Restaurant Guide–Orange County

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  • Date indicates the most recent update of the restaurants listed
  • Bold indicates my recommendations; others come from what I consider to be good sources

Anaheim

Aleppo’s Kitchen–513 S. Brookhurst St. (Syrian) Open Daily. Said to have legit Syrian food. Voted “Best Middle Eastern” by OC Weekly. Map (Dining room is open 4-12-22)

Dunarea–821 N. Euclid St. (Romanian) Dinner only (closed Mon & Tue).  This restaurant is so unusual and has such good reviews I had to include it on the list. Cabbage rolls are a favorite. Pork chop is popular but meat dishes seem to all be good. Reviewers say this is authentically Romanian food. Map (Dining room is open 9-2-22)

E-San Rod-Sap–1719 W. La Palma Ave. (Thai) Open 10 am to 6 pm (closed Tue). Northeastern Thailand (E-San) style food with very good reviews. When I have had this type of food before I particularly liked the pad thai (and some of the reviews I have read confirm that this place has the real deal). However, there are a number of other dishes that are not common in Thai restaurants and that will have an authentic spice scale if you order them here. Cash only. Note: the Thai and Laos Market is next door. Map (Dining room is open 4-12-22)

Kareem’s–1208 S. Brookhurst St. (Middle Eastern) Closed Sun evening & Mon.  The oldest restaurant in Anaheim’s “Little Arabia” district, and has some of the best reviews. Specializes in falafel. Map (Dining room is open 9-2-22)

Lindo Michoacan–327 S. Anaheim Blvd. (Mexican) Open daily (serves breakfast).  Some say it is the best and most authentic Mexican rest. in Orange County. However, it is a taco restaurant, so the menu is somewhat limited (also has burritos, menudo, etc.). Also in Santa Ana. Map (Dining room is open 4-12-22)

Noodle House–613 N. Euclid St. (Chinese) Open daily 11 am to 9:30 pm. Authentic Chinese–some dishes are as good as in SGV. Green onion pancake, xiao long bao, hand cut noodles, three cup chicken, fish in spicy sauce, Chinese burrito are recommended (not all as as good as SGV but all are good). Map (Dining room is open 7-6-22)

Sahara Falafel–590 S. Brookhurst St. (Middle Eastern) Open daily 10 am to 2 am.  I have heard that in Israel they love falafel, but they know they can’t make them as good as the ones in Lebanon. In Orange County people apparently go to Sahara for the really good ones, and the reviews seem to be unanimous about this. (And yes, they do serve other good items besides the falafel). Map (Dining room is open 7-6-22)

Sawali Grill–3414 W. Ball Rd. (Filipino) Open daily 10 am to 6:30 pm. Small rest. with 7 tables. Positive is that the food tastes like home cooking. Some say that it is somewhat inconsistent though. Map (Dining room is open 2-19-22)

Buena Park

Maria’s Kusina–6901 La Palma Ave. (Filipino) Open daily 11 am to 7:30 pm.  Reviewers say food is good and it is competitively priced. Map (Dining room is open 9-2-22)

Costa Mesa

Din Tai Fung–3333 Bristol St. (Taiwanese) Open Daily.  Taiwanese chain that opened this restaurant in OC, specializing in its famous (and very popular) xiao long bao (XLB).  In fact, this may be the place in the US to get the authentic version (at least the Taiwanese version).  Pork is the most popular, but they also have shrimp, red bean, and others.  Also try the sauteed string beans.  Map (Dining room is open 4-12-22)

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka–665 Paularino Ave. (Japanese) Open daily 11 am to 7:30 pm.  Tokusen toroniku ramen is recommended. Map (Dining room is open 9-3-22)

Outpost Kitchen–1792 Monrovia Ave. (New American) Breakfast & lunch only (open daily). Excellent food, but breakfast seems to be particularly interesting (many recommend the Aussie scramble, tropical muffin, and a number of other dishes). This place has every trendy label you can put on it–gluten free, organic, and vegan (if you want vegan). Don’t worry–everyone says you will enjoy the food either because of this or in spite of this. Also at 3420 Bristol St. Map (Dining room is open 9-2-21)

Taco Maria–3313 Hyland Ave. (Mexican) Dinner only (closed Mon). Offers much more than tacos–this is an upscale restaurant from one of the country’s most acclaimed chefs. Tacos are available with blue corn tortillas. A four course dinner with wine pairing is also available.  This was named the best restaurant in Orange County by OC Weekly in both 2014-2018.  I don’t know how expensive it is, but it’s listed as $$$ on Yelp. Map (Dining room is open 9-2-22)

Vietnam’s Pearl–1215 Baker St. (Vietnamese) Closed Sat evening & Sun. Described as “authentic,” a “true gem,” a “great alternative outside of Little Saigon,” and better than anything in San Diego. Has a wide menu, but the pho is very popular. If this is the same restaurant as the VP that used to be in Seattle, I highly recommend it based on my own experience. Map (Dining room is open 4-12-22)

Water Grill–3300 Bristol St. (Seafood) Open daily 11 am to 10 pm.  Not on the waterfront, but said to have excellent seafood. Fish & chips, halibut, chilean sea bass, and oyster bar are some of the popular items. Seems to be a quality place where the prices are better than on the oceanside. Map (Dining room is open 11-17-21)

Cypress

California Fish Grill–10569 Valley View St. (Seafood) Open Daily. This may be one of the best bets for affordable but very good fish and seafood. People recommend Taco Tuesdays, the Cajun salmon, ahi tacos, shrimp wrap, and really a long list of choices. Several locations in OC. Map (Dining room is open 2-19-22)

Dana Point

Waterman’s Harbor–34661 Golden Lantern St. (Seafood) Open Daily.  Many years ago I ate at the Crab Cooker in Newport Beach, and was impressed by the seafood (so I didn’t want to leave this category off the list). Some say Waterman’s Harbor is now the best balance of good seafood, an ocean view, and prices that are not out of line. Is dog friendly. Update 2021: Much of the menu is now quite expensive, but the fresh catch of the day may be the best bet out of this group. Less expensive items include the raw bar, fish tacos, fish & chips, and a salmon burger. Map (Dining room is open 11-17-21)

Fountain Valley

Au Lac–16563 Brookhurst St. (Vietnamese) Closed Mon (and closed from 3:30 to 5:30 pm). Serves plant based Vietnamese food. Does have some meat and fish dishes, but it tries to be “inventive” and give you dishes that are so interesting you will not need the normal animal based ones. Despite being a little different from “normal” Vietnamese food, reviewers say it has real Vietnamese flavors. Also in downtown LA. Map (Dining room is open 9-2-22)

Brodard–16105 Brookhurst St. (Vietnamese) Open daily 8 am to 9 pm.  Said to be very good home style Vietnamese food that has been going strong since 1996. Named best Vietnamese by OC Weekly for 2018. Reviews indicate it has good quality and a good variety of dishes. Map (Dining room is open 9-2-22)

Istanbul Grill–18010 Newhope St. (Turkish) Open daily to 2 am.  Good food for a good price (lunch specials are $13.99 in Feb 2022 with a choice of 11 entrees). Map (Dining room is open 2-19-22)

Fullerton

Fuoco Pizzeria–101 N. Harbor Blvd. (Pizza) Open Daily. The owners, reviewers, and even the OC Weekly assure us that this is the “real deal” Neapolitan style pizza. The margherita pizza is said by many to be the best in the US, and definitely the most authentic. Also has the “real deal” spumoni for dessert. Certified by VPN (Verace Pizza Napoletana). Web site says they are open from 11 am until they run out of dough. Map (Dining room is open 11-17-21)

Garden Grove

Pho 79– 9941 Hazard Ave. (Vietnamese) Open 7 am to 9 pm (closed Tue).  One of the oldest Vietnamese restaurants in the US. Is recognized for both the quality of the food and the variety of items on the menu (has food from the three regions of Vietnam). Map (Dining room is open 9-2-22)

Vientiane Thai Laos–10262 Westminster Ave. (Lao) Open 11 am to 9 pm (closed Wed).  Authentic and flavorful Lao food. This is a hole in the wall restaurant run by a family.  Reviewers say everything is prepared the way it is supposed to be (both in flavor and in authenticity). Map (Dining room is open 11-17-21)

Irvine

A&J–14805 Jeffrey Rd. (Taiwanese) Open Daily.  Good reviews. Has both street food and more upscale dishes. Large selection of noodle dishes and soups. Map (Dining room is open 9-2-22)

Angelina’s–8573 Irvine Center Dr. (Pizza) Open Daily.  Neapolitan pizza certified by VPN. Reviews reflect the fact that they cook it the authentic way. Pizza is as expensive as Foretti’s in Newport Beach (at the high end of the price scale). Map (Dining room is open 1-2-22)

Annapoorna–14450 Culver Dr. (Indian) Open daily (closed from 2:30 to 5 pm).  Named best Indian restaurant in Orange County by OC Weekly 2018. South Indian cuisine–good place for dosa. Map (Dining room is open 8-9-21)

Class 302–13252 Jamboree Rd. (Taiwanese) Open daily 11 am to 11 pm.  Food seems solid according to reviews, but many people come here for the boba and other drinks. Map (Dining room is open 9-2-22)

HiroNori Craft Ramen–2222 Michelson Dr. (Japanese) Open Daily.  Named best ramen restaurant in 2018 by OC Weekly. Pork and vegan ramen are equally flavorful (according to OC Weekly). Map (Dining room is open 10-3-21)

Jinbei–3923 Portola Pkwy. (Japanese) Open daily (closed from 2 to 5:30 pm).  Good sushi, but it is one of the few really good Izakaya restaurants with a large menu. Map (Dining room is open 10-3-21)

Laguna Beach

Brussels Bistro–222 Forest Ave. (Belgian) Dinner daily; lunch Fri-Sun.  Casual restaurant with very good food (but it’s a little pricey for casual).  Vol au Vent de poulet, Liege meatballs, pommes frites, and all you can eat mussels (Mon, Tue, & Wed) are recommended.  Some say in summer there are bigger crowds so they like to avoid it. Map (Dining room is open 6-30-21)

La Habra

Higo Chicken–722 E. Whittier Blvd. (Peruvian) Closed Mon.  Rotisserie chicken is their specialty, but many recommend the lomo saltado, chaufa, and other dishes. Map (Dining room is open 7-6-22)

Mission Viejo

Hayashi–27531 Puerta Real (Japanese) Open 9:30 am to 7 pm (closed Sat & Sun). A locally popular Japanese fast food style restaurant that most reviewers simply describe as “really really good.” Udon, ramen, and salmon bowl are recommended. Reviewers say the food here is too good to just order things like teriyaki (that you can get at many other restaurants). Map (Dining room is open 7-6-22)

Paul’s Pantry–27409 Bellogente (American) Breakfast & lunch only (open daily).  Named the best breakfast restaurant in Orange County by OC Weekly in 2018. They say whatever breakfast you get, be sure to have a cinnamon roll with it. Map (Dining room is open 4-12-22)

Newport Beach

Damasq–3601 E. Coast Hwy. (Syrian) Open daily 11 am to 8 pm.  Listed on TripAdvisor as a “cheap eat in CDM.” This is a family run place that prepares the food in house (including falafel and hummus). Wide variety of sandwiches (gyros, kababs, etc.) that are cheaper than the big plates some restaurants serve. Map (Dining room is open 1-2-22)

Fly N Fish–2304 W. Oceanfront (Seafood) Open Daily.  Good reviews. Fried shrimp and clam chowder are popular (not high end seafood). However, some say you can have a Newport Beach dining experience at a much lower price than other restaurants, and to them it is just as enjoyable. Map (Dining room is open 11-17-21)

Foretti’s–2929 E. Coast Hwy. (Italian) Open daily 4 pm to 9 pm.  One reviewer says it is “authentic Italian at its finest.” Actually it is southern Italian, and has VPN certified Neapolitan pizza. Prices are high and pizza is more expensive I have seen for other VPN pizza–reviews indicate these prices may be justified. Map (Dining room is open 1-2-22)

Hook & Anchor–3305 Newport Blvd. (Seafood) Open Daily.  OC Weekly said this was the best seafood restaurant in the county in 2018. Best of all, it is not restricted to upscale food, but also has very good poboys, fish tacos, lobster fries, etc. Map (Dining room is open 11-17-21)

The Beachcomber–15 Crystal Cove (Californian) Open daily 7 am to 9:30 pm.  This restaurant was made out of converted cottages on the beach with a large outdoor deck with an ocean view. This is the type of building that would be in movie sets (and I think I may have seen it). It is hard to get to. You have to park in a state parking lot and take a shuttle to the restaurant (I don’t know if it is walkable). It seems to be a real “experience” and food may be overpriced under normal circumstances. Breakfast is popular (the coconut macademia pancakes are said to be very good). Map (Dining room is open 1-2-22)

The Crab Cooker–2200 Newport Blvd. (Seafood) Open daily 11 am to 9 pm.  My meal, although not fancy or upscale, was transformative and serves as one of my standards by which I judge all other seafood. In business since 1951, it has been open long enough for me to have one of my early seafood experiences here. Map (Dining room is pen 9-2-22)

Orange

Anepalco–3737 W. Chapman Ave. (Mexican) Closed Sun evening & Mon (and closed from 2:15 to 5 pm).  Voted Best Mexican Restaurant by OC Weekly 2016. Flavorful sauces–this is a rather upscale sit-down Mexican place. Has Oaxacan mole and cochinita pibil, but many dishes seem to be the chef’s interpretation (many are organic and seem to be good but not necessarily authentic). Popular for breakfast-food looks like alta cocina. Note: has another location at 416 S. Main in Orange. Map (Dining room is open 7-6-22)

Placentia

El Farolito–201 S. Bradford Ave. (Mexican) Open Daily (open for breakfast). Reviewers say this is one of the two best places for “authentic” Mexican (along with Los Compadres in Long Beach). Some authentic looking dishes include red enchiladas, fish al mojo de ajo, carnitas, steak picado. Some Cal-Mex looking dishes include tostado salad, burrito, taquitos, and the enchiladas shown on the Yelp photos. It seems to be good for both types of food. Map (Dining room is open 1-2-22)

San Juan Capistrano

Sol Agave–31111 Rancho Viejo Rd. (Mexican) Open Daily. Upscale restaurant that is described as “authentic” and “artisan.” The restaurant grew out of a very popular food truck. The menu is pretty basic (tacos, burritos, simple meat plates) but the preparation of it is what is said to be special. Map (Dining room is open 2-19-22)

Santa Ana

El Moctezuma–809 N. Fairview St. (Mexican) Open daily 9 am to 10 pm. Oaxacan style. Has 5 kinds of mole. Map (Dining room is open 1-2-22)

Noodle Place–2321 E. 4th St. (Chinese) Open 11 am to 7:30 pm (closed Sun).  Inexpensive street food style noodles that are apparently near the top of this category of food (reviewers stress not only the quality of the food but the low cost of buying it). Map (Dining room is open 7-6-22)

Stanton

Irrawaddy Taste of Burma–7076 Katella Ave. (Burmese) Open daily (closed from 3 to 5 pm).  Authentic Burmese food in an area where this cuisine is not very common. Gets recommendations from Burmese patrons. Map (Dining room is open 6-30-21)

Thai Nakorn–11951 Beach Blvd. (Thai) Open daily (closed from 3 to 5 pm).  Some people say this is one of the top Thai, if not the top one, in the U.S. Get beef curry, chicken yellow curry, papaya salad (but if it’s really the top restaurant in the U.S. I would say you could order just about anything). Map (Dining room is open 6-30-21)

Tustin

Honda-Ya–556 El Camino Real (Japanese) Open daily (dinner only).  Izakaya style–good food, sushi, and drinks (in fact, most say it has excellent food).  Also has a location in Fullerton and in LA (Little Tokyo). Map (Dining room is open 4-12-22)

Masala Bae–13812 Red Hill Ave. (Indian) Closed Mon (and closed from 3 to 5 pm).  Specializes in south Indian food including dosa. Map (Dining room is open 2-19-22)

Westminster

Banh Cuon Tay Ho–9242 Bolsa Ave. (Vietnamese) Open 8 am to 7:30 pm (closed Tue). I have been to the one in Oklahoma City, and know that this is a “real deal” Vietnamese restaurant (although it is a little on the downscale, fast food side). I recommend the Banh Cuon (rice sheet wraps), but I make sure to tell them to omit the MSG. Map (Dining room is open 8-22-21)

Be’s Pop Up Kitchen–9039 Bolsa Ave. (Vietnamese) Lunch only (closed Mon & Tue).  Formerly Mai’s Kitchen, it now has more limited hours but serves the same home style food in a casual atmosphere. Seems to be authentic Vietnamese (the canh chua actually has okra in it). It’s also cash only (so this keeps the price down quite a bit). They seem to have quite a few dishes you will not find at most restaurants. Map (Dining room is open 4-12-22)

Le Croissant Doré–9122 Bolsa Ave. (Vietnamese) Open daily 7 AM to 6 PM. One source indicates it is a bakery (not a restaurant), but other information indicates that they also serve food. In any case, the bakery is the main reason to come here. Fruit tart is recommended. Map (Dining room is open 10-3-21)

Sumran Thai–6482 Westminster Blvd. (Thai) Closed Tue (and closed from 3 to 4 pm).  Just when I think I have found all the best Thai restaurants some more pop up, such as this one listed by OC Weekly as the best Thai of 2016. I would like for some of the reviews to recommend a favorite dish, but it seems that everything is good (so there is no favorite dish that I can tell). OC Weekly says they have E-San sausage, so personally when a restaurant serves Isan style Thai food I will probably order this. Most reviewers say it is really not a good idea to order the food here “hot” (if you are basing it on “hot” in other restaurants). Map (Dining room is open 6-30-21)


  • For additional explanation of this list see Index
  • Please feel free to leave your own comments or suggestions.

Eater “Orange County’s Essential 38 Restaurants, Summer 2022”

Many of these are too expensive to be on my list, but there are some good suggestions here

  • Sushi Noguchi–18507 Yorba Linda Blvd., Yorba Linda (Sushi on the expensive side)
  • Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen–229 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton (“Modern” style of Indian, Pakistani, and Afghan food)
  • Adya–440 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim (Inventive Indian food)
  • Kareem’s–1208 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim (One of the oldest restaurant in Anaheim’s “Little Arabia” district)
  • Lola’s By MFK–2410 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim (Filipino comfort food)
  • Haven Craft Kitchen + Bar–190 S. Glassell St., Orange (Californian cuisine)
  • Yigah–8562 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove (Korean)
  • Tacos Manuel–Mabury St., Santa Ana (Taco truck)
  • Detention/Trust–220 E. 4th St., Santa Ana (Chef’s table with cocktails)
  • Omakase by Gino–304 N. Main St., Santa Ana (High priced and upscale sushi restaurant)
  • El Mercado Modern Cuisine–301 N. Spurgeon St., Santa Ana (“Modern Oaxacan”)
  • Seafood Cove 2–9211 Bolsa Ave., Westminster (Dim sum)
  • Cream Pan–602 El Camino Real, Tustin (French-Japanese bakery)
  • Quan Mii–16031 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley (Vietnamese)
  • Brodard–16105 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley (Vietnamese)
  • Nep Cafe–10836 Warner Ave., Fountain Valley (French-Vietnamese)
  • The Winery–2647 Park Ave., Tustin (California cuisine & winery)
  • Taco Maria–3313 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa (“Alta California” food)
  • Terrace by Mix Mix–3333 Bear St., Costa Mesa (small plates with French, Italian, and modern Filipino flavrs)
  • Knife Pleat–3333 S. Bristol St., Costa Mesa (Modern French-Californian)
  • A&J–14805 Jeffrey Rd., Irvine (Taiwanese)
  • Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza Store–2300 SE Bristol St., Newport Beach (Pizza)
  • Fermentation Farm–1125 Victoria St., Costa Mesa (Kombucha and hand crafted healthy food)
  • The Blind Pig–31431 Santa Margarita Pkwy., Rancho Santa Margarita (Gastropub)
  • A Restaurant–3334 West Coast Hwy., Newport Beach (Old school diner specializing in seafood)
  • Fable & Spirit–3441 Via Lido, Newport Beach (Upscale version of London pub food)
  • Sushi II–100 West Coast Hwy., Newport Beach (“Splurge worthy sushi”–very expensive)
  • Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens–2301 San Joaquin Hills Rd., Corona Del Mar (Seasonal dishes with an emphasis on seafood)
  • The Crab Cooker–2200 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach (Seafood)
  • Sugar ‘n Spice–310 Marine Ave., Balboa Island (Ice cream & other desserts)
  • Five Crowns–3801 East Coast Hwy., Corona Del Mar (Combines old English steakhouse with modern innovate dishes)
  • The Beachcomber–15 Crystal Cove, Newport Beach (Surfside fish hut)
  • Marché Moderne–7862 Pacific Coast Hwy., Newport Beach (French with modern California flavors)
  • Broadway by Amaar Santana–328 Glenneyre St., Laguna Beach (Progressive menu)
  • Selanne Steak Tavern–1464 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach (Steakhouse)
  • Heritage Barbecue–31721 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano (Barbecue)
  • Moulin–2 Ritz Carlton Dr., Dana Point (French bistro)
  • Vine Restaurant & Bar–211 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente (California pub style)

James Beard Foundation America’s Classics

The following are locally owned restaurants that are distinguished by their timeless appeal, and which serve quality food that represents the character of their communities:

  • Garden Grove: Pho 79–9941 Hazard Ave.

Closed (Formerly on the Restaurant Guide)

  • Jagerhaus–2525 E. Ball Rd., Anaheim (closed 2021) Known mainly for breakfast–German potato pancake

Sources:

James Beard Foundation (America’s Classics Award Winners)

Chowhound (former web site)

Eater “Orange County’s Essential 38 Restaurants, Summer 2022”

Gayot–2021 Best Seafood Restaurants in Orange County (CA) Area

Google Maps

OC Weekly–Best of 2015, 2016 (no longer on line)

OC Weekly–Best of 2018

Urbanspoon.com (former web site which I used for preliminary research)

Yelp (California)

Zomato (Orange County)

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