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Dining Solo in OC

Hi all,

I'm new to town and looking for nice restaurants in Orange County that would be good for dining alone. Preferably someplace quiet enough to chat with a decent bar space and friendly staff, but above all *good food*.

I have already found The Crow Bar and SideDoor in Corona del Mar, and Pascal's is on my list. I would like to find similar restaurants anywhere within a 20min drive of Costa Mesa. A place with outdoor seating would also be welcome. I can always bring a book to keep myself amused, but am generally open to chatting if I'm at a place with friendly people.

Thanks for the advice and suggestions.

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  1. I have not been to the Side Door, but the Crow Bar is not quite.

    When I go solo, I prefer counters/bars, so sushi is always an easy choice. Blue Fin and San Shi Go are my favorites. Tabu in South Laguna has a counter around the open kitchen, and it has great food, so that is a bonus.

    The food is OK but not great, but the Lazy Dog cafe at the Irvine Marketplace has nice outdoor seating, and (if you have a dog) you can sit on the patio and have a cocktail with your dog by your side.

    Tabu Grill
    2892 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

    San Shi Go Sushi and Asian Cuisine
    205 Main St, Newport Beach, CA 92661

    Blue Fin Crystal Cove
    7952 E Pacific Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, CA 92651

    1. Depending upon what you are looking for...any of the Hillstone Restaurants should work...and four are available nearby. Houston's in Irvine, and Gulfstream, Bandera, and R & D Kitchen in Newport Beach. Gulfstream and R & D have outdoor seating.

      On a very different level, with a very friendly bar, and superb French food would be Marche Moderne in South Coast Plaza. Whenever we decide to go there and it's too late to snag a res, we sit at the bar and always wind up chatting with other foodies.

      Another possibility is Sage in Newport...Eastbluff Shopping Center. A small neighborhood restaurant with friendly bar, outdoor patio and very good food.

      11704 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

      Marche Moderne
      3333 Bristol St 3001, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

      Bandera Restaurant
      3201 E Coast Hwy, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

      Sage Restaurant
      2531 Eastbluff Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660

      Marche Moderne
      3333 Bristol Street, Suite 3001, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

      850 Avocado Ave, Newport Beach, CA 92660

      3 Replies
      1. re: josephnl

        Zov's Bistro is another option. Good modern mediterranean cusine.
        Three locations available. Tustin, Irvine and Newport.
        I know the Irvine location has an outdoor patio that's quite inviting.

        Zov's Bistro
        17440 E. 17th Street, Tustin, CA 92780

        1. re: CynAmyn

          2nd that emotion for Zov's! Great place, interesting menu choices, gotta remember them the next time I am in town.

        2. re: josephnl

          I second Marche Moderne. Relaxed atmosphere, very good food, annoying website, and a great lunchtime prix fixe.

          Marche Moderne
          3333 Bristol St 3001, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

        3. My favorite place in Costa Mesa on food alone is Pizzeria Ortica. Bar is good. They really are one of the few places that knows what an espresso is (even many coffee places don't know.)

          I used to like Mesa quite a lot, but my last visit a few months ago the food had slipped a bit (ok, actually, the salad dressings had too much oil) and I haven't been back since.

          Pizzeria Ortica
          650 Anton Boulevard, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

          3 Replies
          1. re: jaykayen

            Reviews of Ortica are very mixed. I don't like it at all, but others do...so, perhaps op will have to decide for him/herself. Also, Zov's used to be quite good, but I think it's slipped a lot.

            nother spot in Costa Mesa worth trying is ECCO at the Camp...good drinks, good salads and pastas, excellent pizzas, and good happy hour menu.

            1. re: josephnl

              ECCO is good, but my preference runs toward Old Vine @ the Camp.

              Old Vine Cafe
              2937 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

              1. re: OCAnn

                I second Pizzeria Ortica as having a great bar for dining solo. The pizza gets mixed reviews because it's Neapolitan style pizza with a more wet and chewy crust than what people are used to. If you know that going in, you'll probably even love the pizza. The staff is super friendly and professional. The pasta and appetizers are also excellent and well prepared. The pasta at Ortica is housemade from local eggs and 00 flour and the pizza dough they took the trouble of starting with 300 year old biga from outside Naples. I recommend the lamb sausage bruschetta and any of the fresh pastas with ragu or bolognese. For pizza I recommend the sausage and caramalized fennel or the spicy salami and mushroom pizza. The wines by the glass are reasonable and the list very well put together.

                The pizza and pasta at Ecco are a few notches down from Ortica IMO. There's certainly no mention of 00 flour or anything about the pasta being housemade. No mention about taking the time to use biga from Italy in their pizza. Wine list at ECCO is just boring. It's not the same class of restaurant Ortica is.

                Marche Moderne is also a great place for solo dining. The staff is friendly and the food can be great. They have a great selection of french cheese. Wine selection is very well priced and filled with many interesting choices.

                Basically, if you want Italian, go to Ortica. If you want French, go to Marche.

                Marche Moderne
                3333 Bristol St 3001, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

          2. "Nice" can cover quite a range, but you must go to Pasta Connection at least once... I'd recommend breakfast as they have the most fabulous breakfast potatoes in the known universe. Way good food, way reasonable pricing, plus an Argentine deli on site. You'll go back...

            Pasta Connection
            2145 W Chapman Ave, Orange, CA 92868

            1. I went to Charlie Palmer's at South Coast Plaza on a whim (while alone & wearing tennis shoes!), had a great time (in the bar area) talking to the Sommalier. Great place. I need to go back.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Funwithfood

                The dining room is good for dining solo too...esp with the bench seats along the wall.

              2. This is long overdue, but it's taken me some time to survey enough places for a proper reply. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions. They were very helpful. My top choices for solo dining are below.

                1. My top pick for solo dining (or otherwise) absolutely has to be the SideDoor in Corona del Mar. The food is impeccable, the dishes are creative, and the menu changes weekly, making it a great place to go for dinner on a regular basis. The staff is very friendly and it is the ONLY restaurant I have found in Orange County where no one makes comments about how much I eat.

                2. Pizzeria Ortica was lovely. The pasta is perfectly done, the flavors entirely balanced. I favor the other entrees and apps over the pizza, . The octopus is amazingly tender and the best I have had in years, and the papperdelle and lamb was amazing. Also took a cooking class at the restaurant which I would recommend.

                3. Charlie Palmer At Bloomingdale was excellent. The food was lovely and the chef plays with textures in ways I haven't seen from other retaurants. I'll mention that I was there during restaurant week when Chef Palmer was in the house, so I'm not sure how it stands up on a typical night, but I'm looking forward to to going back.

                4. The Crow Bar and Kitchen in Corona del Mar. I'm clearly a fan of the gastropubs but the food is awesome and I like the atmosphere. Interesting people at the bar.

                5. Mozza, which opened this past weekend. Mario Batali's new restaurant in Newport Beach. The food is a notch or two down from Ortica, IMO-- not quite as well balanced. But the atmosphere is great and they have seats surrounding the pizza oven where you can watch the chefs. Good for solo dining in that sense, and I have hopes that the food will improve as they work out the kinks in the new restaurant.

                6. On sushi I liked Maru Sushi in Costa Mesa. I'm sure there are others that might be better but it's close to where I live, and I like it better than several other places that I've tried.

                Places I tried but would not necessarily recommend:
                Pascal's. Classic French food but way overpriced and NOT good for solo dining, especially for anyone under 60. Not sure what the recommender (non-chowhound) was thinking.

                230 Forest Cafe and Opah. Food several notches down from anything listed above. Fish at Opah was definitely not local, which I find less impressive this close to the ocean.

                Still looking forward to trying OldVine especially, and Marche Moderne, but I have travel coming up and it will likely be several weeks before I can get to them.

                Thanks again for all the advice.

                Pizzeria Ortica
                650 Anton Boulevard, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

                Maru Sushi
                1500 Adams Ave, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

                Marche Moderne
                3333 Bristol Street, Suite 3001, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

                Charlie Palmer At Bloomingdale
                3333 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

                The Crow Bar and Kitchen
                2325 East Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, CA 92625

                3801 East Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, CA 92625

                800 West Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, CA 92663

                1 Reply
                1. re: BekahR

                  Marche Moderne must be on your list to try. The bar is small, but bartender Shaun is great, the food is terrific, and the customers at the bar are typically very convivial. IMHO Marche is way better than Pascal's (now Tradition by Pascal) which was for many years the reigning French restaurant in the area. No more, it has slipped substantially and in not in a league with MM.

                  On a very different level, we really do like the food at ECCO (right next to Old Vine). Others will disagree, but we like the pizza there much better than that at Ortica.

                  Marche Moderne
                  3333 Bristol St 3001, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

                  Old Vine Cafe
                  2937 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

                2. If you want great food in a super casual setting try la sirena grill across from the Montage. One of the best spots for casual dining alone. Out door tables face a shopping center parking lot but nice atmosphere inside as well. Fun to people watch as it is always busy.

                  1. Just in case you're still searching for spots for solo dining, be sure to omit Sage in Newport Beach: Its owner shut its doors for good in mid-2011. In its place is Canyon Restaurant in Anaheim Hills, its twin -- but it's worth knowing that Yelp reviewers are of very mixed opinions about its fare:


                    I know that Carbon Canyon is a serious schlep for you, but I really enjoyed the straightforward, well-prepared burritos, enchiladas and salsas at Sol de Mexico. Since it's extremely quiet, not a soul will mind if you're on your own:


                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Dornfelder

                      This is incorrect. Sage in Newport Beach is open, and alive and well. It remains an excellent choice for solo dining

                      1. re: josephnl

                        That's good to know, josephni, that Sage is up and at 'em -- and it remains a great choice for fine fare in Newport Beach. Thank you, most graciously, for the correction.

                        For relaxed Mexican fare, however, Sol de Mexico is super for salt-of-the-earth, classic Mexican fare -- enjoyed solo or with a group.