Dining | Orange Coast Magazine

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.


Main Course: Rancho Santa Margarita's The Blind Pig

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...

Main Course: Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern

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...

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

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

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...

Main Course: Brick

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...

Main Course: Wineworks for Everyone

Everything about cozy Wineworks for Everyone is tasteful and discerning, except for its clunky name. Is it a store? A motto? A bumper sticker? Get over this confusing hurdle and the reward is one of the best bistros within miles. Read more...

Main Course: Carmelita’s Kitchen de Mexico

Being trapped in a gridlocked tourist zone is perhaps my most feared August nightmare. To even consider parking on Broadway in Laguna Beach—ground zero for vacationers right now—the potential for dining pleasure must be exceptional. What a delight to report that Carmelita’s Kitchen de Mexico is well worth the trek. Open since September, the yearling shop mere steps from busy Coast Highway stays packed with locals—customers with plenty of neighborhood alternatives, including Javier’s, Asada Laguna, and Avila’s El Ranchito. Even during my first test-drives in sleepy winter months, local demand for the virtuoso margaritas in tall tumblers and Mexican fare with a modern edge was conspicuous. Read more...

Main Course: Arc

Arc is easily the most exciting new restaurant in Orange County right now. It’s boldly singular, even within the of-the-moment nexus of Costa Mesa’s South Coast Collection. Read more...

Main Course: Brunos Trattoria

I found you just in time, Brunos. After a brutally long string of dreadful meals at (mostly) new restaurants, you came through with four consecutive, faith-restoring dinners. You saved my soul. In Brea of all places. Read more...

Main Course: Hopscotch Tavern

Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut,” reads the Ernest Hemingway quote scrawled on the sidewalk chalkboard outside Hopscotch Tavern. Another blackboard touts the blue-collar special at this downtown Fullerton rookie watering hole: “beer, whiskey, and cigar” for $15. Read more...

O.C.'s Best: Dining Guides

  • O.C.’s Best: Bloody Marys

    Get your vegetables and booze in one convenient—and delicious—serving with what’s been hailed as America’s murkiest and most complex cocktail. Traditionally made with tomato juice, vodka, celery salt, horseradish, Worcestershire, and Tabasco, its origins are widely debated. Here are five superb O.C. renditions of the world-famous drink.

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Recently Reviewed

We frequently review restaurants in the Main Course, Rediscovery, and Bites sections of our print magazine and website. Here's a list of the most recently-reviewed restaurants!

DINING | Reviews

Wine Program Review

  • Seasons 52 Fresh Grill Offers Impressive Wine List

    I recently dined at Seasons 52 Fresh Grill in South Coast Plaza, and found the wine program to be exceptional, both for the scope of its extensive wine list, and it’s attentive wine service. It’s gratifying to see that the restaurant, which promotes a healthy diet and prides itself in seasonally inspired cooking with every item on the menu less than 475 calories, considers wine an important part of a wholesome lifestyle. Read More
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