Celebrating the past (A Restaurant used to be home to The Arches) and the present (it’s still considered the local power players’ watering hole), film director McG and partner Jordan Otterbein’s A is a landmark. Expect a straightforward menu by executive chef Jon Blackford—try his filet mignon. Oh, and you might see the movie mogul lounging here one of these nights. Classic. Dinner nightly.
3334 W. Pacific Coast Highway, Newport Beach
“As partners of River Jetty Restaurant Group, McG and I have been thinking about starting a new concept for some time,” says Jordan Otterbein, operating partner of Newport Beach’s storied A Restaurant, who is elevating the brand’s profile with the debut of CdM Restaurant. The former Crow Bar and Kitchen space received a major overhaul thanks to Betsy Van’t Hof of Art by Design and Kevin Forbes, who took inspiration from London’s Soho House with sumptuous blue velvet booths and light fixtures sourced from salvage shipyards. “The menu draws influence from America’s melting pot of cuisines and will change multiple times a year,” adds Otterbein of the fare, led by corporate executive chef Jonathan Blackford. Highlights include raw black snapper crudo and braised oxtail gemelli, while the Gin Blossom and La Ultima Fumar pack a punch on the cocktail side. And for those in the know, there’s Under CdM, an underground speakeasy where bar manager Ravin Buzzell is stirring up a separate menu of spirits and weekly specials. (Don’t miss the vintage photobooth to commemorate your boozy outing.) Dinner nightly.
2325 E. Coast Highway, Corona del Mar
Explore the old-English countryside at this charming spot, which now boasts Alejandra Padilla as queen of the kitchen. (She formerly worked at Hillstone Restaurant Group—and you may have seen her on Food Network’s Chopped back in 2011.) The O.C. institution has a menu that both throws it back to the past (thanks to interpretations of staples like the prime rib) and takes a cheery step into present time (courtesy of selections from the farm, field and sea). Dinner nightly.
3801 E. Coast Highway, Corona del Mar
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
The iconic eatery has given us even more to love with its recent revamp. Among the highlights is a 1,200-square-foot patio with seating for 60-plus, a living wall of plants, covered booths, love seats and lounges—perfect for soaking up the temperate spring and summer weather in O.C. Of course, we’ve always loved the menu (complete with the mouthwatering dry-aged prime New York strip), the Fleming’s 100 list of wines by the glass and the Sonoma Sunday brunch. Dinner nightly, brunch Sun.
455 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach
Louie’s by the Bay
From legendary restaurateurs Ron Salisbury and Piero Selvaggio comes a Newport Beach hot spot on the harbor, where the pair’s more than 100 years of combined success shines. A breeze blows off the bay in the Hatch Design Group space that formerly housed The Ritz Prime Seafood, where delighting in a spoonful of feather-light gnocchi and lovely steamed clams is a must.Order a classic cocktail by the skilled mixologists at the wraparound bar, or ask for a pour from Selvaggio’s ever-growing wine collection. Dinner daily.
2801 West Coast Highway, Newport Beach
Mastro’s Ocean Club
From the Maybach- and Lambo-sprinkled valet line to the fresh-caught seafood and handcut steaks, everything at Mastro’s is large and in charge. Get your seafood fix (the gargantuan seafood tower is a must) before you go barside to sip a Jack the Buddha cocktail with the uberfabulous of O.C. Dinner nightly.
8112 E. Coast Highway, Newport Beach
It’s the perfect menu for Newport’s shores: yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno; tuna tosazu with crispy red onion; salmon nashi pear—light little bites with flavors that dance on the taste buds and expand on the tongue. And those are only a few of the many edible wonders dreamed up by the namesake and his team for the iconic restaurant. It is the place to be, packed with chichi crowds of ladies and gents who like to pair their fine cuisine with an incredible scene. Lunch and dinner daily.
Lido Marina Village
3450 Via Oporto, Ste. 101, Newport Beach
Oak Grill & Aqua Lounge
Executive chef Brittany Valles is heating things up at this chic restaurant, where the scenic outdoor patio is the place to be for each and every meal. Valles has a penchant for incorporating local, seasonal products into her meals and a flair for utilizing the whole plant or animal. At the adjacent lounge, there’s everything from DJed tunes to a tableside cocktail program to a late-night menu, offered Thu.-Sat. beginning at 11pm. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Look for the larger-than-life red key over the entrance of this Old World-themed gastropub connected to Five Crowns. Specializing in seasonal small plates meant for sharing and a menu that changes almost weekly, the resto also features a staff (including executive chef Alejandra Padilla) well-versed in the accolades of its many craft beers, specialty cheeses and charcuterie. We like to pull up a bar stool, order the avocado mash (it’s so good you won’t need the accompanying pita chips) and try a vino from the rotating list. Dinner nightly.
3801 E. Coast Highway, Corona del Mar
The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar
The toasts keep coming for “The Boyz” (executive chef and partner Yvon Goetz, sommelier and partner William Lewis and founding partner JC Clow) behind this local favorite here (and in Tustin). The menu of contemporary Cali cuisine is a perfect fit for the abundant vino selection, and the landmark waterfront location mixes SoCal sophistication with Napa style. And it’s buzzing from the moment it opens (Sunday brunch brings luscious white shrimp and crispy bacon deviled eggs) till close (if you come in for a nightcap on the weekends, nab a seat at the upstairs bar—if there’s room). By the way: The Boyz is the trio’s signature wine label. Try a bottle the next time you visit. Dinner daily, brunch Sun.
3131 W. Coast Highway, Newport Beach
Broadway by Amar Santana
It’s like you’re dining in a theater—Amar Santana’s restaurant is a culinary performance extraordinaire. Start with the Caesar kale salad, then enjoy the truffle-crusted Scottish salmon and finish with a sweet grand finale: the lemon ricotta fritters. It all deserves a standing ovation. Dinner nightly.
328 Glenneyre St., Laguna Beach
The Country Club
Part restaurant, part social lounge, this Costa Mesa hot spot has been attracting the who’s who of O.C. since its debut in December 2018. In the evenings, the cool crowd cozies up in sumptuous booths to sip three-hour martinis and share plates and apps like the 42-ounce ribeye tomahawk, Chicken Little sliders and hamachi tacos. And once the sun goes down, the music is cranked up with a live DJ on Fridays and Saturdays, and smooth jazz performances on Tuesdays. Order bottle service to have a dedicated VIP attendant at your beck and call. Brunch Sat. & Sun, dinner nightly.
330 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa
Named after his grandfather, chef-proprietor Greg Daniels’ Harley showcases outstanding food, warm hospitality and a welcoming, earnest vibe. Start with a cocktail from the signature menu. The Harley version of a Boulevardier is made with Rittenhouse Rye, and it’s stellar, or peruse the wine list of a bottle that excites. Then dig in. Bread service is a must—a housemade brioche loaf arrives hot with salted French butter—as are the jammy eggs. For the main course, try the local halibut, if only for the craveable taste of the smoked cannellini bean puree it rests on, or enjoy smoky goodness from the New York steak, the Duroc pork chop and the brontosaurus-size 32-ounc 45-day dry-aged bone-in ribeye. A gastronomic awakening is happening in Laguna Beach, and you can taste it at Harley. Dinner daily, brunch Sat.-Sun.
370 Glenneyre St., Laguna Beach
Selanne Steak Tavern
This sleek, sexy restaurant of Teemu Selanne—yes, the former Anaheim Ducks player—and biz partner Kevin Pratt is a must-visit on our shores. It’s got multiple dining areas and a well-executed menu of dishes, like the forest mushroom risotto, and plenty of stellar steaks. Oenophiles will want to check out the wine list, which has something noteworthy for every palate. What’s more: Selanne took home the accolade of best service at the 2017 Golden Foodie Awards. Prepare to be dazzled in every facet. Dinner nightly.
1464 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach
In the mood for opulence? Get to Mastro’s, where the properly grilled steak is elevated to an art form. This power-player’s haven is ideal for deal-closing business dinners, pre-performance tippling (the Solrita is oh, so smooth), impress-your-first-date occasions and pretty much any other night of the week. Dinner nightly.
633 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa
Morton’s The Steakhouse
Heavy hitters and very pretty people dine here on great steaks, crabcakes, fish and large side dishes. Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner nightly.
1641 W. Sunflower Ave., Santa Ana
The spot that once housed the landmark Scott’s has earned its own iconic status. The gorgeous space, with its wave-making design, has become the go-to for numerous fundraising luncheons and dinners, and is frequented by well-heeled ladies and gents hungry for a post-shopping seafood snack—if that snack is a massive shellfish platter or the sweet local spiny lobster. (And the late-night scene buzzes too.) Lunch and dinner daily, brunch Sat. and Sun.
3300 Bristol St., Costa Mesa
Gourmands from across the nation graze their way through the menu at CEO and partner Ahmed Labbate and executive chef Amar Santana’s spicy Spanish joint. (Santana was a Top Chef finalist, after all.) The paella (specifically, the fideua) is incredible, as are the slabs of steak and everything else the culinarian cooks up. You can find us at the bar in the afternoon, sipping on Vaca Tonics and Don’t Fear the Repos; it’s the best time to catch cocktail consultant Gabrielle Dion dreaming up new drinks. Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner nightly.
695 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse
A new but known fine dining concept has set up shop in Irvine. Some three decades ago, chef and owner Steve DiFillippo opened the first Davio’s, an East Coast (and celeb!) favorite known for its aged steaks and unique pasta creations, with locations spanning from Manhattan to Atlanta. The made-from-scratch menu delights with a slew of Italian dishes, including handrolled potato gnocchi with organic mushrooms, basil and white truffle oil, or as the chef calls them, “little pillows of heaven.” Lunch Mon.-Sat., dinner daily, brunch Sun.
18420 Von Karman Ave., Irvine
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
With roots originating from Louisiana, Ruth’s Chris is perhaps one of the best steakhouses in the county. With impeccable service and attention to detail, this eatery’s success is founded on back-to-the-basics steaks, seafood and chops. There are seven different types of cuts to choose from—we suggest the bone-in prime cowboy rib-eye with a Caymus cab. Lunch Fri., dinner nightly.
2961 Michelson Drive, Irvine
The Blind Pig Kitchen + Bar
The trek to this speak-easy-esque spot will be well worth it. Executive chef Karl Pfleider has a flair for the innovative—do not miss his sisig. It boasts a Champagne sabayon that imbues the rich protein (a mix of pork cheek and ear) with a lovely lightness. Team it with your cocktail of choice (a hint: the Longest Way ’Round). Lunch and dinner Tue.-Sun.
31431 Santa Margarita Parkway, Ste. N
Rancho Santa Margarita
It’s sheer showmanship at this Monarch Beach Resort newbie from storied chef Michael Mina, where plates arrive with magicianlike presentation. The cast-iron broiled shellfish platter bathed in miso butter is carted out and finished with a sizzle of lemon grass tea while the hay-smoked Snake River Farms ribeye cap arrives under a smoke-filled dome and is sliced tableside. Cocktails are shaken and stirred from the mobile bourbon cart, and a martini version recently launched. (Or order a glass of Mina’s namesake bubbly and dig into his epic caviar parfait.) Dinner nightly.
1 Monarch Beach Resort N., Dana Point
O.C. native Blake Mellgren showcases his knack (or craft) for creating flavor-packed, eclectic New American food with a twist. Within the rustic eatery (which buzzes with energy on any given night), Dana Point denizens dine on grilled Mexican street corn and plump pan-roasted scallops while sipping whiskeys (the clear favorite here—take a look at the menu), artful cocktails and wine. Dinner Tue.-Sun., brunch Sun.
34094 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point
The Blind Rabbit
Nostalgists know this place is tops for speak-easy style (you enter discreetly through a row of sake barrels, no less). Though it’s no longer on the menu, ask for the Botanical Good Thyme (it’s one of our faves and can still be made), or dare your bartender to concoct something to suit your tastes. And pair it with a dish from the ever-changing lineup of shareable bites (a signature is the duck confit mac and cheese). Lunch Fri.-Sun., dinner nightly.
Anaheim Packing House
440 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim
Jason Quinn’s eatery serves an ever-changing menu of small plates, craft cocktails, beer and wine, and it continues to earn praise among culinary enthusiasts far and wide. (Those with dietary restrictions should take note: Playground does not make modifications to its menu.) And its adjacent, exclusive 18-seat Playground 2.0 is a favorite among notables for its creativity and ingenuity. (Check out 2.0’s online calendar to learn more about upcoming events.) Dinner Tue.-Sat.
220 E. Fourth St., Ste. 102, Santa Ana
Take your taste buds on a trip around the world at this watering hole, where libations are named after cities around the globe. Favorites include the Andalusia, Spain (with rosewater and pink peppercorn), and the Marrakech, Morocco (with green tea vodka and sumac). Island vibes, courtesy of artisan George Bernal, who outfitted the space in custom furniture, can be found in everything from the palm-print booths to the Tiki-chic drinks. Bottoms up! Cocktails, snacks and dessert Wed.-Sun.
204 W. Fourth St., Santa Ana