That childhood summer fave, the S’more, has grown up at BeachFire Bar & Grill. A 4-by-4-inch homemade graham cracker is topped with a wedge of housemade marshmallow torched golden, drizzled with melted bittersweet Belgian chocolate, and crowned with a scoop of vanilla-bean ice cream. $7. 204 Avenida Del Mar #D, San Clemente, 949-366-3232; 25682 Crown Valley Parkway, Building I, Ladera Ranch, 949-542-7700, beachfire.com.
Sisters Angela Kishijara and Martha White, originally from coastal northern Peru, serve authentic dishes at Inka Mama’s. Must-trys include escabeche de pescado, (cod with sautéed onions, vinegar, and yellow chilies) and chicha morada, a fruity punch that tastes like a bouquet of flowers exploded in your mouth. 26676 Portola Parkway #B, Lake Forest, 949-951-6262; 26741 Aliso Creek Road #E, Aliso Viejo, 949-360-6263; inkamamas.com.
Wheel a rickety cart through Mother’s and listen to so much ’60s Muzak you’ll have “Age of Aquarius” memorized. It’s worth doing the time warp to find organic rosy apples, juicy oranges, and creamy bananas. Watch for seasonal specialties: pomegranates, Champagne mangoes, and spiny, magenta dragon fruit. Mother’s Market & Kitchen in Anaheim Hills, Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Laguna Woods, Santa Ana, mothersmarket.com.
Whether you’re a crafter or a shopper for one-of-a-kind gifts, check out Patchwork, an indie festival that takes place in Santa Ana’s Museum District twice a year. Organized by Nicole Stevenson and Road Less Traveled owner Delilah Snell, the goods include clothing, artwork, and knickknacks. Keep an eye on fall dates by visiting the “news” tab at the festival’s website. Patchwork, Santa Ana Museum District, patchworkshow.com.
You won’t find fried snacks or sports on TV at this stylish, intimate liquor lounge. (You’ll be lucky to find the minuscule sign out front.) But from 8 to 10 every night, all well drinks, beer, and wine are half price at the Kitsch Bar. Now that’s something to get happy about. 891 Baker St., Costa Mesa, 714-546-8580, kitschbar.com.
66 A Restaurant, Newport Beach
67 Ambrosia, Santa Ana
68 Charlie Palmer, Costa Mesa
69 Hamamori, Costa Mesa
70 K’ya, Laguna Beach
71 Memphis at the Santora, Santa Ana
72 Opah, Irvine and Laguna Niguel
73 Palm Terrace Lounge at The Island Hotel, Newport Beach
74 Summit House, Fullerton
75 Wildfish Seafood Grille, Newport Beach
76 Toasted Ravioli
This St. Louis specialty—breaded and fried ravioli served with marinara sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan—will fill you up (and probably out, too). Sunset Pizza and Pasta won’t win any prizes for ambiance, but it has a devoted following, many of whom long for T-ravs, as they’re called in the Gateway City. 16711 Pacific Coast Highway, Sunset Beach, 562-592-1133.
77 Hidden Hike
For a peaceful, easy hike in South County, take a trip to Springdale and Woodfield parks. Choose from a few paths, one of which is the Aliso Creek Riding and Hiking Trail—it will take you right beneath the 73 Toll Road through gentle hills on a quiet, lesser-traveled route filled with oaks and sage. Pacific Park Drive at Woodfield, Aliso Viejo.
Of course there are spin classes, weight-training sessions, and poolside chillaxin’. But at Renaissance ClubSport you’ll also find dinner, martinis, and a hotel to crash in if you’ve had too many martinis. The Kids Club has fitness programs for tykes as well as birthday party packages. Hang out long enough and you might even get some business done; regulars overhear intense schmoozing about landing clients, and sealing deals—no sweat. 50 Enterprise, Aliso Viejo, 949-643-6700, renaissanceclubsport.com/aliso-viejo.
Orange County ain’t deli-land, but there are a few standouts. Our nod goes to Arnie’s Manhattan for two reasons: crocks of crisp, whole dill pickles on every table, and a Miss Liberty-themed immigration mural (with the twin towers still standing proud and tall) that’s so patriotic it practically vibrates. 1660-B Dove St., Newport Beach, 949-252-8646, arniesdeli.com.
If it’s been a long night, you’ll need a Café y Cigaro: a black-as-midnight, crunchy outside-chewy inside chocolate-chip espresso cookie, served with tobacco ice cream that hits the palate and the brain with a zing. Dance all night or try in vain to sleep. Haven Gastropub, 190 S. Glassell St., Orange, 714-221-0680, havengastropub.com.