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: Provenance

Dodging distracted shoppers dashing into CVS and Ralphs, I locate the double farmhouse doors in the elbow of Eastbluff shopping center. Inside: Provenance, a bucolic world far from the madding suburban crowd. Bright blossoms, aromatic herbs, and greens of every hue burst from raised beds and wall planters that surround the patio. Read more...

Main Course: Reunion Kitchen + Drink

It sure stings when a prized neighborhood hang closes. After Rich Mead’s Canyon Restaurant shuttered last fall, the vacancy grew more irksome with each passing week. By the time Reunion Kitchen Drink took over in December, my melancholy advanced to full-blown cynicism. So I expect my first visit to be bittersweet at best. But, after one sip at the very busy bar, I’m unexpectedly impressed. My lower Manhattan—a well-stirred mix of rye and bitters—comes with an ice sphere, drunken cherry, and canny repartee from the bartender. My pal’s bloody mary is aggressively spicy, and sports a bacon-wrapped jalapeno and a Slim Jim baton. Wow, this is a bar transformation, a marked upgrade in skills, ingredients, and attitude. Read more...

Main Course: Red O

Many of us are familiar with Bayless, especially food freaks like me. We’ve been eating at his Chicago restaurants, reading his cookbooks, and seeing his mustachioed grin on TV for decades. A tireless booster of authentic Mexican cuisine and a nimble self-promoter, Bayless now is out to conquer Orange County with the snazzy Red O, open since November at Fashion Island. Read more...

Main Course: Fig & Olive

Don’t be fooled by the austere facade of Fig & Olive. Those tall front doors open to a sprawling wonderland that channels the sun-soaked luxury of the French Riviera. Fashion Island supplies the pricey real estate; architects and landscapers the limestone and olive trees; and nature the endless sunshine and sea-scented breezes. Voila—Cannes by way of Newport Beach. Read more...

Main Course: Selanne Steak Tavern

Climbing the brick path to the front door of Selanne Steak Tavern’s storybook cottage, I’m thinking this landmark 1934 venue looks identical to the old French 75 it replaces. I tug the wood door open by its iron handle, and bam! Like Dorothy’s exit from her sepia Kansas farmhouse into vivid Munchkinland, the scene before me is a vast new world. Read more...

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...

O.C.'s Best: Dining Guides

  • O.C.’s Best: Tiki Drinks

    Though some regard them as overly cloying concoctions, tiki cocktails such as mai tais and zombies are enjoying a resurgence in Orange County. Craft bartenders layer the rum-based drinks with multiple spirits and spices to create beguiling and complex potions. Here are five great places to get your tiki on. Read More

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!

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