Our Best New Restaurants issue is here, and boy, was this one a whirlwind! Never before have we had so much last-minute juggling and shuffling when it came to our picks. Dining critic Gretchen Kurz turned her story in on time, only to have one of the restaurants she selected close the next day. Then we learned two other places she picked had new chefs. So Gretchen diligently dug in for a few more meals, retooled her list at least twice, and at last chose nine restaurants to love.
Does all this movement mean we are in a prime time for the food industry? It sure seems so. I’ve managed to make my way through half of Gretchen’s list, and I can vouch for the delicious artisan cheese and meat board at Olea, plus a Last One cocktail to accompany the bonanza. Happy Hour at The Country Club is lively and fun, and the grilled hanger steak tacos there are wonderful. The new Habana location has a welcoming, beautiful patio that belies its home in the heart of Irvine. At Puesto, pastry chef Jessica Scott will surprise you with her intriguing and refreshing nopales and lime gelato. I don’t think it will be a shock to learn that the new Marché Moderne is every bit as delightful as the original, but with lovely open space that lets the sun pour in as you devour chef Florent Marneau’s sumptuous food and Amelia Marneau’s fantastic desserts.
I can’t wait to tackle the rest of the places on our list. See you out there!