Best Restaurants 2017!

No. 5 Daring to Be Different

Break of Dawn’s smoked salmon with a crispy oatmeal pancake

Tackle Box
Here’s to winning, chef-driven beach chow right on the sand. Not on a pier. Not on a picnic blanket. Not at a resort. This gourmet shack offers high‑impact, low-boredom choices that include a terrific morning burrito, a lunchtime lobster salad on squid-ink roll, and spot-on aguas frescas. Offbeat hours, so check ahead. 3029 E. Shore Ave., Corona del Mar, 949‑723‑0502,

El Mercado Modern Cuisine
Devoted followers of the two popular Anepalco’s Cafes are likely fueling early traffic at Danny Godinez’s inventive dinner house with a laser focus on hyper-regional Mexican fare. No fajitas or guacamole on this menu of tasty-if-unfamiliar creations from the country’s 31 states. Also, get ready to be schooled on mescal by bar captain Cesar Cerrudo. 301 N. Spurgeon St., Santa Ana, 714-338-2446,

Break of Dawn
Daytime hours are the single traditional element of Dee Nguyen’s quirky diner, a concept inspired by his resolve to devote evenings to his wife, Linh, and disabled son, Berlin. On weekends, expect to wait for captivating plates such as pork belly, tempura eggs, Napa slaw, and kimchi-spiced crema, or French toast crème brûlée with chocolate-soy caramel. Impatient? Go Wednesday through Friday. 24291 Avenida De La Carlota, Laguna Hills, 949-587-9418,