We uncover the secrets of Orange County—new speakeasies, suprisingly affordable luxury outings, undercover hobbies, and intriguing professions—all right under your nose.
In 2015, Jay’s Catering restored a 1920s Georgian Colonial building in the heart of Santa Ana’s arts district into an elegant venue for weddings, cocktail parties, and other celebrations. The spaces at The Estate on Second include a grand crystal ballroom with arched Palladian windows and a balcony with a view of the city skyline. Santa Ana, 714‑636‑6045
Tucked in a renovated shipping container in the parking lot of the Vans skatepark, Bunz is easy to miss as you drive down Center Avenue. Go just past the Vans store and you will be rewarded with a hamburger perfected with toasted brioche buns and homemade Thousand Island dressing. Huntington Beach, 714‑766‑7060
Homeology, a not‑to‑miss decor store, sits in a nondescript shopping center in Mission Viejo. “Modern farm” is how owner Karee Delsigne describes her shop, which carries items from rustic farmhouse benches to signature throw pillows made by Delsigne, and even a line of candles and skincare products. Mission Viejo, 949-215-3533
Local stand‑up comic Evan Cassidy hosts free comedy Monday nights at Anchor Bar, a tiny dive in the same complex as Irvine Ranch Market. Order a drink and a $5 personal pizza, and support amateur comics honing their material. The jokes aren’t polished, but you might discover some raw talent. Costa Mesa, 949‑574‑4995
Camouflaged in a two‑story strip mall off Adams Avenue, Triple Crown Tavern invites guests to indulge in everything from charcuterie and flatbreads to wine and beer, either on the patio or inside while enjoying the game. Huntington Beach, 714‑465‑9041
Looking to make reservations at The Rooftop Lounge? Ordinarily, you’d have to pay to reserve a table, but when you stay in one of La Casa del Camino’s uniquely designed rooms, you can make a reservation for free. Laguna Beach, 949‑497‑6029
Coffee and Kitties
Located on Forest Avenue, Catmosphere Laguna rescues homeless cats that you can pet while sipping a latte. Can’t get enough of the felines? They’re all adoptable. The cafe also has kitty cams that allow you to watch from home. Laguna Beach, 949‑619‑6369
After focusing on catering for 20 years, Eats BBQ opened for weekday lunch about two years ago. It’s cash only, and seating inside is minimal. But if you’re looking for tasty pulled pork sandwiches and delectable sweet potato fries, duck into this tiny shop and take your meal to go. Santa Ana, 949‑732‑8350
Finish your day at the beach with a visit to The Hive & Co. at the corner of Ritz Carlton Drive and Pacific Coast Highway. Cool off with an organic frozen treat or peruse the jewelry, clothing, and other knickknacks made by local artisans. Dana Point, 949‑289‑0214
Deals in Hand
If you regularly shop in Irvine and Newport Beach, download Retail Therapy, the Irvine Co.’s handy coupon app, to take advantage of discounts at local retailers. BOGO tacos at Puesto and 20 percent off at Hurley? Yes, please!
Blink and you might miss this family‑owned‑and‑run burger spot on Pacific Coast Highway. In just 530 square feet, The Pocket Burger Shack offers dishes with tri‑tip, such as quesadillas, burritos, and bowls, as well as cheeseburgers that’ll keep you coming back for more. Sunset Beach, 562‑592‑7771
Not only does The Bungalow at Pacific City have oceanfront views and craft cocktails, you can also add exclusive dishes from Bear Flag Fish Co. to the mix. Choose from items such as tacos and ahi poke nachos to accompany your Bitchin’ Sangria. Huntington Beach, 714‑374‑0399
Every second Sunday of the month, Westside Museum hosts Westside Market, where vendors congregate to sell everything from handmade candles to leather wallets with custom designs. Wander upstairs and you’ll find a delicious brunch menu, as well as beers and kombucha on tap. Costa Mesa, 714‑231‑9149
Surfboard Scavenger Hunt
Get your treasure map ready! Surboards on Parade is back with 23 painted surfboards, including one from Andy Warhol, placed throughout Huntington Beach until Oct. 6. Head to the website to print a map of each board’s location. Good luck finding them—this task is not as easy as it seems. surfboardsonparade.org
When the moon is full, the vast north lawn at Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point becomes a picturesque open‑air yoga studio. Yogis of all levels are invited to go through gentle moon salutations and a guided meditation serenaded by an acoustic guitarist. Sip cucumber‑infused water and become one with the universe. This month’s session is Oct. 24. The yoga and valet parking are complimentary. Dana Point, 949‑234‑3900
Around the Bend
In south Laguna Beach, the charming Three Arch Bay is complete with tiki huts, picnic tables, volleyball courts, and fire pits with no direct public access. Make friends with someone in the gated community or rent a kayak and paddle over to marvel at the namesake rock arches.
A visit to Sherman Library and Gardens is always delightful, but did you know there’s a collection of plein-air and California art nestled on each wall at the library? Wind your way through the gardens to find the adobe in the corner. It houses the research library, which is only open weekdays, where you can wander between shelves to see original art in each aisle. Corona del Mar, 949-673-2261
If you want flowers that make an impact—bouquets that are carefully chosen and artfully arranged—wind your way past Kean Coffee to Flowers de Monet. This small shop is tucked all the way behind the building, beyond the sign for the restrooms. There you will find Nasrin Mohabbati, who has been delighting customers with unique blooms and specific requests for 12‑plus years. Newport Beach, 949‑574‑2443
At the newest O.C. locations of Northgate Market, look for a vibrant display of vitroleros filled to the brim with aguas frescas, made daily from fresh fruit in more than 16 flavors such as coco con leche. Grab a to-go cup ($2 to $3), a family-size pitcher ($7), or a 5-gallon party barrel ($60). Anaheim and La Habra
Don’t be deterred by the surroundings. Johnny’s Saloon is a lively, eclectic bar with decor that calls to mind The Haunted Mansion. Whether it’s your first visit or your 50th, the staff will treat you like family. Order the famous, and delicious, made‑to‑order pizza that’s baked at an undisclosed, off-site location. Huntington Beach, 714‑848‑0676
Relaxing with Records
The patio at The Ranch in Laguna Beach eases stress, with all ages welcome to play cornhole or bocce ball, relax in lounge chairs, and partake in small bites or drinks. The first Tuesday of each month brings more: Vino and Vinyl, where managing partner Mark Christy tries to “make people remember how special it was to listen to whole albums and vinyl at important points in their lives,” as he spins records by theme. Laguna Beach, 800‑223‑3309
Extended Happy Time
No matter what night it is, dive into Aqua Lounge at Fashion Island Hotel and lift your spirits. Locals and hotel guests indulge in four hours of deals on food and drinks. Get there Tuesday night, and you’ll find $2 tacos and $5 margaritas; Shuck Monday offers $1 oysters and $1 draft beers. Valet parking is complimentary when you dine there. Newport Beach, 949‑760‑4920
Most visitors take The Beachcomber Shuttle from the Los Trancos parking lot to the beach. Allow an extra 10 minutes and walk through the Crystal Cove Tunnel to take in whimsical paintings by children. It’s a fun homage to our county that’s full of messages about the ocean, setting the tone for a leisurely coastal visit. Laguna Beach
Trivia and Film
Held on 4th Street Market’s patio, this monthly series hosted by The Frida Cinema features a free movie plus six rounds of film-themed trivia. Grab a bite from the food hall and release your inner movie buff for a chance to win prizes. This month, catch the 2017 horror hit “It.” Santa Ana, 714-285-9422
These intimate gigs, held at various homes and venues throughout the county, are so hush-hush that the headlining artist isn’t revealed until showtime. Past acts have included Tyler Hilton and Tropidelic. You must be on the Sofar Sounds mailing list to be invited to purchase tickets—serious music lovers only! sofarsounds.com/orange‑county
When strolling Old Towne Orange, keep an eye out for the brick‑lined passageway between Growl Juice Pub and Jalapeno’s Mexican Grill. Your sweet tooth will be rewarded at Haute Sweets Baking Company at the end of the path. You’ll find elaborate caramel apples, dipped chocolates of all kinds, and house‑made baked goods. We recommend the snickerdoodles and lemon bars. Orange, 714‑932‑5182
Don’t get lost looking for Tower 48, the “modern beach deli” from the partners behind Social. Open since April and squeezed into the corner of a strip mall, the tiny shop serves sandwiches (try the River Street Reuben), burgers, and sides worthy of a beach trip. Newport Beach, 949‑432‑5858
There are few places in the world that contain as much energy and passion for guitars as the Ryan Guitars warehouse. Engineer‑turned‑luthier Kevin Ryan and his dedicated team handcraft world‑class acoustic guitars from some of the finest materials, such as rare Brazilian rosewood and iridescent abalone shell. Westminster, 714‑379‑0944
Brush up on your cooking skills with a lesson in a 1903 rose cottage. Each month, The Farm School on Los Rios Street offers classes highlighting delectable farm-to-table meals in a lovely setting ($60 and up). Up your game with platters, grilling, and salads to name a few. San Juan Capistrano, 949-459-0199
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