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.


Second Course: A Restaurant

For a few moments, I am bat-blind and loving it. Ducking into dark A Restaurant on a sunny afternoon, my brain perceives this as “retro delights ahead.” The dapper old-school haunt is waking up after a lull, thanks to fresh momentum supplied by a reshuffled team that includes managing partners Doug and Julie Garn, and pastry chef Tara Bui. Longtime executive chef Jon Blackford is feelin’ it too, as his appealing new menu pushes American classics to the next level, for some of his best cooking ever. Read more...

Ritter’s Steam Kettle Cooking

Ritter’s boxy glass storefront gives no hint of the olfactory whoosh that overwhelms once the door to this yearling cafe opens. Intense aromas of garlic and the Cajun-Creole holy trinity of onion, celery, and bell pepper startle sinuses and reflexively arouse hunger. Read more...

Taco Maria

Sitting at Taco Maria’s kitchen counter, I’m mesmerized by a flurry of mise en place action that’s intense and hushed. A blossom plucked here, a radish shaved there, steamy broth ladled as if it were holy water. Clearly my four-course prix fixe dinner is painstaking business. Each dish is a marvel of deeply considered modern Cal-Mex cuisine from chef-owner and O.C native Carlos Salgado. Even the stripped-down setting feels designed to direct all attention to the food. Read more...

Rediscovery: Chapter One

Clearly, executive chef Jason Montelibano has upped the culinary content at Chapter One, the sociable gastropub in the Santa Ana Artists Village: pastel topknots of chilled smoked salmon on just-fried potato croquettes; walnut vinaigrette, fried carrots, baby kale, and drool-worthy Soledad Goats goat cheese in a roasted beet garden plate. Read more...

Main Course Review: C4 Deli and Provisions Market

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

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...

Rediscovery: Vine

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...

Rediscovery: The Crosby

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...

Rediscovery: Rosine’s Mediterranean Cafe

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...

Rediscovery: Raya

Pelicans glide by the picture window as we take our seats at Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel’s Raya. This is the ocean view on which five-star resorts hang their crowns. Read more...

O.C.'s Best: Dining Guides

  • O.C.’s Best: Vegan Breakfasts

    Veg-heads don’t just mow down bowls of granola and slam wheatgrass shots at the break of dawn. Most want to enjoy brunching on Sunday-Funday with everyone else. And because it can be hard to find tofu scrambles and dairy-free waffles, we’ve rounded up five local eateries that provide tasty vegan options to start the morning right. 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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