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New to Orange County - where to eat?

  • j

I just moved to Irvine, CA from New York City and I am so homesick. Except for college, I've never lived anywhere but the city and I feel a bit lost. I also can't find any good restaurants, except for Vietnamese. All I keep finding are chain restaurants. If you have any recommendations for good restaurants in Orange County, in particular, French, Thai, Malaysian, and Greek, please let me know! I'm also looking for a good bakery and a good cheese shop. Thanks

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  1. In Orange County get over to Renu Nakorn in Norwalk before the close for remodeling at the end of the month, this was founded by the owners of Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas, which is arguably the best Thai restaurant in the U.S. Second choice for Thai in Orange County is Thai Nakron in Garden Grove.

    Cruise the L.A. board, there are plenty of discussions about independent gems in Orange County.

    1 Reply
    1. For Thai, there can be only one answer: Thai Nakorn, on Garden Grove Blvd. east of Harbor Blvd. Simply the best Thai food in Orange County.

      I know there's a Greek place in Corona del Mar that some folks have been raving about, but I've never been. Greek in LA simply doesn't measure up to New York, Chicago or Houston standards... just not enough Greek people here to sustain "real" Greek food.

      Malaysian -- there's a place on Bolsa and Brookhurst, or maybe it's 1st and Euclid (Bolsa turns into 1st at the Santa Ana city limit). I'm sorry I'm not much help there, I've only driven past it. There's also Tropika, which I've heard isn't bad, on 17th in Tustin, just east of the 55.

      Can't help with French, don't eat it.

      Orange County does many things well, though you'll need to head into North OC for it all, Irvine is pretty much just chain restaurants. There's Little Palestine in Anaheim, a million Korean places in Buena Park, Little Saigon in Westminster and Garden Grove, tons of Mexican and Salvadorean places in Santa Ana and parts of Anaheim, and (not quite OC but close) tons of Filipino and Taiwanese places in Rowland Heights, just up Harbor Blvd./Fullerton Rd. from Fullerton.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Das Ubergeek

        Where is the Greek place in CdM? I know Pirate's Inn used to be there years & years ago, but if there's a new one, I'd love to know!!

        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          There are no Greek places in CDM.

        2. Some great suggestions by Das Uber above, especially Thai Nakorn. Venturing into Westminster is also a great way to find cheap delicious eats (Thanh Mi, Brodard, Quan Hy are good places to start)

          In and around Irvine, there are a few gems.

          Oki Doki in Costa Mesa has great japanese food and a lively vibe. Honda-Ya which is an izayaka (little japanese skewers of grilled meat and other "bar food") gets raves here.

          Tustin is actually full of jems (Noodle Avenue for cheap noodles, Zogs Baguette for veitnamese Banh mi, Dosa Place for Indian Dosas).

          Irvine has Taleo and Taco Rosa, both semi-upscale Mexican food with a flair. Pretty good stuff. China Garden for dim sum. Phillys Best for good cheesesteaks. There are a couple locations of Pho Bac (one on Barranca, another on Michelson) which make a decent bowl of Pho. There is a veggie thai place called "Wheel of Life" on Culver/Walnut which is pretty good and worth checking out once.

          You should check out Elmomonsters Blog since he does a lot of local coverage. www.monstermunching.blogspot.com

          Sorry I didnt provide addresses, but you should be able to find discussions and addresses for most of the places I mentioned by searching the board (or google).

          3 Replies
          1. re: MEalcentric

            Those are great recs. All are favorites of mine (except Taleo and Taco Rosa which I have yet to try).

            Here's my blog address though, in case the OP wants to check out my coverage:

            http://elmomonster.blogspot.com

            1. re: MEalcentric

              Second both Taleo and Taco Rosa, not because their chow is that great (in truth embarrasing compared to most in Santa Fe or Abq) but summarily edible, friendly atmosphere and pleasant digs, i.e, what not to like?

              1. re: MEalcentric

                Taco Rosa has excellent food, and is very accomodating.
                I always have them make me a Calamari burrito.
                They also make churros to order-hot and perfect. With an excellent dark, hot chocolate sauce to dip them.

              2. I moved away from Irvine/Laguna about 13 years ago, but one of my favorites back then that still seems to be going strong is Darya, a fantastic Persian restaurant in Santa Ana.

                http://www.daryasouthcoastplaza.com/

                I really miss our favorite east-coast Italian place (Portland, OR leaves much to be desired for that genre), but I'm not going to dare recommend Italian to a New Yorker. :)

                1. You'll have to get out of Irvine for most of the good restaurants.

                  French: Stonehill Tavern in Dana Point. Pascal in Costa Mesa/Newport. (may be too expensive for a student).
                  Armenian: Zankou Chicken in Anaheim.
                  Persian: Darya, South Coast Plaza.
                  Desserts: Assal Pastry in Irvine.
                  Sushi: Sushi Shibucho, Costa Mesa.
                  Cheese: Frog's Breath in Orange.
                  Chocolate: Chuao Chocolatier in Irvine.
                  Brazilian: Agora Churrascaria:

                  There are plenty of great places in OC, but it may not be the cuisines you are used to in NYC. In general, OC's strengths are Vietnamese, Korean and Mexican.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: david t.

                    thanks david t. someone acknowledges there's more to Irvine than Mexican food. don't get me wrong, I like both Taco Rosa (woo hoo! opening in the Market Place soon) and Taleo's ambiance and cuisine, but Agora is great for carnivores.

                    I make pilgrimage to J&J Bakery off Culver whenever possible for everything! You can also find me at Melting Pot off Jamboree for some cocktails and fondue. Sam Woo off Culver gives China Garden a run for its money for dim sum.

                    for excellent French, LA area restaurants might have more to offer. However, I do recall a memorable dinner at Pinot Provence in Costa Mesa a while back.