Chow House - LB to OC
I swear this is a chow question. Just bear with me...
My girlfriend is pushing for us to buy a house. Somewhere as far north as Long Beach or Orange and as far south as Laguna. She asked me what was important to me in finding a house. My response was "it has to be chowish".
I want a place near a good farmers market, a Trader Joes, a high end grocery store (Bristol Farms, Whole Foods, etc.), a cheese shop, a wine store, and inspiring restaurants. Preferably walkable.
I'm still new to the area. What are the chowish places to live?
Costa Mesa - 17th Street (newer/trendier cafes and restaurants, High-Times is the best liquor/wine store in my opinion), 19th Street (all kinds of mexican taquerias, carnicerias, and lots of other 'rias) and the Bristol Corridor (the CAMP, the LAB, Mitsuwa, etc.) give you all kinds of options for restaurants and diverse markets. There's also a Farmers Market at the Fairgrounds.
Tustin - Old town has lots of dining options and the new "District" has a Whole Foods and a bunch of new restaurants.
Westminster - Little Saigon will give you enough Vietnamese markets and restaurants to last a lifetime.
Garden Grove - a growing number of Korean markets and restaurants
Irvine - Best Farmers market in the county according to many on this board (it's in the parking lot of the shopping center across Campus from UCI, same center has a Trader Joes). Also lots of Chinese restaurants and markets. Can get good cheese (and some wine) at Lucca Cafe on Quail Hill Pkwy
Laguna Beach - lots of great restaurants
Orange - Old town has some nice restaurants (Gabbi's Mexican, Citrus City Grille, Felix's for Cuban, Watson's Drugstore, Hollingshead Deli) and I've heard about a great cheese shop there, Frog's Breath?
re: I got nothin
I hate to be redundant and simply echo “I got nothin’s” sentiments, but I can say that we've got it pretty made here in Costa Mesa. Specifically, on the Eastside of Costa Mesa.
By my calculations, that should include pretty much everything East of Newport Boulevard. Think Mesa Avenue to 17th Street between Newport Boulevard and Irvine Avenue. Aside being chock-full of great neighborhoods with immediate access to the beach and freeways, it’s central enough to everything a foodie might want.
As mentioned above, there are a bevy of spots including, but not limited to:
Picnics Deli (17th Street near Tustin)
Hi-Time Cellars (possibly the best wineshop in California)
Mother's Market (organic and old-school indy health food grocery)
You can shoot up Irvine Avenue on Saturdays for the farmer’s market listed above.
There is also direct access to Newport Beach including the Peninsula. The Newport Beach Bristol Farms at PCH & Avocado is a short jaunt, as is Pearson's Port for local and fresh seafood (including hard-to-get items and the best live spot prawns I've ever sourced). You’ve also got the restaurants at South Coast Plaza and Fashion-Island plus a soon-to-be-built Dean & Deluca that will be a massive West Coast flagship store. Mitsuwa and Muraki Japanese markets, the indy and burgeoning food scene off Bristol between Paularino and Baker, and the soon to explode Westside urban business culture-driven spots currently in development are also nearby.
Across Newport on the Westside, including 19th Street between Harbor Boulevard and Whittier Avenue, a whole new world opens up. Some of the very best Mexican and Latin American spots are minutes away. Don’t miss the Pupusas at El Chinaco (El Salvadorian) or the tacos and fresh chips from El Toro Bravo. Jugos Acapulcos is great for juice and tasty and casual Mexican dining and if you’re looking to stock up on restaurant-style supplies, you’ve got Smart & Final right there.
At 17th Street and Irvine Avenue is Kean Coffee, the brainchild of Martin Deidrich. He opened Kean to the delight of coffee fanatics after selling his shares in his namesake company. The pastry and food case (courtesy of Pacific Whey) is mediocre, but the beans Martin sources are absolutely world-class and roasted onsite in a machine Martin's brother custom built. It's hard to get a better cup of coffee anywhere in Orange County.
Personally, I feel lucky to have this stuff at my disposal. There are lots of other perks that are still coming to mind but I hate to be more long-winded than I've already been.
R. Jason Coulston
I couldn't agree more about Costa Mesa. And the other thing is - even with all of the wonderful amenities in CM - another thing to consider is that due to it's location, many of the amenities outside of CM are also quite easily accessible. I live in east side CM, and I can get to the UCI farmer's market in 10 minutes (you can't do that from east Irvine!). I can get to Anaheim, downtown Orange, Laguna Hills, all within about 20-25 minutes, traffic permitting. You're right in the apex of the 55, 405, 5, and 73 freeways - and the 5 is not far away.
And also, to second the rec on Hi-Time Wine Cellars (it's not 'High', btw) - I can confirm that it has the largest climate-controlled cellar east of the Mississippi - and since the recent expansion, maybe the whole US. And another thing that should be of importance to everyone in a wineshop - even among experts - their staff is very knowledgeable. It's very helpful to have a guide - especially one familiar with their particular inventory.
And... this just occured to me... at least 3(!) Trader Joes within a 5 mile radius, and at least 2(!) differnet options for CSA programs with local drop-off's (click on links, then link labelled "CSA program or equivalent" - I can personally vouch for either, but I do the Morning Star farm one:
I felt so strongly about this I actually registered so I could respond! About 6 months ago I moved from the Mission Viejo area (after having lived in the Mission Viejo - Lake Forest - Laguna Hills area my entire life) to Costa Mesa (east side) to be closer to work, and I have never been happier. I am the type of person who plans vacations around where we are going to eat, so that says a lot! I feel like there are so many awesome eateries around here without ever having to step into a chain restaurant. But in the event that you do want to eat at a chain restaurant, you can do that too!
I live in Long Beach and use to live in Costa Mesa. I do love Costa Mesa and agree that there are many wonderful places to eat and shop at/from. But, I do love living in Long Beach for the diversity and the fact that not only do we have many wonderful places to eat here, we are so smack dab in the middle between LA and OC with so many surrounding communities to pick from. We do have what you are looking for in regards to farmer's markets, TJ's, Bristol Farms and a WFs. Also we have several wine stores, havent found a cheese shop yet though. Walkable thought is the hard part. But many people are very happy living near 2nd St.
We live in Irvine and have Trader Joe's (2), Gelson's (2) Bristol Farms, a giant new Whole Foods, and a Sprouts all within 10 minutes by car. And yes, there is the excellent Saturday farmer's market by UCI, and Hi Time Wines in Costa Mest (probably the best wine shop in southern CA). So...food shopping is great in this area. Although there are many good restaurants in the area, the area is loaded with chain restaurants, and really great dining experiences are few and far between in Orange County.
For cheese there is a reasonable selection at Bristol Farms and Whole Foods, but for anything more unusual I depend on igourmet.com. They are a great source for cheese.
For an interesting cheese spot, check out Robert and Jeana at Picnics Deli on 17th Street in Costa Mesa near Tustin Avenue. I referenced this spot in my post above. Robert does a good job in bringing in tough-to-find cheeses, primarily of the European persuasion.
R. Jason Coulston