Best Restaurants 2017!

No. 3 Toughest Tables

Hard to get is the strongest lure known to diners

Vaca’s Vaca Tonic. Photo by Priscilla Iezzi.

Despite its hyper-dense bistro seating, open tables are still rare at star chef Amar Santana’s high-buzz Spanish party, complete with wood-grilled steaks, luscious paellas, and slick cocktails. If you can’t make reservations, try dining very late or early. 695 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714-463-6060,

Tastemaker Roger’s Gardens teams with chef Rich Mead, a renowned booster of SoCal farmers, for this match made in restaurant heaven. Slammed from the get-go, it’s still flush with locals trying to book the lovely open-air venue as if it might vanish with the season. It won’t, so reserve weekend meals weeks ahead. 2301 San Joaquin Hills Road, Newport Beach, 949-640-1415,

Din Tai Fung
From the minute it opens, South Coast Plaza’s dumpling temple fills up and doesn’t exhale ’til closing time. Combine a worldwide reputation with a no-reservations policy and the result is waits of more than an hour. Get on the list, and then shop while you await your text. Tip: A seat at the small bar is come-and-get-it. South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 714-549-3388,