steak melt and sweet potato fries. See Upscale Fast- Food.

Luna Grill (Aliso Viejo, Lake Forest, and Irvine) Upscale fast-food. Mediterranean. Recommend: the sample plate and lamb. See Upscale Fast- Food.

Kroft (Packing District in Anaheim) Comfort food made with high-quality meat and cheese. Recommend: Poutines.

ADYA (Anaheim Packing District) Indian street food and craft beer. Recommend: Tandoori Chicken, Paneer Roll, and Garlic Naan.

Mick’s burgers (Irvine) Specialty burgurs. During the world cup there was a burger for each country. If the country lost the burger was no longer served. Recommend: Mediterranean burger and lemonade.

Iron press (Anaheim and Costa Mesa)  Savory and sweet waffles. Craft beer on tap. I went during christmas time and tried their gingerbread beer. Recommend: Belgian waffle.

TLT (Irvine Spectrum) Mexican/Asian fusion. TLT grew out of the Lime Food Truck. The food is unique and full of flavor. They have tacos, sliders, and veggie sides with an added flair. Lots of spices and marinades. They also serve craft beer. Recommend: PBAT (braised pork belly sandwich), Brussels Sprouts (with prosciutto and chipotle-honey aioli), and Seared-Ahi Tuna Taco. See Upscale Fast-Food.


Old Vine Café (Costa Mesa) Fancy Italian-inspired café located at the Camp. Large selection of wine. Recommend: Quinoa and vegetables and pulled pork panini. Click here for photos.

Mother’s Market (6 locations in OC) Health food store, café, deli, and juice bar. Recommend: Udon noodles with gingered greens, raw hummus (from the deli), and vegan chocolate pudding.

True Foods (Newport) My all time favorite restaurant. They offer vegan, vegetarian, and gluten- free options as well as sustainable organic meat dishes. Their menu changes seasonally to serve the freshest ingredients. Recommend: caramelized onion tart, spaghetti squash casserole, and the flourless chocolate cake.

Au Lac (Fountain Valley, 1 mile off the 405) They specialize in Vietnamese/Chinese raw food but also have vegan and vegetarian options. The atmosphere does not match the price of the food; however, the eloquently prepared raw entrées belie the cheesy Chinese décor. The servers are very attentive. Our waitress gave us extra peanut sauce for our leftovers. They serve free filtered alkaline water (at Pressed Juicery it’s $2.50 a bottle). Recommend: steamed jicama rolls with peanut sauce, “cream cheese” and flaxseed crackers, curried rice, kelp noodles chow mein, and the tiRAWmisu.

Active Cultures (Laguna Beach and San Clemente) Healthy food and self-serve yogurt. Recommend: The lentil bowl.


Marrakesh (Costa Mesa) Authentic Moroccan food. The colorful and exotic tapestries lining the wall make you feel like you are in another country. You sit on cushions on the ground. Belly dancers every night.  Recommend: Chef’s special.

Fig & Olive (West Hollywood and Newport) Upscale Mediterranean food. Great appetizers and cocktails. Very clean, simple, and chic. Recommend: Happy hour tasting plates.

Playground (Santa Ana) Modern Gastropub offering unique American dishes. Recommend: Sunday supper (changes seasonally).

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