Hot O.C. Neighborhood: East Side Costa Mesa

This updated neighborhood doesn’t have to try hard to be interesting, original, surprising, and modern—it just is. Take the mile-long stretch of strip malls along 17th Street, between Newport Boulevard and Irvine Avenue, the heart of the renaissance. Foodies come for the Instagram-worthy Aussie-style meat pies at PieNot, coconut French toast at Plums Café, and braised pork panini at Pitfire Artisan Pizza. And that’s just the Ps. Other homegrown restaurants and shops tip toward lean-and-clean fare, such as the casual Jan’s Health Bar. Plus it’s the birthplace of Mother’s Market & Kitchen.

Hot O.C. Neighborhood: Downtown Anaheim

With a focus on food and community, downtown’s fresh look gets inspiration from the city’s rural roots. It takes resourcefulness to restore and imaginatively reuse old buildings, qualities the city’s founding farming families had, too. The new energy is centered on the Packing District, a two-block stretch of Anaheim Boulevard between Santa Ana Street and East Broadway: the restored 1920s-era Packard Building, now home to Anaheim Brewery and Umami Burger, and the 1919 Anaheim Citrus Packing House, with a food hall of locally based food-and-beverage artisans.

Neighborhoods: Costa Mesa

Chain restaurants and stores dominate most of the strip malls on Costa Mesa’s east side. But at Santa Ana Avenue and 17th Street, look a little closer and you’ll find indie boutiques and cafes tucked in among the usual suspects

Neighborhoods: Spiffed Up Shopping in Irvine

New facades and landscaping—part of a $10 million renovation—have gussied up Heritage Plaza, formerly a somewhat-tired Irvine strip mall with a few good places to eat. New tenants Habit Burger and Bruxie are breathing life into this place, along with these local favorites.

Anaheim’s Growing Community

Nearly four years ago, Rose Homme rehabbed part of an Anaheim strip mall near Brookhurst Street and Orange Avenue to open a baby boutique, and invited other indie businesses such as The Makery, below, to move in. Now, the center known as Community draws shoppers looking for handmade, ecofriendly, artisan goods. Bonus: It’s near some of the county’s best Middle Eastern restaurants.

Neighborhoods Map

If you love our Neighborhoods column every month, you'll really love this mobile-friendly map to all of our guides! Click on a pin to pull up a neighborhood we've covered near you.

Neighborhoods: Laguna Beach

The downtown hub of Laguna Beach is filled every weekend with tourists, no matter the season. But go less than a mile south of Broadway, and you’ll find a quieter stretch of shops and restaurants, with mostly locals milling about. Some spots are new, and some are longtime neighborhood favorites—a good mix for a day of holiday shopping

Neighborhoods – Santa Ana

The foodie revolution in Santa Ana that began five years ago is picking up steam again. A half-dozen buzz-worthy restaurants have opened in the past six months, and a microbrewery, The Good Beer Co., is on the way. Try them for lunch, dinner, or dessert between gallery visits, or while celebrating at downtown’s annual Noche de Altares festival on Nov. 2

Orange County’s Indie City

A mini-map to Costa Mesa.

Neighborhoods – Old Towne Orange

Old Towne Orange has been a longtime favorite among locals, and for good reason: It’s a great place to spend an afternoon browsing the antiques malls and eating at the charming and often top-quality restaurants along Glassell Street. These days, there’s even more reason to head to the plaza, where a handful of new shops and food vendors is infusing the area with fresh energy.