Hidden O.C. 2021: An Insider’s Guide to Orange County

We reveal the lesser-known aspects of our county: secluded camping, surprising services, secret spots, and dishes that are hiding in plain sight.
Hidden O.C. 2021: An Insider’s Guide to Orange County
Photograph courtesy of ShariNori

Sushi Delivery
For an upscale night in, ShariNori by Chef Han offers several sushi boxes ($38 to $75) and platters ($80 to $250) as well as add-ons such as a spicy tuna roll ($9) and premium Santa Barbara uni ($8). Be sure to preorder your meal as these sell out. You can opt for takeout or delivery depending on where you live. sharinori.com 

Produce on Demand
The owners of Hydrant Pet Hotel bring you Two Chicks and a Hoe—a delivery and pick-up service offering produce and goods from local small businesses. Whether you’re craving baked treats from Rye Goods ($2.75 to $30), coffee beans from Common Room Roasters ($15), or boxes of fresh fruits and veggies ($24 to $43), these ladies have you covered. twochicksandahoe.com

Curbside Sangria and Charcuterie
Missing the days of wine pairings and tastings? Orange Coast Winery not only offers bottles of wine to go but also a 32-ounce container of sangria ($32), which can be picked up on Saturdays with the purchase of food. Enjoy your fruity drink with a side of double-cream Brie, smoked Gouda, prosciutto, crackers, and more ($4 to $40). Newport Beach, 949-645-0400

Handmade Finds
Every third Sunday, Westminster Mall hosts Off the Road, an open-air market where you can find artisans and collectors peddling handmade jewelry, soaps, clothing, accessories, and more. Live music and food trucks round out the offerings. It’s the perfect place to shop for unique gifts while supporting local vendors. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., outside JCPenny. Westminster, offtheroadevents.com

Beer While You Wait
As much as we love Heritage Barbecue, standing in a two-hour line for prime-time Prime cuts is not the highlight of the experience. Luckily, in true Texas fashion, time flies thanks to pours from neighboring Capistrano Brewing Company, which can be ordered and enjoyed as you queue. San Juan Capistrano, 949-503-2000

Mommy and Me Jewelry
Love to match with your little one? Mama Bijoux offers many pieces in various styles for you and your child to match in fine jewelry. Choose from earrings ($135) or bracelets ($120 to $1,595), all made in either 14- or 18-karat gold. shopmamabijoux.com

Kokedama photograph courtesy of Dragonfly Shops & Gardens

Classes That Don’t Succ
Dragonfly Shops & Gardens is just as whimsical as it sounds. The quaint shop offers a variety of classes ($10 to $30) throughout the month, including mosaic tiling, succulent design, fairy garden workshops, and more. If you’d rather enjoy a class with just a few close friends or family, you can call the store and schedule a private workshop. Orange, 714-289-4689 

Private Shopping
South Coast Plaza offers guests a new way to shop at The Pavilion—a private shopping experience in open-air suites. Customers can book an appointment through a participating boutique and specify what they’d like to try on or purchase. At the appointment, you’ll be greeted by the concierge and taken to your suite, where you’ll find a sales associate from the boutique and a curated assortment of items. Costa Mesa

Beer and Grub
Salty Bear Brewing Co. gives customers the option of pairing a craft beer with food from a variety of neighboring restaurants at The Camp. Whether you’re craving pizza from Folks or a burger and fries from Umami Burger, you’ll be able to sit back and relax while your favorite meal gets delivered to your seat. Costa Mesa, 714-486-2165

Coastal Comforts
While Old Towne Orange has plenty of treasures hidden within the various antique markets, Bird + Belle’s one-of-a-kind vintage pillowcases ($68 to $98) are worth seeking out. Located in the front of the popular Antique Depot, you’ll find the brand’s assortment of seaside-themed art and decor. You can also find a display of Bird + Belle’s products at Seaside Gallery & Goods in Newport Beach. birdbelleshop.com

Beer While You Wait
As much as we love Heritage Barbecue, standing in a two-hour line for prime-time Prime cuts is not the highlight of the experience. Luckily, in true Texas fashion, time flies thanks to pours from neighboring Capistrano Brewing Company, which can be ordered and enjoyed as you queue. San Juan Capistrano, 949-503-2000

Mommy and Me Jewelry
Love to match with your little one? Mama Bijoux offers many pieces in various styles for you and your child to match in fine jewelry. Choose from earrings ($135) or bracelets ($120 to $1,595), all made in either 14- or 18-karat gold. shopmamabijoux.com

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

360-Degree Views
A 20-acre area of Laguna Niguel Regional Park, Kite Hill is home to a model-glider area, locals flying drones, and a nice picnic spot. The park has free parking and is a great place for sunsets and some kid-friendly fun thanks to the windsock and short runway. You’re likely to see plenty of wildlife as well, if you can take your eyes off the view. Laguna Niguel 

Secret Camping
You could camp atop an ocean-view bluff with all the amenities at Crystal Cove State Park’s Moro Campground. But where’s the adventure in that? Hike a couple of miles inland to Deer Canyon Campground: five primitive sites with no water and no amenities except a vault toilet next to a creek bed in a canyon … below the mansions of Newport Coast. reservecalifornia.com

Outdoor Pop-Up Market
Head to the Himalayan Grill’s parking lot every other Saturday for Creative Communal. The market brings together various local makers who specialize in everything from paintings to jewelry. While there, you’ll also be able to enjoy live music as well as food trucks. Check the online schedule for upcoming dates. Huntington Beach, creativecommunal.com

Custom Suits
You’ve probably driven by The Grotto on 17th Street in Costa Mesa without knowing it. Tucked away in a business park, the custom menswear brand has suits starting at $429 and also offers custom shoes, jacket linings, trims, and personalized buttons. Grooms and groomsmen can enjoy a custom fitting complete with music and drinks. Prices for wedding parties of five or more start at $379. Costa Mesa, 949-566-1224

Surprise Skills in the Garden
From watercolor painting and wreath making to happy hour yoga in the summertime and kids classes on herb gardens, the extra offerings at Sherman Library and Gardens are sure to fit your interests. Some classes take place after hours, others are early on Saturday mornings, and members get a discount. Learn something new and meet like-minded folks while savoring the outdoor haven. Corona del Mar, 949-673-2261 

A Taste of Texas
210 Smokehouse owner and pitmaster Matt Hill digs into his San Antonio roots to bring Prime brisket, pork spare ribs, and more to brewery pop-ups around O.C. The tiny family operation carries all the markers of an authentic Texas experience—from the traditional post oak to the Wonder Bread to the simple spice rub that allows the meat to stand out. Sides are limited (for now) but stellar. 210smokehouse.com

Boba-stuffed turkeys photograph courtesy of Sunright Tea Studio

Boba-Stuffed Turkeys
Known for its dessert-like boba milks and boba milk teas, Sunright Tea Studio serves up the ubiquitous tapioca balls in a surprising way at its Irvine location. Get them stuffed inside a Taiwanese egg waffle shaped like a tiny roast turkey. You can also order the waffles unstuffed or drizzled with chocolate or condensed milk. Four to an order ($3.25). Irvine, 949-316-4000

Omakase for Lunch
Treat yourself for lunch and indulge in 10 pieces of fresh fish topped with sea salt, yuzu kosho, lemon, or soy sauce for $50 at Ohshima. This deal is for omakase, meaning the chef chooses which fish to use and which sauces or toppings will be added. You can specify which types of fish you dislike. Orange, 714-998-0098

Private Dining
Foodies looking for an exclusive space to celebrate any occasion can turn to Selanne Steak Tavern for a bespoke multicourse menu with wine pairings from the restaurant’s award-winning list. The private area with its own kitchen seats two to 12, and executive chef Vince Terusa will highlight special offerings such as duck rillette, barramundi, or Nantucket scallops ($400 per person and up). Laguna Beach, 949-715-9881

Duffy Decor
Taking out a Duffy for a birthday celebration? Deck it out with a balloon installation from Sunny Bunny Balloons. For $350, your Duffy will feature 10 feet of balloons in various sizes and a large custom decal balloon. The balloons are biodegradable and filled with air rather than helium. Newport Beach, 949-293-7935

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Crystals, Candles, and Classes
The Lab’s House of Intuition offers a variety of products including crystals, oils, and incense that profess to help with cleansing, healing, protection, love, and more. Not sure where to start? The boutique hosts virtual classes ($10) that teach you about tarot reading, horoscopes, crystals for your zodiac sign, astrology, and more. Costa Mesa, 714-714-0561

Family-Friendly
Living Loudly offers a variety of children’s shirts featuring everything from animals to robots, all delivered with wildflower seed paper that you can plant. The site also provides parents with several types of online workshops, with topics such as overcoming parental guilt, building emotional intelligence, creating a calm home, and more. $17.50 for a single class, $99.95 for all seven. livingloudly.com

Health-Forward Cocktails
The owners of Healthy Junk introduce Sacred Junk Bar, an outdoor bar experience at Anaheim Packing House. Local bar veteran Jon McConnell crafts all-vegan cocktails made with organic spirits and fresh-pressed juice ($13). Sip your drink on one of the cozy daybeds and admire the eclectic, bohemian decor. Look out for live sitar performances. Minimum order of $3 on food. Anaheim, 714-533-7225

Japanese Deli
Located in an office complex, Lagu Cafe serves Japanese-style snacks and drinks such as onigiri ($6) and iced cold brew with sea salt matcha foam ($5). On Thursdays, you can pick up preordered baked goods from Okayama Kobo in Anaheim. Other items include canned and bottled drinks imported from Japan ($2 to $3), bento boxes ($12), arabiki sausage dogs ($5), and French toast made with Japanese milk bread ($6). Irvine, 949-418-7023, restaurantji.com/ca/irvine/lagu-cafe-/

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Curated Books
Lido Village Books, one of the county’s last independent bookstores, offers a curated quarterly book box. The Lido Marina Village shop picks the season’s most sought-after title and adds themed goodies to match. A past box included the novel “The Lying Life of Adults,” lemon lavender sugar cubes for a Champagne cocktail or mocktail (with recipe card), a Champagne glass, and wildflower shortbread cookies. $60 per box. Newport Beach, 949-220-7632

Surprise Skills in the Garden
From watercolor painting and wreath making to happy hour yoga in the summertime and kids classes on herb gardens, the extra offerings at Sherman Library and Gardens are sure to fit your interests. Some classes take place after hours, others are early on Saturday mornings, and members get a discount. Learn something new and meet like-minded folks while savoring the outdoor haven. Corona del Mar, 949-673-2261 

Health-Forward Cocktails
The owners of Healthy Junk introduce Sacred Junk Bar, an outdoor bar experience at Anaheim Packing House. Local bar veteran Jon McConnell crafts all-vegan cocktails made with organic spirits and fresh-pressed juice ($13). Sip your drink on one of the cozy daybeds and admire the eclectic, bohemian decor. Look out for live sitar performances. Minimum order of $3 on food. Anaheim, 714-533-7225

Japanese Deli
Located in an office complex, Lagu Cafe serves Japanese-style snacks and drinks such as onigiri ($6) and iced cold brew with sea salt matcha foam ($5). On Thursdays, you can pick up preordered baked goods from Okayama Kobo in Anaheim. Other items include canned and bottled drinks imported from Japan ($2 to $3), bento boxes ($12), arabiki sausage dogs ($5), and French toast made with Japanese milk bread ($6). Irvine, 949-418-7023

MORE FROM THIS COVER STORY:
5 Time Capsules Buried in Orange County
6 Delicious Dishes O.C. Chefs Recommend on Their Menus
Sommelier Kristin Markley on The Ranch Restaurant’s Vast Wine Program
5 Underground Places to Discover in Orange County
3 Spots to Discover at Rodeo 39 Public Market in Stanton
Aliso Viejo-Based Tan’s Dumplings Delivers Handcrafted Creations
Peaches Floral Co. Pops Up Throughout O.C.
These O.C. Businesses Pivoted to Drive-In Entertainment During Stay-at-Home Orders
These O.C. Cities Closed Downtown Areas to Traffic for Outdoor Dining
How Atomic Ballroom Pivoted to Outdoor Meetups During the Shutdown

Facebook Comments