Terrace by Mix Mix
Chef Ross Pangilinan spent years at Leatherby’s Café Rouge before striking out on his own. He’s now making a grand return to South Coast Plaza with Terrace by Mix Mix. The restaurant shines with Pangilinan’s signature blend of modern European and Filipino cooking, made more accessible with a three-course, $15 lunch. 3333 Bear St., Costa Mesa, 657-231-6447
Greater Little Saigon is quietly one of the best locales in the county for vegetarian and vegan dining. Kensho, a restaurant focused solely on vegan versions of sushi, is yet another reason for this. Rolls here skip seafood for plant-based ingredients. But nothing feels fake—these rolls are plenty satisfying. 9550 Bolsa Ave., Westminster, 714-514-8726
There is more to Salvadoran food than freshly griddled pupusas loaded with gooey cheese or fatty chicharrón. But those are a wonderful way to start at El Pulgarcito, which makes some of the best around. Still, there’s a whole world of other dishes worth exploring, like the grilled carne asada with chimol (a Salvadoran radish salsa). 1738 W. Chapman Ave., Orange, 714-602-9707
Mexico’s regional culinary diversity is legendary, and chef Gabbi Patrick has long been one of its prime local advocates. Now she has arrived in Tustin with Chaak Kitchen and the flavors of the Yucatán Peninsula. Expect favorites like tikin xic (rock cod glazed with achiote and orange), fried chayote squash with avocado aioli, and cochinita pibil smoked over red oak. 215 El Camino Real, Tustin, 657-699-3019
Drink of the Month: 17th & Orange
The Crack Shack in Costa Mesa
The Crack Shack is a convivial place that can feel like the best kind of backyard barbecue. It’s easy to find the holiday spirit here with a 17th & Orange, a highball of gin, blood orange, honey, cinnamon, lime, and grapefruit. It’s floral and tart with a touch of honeyed warmth.