Pickled Monk is a do-it-yourself experiment where diners can roam a self-serve beer room and pour their own craft brews and wine. There are craft cocktails and wine at the bar and there’s a full kitchen, too, which is here to feed those tipsy cravings with roasted Brussels sprouts slicked with bacon-gochujang jam and a sweet potato tot salad. 101 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, 714-793-9100
The Kebab Shop
By now, it’s all but expected for a restaurant like The Kebab Shop to opt for the build-as-you-order assembly line. But here it’s put to good use, with toasty flatbread sandwiches, overloaded fries, and more serving as the foundations for the restaurant’s ribbon-thin döner (either chicken or beef and lamb) and other proteins. 17655 Harvard Ave., Irvine, 949-258-0858
There’s no mistaking Japanese-style cheesecake for its Italian or New York counterparts. It’s a distinct dish—a steamed, soufflé-like dessert that manages to be fluffy and dense. Here in Little Saigon, the cheesecake gets a taste of the tropics with ube and durian varieties. Fluffie rounds out its menu with an array of egg tarts, cream puffs, crème brûlée, and the like. 9102 Bolsa Ave., Westminster, 714-902-1661
Costa Mesa has long claimed O.C.’s ramen crown, but Tustin has a stable of excellent options as well. Ramen Mura is the newest shop in town, specializing in fatty, pork-packed tonkotsu broth. You can cut through the signature richness with spicy or black garlic variations. Complete your meal with the daily ceviche, gyoza, or a simple sushi roll. 13882 Newport Ave., Tustin, 714-617-4891
Drink of the Month
This Costa Mesa spot has a special kind of sun-kissed, effortless cool—and so do its drinks. The Smokin Piña has something for everyone: a notable smokiness from the mezcal, pungency and depth from a bit of vermouth, mellow sweetness from pineapple and vanilla bean, and a final touch of tartness. This cocktail is guaranteed to put you in a good mood.