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"Mostly locals" recs in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa

My friends and I are in Newport Beach for the week. I've researched the recommended fancy/expensive places in Laguna and the surrounding area and we will try several of them.

Beyond these institutional players, we are looking for a handful "mostly locals" recommendations in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa. We are open to any ethnicity or size footprint as long as locals swear by the place.

Also, bar recommendations are welcome as well with the same criteria.

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  1. It's been years, but Goat Hill Tavern was often the "local" place to go for drinks....

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    Goat Hill Tavern
    1830 Newport Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA 92627

    1. For gringo Mex, I'd steer you to El Matador. They redecorated it last year, and it's now a pretty good looking room. Food's just ok, not great. Drinks and people watching is the reason to go. Try the chile verde nachos.

      Catalina Fish Kitchen is a great local place for grilled fish. The tacos here are very good. Definitely a good place to go for some beers and healthy-ish food. Atmosphere is "surf shack" and not anything fancy by any means, nor someplace I'd want to hang out in for any extended length of time.

      I second OCAnn's rec for the Goat Hill. It's a great beer bar and much more down to earth than the Yard House across the street. The beer selection is more geared to beer geeks than the beer poser a la Yard House. However, there is no kitchen, and the only food served are peanuts that you shell onto the sawdust covered floor.

      If you like authentic Mexican food, there's a whole lot of hole in the wall taquerias and restaurants in the area. Tell me you want to drag your friends to some dumpy hole in the walls for really authentic street tacos, and I'll go on.

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      El Matador
      1768 Newport Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA 92627

      Catalina Fish Kitchen & Sea
      670 W 17th St Ste G8, Costa Mesa, CA 92627

      4 Replies
      1. re: Professor Salt

        Thanks so much for these!

        Yes, we do want to hit some great and authentic Mexican in the area. We are from SF and enjoy a good taqueria. Would love any recommendations - especially if the surroundings are good "sit down" Mexican. Back in the day, we liked Olamendi's in Capo Beach and would love anything similar in environment and superior in food in NB or CM. Thanks!

        1. re: khoiberg

          I might compromise your "sit down" surroundings request somewhat, at least until the end. The best Mexican restaurants in Costa Mesa aren't about the atmosphere, it's really all about the food.

          On the corner of 19th Street and Monrovia is El Granjenal. The thing I like best here is the grilled fish tacos, home made salsa verde, and the agua naranja made from fresh squeezed fruit. The meat taco fillings are ok but fish is the best thing.

          Taco Mesa is a local chain. It's fancified (IMO gringoed - look at the customers around you) but still very good and reasonably authentic tacos, burritos, etc. I mention Granjenal and Taco Mesa first because they're both sit-down and might best suit your request.

          El Toro Bravo is my favorite taqueria by far, but it's dumpy looking, and there is no place to sit. There are tables outside where you can stand and eat your food, but that's it. They are a wholesale tortilla factory, and the meats are the best of any Orange County place, IMO. I especially like the flavors of the roasted chicken, and carne asada. The carnitas are of the slow cooked, soft type (not the crisped up style), and I love the deep fried cubes of meaty chicharron carnudo. The salsa fresca and salsa roja are both home made and exceptionally good. Skip the salsa verde which comes out of a can and isn't special at all. Stop by here and get a couple of tacos on the way to the other places - trust me, it's worth the side trip and the wait in line.

          If you feel like taking Salvadoran break, get the pupusas at Pupuseria San Sivar. I did a writeup here: http://professorsalt.com/2005/09/21/p...

          If you want both great authentic food and nice atmosphere, schlep up to Old Towne Orange and hit Gabbi's. It's upscale and still true to fine Mexican dining.

          Lastly, a good SF burrito doesn't exist in LA / OC. Much has been written about the Mission burrito by transplanted San Franciscans, so adjust your expectations if that's your reference for burritos.

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          Taco Mesa
          647 W 19th St, Costa Mesa, CA 92627

          San Sivar Restaurant
          1940 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

          Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen
          141 S Glassell St, Orange, CA 92866

          1. re: Professor Salt

            Excellent post Professor Salt. :) I totally agree and second those choices.

          2. re: khoiberg

            "Olamendi's in Capo Beach"

            Thanks for saying something about Olamendi's, my dad and I ate many an Olamendi's meal in the late 70's when he wa helping to build the power plant down the road.

        2. In Costa Mesa, I'd swear by Habana. Call to reserve patio seating. Mojitos are stellar. I also like the white sangria. Mains are less than $25.

          1. These are really fantastic suggestions! I really appreciate it and look forward to experiencing!

            1. A true locals institution in Huntington Beach, right next to Costa Mesa/Newport Beach is
              Las Barcas on Beach Blvd at Atlanta St. Authentic, fresh-prepared Mexican food with an Argentinian twist.
              http://www.lasbarcas.com/
              Everything is prepared to order, so if you are in a hurry, phone in the order 15 minutes in advance. Their signature soft tacos (chicken is the best, carnitas is also excellent) are to die for, just 2 make a meal! Also, their fresh-made tortilla chips are totally addictive, especially when they are still warm. Its all good!!