The 14 Best Restaurants In Orange County In 2022


Orange County is known for all the same glitz and glamour of Los Angeles, but with a more relaxed air – or so they want you to think.

To outsiders, it all may seem overwhelmingly beautiful. The people, the shopping, the beaches, and the food. Without a doubt, Orange County is one of the best places to eat in America.

With influences from other countries around the globe, it is home to some of the best chefs, the best cuisine, and the best restaurants. But where to begin?

Here are 14 of the best restaurants in Orange County:

Check out our other Orange County Guides:

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The Ramos House Café

ramos house

Featuring a seasonal menu that changes daily and specializes in contemporary American cuisine inspired by the South, The Ramos House Café looks like a botanic farm stand.

First opened in 1995, the building actually dates back to the 1880s. Enter into their world of rustic patio chic (including barn cat) to indulge in high-quality meals made from local ingredients, including weekend brunch and specialty cocktails.

What to eat:

Although you can’t go wrong with anyting on the menu, the smoked bacon scramble is top notch and is like an omelette built up in a tower with apple-fried potatoes and topped with arugula.  

The biscuit with the apple butter is amazing too!

31752 Los Rios St, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

El Farolito

El Farolito - Best Restaurants In Orange County

El Farolito is an authentic Mexican restaurant that has been in business since 1974.

The name means “light of hope,” an uplifting blessing given to the restaurant by the current owner’s father who had come over from Mexico and dreamed of working together with his whole family around him.

17 of the 30 staff members are all related continuing the Sandoval family business forty years later.

Since its inception, the family-owned and family-ran restaurant has served Mexican classics from their native home.

What to eat: 

Start with freshly made tortilla chips dipped in creamy beans or a well-balanced salsa, then get the enchiladas or carnitas plate.

201 S Bradford Ave, Placentia, CA 92870

Pho 79

Pho 79 - Best Restaurants In Orange County

Pho 79 is a classic Vietnamese restaurant in Garden Grove that was one of the first of its kind in the area, having opened in 1982.

It’s been officially labelled a Little Saigon institution and awarded a James Beard America’s Classics honor.

This prestigious restaurant is always packed, so expect that you may have to wait, but know that it’s worth it. Keep in mind that it’s cash only.

What to eat:

You can’t go wrong with any of the pho specials. Make sure you get the oxtail on the side. The meat just falls off the bone and melts in your mouth. Get the egg rolls as an appetizer. You might want to order a Vietnamese coffee to go as you’ll more than likely be in a food coma from all the delicious food you will be consuming.

9941 Hazard Ave, Garden Grove, CA 92844

Detention

Detention Santa Ana - Best Restaurants In Orange County

As an adult, you want to go to Detention.

Detention is the former sight of Playground, but just as much fun as the old restaurant.

It’s a drinking and dining establishment that pushes the status quo. Executive chef John Parker curates a seasonal menu served through an open kitchen.

All night, cocktails are served in the new lounge bar and updated terrace, omakase style – an idea embodied in the single Japanese word, meaning “I’ll leave it up to you” or “bartender’s choice.”

What to eat:

Glazed sakura pork jowl served with gochujang (a savory-sweet red chili paste), puffed rice, and butter lettuce and a slice of lime paired with an I’m Amazed cocktail – just try it.

220 E 4th St #102, Santa Ana, CA 92701

Brodards

brodards - Best Restaurants In Orange County

Originally a staple from Little Saigon, Brodards started in the 1990s and saw such success that it moved in 2017 to a larger location at a Fountain Valley shopping center.

A bakery counter, full bar, and dining room fill 8,000 square feet of space. Nem nuong cuon fill their menu – grilled pork spring rolls.

Originally a do-it-yourself dish, Brodards were some of the first to offer premade cuon, ready to eat. They do offer more Vietnamese dishes like Hanoi-style pork noodles, luna rice cakes with shrimp, and beef noodle soup.

Even the desserts have Asian influence: macarons flavored with durian and matcha flan.

What to eat:

Brodards does Vietnamese food and they do it extremely well. Everything on the menu is freaking delicious. Get the nem nuong cuon, of course and my personal favorite is the broken rice dish with the pork chop.

16105 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708

Kitakata Ramen

Kitakata Ramen - Best Restaurants In Orange County

The history of Kitakata dates back to its namesake city in Fukushima and the 1950s, when the Ban Nai family first started their humble eatery.

Since then, Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai has opened 57 locations across Japan – and three in the U.S., including a location in Costa Mesa.

They specialize in wide, flat noodles that are hand crumpled in clear broth with loads of toro chashu, or thin-sliced, marbled pork belly.

What to eat:

Chasu ramen or the do-it-yourself dipping ramen, tsukemen. Karage as the appetizer.

891 Baker St B21, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Seafood Cove 2

Seafood Cove 2

Another notable place in Little Saigon, Seafood Cove is a delicious Chinese dim sum restaurant that opened its first location in 1990.

Today, Seafood Cove 2 is their second location that also features carts of handmade dim sum rolled down the aisles of tables over two stories.

The bright, open dining room can accommodate large of groups with a lazy susan in the center of the table, to help share the table’s delicious bites. 

Get there early on the weekends, the line forms quickly.

What to eat:

As far as dim sum goes, you can’t go wrong with siu mai, deep-fried shrimp balls, har gow, egg tart and the bbq pork buns.

9211 Bolsa Ave, Westminster, CA 92683

Portos

Portos Bakery - - Best Restaurants In Orange County

Porto’s Bakery and Cafe is a Cuban casual eatery where your usual take-out bakery counter serves a delicious array of Latin snack and speciality desserts.

There are five locations spread out over the L.A. area where you can eat classics like tamales and croquetas de pollo or de jamón or try a mix of cultures in a baked ham and cheese croissant.

Desserts include bakery classics as well as their signature tres leches cake.

They even have a Bake At Home delivery service, from which you can order bulk packs of their mouth watering pastries to anywhere in the country and bake them fresh at home.

What to eat:

Potato balls, guava cheese strudel, dulce de leche kisses, cuban sandiwch and the ropa vieja plato – a cuban-style stewed beef in tomato sauce with pepper, onion, and olive, served over rice and a side of black beans and plantains.

7640 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, CA 90620

Au Lac

Au Lac - Best Restaurants In Orange County

Au Lac is a restaurant that specializes in Vietnamese-inspired, plant-based cuisine.

It was founded in 1997 by Mai Nguyen and a pioneer in the vegan cuisine scene in California. Now in 25 years of successful service, Au Lac has two locations ran by founder Mai, her daughter Linh, and head chef Ito.

The menu mixes plant-based Vietnamese comfort foods and what Au Lac has branded as “Living Foods” – raw vegetables, nuts, and grains that are blended, cultured, or dehydrated.

What to eat:

Curried Rice, a Living Foods dish of wild rice, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, and corn served over avocado, olives, and cucumber and topped with mushroom, carrot, onion, macadamia sauce, and cilantro.

16563 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley

Mama D’s

Mama D’s - Best Restaurants In Orange County

Mama D herself started her Italian Kitchen. Originally a New York Italian, her family relocated to California where they first opened in 1992, using nonna’s authentic Italian homemade recipes in their restaurants.

They have the usual line-up of pasta, pizza, salads, chicken, and seafood dishes, but Mama D’s also has specialty dishes like veal denni and stuffed eggplant parmigiana. Best of all, their homemade ravioli are not to miss.

What to eat:

Spinach ravioli, stuffed with spinach and light ricotta.

3732 East Coast Hwy, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

Kaizen Shabu

Kaizen Shabu - Best Restaurants In Orange County

Kaizen is home to the memorable shabu shabu experience.

It’s a hotpot meal that you cook yourself. Using Kaizen’s fresh ingredients including their signature house broth and sauces, your table gathers around a broth hotpot and dip in your protein of choice. You can also choose to add ramen noodles to your broth.

The high-quality ingredients don’t end with food (though you should try the mochi ice cream for dessert!) – they have a curated cocktail list (some of which include “secrets” and “mystery”) as well as Japanese whiskeys, craft beers, and an extensive sake list.

What to eat:

Your choice of premium broth (they’re worth the upcharge) and the toriyama wagyu.

303 N Spurgeon St, Santa Ana, CA 92701

(Related: The 8 Best Breweries In Orange County In 2022)

Tacos Maria

Taco Maria  - Best Restaurants In Orange County

Tacos María is a Michelin star restaurant that offers Alta California cuisine, a mix of Mexican and American culture – just like the owner and his family.

Chef Carlos Salgado ties in his great, award-winning experience with carefully sourced ingredients, like regional meat and seafood and corn products grown by small family farms in Mexico.

Reservations are essential for lunch or dinner. The menu is simple, offering a small selection for each course from an open kitchen.

What to eat:

Mole de pato – their confit duck leg served with a mole made of dates, almond, and benne seed.

3313 Hyland Ave Ste C-21 Costa Mesa, CA 92626

VOX Kitchen

VOX Kitchen - Best Restaurants In Orange County

Vox Kitchen is a bright and casual take on a lesser known comfort food: chifa cuisine. It’s a mix of Peruvian and Chinese cuisine, but Vox also adds in Vietnamese and Taiwanese influence as well.

Vox allows you to enjoy a unique range of flavors presented in their colorful and multi-faceted dishes.

Their drinks list even includes Vox’s signature culture influence, offering lychee lemonade, golden pear iced tea, and Vietnamese iced coffee.

For those truly in love with this worldly blend of flavor, party trays are available to order for take out.

What to eat:

The house garlic noodle, above and beyond their most popular dish, with the choice of protein on top: chicken thigh, prawns, salmon, filet mignon, or a rib-eye steak. The Lomo Saltado is also another excellent choice!

16161 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708

Nicks Laguna Beach

nicks laguna beach

Nick’s Laguna Beach takes classic American comfort foods and serves them in a simple and effective way. Their restaurant has more class than a roadside diner, nor does it carry any pretensions.

They do high quality favorites well. Enjoy an artisanal weekend breakfast from 8 am or indulge in one of their house specialities paired with a house cocktail – their whiskey sour is made with a Distiller’s Select Woodford Reserve that’s crafted personally for Nick’s.

What to eat:

Anything with their buttermilk fried chicken – the breakfast friend chicken & waffle; the buttermilk fried chicken served with mashed potatoes, biscuits, and gravy; or the crispy chicken sandwich.

440 S Coast Hwy Laguna Beach, CA 92651

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