New to Orange County - where to eat?
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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. :)
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.
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.
For some "Fresh Mex" you can head over to Sharky's.
It's just west of the 405, off Sand Canyon.
At Barranca and Von Karmen, there's a foodcourt behind Sam's Club.
Inside, you'll find Zesty Thai.
Although her steam tray specials are nothing special, she does great, cooked-to-order noodles, like ladna, pad see ewe and pad kee mow.
Before we movwed back to Bangkok, I stopped into Bangok Taste, in the Big Lots center, on Grand, just south of the 22 freeway, North Santa Ana.
Definitely interesting. Great, homemade coconut ice cream.
If you take Edinger west out of Irvine, when you hit Bristol you'll come across El Gallo Giro.
Their $12 carnitas family platter has to be one of best deals going; One pound carnitas, beans, rice, salsa and 3 dozen tortillas, hot off the press!
My favorite nachos are from Alerto's, just north of Edinger, on Brookhurst.
re: Curt the Soi Hound
I've been a fan of Zesty Thai since you pointed out to us. Go there about twice a week. I'm sorry to say that I think the ownership has changed hands. I haven't tried the pad see ew or the lard na under this new ownership, but I used to love the steam tray offering of tofu with chicken. I tried it again with the new cook and it's just bad. I'm soooo bummed right now.
I know exactly what you mean. I was laughing as I read your post,because I asked the same questions last year when we moved here from philly. Well, after one year I have found few acceptable choices:
This place is the best you can find around here. I have tried a few things and they are decent.
Greek island grill 3940 s. bristol st santa anna
try their bifteki
For french you are out of luck. You can get baguette sandwhiches from pascal in newport beach.
There is no french bakery in OC like payard or bouley.
We usually go to LA or Vegas for special meals.
Good luck to you and keep posting with any new discovery.
For the ultimate bizzaro food experience and perhaps a hint that OC has a few surprises in the way of chow, try the wide variety of prepared stuff at Wholesome Foods in Irvine, takeout or eat in inside or outdoors. Don't miss the gyros and Persian specials. Total trip.
I am new to the site, So I just found your post. I moved here from New York some time ago, so I can sympathize. The unique places seem hard to find here in O.C., but they are out there. There is a pretty good traditional French place in Brea: La Vie En Rose - it's adjacent to the Brea Mall. I have not been there in a while, but the food was good, and the service was excellent.
You should try Zov's Bistro in Tustin. They have an Eastern-Mediterranean based menu, and a good bakery.
Cheese shops are fewer and farther between, but you must go to Frog's Breath Cheese Shop in downtown Orange. They are a fairly new place, but have excellent cheeses, wine and other condiments such as oils, vinegars, tapenades, etc. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and they give samples. I think they are a rare gem of a place.
I hope this helps.
I see Taleo and Taco Rosa have both been mentioned. If you had to pick between the two I'd say go with Taco Rosa but you couldn't go wrong with either. Taco Rosa is a little more likely to have rare specials whenever you go. I had an unusually good, unique chile relleno last time I was there (ever seen a chile relleno topped with almond cream sauce and pomegranate seeds?). If you do go with Taleo I would suggest their carnitas platter. During the holidays Taleo has special turkey tamales and sweet potato flan. My blog extensively covers each restaurant:
Orange County offers lots of great places to chow down
Greek: Christakis, Tustin
French: La Vie en Rose, Brea
Armenian: Zankou Anaheim
Steak: Sevens, Tustin
Persian: Caspian, Irvine
Barbeque: Lucille's, Brea (nice) or Burrell's, Santa Ana (super funky, but great)
Sushi: Sushi Wasabi, Tustin
Indian: Haveli, Tustin
Cuban: Habana, Costa Mesa
Brazilian: Agora Churrascaria, Irvine
Mexican:Alamende's, Laguna Beach (fine Mexican, not your average beans and rice joint)
Seafood: Claes, Laguna Beach
Sunday Brunch: Ramos House, San Juan Capistrano
I would add Newport Seafood in Santa Ana to this list. I just ate there last night after I found it mentioned on this list, and it was terrific. It is a Vietnamese style Chinese place. The best thing we had was a simple steamed flounder, which was superb.
The original poster mentioned Malasian food, and we noticed a Malay place in the same strip mall a couple doors down from Newport Seafood. Also there is a new one over in Tustin just off 17th, just behind Zov's Bistro. (Sorry, I forgot the name.) I had a couple good meals there right after it opened,
but the food was a little uneven.
Can anyone help out with the names of these two places, or opinions of the food?
So happy to see all these recs! Thanks! I moved back to Irvine a few weeks ago after 10 years in NYC and am trying to get re-oriented (not to mention getting used to the early kitchen closing hours).
A pleasant surprise is that Gelsen's has some pretty amazing baguettes.
One favorite that is still as good as I remembered is Cafe Zulu in Laguna Beach -- great seafood, esp. their tartare appetizer & swordfish. Their jasmine risotto dessert is to die for.
The Cottage in Laguna is also great for brunch or lunch. There's a similarly named restaurant in La Jolla -- also great.
Any rec's for beach-view dining? Chimayo in Huntington Beach is okay in a pinch. Thanks in advance!
jgc10, I too moved here from NYC in August 2006 and had a lot of trouble finding good food at first, but things have improved considerably. chowhound has been a big help. and i'm starting to think sushi is better on the west coast; i'd heard people say that before but hadn't believed it.
one great japanese place (not just for sushi, although their sushi is excellent)is Honda-Ya in Tustin. this may sound silly to the non-ny-ers among us, but Honda-Ya felt like home.
What I've missed most in California is Northern Italian. (I went to the Italian section of San Francisco and, although there were a couple of nice bakeries, I found the experience mostly disappointing.) But Cortina Italian market in Anaheim is quite good as a place to buy Italian meats, cheeses, olive oil, packaged sweets, etc. Try to get one of the women to help you. The young man (maybe teenage) is very sweet but doesn't know as much. I went to Cortina when I needed ingredients to make ravioli. The woman was very helpful and talked to me about my plan of serving ricotta with honey and fruit as dessert.
2175 W Orange Ave
Anaheim, CA 92804
Next on my list is to find good dim sum. Seafood Paradise was recommended a bunch on chowhound so I plan to try it soon.
Let me know how your food explorations go.
I don't know of any northern Italian places in OC, but there are a few in LA if you want to drive...
Dim sum... while there's "OK" dim sum in OC, you really should just take a 30-45 minute drive to the San Gabriel Valley on the 605 (our version of the 7 train to Flushing). Between the 605 and the 710 are the best Chinese places in the U.S. -- including, IMHO, the best dim sum.
re: Das Ubergeek
My brother told me the siu mai at Seafood Paradise was disgusting and that they take no care at all to prepare their dim sum. I think it primarily has to with the fact that they have Vietnamese people trying to make Chinese dim sum. I do however really enjoy their Chinese/Vietnamese menu.. their house special lobster rocks! I like their sister restaurant Seafood Cove.
Sushi: I second the motion for Sushi Shibucho in Costa Mesa -- take the 55 to 19th, make a right, it's on the right hand side near In'n'out. Also on 19th are two casual mexican places: taco mesa (same owners as taco rosa), and another stand on the corner of 19th and Monrovia. For cheese: try Picnics on 17th (near H&R Block, across from Peets)
There's Pina's in Tustin for good Italian. It's a noisy little room, so you might want to go on a warm night and sit outside. Homemade sausages and pretty great Tiramisu.
And if you're in Cypress for some reason, stop by the family-owned Dominic's on Ball and Walker. Nothing mind-blowing, but has never disappointed either. Just good, reliable Italian food.
Definitely go to The Hobbit in Orange! It is a total evening experience of 6 or 7 courses with a prix fixe menu.
Cortina's STILL EXISTS?? is it still off Orange Avenue?? OMG~ I am 45 and way back in the 1960's. that was THE Italian Deli.. my dad took me there as a little kid and I STILL REMEMBER the fresh cheese smells there!!! I was born off Walnut/Ball Rd and used to pick strawberries in the field there and walk to Dland and pay $3.95 to get in!
At Euclid/Ball, the shopping center used to have a pizza by the slice near a very old pharmacy that was good too.
I moved to South County in the early 90s and that was the end of my North County experiences. I'm in Colorado now: DON'T MOVE HERE!! The laws suck!! Food, it aint a melting pot!
When I was in NYC recently, it was a bit of a challenge finding really good down home Mexican food.
If you like affordable authentic Mexican food consider yourself lucky as outside of Mexico, LA/Orange County is arguably the mecca for great Mexican food. And Santa Ana is a stone's throw away from Irvine. If you've never tried birria, there's a great little hole-in-the-wall place on Standard/Edinger (right off the 55 freeway and around the corner from the auto mall). The lady that runs the place is super cool and she allows you to bring beer over from the liquor store that's next door.
I've lived in New Mexico and Tucson and yes the Mexican food is great but IMO, it's not as authentic as the type of stuff Gabe is referring to. Southwestern/New Mexican/Tex Mex style is indeed very tasty but it's not straight ahead down home authentic like the kind you can get in the barrios of Santa Ana and Echo Park. However, Tucson does have some of the best Sonoran style food you can find in the States due to it's close proximity to Sonora.
Southwestern fare is arguably almost fusion cuisine. It's darn good but it's quite different from the stuff my Mexican girlfriend cooks for me.
Just my dos centavos.
Moving from NYC to anywhere would be tough when it comes to food. The one thing you will get much better in OC is Asian cuisine of all types and Mexican food that rivals anywhere in the US. Since you live in Irvine I'll give you my picks that are close to you.
French - There is no place in OC that has authentic French like NYC. I asked Anthony Bourdain (Author of Kitchen Confidential and Chef Les Halles NYC) why and his response is that the weather is too good here, who wants a cassoulet when it never dips below 65 degrees during the day. Although when Oysters in Corona Del Mar has Cassoulet, it's pretty good.
Thai – My Favorite is Royal Thai Orchid on Katella in Orange; Irvine doesn’t have any good Thai. The Husband runs the front of the house and the wife runs the kitchen. They are form Bangkok and if you talk to them about food and tell them you want it authentic they will lead you away from the Pad Thai.
Greek – In Tustin for lunch (Dinner is a rip off) go to Zovs Bistro, there lamb sandwich is wonderful. Coach’s in HB on Main St is my favorite all around although I hear Christakis on Newport Ave in Tustin is really good.
In Irvine I would also go to House of Shabu Shabu on Jeffery and Walnut, Pho Bac on Barranca, Curry House on Culver and Walnut, Javier’s in the Irvine Spectrum for Mexican (Although the Laguna Beach location is better), and Kabob House across the street from UCI off Campus.
I am afraid that you won't find anything to satisfy in the catagories that you list. What you might want to do is focus on Mexican and Vietnamese: 2 of the cuisines that OC does better!
You're pretty close to Long Beach. Here are some suggestions:
French: Frenchy's Bistro - not the best name for a restaurant, but it's really good.
Bakeries: Katella Deli in Cypress (OC) is a Jewish (though not kosher) deli with good Challah and decent food. In Long Beach, Boulangerie Provence is just off 2nd street in Belmont Shore.
Italian: Finbar's in Seal Beach (OC) on PCH. They are transplants from NYC, and have kept a certain East Coast vibe.
For Mexican at the next level, go to Enriques in Long Beach on PCH. It is amazing. You'll have a 20 - 45 minute wait, and it's absolutely worth it. They have a green chili stewed pork shank that melts in your mouth. Nothing there is bad. Dinner w/o alcohol is around $30 for 2.
Welcome to California!
I just want to say THANK YOU to all for your recommendations. In the time since my sad inquiry, I've found that yes, Southern California's Vietnamese and Mexican definitely trumps New York's. All other categories.....still searching. Some of the OC places I've grown to like:
Shinsengumi (Garden Grove)
Top Baguette (Westminster)
Yu's Garden (Irvine)
Byblos Cafe (Orange)
Pho Tau Bay (Santa Ana)
Brodard (Garden Grove)
Haute Cakes (Newport Beach?)
Honda Ya (Tustin)
369 (only for their beef pancake sandwiches Anaheim)
And thank goodness for Frog's Breath!
Chinese. For dim sum better than I've ever had in New York (b/c the ingredients taste fresher though it's otherwise just like NY), I recommend New Capital Seafood Restaurant in Rosemead. Worth the trip to LA county.
Also, as a native NY-er who's now been in Orange County for a little over half a year, I want to add that, because the quality of the local produce puts NY to shame, I now believe the eating options in Southern California are generally better than back east.
Since you know where Zov's is... you should try the CRAB COOKER also located in that same Tustin shopping center. The decor is unusual, and you'll be shocked to find you're eating on paper plates and with plastic utensils but the fish tastes like it jumped from the ocean to the grill and onto your plate. I also love their shrimp skewers and king crab. I also feel they have THE best Manhattan-style clam chowder out there as well as the best cole slaw.
I am from NJ and having a tough time finding really good grub out here. I like the whole in the wall places but I love Javier's. There is a location in Laguna Beach and at the Irvine Spectrum.
We live in Ladera Ranch (right by Mission Viejo in Orange County) and I have found things are very limited with food. So there is a Thai Nakorn in Mission Viejo. It has been renamed to Glass Door Thai. I'm not sure if that is the same one that was spoken of earlier in the posts, but the food is wonderful. The atmosphere leaves a lot to be desired but great food and service.
Sam woo has a great bbq I always get when I am there. Their fried noodles dishes are good also.. chow fun, chow mein, etc. I used to like their wonton noodle soup a lot.. if you go for that I'd ask for bbq pork (char siu) in it too.. .The 3 delicacy rice plate is a good trio comes with either bbq pork, roast duck, and soy sauce chicken. As for the special "lo" sauce that is the drippings from the roast duck.. it goes really well with the steam rice.
Regarding their seafood dishes.. it is just ok for me. I usually just go to the Express side. Dim sum isnt' bad. I prefer Russell;s Seafood or China Garden for dim sum becuase they have a larger variety.
I agree with Dan Ubergeek, SEAFOOD COVE is excellent. I'd go as far as saying it's as good as the best reastaurants in San Gabriel Valley. This is the restaurant I swear by.
My sister loves Las Brisas in Laguna Beach. I've never eaten there, but I've heard good things.
Thai Nakorn, has reopened. China Garden has authentic reliable dim sum, but I don't believe it's the best in OC.
South OC is pretty much devoid of good cuisine. You have to go up to atleast Irvine and Costa Mesa before you get the good offerings.
For Persian, I've only eaten at a few places, but I like that Persian restaurant across the street from South Coast Plaza.
re: david t.
Las Brisas is located at the most scenic and beautiful strip on Pch. But the food is really average. I've been to brunch there a couple of times and I've noticed the food to be simila to buffet food. You pretty much go there for the ambiance. After your meal you can take a beautiful stroll along side the beach. Las Brisas to me serves very Americanized Mexican food.
Well if your in South County there is a nice chinese/ thai restaurant on lake forest and rockfield. It's called Dinh Ho. It's very tasty and reasonable. We always get the thai appetizers and chinese entrees.
They do have full menus of both cuisines. Try the nam sod its delicious Food always taste very fresh. The service is nice also. It's in the plaza where panera ,and peppinos is. Also the hat is across the street for a good ole pastrami even though you did'nt ask for that.
JGC, I feel your pain. When I lived in another city for a couple years due to my crazy notion of climbing up the corporate ladder, I missed home every day of the week. While my suggestions may not make you feel like you're in NYC, I hope they will assist you in liking Orange County a bit more:
French - How much do you want to spend? I love Marche Moderne on the third level of South Coast Plaza (they even have fantastic fixed price $20 3-course lunches), but it's not cheap. A couple places like Pescadou Bistro (where the owners' son recently moved to NYC to work at Le Cirque) and Bistro Le Crillon are good, homey family-run restos.
Bakeries - I hate to send you to a chain, but there's Panera on Baranca/Culver in Irvine. Personally, the fresh bread and pastries are relatively good. If you're looking more for a non-chain place, I believe there's a French's bakery next door to Trader Joes on the corner of Culver/Walnut.
Cheese - Get in your car and drive to Old Town Orange, where you'll find Frog's Breath Cheese Shop (www.frogsbreathcheese.com). Closer to home, check out the impressive cheese at the Pascal epicerie on Bristol and Jamboree (www.pascalnewportbeach.com).
So far the best Greek food I've found in OC is at Christakis in Tustin. Not only is the food great, but it's family owned and everyone is extremely nice and friendly (also a rarity in OC). I don't know if they have a website, but their location, etc is: http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&...