Best Restaurants 2017!

No. 2 The Best of The New

New is tricky. New and compelling is even harder.

SeaSalt Woodfire Grill. Photograph by Priscilla Iezzi.

SeaSalt Woodfire Grill
Live fire is the superpower that propels meats to the next level at this industrial-hip sibling of SeaLegs Wine Bar. Just try the Santa Maria-style tri-tip or Spencer steak to taste the upgrade. Veggie fans would be wise to go for the umami-intense Roots & Shrooms with volcanic sea salt. 21214 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, 714-804-5545,

In a ’burb underserved by dinner-house choices, Ironwood is far more refined than it needs to be. From the able crew behind San Clemente’s Vine, this busy room thrills inland foodies with New American cuisine the likes of honey-lemon duck wings, Jidori chicken schnitzel with seasonal succotash, and crafty cocktails from the snug bar. 25250 La Paz Road, Laguna Hills, 949-446-8772,

Two Left Forks
Retooled by the Anderson family (Hotel Laguna), this handsome PCH diner—formerly Tavern on the Coast—has a posh vibe beneath its beach-town nonchalance. A pan‑seared foie gras appetizer for $10? Mac ’n’ cheese of gouda, Gruyere, and tomme de Savoie cheeses? Lavish happy hour deals pack the bar and keep the room buzzing all night. 34212 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point, 949‑489‑8911,

Restaurant Marin
An all-day diner oozing panache is just the maverick way partners Marin Howarth and Noah Blom operate. Of course the sumptuous eats surpass expectation, and the fact that all cooking is done with wood fire is still another surprise. You can even order nifty cocktails delivered from sibling restaurant Arc next door. 3321 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa, 949‑402‑3974,

Chef-owner Ryan Garlitos pushes Filipino cuisine to modern heights with this heartfelt homage to his grandmother-muse. Traditional sour‑sharp-sweet flavors weave their way into bistro-like meals with contemporary cocktails and snappy service. Is Filipino the next foodie trend? If so, Irenia was here first. 400 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, 657‑245-3466,