HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >


costa mesa rut

  • d

We live in costa mesa (newport/harbor area)
Been here 15 years

We are stuck in a rut. always seem to go to the same places to eat.

I'm looking for hidden gems that even us locals may have overlooked.
cheap is great cos we eat too often.

CM or NB please

I hope there's some places we've driven by a thousand times and just never thought to try, or new hidden ones, but I think this will be a challenge as it seems like we've eaten everywhere, and it's all a bit tedious. :)

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. ever been to the haus of pizza.. harbor and adams

    2 Replies
    1. re: Foodandwine

      Aire on Bristol, In the Camp outdoor Mall. It is across the street from the Lab anti Mall.

      1. re: Foodandwine

        For Pizza or Italian food, you must try Napa Valley Pizza and Pasta. It's on Newport Blvd alongside the 55. The specialty pizzas are exquisite. I recommend the Thai Pizza, the BBQ Chicken Pizza, and a normal pizza with Spinach and Feta (not the specialty Spinach and Feta pizza).

      2. For some of the best pupusas in Orange County, try Pupuseria San Sivar. It's in the same strip mall as Globe Deli.

        My favorite tacos are at El Toro Bravo. I'm feeling lazy so not gonna write it up my broken record review again, but it's phenomenally good. Authentically dingy and not grigo-ed in the least.

        For grilled fish tacos, I like Taqueria El Granjenal. They also make good licuados there

        These are all cheap places. Let us know if you've eaten at any of these already.

        San Sivar Restaurant
        1940 Harbor Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA 92627

        Globe European Delicatessen
        1928 Harbor Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA 92627

        El Toro Bravo Tortilleria
        739 W 19th St, Costa Mesa, CA 92627

        Taqueria El Granjenal
        899 W 19th St, Costa Mesa, CA 92627

        1. Have you tried Sushi Shibucho?

          Sushi Shibucho
          590 W 19th St, Costa Mesa, CA 92627

          1. Avanti Cafe on 17th near Mothers (vegetarian/vegan cafe, great for lunch or dinner); Picnics on 17th (next to H&R block, across from Peets) - only open for lunch, but have outstanding sandwiches, quiches, salads

            1. You haven't told us your "rut" restaurants, so we won't know if we're recommending places you go to, but Santouka in the Mitsuwa Marketplace is the best ramen in OC... and cheap.

              Santouka Ramen
              665 Paularino Ave, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

              1. I like Nick's pizza up on Harbor, and at the south end of Harbor there is Golden Dragon for americanized Chinese food.

                1. All good suggestions so far, but have been to them all. :)

                  Please feel free to include medium cost restaurants too..

                  We seem to end up too often at Plums or Skosh Monahans and that Italian on 19th/Newport19th...Yard House is pretty good too.

                  1. El Campion on Harbor and Wilson, next to the gas station.

                    Spin off of the orig. San Juan Cap location. Great tacos at the counter. Good take out market.

                    1. Have you been to Side Street Cafe? It's in Costa Mesa, not too far away from Plums I believe

                      1. I'll probably get flack for this, but have you tried Pan-Asian, the Mongolian bbq place next door to Plums? Super cheap, and tasty.

                        Marco Polo in Newport Beach (MacArthur & Bison) have some good dishes on their menu and a nice, reasonably priced wine list.

                        Pizza D'Oro on Baker

                        Oki Doki on Bristol

                        Taco Rosa in Newport

                        Ango Tei (sushi) on Paularino

                        Memphis Cafe & Habana on Bristol

                        For a more upscale (pricey) dinner Bungalow on PCH in Newport

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: byeCalihelloBahamas

                          I second Oki Doki if you haven't been...LOVE IT.

                            1. re: docb

                              Nicer Italian restaurant with some entrees not traditionally found in Italian places, like rack of lamb and lobster risotto, two items I remember ordering recently that I really enjoyed. Their meat lasagna is fantastic too.

                              Not as nice as a higher end Italian place like Antonello's. Just a notch below, but still really good food.

                          1. Onotria, Wild Rabbit, the new Rooster Cafe that replaced Mitae Ramen. Some people have raved about their French Dip, so I gotta try that soon.

                            Mentatsu Noodle House for good ramen and gyoza.

                            Some great Italian at Garduno's.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Wonginator

                              What's Wild Rabiit like?
                              Havn't been in there...

                              1. re: docb

                                Really nice setting, almost elegant dining area. Really good quality food, although their lunch menu was simpler and cheaper than their dinner menu. Had simpler chicken and fish entrees, along with sandwiches for lunch. Dinner has higher end entrees like Steak Diane, Beef Wllington, Filet Mignon, etc.

                                Haven't been in awhile, though, since they stopped serving lunch and became a dinner-only place. It rarely got busy during lunch, with only 3 or 4 tables busy at once, so it's not a surprise that they stopped serving lunch.

                                1. re: docb

                                  Nope, in another strip mall next to the Wahoo's on the corner of Bristol & Baker. Next to the Mother India restaurant.

                                2. re: Wonginator

                                  I second Onotria and Garduno's . Sapori on Bayside for finer Italian with a really nice patio and Taco Mesa on 19th for great and cheap Mexican (but note that it is really a stand). I used to be a big fan of Ango Tei, but then was taken to Koi in Seal Beach, and have not gone back to Ango Tei in over a year...

                                3. Greek Island Grill - Sunflower and Bristol, across the street from South Coast Plaza.
                                  Vietnam Pearl - Baker and Fairview
                                  A Taste of Asia - Newport Blvd and Santa Isabel, for Vietnamese and Mongolian BBQ
                                  Frank's Philadelphia - Fairview and Wilson

                                  1. Hey, Doc. Costa Mesa's a hard place to get into a restaurant rut these days, with lots of hustle and bustle going on right there on Bristol, by South Coast. For a delicious, casual and not-too-pricey meal, I'd like to suggest The Old Vine Cafe in the Camp center, right next door to a bigger trendier place called Aire. Old Vine is a family run resto, probably consisting of no more than 12 to 16 tables. It's got to be the smallest restaurant I've ever been in in SoCal which offers a chef's tasting menu! Dinner with wine for two will run you less than a hundred bucks, which is pretty good if you ask me.

                                    Also, if you're in the mood for Japanese, across the street in the Lab is another overlooked gem, Zipangu.

                                    And then, of course, there's Taco Mesa on 19th, but something tells me you've been there!


                                    1. Although I feel fortunate to have all of the interesting choices that we do have in CM, I can certainly understand what it feels like to encounter a rut now and again.

                                      Many of the replies so far have listed many of my favorite places, so please excuse the repitition - just consider them yet another validation. I do have a few favorites that haven't been listen yet, however. I'm not listing locations, which you can find readilly online; all, unless noted, are in CM. If you can't find something, though, email me.

                                      Let's consider some categories:

                                      CHEAP TO MODERATELY PRICED BREAKFAST (AND LUNCH) JOINTS:

                                      Plums - excellent. Great breakfast and lunch; seems to me to have a bay-area or pacific northwest kind of vibe. Also, one of the few breakfast joints that serves good coffee.

                                      Haute (pronounded "Oat") Cakes - Although I and many of my friends swear by this place, I don't seem to hear it mentioned very often on this board. It's not altogether unlike Plums, although the order-at-the counter format is a bit different. American food, top-quality ingredients and pleasant outdoor (and indoor) seating.

                                      Side-Street Cafe - A bit more divey than the above two recommendations, but certain items on the menu are worth investigating - the homemade corned-beef hash and cornmeal pancakes,. especially.

                                      CHEAP ASIAN AND MEXICAN

                                      Oki-Doki - I second this earlier recommendation. Especially nice because it's one of the few places that offers good Asian fare from a variety of cuisines: Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and it's OPEN VERY LATE.

                                      Caliente - Although this is one of my all-time favorites, I never hear it mentioned on this board. It's a tiny place; the kind where you order at the counter, but does not feel in the least dingy or divey. It's kind of a California-take on tex-mex/mexican/baja cuisine. The salads - my favorite are the Blue Moon and the Rajas - are great, as well as the mahi-mahi fish burrito (I like to order it wet), the carnitas burrito, and (my wife's favorite) the wheat chicken burrito--oh yeah, and the salmon tacos.

                                      Wahoo's. Although it's a chain (usually avoid chains), I do think they have good, wholesome, cheap food and eat there often.

                                      19th St: Mexican There are a bunch of them - a few are a bit dingy or divey, but worth the effort, IMHO. Taco Mesa, El Granjenal, El Toro Bravo, Jugo's Acapulco, Allejandro's.

                                      Taco Rosa: A notch above "cheap," still a terrific sit-down mexican place. Food is slightly more regional and less 'border-cuisine' than most places. Owned by the Taco Mesa people.

                                      MISC INEXPENSIVE/MODERATE LUNCH AND DINNER:

                                      Santa Monica Seafood: Nice option for lunch. Good ahi sandwich.

                                      Memphis: Good Southern/Soulfood inspired American food with a trendy Indie/Cal vibe. Nice brunch menu. I'm a fan of the Southern Eggs Benedict and the Soul Burger (one of the best burgers around).

                                      Ramen joints: Other more in-the-know people will be more useful here than I, here, but Costa Mesa/Fountain Valley is a national hotbed for Ramen. Hataka Ramen in Fountain Valley, e.g.

                                      Picnics (I second this rec) - for gourmet take-out, catering, and lunches. Also, some top-quality gourmet groceries and a small, but thoughtful wine selection.

                                      Union Jack Fish and Chips - another well-kept secret.

                                      Al's: Decent pizza, italian sandwiches, pasta, etc.

                                      Ruby's sandwiches: Hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop.

                                      NICER RESTAURANTS

                                      Onotria - Finest Italian food around. More sophisticated and regional fare than most others. Not the typical Italian-American stuff--lots of small plates and a tremendous, eclectic, thoughtfully-chosen wine list. Service can be patchy when busy, and seems to be more special when the chef is one the premises, but still well-worth the effort.

                                      Aire - Asian fusion/Cal cuisine. Fun, funky Indie/Bordello vibe. Very interesting menu and good wine list.

                                      Old Vines Cafe - Mostly-organic, ingredient-driven cuisine. Lots of small plates, and a thoughtful wine list where wines are barely above retail (in other words, barely marked up at all!)

                                      The Golden Truffile. I have had a couple of meals here that were truly magical, but this place doesn't seem to be that consistent. Chef Alan Greely is a genius, but occasionally (IMHO) his intrepidness means overshooting the mark. Also, things seem to be tighter when he is on the premises, which means lunch, during the work week.

                                      Marche Moderne: Hearing great things about this new French place located where Troquet used to be. Chef Florent used to be at Pinot Provence.

                                      Pinot Provence: Haven't eaten there since Florent's departure, but has always been good and consistent. Not too 'provencal,' but good French food.

                                      Bayside. Although this is technically in Newport, I have to mention it because it is probably my favorite local restaurant. European/Austrian/French-inspired food, as far as I can tell, with absolutely flawless execution and consistency. ALWAYS ORDER the soup--his stocks are to die for, as well as is the quail/fois gras appetizer, the venison, the halibut, and the desserts.

                                      Hope these help!


                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: georgempavlov

                                        Excellent thread. I think I've been to most of your recs and thoroughly agree, especially on Plums, Onotria, Aire, and Bayside. Marche Moderne is divine - must must go!

                                        1. re: brekkie_fan

                                          Have you tried the Chicken Coop? It's inexpensive and huge servings. Went for breakfast and had amazing pork chops with eggs and potatoes. Really good bloody mary's. It's a bit of a hole in the wall. But it's fun to go to and watch a Sunday Football game and eat at the same time.

                                          1. re: diaz

                                            Haven't tried before, but now have another on my "to-do" list. Thanks!

                                            1. re: diaz

                                              Do you know if the Chicken Coop has moved recently? When I last visited, it was on Old Newport, but recent searches and links here on Chowhound indicate it has moved to Pine Place in Costa Mesa. Maybe the Pine Place location is the old one, or there is a 2nd location now. Anyone know?

                                              Chicken Coop
                                              414 Old Newport Blvd, Newport Beach, CA 92663

                                              Zubies Chicken Coop
                                              830 Pine Pl, Costa Mesa, CA 92627

                                              1. re: Wonginator

                                                Went by the Old Newport location today and it certainly looks to be open.

                                        2. try Taste Buds.. its new, just opened a few months ago

                                          can any one help.. i am looking for a place to have a lamb dinner

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: nwprtgrl

                                            my mom's friend lives in Costa Mesa and we ordered Taco Mesa in for dinner one night.. it was DE-licious...

                                            1. re: nwprtgrl

                                              Black Sheep Bistro in old town Tustin (on El Camino Real) is really good with lamb. Rick does a great "Lamb, 3 ways, among other lamb-centric dishes.

                                              1. re: mikester

                                                I second this -- their paella wasn't all that and a bag of chicharrones, but the lamb and the quail are OUTSTANDING... add to it some very reasonably priced wine and you have a winner.

                                            2. A must try in Costa Mesa is the new restaurant at The Camp, called Mesa. It is located in the old Shooters spot, behind the gas station. There are no signs - kind of a pain to find if you don't know the area. The inside is too cool, with a lounge that has an open ceiling, allowing smoking on one side of the place. Very upscale feel. I was told the chef came from Melisse in LA.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: gsdaniels

                                                Thanks for the rec, gsdaniels. We found it last night and were not disappointed. LA dining in Costa Mesa. Will definitely blog about it later....

                                                1. re: brekkie_fan

                                                  How funny - we ate there last night as well! I was just disappointed that they ran out of the Kobe Steak special - Not surprised though - $39 for an 8oz New York was a steal. The rack of lamb with kalamata stuffed ricotta gnocchi worked in its place. And the wine... Can't wait to go back!

                                                  1. re: gsdaniels

                                                    We decided to make it our "home" restaurant (my foodie guy likes to get all sports talk on me when he's excited about a place). It was so incredible, we had four desserts between the two of us. The maitre d and the chef came out to see who was tearing thru their menu...haha. FYI - they're adding more dining underneath the skylight, so dining under the starts is coming soon!

                                              2. No one has yet mentioned the fantastic IKKO on Baker in CM. Some of the most inventive Japanese food in the southland!