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Sep 5, 2012 02:41 PM

Good Food, Good Booze, Solo Dining. Where in N/Central OC?

I live in Orange and find myself eating by myself at least once a weekend. Lately, I have been going to Haven in Orange a fair bit, and I like it, but the menu is a bit limiting. I also enjoy taking the pup with me to Lazy Dog in Irvine, but the food isn't interesting. They don't have to have alcohol, I like Bruxie for an example, but it certainly helps, especially if they have some nice craft cocktails.

So where should I head to if I want to expand my dining options? I have sushi covered, so no sushi bars. I am married and my wife works weekends, so I am not looking to pick anyone up, but I do enjoy talking with someone sitting at the bar or at the next table.

Pet friendly patios are a plus, but really I am looking for interesting food. Tustin, Orange, and Irvine would be my first choices, but I will go a bit farther afield.

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  1. You can sit at the bar at Marche Moderne. Great food, good cocktails. No pets though.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Robert Thornton

      I think it is a little more than I want to spend at dinner, but it is on my list of places to try at lunch.

      1. re: Servorg

        Agora does not seem the type of place to foster conversation with your neighboring table. Everyone is in a meat coma.

        1. re: ocshooter

          If you sit at the bar and can get there during happy hour (5 to 7 PM) you can select anything from the salad bar for $9 - and go completely meatless.

      2. Under the "farther afield" category, I always enjoy TAPS in Brea.

        Also, Two 40 South has a great selection of wines, and I enjoy many of the small plates they offer. I haven't tried any of their cocktails, but I have heard and read that they have some good ones.

        One more option would be OREA Taverna and Wine Bar in Placentia. Decent selection of wines and a lot of really good/interesting Mediterranean small plates. Not much of a bar or patio, though, and not much of a crowd.

        I also recently tried a new French restaurant in Yorba Linda called Bistrot Massilia. I went with friends for dinner the night before the foie gras ban and had a wonderful meal with good wine. The owner was very friendly and engaging. I would definitely give it a try. Again, no patio, and the bar is very small, but I think it would satisfy your interesting food criterion.

        Happy Hunting

        17 Replies
        1. re: OCSteve

          Does Two 40 have cocktails? Beer works, but I wine is not my thing right now (too long an explanation, I am hoping to enjoy it again one day soon).

          Orea and Massilia look like they are also beer and wine only. Do they have cocktails?

          I used to live in Fullerton, and I have been to Taps a few times, but with parking, it is a 20-30 minute drive from home.

          1. re: ocshooter

            Two 40 South does have cocktails (some are very good from what I've heard and read).

            Orea and Massilia are beer and wine only. I mentioned them more for the interesting food.

            I agree on TAPS parking. I usually just bite the bullet and valet or deal with the parking structure when I go.

            I'm not sure if you're a fan of country music (I am not, but I don't hate it), another option would be the Saloon at The Ranch in Anaheim. I haven't been in the Saloon, but the restaurant is amazing, and I've heard good things about the Saloon menu. They have some specialty cocktails on the menu.

            I do hope that your taste for beer comes back and that your recovery is going well. It's good to see that your taste buds are starting to come around.

            1. re: OCSteve

              what's great about the ranch ? and what's good to order there ? Is it very very very pricey ?


              1. re: kevin

                See the following thread about The Ranch:


                It's not inexpensive in the restaurant, but the steaks, chops, prime rib and other dishes were so good, that I didn't feel it was overpriced. Like I said, I haven't been into the saloon, but the menu looks like more of an upscale bar menu.

                  1. re: Servorg

                    I have never been to Bistango. I was actually thinking about Juliette Kitchen that took over from Pascal's location in NB. Gnocchi and duck confit sounds decadently delicious. It is a good 20 minutes away from home, but a possibility.

                    Anyone been there?

                      1. re: ocshooter

                        Bistango is a great choice...way better than Juliette's IMHO! Bistango has a good happy hour menu, excellent drinks and terrific food. Their meat (steak and chops) is excellent, and even their pizzas are pretty good. Juliette's is the trendy new kid on the block, and has a way to go before even approaching the level of Bistango.

                        Marche Moderne is the truly class act for solo dining at the bar. Outstanding food and drinks, friendly guests and terrific bartenders...Shaun especially. The bar is small, so get there when they open to be assured of seating.

                        1. re: josephnl

                          is juliette the new joint opened by the old proprietors of the filling station in orange ????

                1. re: OCSteve

                  Definitely hit up Hollingshead's, I love that place.

                  How about Lola Gaspar, and the very nearby Memphis, which I've been to before and did strike up conversations at the bar. The plus for both is that the food is pretty decent.

                  I wouldn't recommend a sushi bar, for some reason, I don't usually strike up a conversation, but if anywhere maybe Maki Zushi in Tustin would fit the bill.

                  And for chains, Houston's is always good, but you are probably not interested in there.

                  1. re: kevin

                    I am not a big fan of country. I though of both Lola and Memphis. I've been to both for lunch last time I was on jury duty. Lola especially was friendly, but it was tiny.

                    Houston's is not a linger and chat place. Heck, the whole emphasis of the chain is to get you in, have an entree, get you out, and turn that table.

                    Hollingshead's looks like a good hit for my lunch crew. How crowded are they during the week?

                    I find sushi bars very friendly, and Maki is one of my top 3 bars, but sushi tastes off to me these days, so I am staying away from it.

                    Steve - thanks for the well wishes. Taste buds are coming back slowly. Some things are good (fatty meats are good) and some are not (sushi for example). Some beers work well, some are terrible. Wine is just OK, but there is no sense spending $15 or so on a glass I don't really enjoy. Surprisingly, hard liquor is is fine. I would rather a nice neat rye than a cab with my well marbled steak or juicy burger.

                    1. re: ocshooter

                      my bad, yeah skip the sushi.

                      i really like hollingsheads, pretty great beer selection, unique atmosphere, and good midwestern sandwiches, and since you like fatty meats goe for the bernie with pastrami and danish bleu cheese. but it is pricey for what you get, very pricey in a lot of ways and yet i still really really really like it.

                    2. re: kevin

                      Had a nice dinner at Memphis on Friday. The beet salad was very good, and I enjoyed the duck quessadilla, but it could have been crispier. I was falling apart and tough to eat. I also had two nice cocktails. Lola was too crowded for me to get in.

                      I had not been to the area in a while, and I was impressed with how it had grown. There are a few more places in the area that are on my radar. From home, it is about 15 minutes, so really not much further than Haven.

                      1. re: ocshooter

                        I was talking to an OC based friend the other day and he mentioned Kimera to me. Never been and I don't know anything about it, but might be worth checking out as you are exploring new options?

                        1. re: Servorg

                          I find Kimera to be disappointing. It is related to Bistango but the food and setting are underwhelming and a tad sad, particularly in comparison. If you work in or are visiting that complex it is probably fine but not one I consider destination dining.

                          1. re: New Trial

                            No question...Bistango is far better tan Kimera.

              2. Have you tried the Umami Burger on Bristol yet? I just noticed that it was open last month.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Porthos

                  I have not been to Umami. I love Crow Burger on the peninsula, especially the duck fat fries. When I go to Hoag, I try to get there for lunch before or after. Crow took over from Peter's Gourmade as my favorite burger.

                  Umami looks good, but I may try there for lunch. The Camp has a few options there. I maybe able to drag my vegan office neighbor there for the Earth burger, minus the cheese.

                2. Maybe check out The Playground in DT Santa Ana? Great food and drinks, with a friendly, bright atmosphere.


                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Novelli

                    I don't think the atmosphere at the Playground was friendly at all, but that's just my opinion. It seems like they are trying to do a pretty crappy version of the stuff that the guys at Animal are doing in LA.

                    1. re: Novelli

                      Looks interesting. For my specific diet, there is not a ton on the menu I would eat, plus it is just beer and wine from what I see. It is a possibility.

                      1. re: Novelli

                        I've enjoyed it. The food is tasty enough, though sometimes a little heavy handed. Service is decent, though sometimes a little indifferent. Beers are good. Can get very loud in there, especially on the weekends when they host um, "musicians". All in all, it's a nice change of pace for the orange county area.