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Author Gretchen Kurz

  • Gretchen Kurz

    Dining Critic

    Kurz has been an Orange Coast dining critic since 2004. The O.C. native has a wickedly good palate, and wears out the magnetic strip of her credit card reviewing restaurants and covering the local dining scene. Between meals, she’s the local editor of Orange County’s Zagat Survey.


Orange County's 10 Best Restaurants

Orange Coast's 2014 List of the Best Restaurants in O.C.

You wait all year for this list. Now get out there and eat. Read more...

Orange County Restaurant of the Year 2014: Little Sparrow

This Santa Ana newbie developed a loyal following the month it took wing, by charming worldly diners with its cozy vintage venue and a crew brimming with talent. When partners Jenny Le, Bruce Marsh and wife Naseem Aflakian tapped Eric Samaniego as chef, their intentions were clear: Give Little Sparrow what it takes to soar. Read more...

Main Course Review: C4 Deli and Provisions Market

Two next-gen delicatessens join O.C.’s cherished fold

Is there anything less faddy than a delicatessen? The form might vary—chockablock ethnic, sandwich emporium, or comfort-food canteen—but all of O.C.’s models are cherished and long-lived. So when two new ones appear within four miles of each other, both in revitalized city centers, they warrant test drives. Read more...

Rediscovery: Bayside

Coastal favorite gets a classy makeover and a spiffed-up menu

Bayside may be a teenager, but thanks to a glamorous makeover, the harbor-side venue is skipping over those awkward years with élan to spare. Long-favored by the coastal set for jazzy brunches, exec lunching, and VIP feasts, the 246-seat scene radiates fresh energy that complements the classy update. Read more...

Main Course: Rancho Santa Margarita's The Blind Pig

Fixable flaws are a drag on the adventurous fare and sublime cocktails

The slender brunette slams shut her textbook as soon as she sees us step through the front door. She leads us to a cushy half-round banquette lining the roomy bay window at the rear of the tavern. It’s dark out, so the window reflects the room’s multiple flat screens and its handful of patrons. Read more...

Rediscovery: Vine

Make way for the new regime’s wow factor

Vine, always a nice-enough San Clemente spot for cozy eats, is a full-blown foodie find these days, reinvigorated by new ownership and the sweeping talents of chef Jared Cook. “This is the best lamb rack I’ve had in decades,” says my friend between bites of ravishing, tender lamb sauced with mint-rosemary yogurt atop sunchoke puree. Read more...

Main Course: Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern

Soothe the spirit and satisfy the appetite at Wilhelm’s Dana Point hangout

Serial restaurateur David Wilhelm is legendary for creating and extinguishing more dining hot spots in O.C. than any hospitality veteran still on the scene. After a long hiatus, he’s back in a typically bold way with the whopping Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern overlooking Dana Point Harbor. Read more...

Rediscovery: The Crosby

Out with Habiger, in with Nguyen

Five years into its leading-edge run, the dark-but-welcoming Crosby feels as outré as ever. No amount of mainstream accolades can tame this tiny kitchen-cum-bar in vintage Santa Ana. When its Starving Artist sandwich catapulted to cult status, it was pulled off the menu in 2012 to help launch a sibling restaurant, The Grilled Cheese Spot, around the corner. This 60-seat indie resists repetition. Read more...

Fashion Island Newbie is Plenty Satisfying, But Doesn’t Surprise

Main Course Review: Lark Creek

She sits quietly at a table for two at the front window, only a glass of water before her. Not even a menu. After 20 minutes, my tablemate spots a solo male, looking bemused, at a table in the back of the 220-seat space. Eventually, the two singles find each other and share a meal. Read more...

Main Course: Little Sparrow

Talented flock soars at new Santa Ana bistro

As I dig in to my latest meal at Santa Ana’s Little Sparrow, a loop of the ’60s E-chord surf tune won’t leave my head. A-well-a bird, bird, bird, the bird is the word. I chalk it up to dizzy relief. It’s been some time since a new restaurant has wowed me three times in a row. The bloody mary is superb, and I’ve had only one—I swear. Read more...

Rediscovery: Rosine’s Mediterranean Cafe

Come for the food, stay for the bar

Back in the Clinton era, Rosine’s was the sole spot to chow down on authentic Mediterranean eats in the hinterlands of North County. Tiny but mighty, the modest storefront soothed frazzled commuters with golden rotisserie chickens, sold mostly to-go with the then-exotic sides of creamy hummus, vibrant tabbouleh, and savory bulgur pilaf. Read more...

Main Course: Brick

Comforting Italian fare prevails as former pizzeria grows roots in San Clemente

San Clemente’s Brick fires up some outstanding artisan pizzas, but do not call this beach burg restaurant a “pizzeria.” Its original name, Brick Pizzeria, made sense when chef-owner David Pratt opened in May 2012, but as time passed and the kitchen found its groove and audience, the term seemed too narrow, and Brick simply made more sense. Read more...
READ NOW: Serial Killer Seduction

Our "Center of the Universe" story is being read all over the world right now. Click here for the story.


Who Did Randy Kraft Seduce?

Current photos of author Jay Roberts.


A Fact-Checker's Journey to a 1980 Afternoon

Our intrepid intern tracks down the details in Roberts' story.


Why Isn't Randy Kraft Dead?

Our original piece on one of California's deadliest and most depraved serial killers. 


Editor's Letter, October 2013

Our editor considers "Center of the Universe" to be compelling—and incredibly frightening. Click above to find out why.