Where in OC...
would you take a group of first-time visitors from Germany?
I'm a former Fountain Valley resident, so I certainly have my favorite spots, but would love to share a quintessential SoCal dining experience for my foreign guests. We'll be based in Anaheim, but will have wheels, so distance is not an issue.
Scott's in Costa Mesa was the first place to come to mind, and then I contemplated making the drive to East LA for Serenata De Garibaldi, so I am open to a range of places.
How big is your group? If not too big, I like HondaYa in Fullerton for Izakaya. They get really crowded though... Or take them to Rowland Heights/Hacienda Heights for some Asian food. My go to place is usually Coconut Bay for Thai food or Simbala and Tan Cang for Chinese... Also, you gotta take them to an all you can eat Korean BBQ. There are a bunch in Garden Grove.
The problem with Scott's is that it could be anywhere. There is nothing especially So Cal or OC about Scott's.
If the weather is nice and you are looking at lunch, the Beachcomber is great. The food is not fantastic, but the location is unbeatable.
For dinner, K'Ya in Laguna Beach would be a good choice. Just make sure you have a few cocktails at the Rooftop Bar (same location, different operation) first. I think it is the best view in OC.
Another possibility would be Las Brisas in Laguna. Great view, decent food.
Some of the smaller operations/gastropubs would also be good. Crow Burger in Newport makes a great burger, as does Umami (but Crow Burger has better fries0, Haven Gastropun in Orange is fun, so is Crow Bar in CDM and Dublin 45 in Mission Viejo. I like the revitalized downtown Santa Ana, and there are several great options there. The Playground, Lola Gaspur and Memphis are all excellent and then you can walk around afterwards and take in the neighborhood.
Sam Woo or Capital Seafood in Irvine or Elite in Monterey Park for dinner. Seafood and roast duck Chinese style. Dim sum would also be fun.
A Mexican place for lunch.
Vietnamese in Westminster.
Kasen for sushi
Pizzeria Mozza in Newport.
Javier's in Newport Coast for Mexican with a view. Not a legit Mexican food destination but probably as "Quintessential" OC as it gets.
Torihei in Torrance for Izakaya.
Gjelina for cal cuisine in Venice if you are willing to drive.
Red Medicine if you are really willing to drive.
As crazy and un-high end as it may sound, my first thought was Ruby's on the Balboa or Huntington pier. The view is amazing and the food is decent for a breakfast or lunch. Plus, the stroll on the pier to get there is part of the attraction. My out-of-town friends always want to go there when visiting.