Insider Dining: Where the Pros Spend Their Own Time and Money

Local hospitality pros reveal

We surveyed more than 100 dining insiders in Orange County to come up with this list. Where do our favorite O.C. chefs go on date night? What’s the dive bar of choice for the county’s star bartenders? Where do the hot chefs hang out after hours? Read on.

Amar Santana
Broadway by Amar Santana, Laguna Beach
Take out-of-towners Marché Moderne, Din Tai Fung, Charlie Palmer, Taco Maria—all Costa Mesa. I’m oddly attracted to DTF’s fried brown rice; it’s so much better than I imagined. I also have a soft spot for the aguachile at Taco Maria, especially the hamachi with watermelon in summer.
Late-night noshing Tapatio Taqueria, downtown Santa Ana. It has all the meats chefs love—lengua, cabeza, birria, and buche.
Guilty pleasure Hazelnut gelato at Gelato Paradiso, Laguna Beach.
Dive bar Garf’s Sports Lounge, Costa Mesa. Smelly old carpet, lots of TVs, a river of American beer. Very old school.
Dining incognito Chong Qing Mei Wei Szechuan, Irvine. It may be my favorite restaurant—for hot shrimp, spicy pepper wontons, and dumplings.

Dean Simon
Co‑founder and Chief Waffler, Bruxie, countywide
Hang Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen in Old Towne Orange for jalapeno margaritas and ceviche at the bar. Gabbi rocks her seasonal specials and the staff is extremely knowledgeable. The place has a cool vibe.
Date night Hamamori at South Coast Plaza. Best fish in O.C. Ask James [Hamamori] for his specials, then let him work his magic. Frank Family chardonnay by the glass for my wife, ice-cold Kirin Light for me.
Sentimental Favorite Paul Martin’s at The Spectrum. Smoked Chicken & Wings, and Salt & Pepper Wild Prawns are addictive, and grilled salmon with quinoa and Meyer lemon nails it. Great patio, too.
Splurge meal Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Newport Beach. Start with a Chilled Seafood Tower, move on to a New York strip with creamed spinach, and finish with Chocolate Lava Cake.

Colin Pflugradt
Beverage Director, SOL Cocina and Solita, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach
Underrated Pie Not, Costa Mesa. It’s tucked away in a strip mall, and every time I ask someone if they’ve heard of it, seems like few have. I like the Southern Comfort—traditional chicken potpie.
Guilty pleasure A slice from Susie Cakes, Newport Beach. The Celebration, white cake with sprinkles and blue frosting. For my 30th birthday, friends surprised me with one in Vegas.
Date night Arc in Costa Mesa. I like the meatballs, the beet salad, the burger, any steak—I’m working my way up to the Tomahawk. I love the open kitchen-bar—they’re all working back there together and that’s really fun—and also the cocktails like Cigarettes & Coffee, Black Bertha, and Entry #5 with Fernet.
I admire Bear Flag Fish Co., Newport Beach. I get the calamari taco.

Philippe Tosques
General Manager, Napa Rose, Disney’s Grand California Hotel, Anaheim
Pizza craving Settebello, Crystal Cove,for misto appetizer, and their pizza of the week. The flavors are always spot on.
Take Out-of-towners Marché Moderne or Broadway by Amar Santana, perfect dinner spots that showcase O.C. very well.
guilty pleasure Wheat and Sons, Anaheim Packing House, for the porchetta sandwich—the flavors are just explosive, and the crispy bread adds a lot.

Andrew Gruel
CEO‑Owner and chef, Slapfish, Huntington Beach
Date night Mozza, Newport Beach. Sit at the bar and watch them cook—it’s a built-in conversation piece. The placemats are a miniculinary school with lots of talking points.
I admire Taco Asylum, Costa Mesa, for taking on tacos in a landscape where there’s a taco stand on every corner. Love their site-made hot sauces.
Guilty pleasure East Borough, Costa Mesa, for  the pho banh mi and beef stew.
Take out-of-towners Duke’s, Huntington Beach, for its focus on sustainable seafood—and that view!

Max Schlutz
Partner, Sessions Sandwiches, Newport Beach
Classy cocktail The Laredo at Gulfstream, Corona del Mar. Fresh-squeezed grapefruit makes
all the difference.
Guilty pleasure Daytime visit to Hollingshead Deli, Orange, for the beer, the history, and that they haven’t changed a thing in decades because it works. You can nosh on stuff you don’t find anywhere else, and they have a phenomenal beer program.
I admire Little Sparrow and North Left, both innovators for opening in downtown Santa Ana, and holding true to high-quality ingredients and cooking.

Sonya Villegas Kelsen
Owner, Colony Wine Merchant, Anaheim
Dining incognito Twisted Vine in Fullerton. Nice and dark, and I can pull off sweats and baseball cap, and no one judges. Manchego meatballs are a must.
Date night Il Garage in Stanton. House-made pasta, site‑grown produce from the garden, and great service in a casual setting. What could be better?
Sentimental favorite Scott’s in Costa Mesa. I worked there in the ’90s, fell in love with a server, and married him there years later. Try the lobster bisque.
I admire The Cellar in San Clemente. Very thoughtful wine-and-cheese selection, and innovative desserts. Love their sister cheese shops, too.

Russ Bendel
Proprietor, Vine Restaurant & Bar, San Clemente
I admire Cucina Enoteca, Irvine. Approachable wines and eclectic dishes. Money well-spent.
Hang Wine Works for Everyone, Mission Viejo, for great wine selection and high-quality food. The staff is always there to greet you and make you feel at home.
Take out‑of‑towners The Cannery, Newport Beach. I love the sushi. There’s a lively bar upstairs, and the food and service are always consistent.
Splurge meal Sapphire Laguna. I enjoy the Za’atar Dusted Lamb Sirloin, and the fresh flavors from around the world. The staff is well-trained and always hospitable.

Dean Kim
Baker‑Owner, OC Baking Co., Orange
I admire A Restaurant and Market, Newport Beach. Jon Blackford and Shelly Register have it going on!
Date Night Broadway by Amar Santana, Laguna Beach. He does it right.
Kids under 12 AR Mart, Fullerton. My kids love the food court’s black bean noodles, which happen to be cheap, too.
Pizza craving Urban Pie. Food truck owner Jason Winters is a pizza talent.
Underrated Watertable, [at the Hyatt Regency in] Huntington Beach. The staff is awesome and the fish ’n’ chips are the best.
Guilty pleasure Break of Dawn, Laguna Hills. I can’t say no to Dee Nguyen’s food; he is one of my favorites.
Rock-star treatment Charlie Palmer, Costa Mesa Chef [Seakyeong] Kim always gives me the red-carpet treatment.

Noah blom and Marin Howarth blom
Chef and Managing Partner of ARC and Shuck Oyster Bar, Costa Mesa
Take out-of-towners Ramos House Café, San Juan Capistrano. John Q. Humphreys is iconic in Orange County. One of the oldest adobes in California, and he lives in it. Very Southern California, and embodies what we love. With visitors, we’re so over the white tablecloth place. This is more “come into my home.”
Date night I like Mozza, Newport Beach. Nancy Silverton still shows up there, and the team really reflects that. The food is good, and Pat Panhallegon, the sommelier, is one of the best in the business.
Pizza craving Il Dolce, Costa Mesa. We love the fig-and-prosciutto pizza.
Dining incognito In the back corner at El Matador, Costa Mesa.
Sentimental favorite Mesa in Costa Mesa—it’s where we met.
rock-star treatment SideDoor, Corona del Mar. So many people in the industry cut their teeth there. I really respect the chefs there. They do such a great job.

JC Clow
Managing Partner, The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar, Newport Beach
Date Night The Vine, San Clemente, or Il Barone, Newport Beach, for great wine and cocktail lists. They’re chef-driven, with great owners-operators.
Underrated Molly’s, Laguna Niguel,a great low-key, family-run breakfast joint.
Celebration meal Javier’s, Crystal Cove. Love the Halibut Veracruz, with a house salad with Champagne vinaigrette. I also like the large prawns in garlic-butter sauce with fresh vegetables.

Koire Rogers
Bar Chef, ARC, Costa Mesa
Sentimental favorite Ramos House Café in San Juan Capistrano, for its awesome setting. It’s where we had our rehearsal dinner.
Guilty pleasure Chili cheese fries at SideDoor, Corona del Mar, a giant portion of fries topped with prime-rib chili, white cheddar, and cilantro.
Classy cocktail Broadway by Amar Santana, Laguna Beach. Gabrielle Dion is one awesome bartender.
Celebration meal Five Crowns, Corona del Mar—one of the last few special-occasion experiences left in “old” Orange County.
Date night Marché Moderne, South Coast Plaza, our go‑to spot. We just love the pickled shrimp with lemon aioli.

Greg Daniels
Chef‑owner Haven Gastropub and Provisions Market, orange
Date night Arc for a great cocktail, beautiful food till we burst, and it’s five minutes from home.
Sushi Love Oshima in Tustin—amazing fish, simply treated with yuzu and salt. Omakase-style, please.
Guilty pleasure Donut Bar, Fountain Valley. I’ll order three just to try different flavors.
With kids under 12 Solita, Huntington Beach – they treat our daughter like an absolute princess.
Dining incognito Shin-Sen-Gumi, Fountain Valley. No one cares who you are; they just feed you delicious ramen and yakitori.
I admire Broadway by Amar Santana, Laguna Beach. Amar puts out some of the best plates in O.C.

Justin Miller
Executive Chef, Pizzeria Ortica, Costa Mesa
Dive bar Shamrock, Newport Beach, the “Cheers” of my neighborhood.
Guilty pleasure Thrifty’s black cherry ice cream from Rite Aid. Loved it since I was a boy, and it’s cheap!
Late-night noshing Cassidy’s, Newport Beach. Everyone there is trashed; no one remembers you were even there.
Date night Little Sparrow, downtown Santa Ana. Chef Eric Samaniego puts out some beautiful food, and his
biscuit with gravy is amazing.

michael campbell
The Executive Chef, Pueblo in OC Mix
Fast-Food confession Chick-fil-A nuggets and lemonade. It’s a mix of childhood and perfection. I’m always amazed how perfectly that lemonade pairs with those tiny little nuggets. Waffle fries to boot, please.
Guilty pleasure Adding a half pound of Ossau-Iraty cheese to the already delicious prosciutto panini with great pepper jam at The Cheese Shop in OC Mix.
Hangover repair Rose Bakery Cafe, Corona del Mar. I’ve formed a bad habit with this one solid patty melt, decent coffee, and plenty of distraction.
Hang Memphis, Costa Mesa. The bartenders are supertalented without being pretentious. I tell them what I’m in the mood for and they whip up
a concoction.

Kathryn Agresto
Gardenista, Native Soil Gardens, Santa Ana
Sushi Koi, Seal Beach, where the sushi chefs eat.
Kids under 12 Lazy Dog Café in Irvine, where we can bring the kids and the pups and hang out on the patio.
Take out‑of‑towners Walt’s Wharf, Seal Beach, for oysters and grilled artichoke, or Gabbi’s in Orange for killer Mexican food.
Sentimental favorite A Restaurant. It was my dad’s favorite martini spot.
Guilty pleasure Zov’s Bakery, Tustin, for a frittata and mimosa on a Sunday morning.

Marc Johnson
Executive Chef, Oak Grill, Island Hotel, Newport Beach
I admire Little Sparrow, Santa Ana. Cute little restaurant with great food. I like its classic French style.
Date night Pizzeria Ortica, Costa Mesa. Pappardelle lamb pasta, and any of their pizzas.
Dining incognito Zinc Cafe, Laguna Beach— very chill for dinner, with great food, live music.
Underrated El Toro Bravo, Costa Mesa. The tortillas are so good. Anytime I’m near 19th Street I have to stop.
Splurge meal The Loft at Montage Laguna Beach. Chef Casey Overton is pure, raw talent.

Geeta Bansal
Chef‑owner, Clay Oven, Irvine
Pizza craving Canaletto, Fashion Island, for the goat cheese pizza.
Take out-of-towners Beachcomber Cafe, Crystal Cove.
Sentimental Favorite Date shakes at Ruby’s Shake Shack, Crystal Cove.

Kyle Meyer
Partner, Best Wines Online, Santa Ana
Underrrated Brodard Château, Garden Grove. Those pork rolls! That crispy squid!
Dining incognito Arc, Costa Mesa. It’s dark in there.
Hang Playground, downtown Santa Ana. Love the food, the changing menu, the atmosphere, and no corkage fee! Little plates and people smiling.
Favorite restaurant for wine Rosine’s, Anaheim Hills. They have cool, older stuff you don’t always find. And The Ranch, Anaheim. They have a really nice wine list. I can always find something cool there.

Shirley Chung
Chef‑partner,Twenty Eight, Irvine
Date night Driftwood Kitchen, Laguna Beach. A beautiful, romantic setting for a glass of Champagne at sunset.Best date night ever.
Hang Provenance, Newport Beach. I lunch here to sit at the garden that chef Cathy Pavlos uses to create fresh, seasonal dishes.

Shachi Mehra
Chef‑owner, ADYA, Anaheim Packing House
Hang Mozza, Newport Beach. It’s close to home and consistently good.
Guilty pleasure Dunkin’ Donuts’ hazelnut coffee—every morning.
Kids under 12 Cucina Enoteca at the Irvine Spectrum: crayons, Ferris wheel, and good food.
Fast-food confession Taco Bell’s seven‑layer burrito.

Mark McDonald
Chef‑owner, Old Vine Café, Costa Mesa
I admire James Hamamori, for his ability to transform traditional Japanese dishes with fusion from other regions of the world. His creations are interesting and inspiring.
Sentimental favorite The Old Spaghetti Factory, Newport Beach. My father was a manager there for years. As a kid, I remember waiting for a table in the trolley car that sits in the middle of the restaurant.
Hang Memphis, Costa Mesa. Good food, drinks, and live music.
Date night Pescadou Bistro, Newport Beach. So charming, and the best pâtés in town.

Dee Nguyen
Chef‑owner, Break Of Dawn, laguna hills
Pizza craving Fuoco Pizzeria, Fullerton.
Guilty pleasure Years ago, my wife and I had snickerdoodles at a friend’s house who’d brought them home from the UC Irvine office where she worked. Two months ago, I went to A Market for sandwiches and got a bag of goodies from Shelly Register. Later I got a text message with a cookie image from wifey: “OMG … This is it! It’s the snickerdoodle we’ve been looking for.” We confirmed it was indeed Shelly’s cookie and have been eating them every week.
Fast-food confession Saigon Bakery, Westminster. I go probably every other week for cold-cut sandwiches.
dining incognito Here at Break of Dawn. Ever since I lost the white jacket, diners just think I’m a food runner or janitor.

Amy Jo Pedone
Owner, Certified Chocolatier, Valenza Chocolatier, Costa Mesa
I admire Kean Coffee, for offering an authentic coffee experience.
Date night Gulfstream, Corona del Mar. My hubby and I split the jumbo crab cakes, then each have a steak, then share the sinful house-made hot-fudge sundae. Plus, no corkage fee!
Pizza craving Laventina’s Pizza, Newport Beach. I have ’em on speed dial. For only $9.95, you can get a good, large one-topping pizza that is not greasy, and made with fresh ingredients. Trust me, there’s a reason they’ve been around for 23 years.

Niki Starr Weyler
Executive Chef, Mesa, Costa Mesa
Take out-of-towners Laguna Beach for beaches and views, then dinner at Broadway by Amar Santana.
With kids under 12 After exploring tide pools, Zinc Café, Laguna Beach.
Late-night noshing Banh Mi Cali, Fountain Valley. Open 24 hours, super good, and cheap! Buy two, get one free, so that’s three sandwiches for $6. Plus they bake their bread on-site.

Azmin Ghahreman
Executive Chef, Sapphire Laguna, Laguna Beach
Date night L’Hirondelle, San Juan Capistrano. The chef is a true culinarian, true to what he does, and his wife does all the pastries.
Underrated China Moon, Laguna Niguel.
Guilty pleasure Machaca burrito at Las Golondrinas, San Juan Capistrano. The machaca has shredded beef and egg. Afterward, you feel great the whole day.

Scott Gorman
Server, The Winery,Newport Beach
Hang The Alley, Newport Beach. They do a reasonably priced menu until 10 p.m., and the bar stays open until 2 a.m. Lots of industry people are familiar with it.
Take out-of-towners Main Street, Huntington Beach, for its food, shopping, and bars.
Date night Haven Gastropub, Old Towne Orange. Lots of beers, a chef‑inspired menu, and a fun vibe for conversation.
Guilty pleasure 85C Bakery. If I could, I would eat those milk pastries all day and night.

Hans‑Erich Vogel
Cheesemonger, Vin Goat, Newport Beach
Rock-star treatment Eva’s Caribbean Kitchen. But to be fair, Eva treats everyone like a rock star.
Pizza craving Enjoying Pirozzi’s lately in Corona del Mar. It’s just fun, and a neat place.
Sushi Sota Sushi, Corona del Mar. Open for just a year, but Sota Akiyama is knocking it out of the park.
Sentimental favorite BJ’s Chicago Pizza, Laguna Beach, the only place that would hire me as a waiter with no experience, back in the ’80s. And where my culinary love affair began.
Guilty pleasure A Balboa Bar from Dad’s, Balboa Island.
Dive bar The ultimate has been and will always be the Sandpiper, Laguna Beach.
Late-night noshing Taco Loco, Laguna Beach, a favorite for decades. For me, Taco Loco is a late-night treat. We have wine-and-cheese pairing classes after hours at the shop, which often run late, and Taco Loco is almost always a stop on the way home. Love, love, love the blackened swordfish tacos.

Michael Rossi
Executive Chef, The Ranch, Anaheim
Take out-of-towners Napa Rose, for the open kitchen, friendly staff, and the evolving seasonal menu—plus I get to show folks Disneyland!
Date night What’s Up Men, Fullerton. My wife, Dolly, and I love going to this Japanese noodle house.
I admire The Golden Truffle, Costa Mesa. Chef‑owner Alan Greeley has been doing his thing for 30 years.
Underrated Plums Café, Costa Mesa, for their creative take on Northwest breakfast cuisine, and the fact they maintain a local beach following.
With kids under 12 Break of Dawn, Laguna Hills. My kids love the chocolate-chip pancakes, and chef Dee Nguyen is so good to my boys.

SeakyEong Kim
Executive Chef, Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s, Costa Mesa
I admire Broadway by Amar Santana, Laguna Beach. I know his work well from our years at Charlie Palmer, and his ideas make me up my game. I recently enjoyed his crispy whole branzino, and the aged duck breast.
Dining incognito Anywhere in L.A.
Underrated Little Sparrow, downtown Santa Ana. People don’t expect fine dining in that area. But Eric Samaniego emphasizes flavors over flash. I respect his talent for making dishes come together. I really like his sweetbreads.
Sushi Oshima or Hamamori. Oshima is classic, old-school Japanese, while James Hamamori is more modern and adventurous. Love his scallop sashimi with citrus and truffle.

Eric Samaniego
Executive Chef, Little Sparrow, Santa Ana
Sentimental favorite Anepalco’s Café, Orange, for the divorced eggs[with green and red sauce].
I admire Taco Maria, Costa Mesa. Carlos Salgado is one of the best chefs I’ve worked with. He’s really smart, he knows what he wants to be, and executes at a high level.The food is good.
Underrated 320 Main, Seal Beach. Most people think it’s a cocktail place, and it does have great cocktails. But Jamie Carrano, the chef, runs at a really high level, and doesn’t get as much press.
Rock-star treatment Broadway by Amar Santana, Laguna Beach. Amar is always there.
after-work nosh Right now, I have oxtail left over, so I put that on toast.

Peter Hoff
Executive Chef,Tender Greens, Irvine
Take out‑of‑towners Gen Korean BBQ, Tustin, an all‑new snout‑to‑tail experience for my family visiting from Minnesota. So fun and interactive.
Classy cocktail The Saloon, Laguna Beach. Love this shoe-box bar with a cozy vibe. A great choice for enjoying spirits normally out of my price range. Not the place to get tossed or shout obscenities. Keep it classy.
Date Night Haven Gastropub, Orange. This is where we go out and play grown-up when we have a baby sitter. There is romance in beer, fried pig ears, and deviled eggs.

Naseem Aflakian
Owner-manager, Little Sparrow, Santa Ana
Guilty pleasure Corn Dog Castle, Disneyland.
Pizza craving Pizzeria Ortica, Costa Mesa, for the romaine hearts with bagna cauda, the roasted octopus, and the oven-roasted vegetables with burrata. For pizza, I love the salsiccia and escarole. A lot.
Underrated East Borough, Costa Mesa.I could eat there daily. I don’t hear enough about them. I love the braised chicken banh mi, the sardine banh mi. But the grilled lemongrass chicken vermicelli noodle salad with crispy egg roll is my go-to. Obviously they’re doing something right if they opened a second location.

Scott McIntosh
Proprietor, Reunion, Anaheim
Date night Captain Jack’s, Sunset Beach. Same everything for 30 years, but they always get it right. Superfriendly service, great food, strong drinks, dark and romantic. Overly nautical, but I love it.
Guilty pleasure Pedro’s Tacos, San Clemente. Been dining there after surfing Trestles for about 20 years. Great hot sauce, awesome carne burrito (guac is always nice and salty, and the steak is generous). The perfect after-surf munch-out.
Splurge meal Los Alamitos Fish Co.The open mesquite grill is the best you’ll get anywhere. Awesome clam chowders and fresh oysters.

Cathy Pavlos
Chef‑owner, Lucca and Provenance, Irvine, Newport Beach
Hang Farro on the Balboa Peninsula. I always get linguine with white clam sauce and a glass of cool Vermentino.
I admire La Sirena Grill, Laguna Beach. I dream of having a six-table spot where I do all the cooking of fresh, flavorful ethnic food. Sort of like a permanently parked food truck.
Sentimental favorite Canaletto, Newport Beach, for salt‑roasted branzino and European service.
Guilty pleasure Ajisen Ramen, Diamond Jamboree, for the just plain addictive noodles.
Underrated Native Foods and the food court at Marukai Market,both in Costa Mesa.
Celebration meal The Winery, The Ranch, and Napa Rose are all great.

Rich Howland
Managing Partner, SOL Cocina and Solita, Newport Beach and Huntington beach
Date night Splashes at Surf & Sand Resort, Laguna Beach, for intimacy, plus an incredible feeling of being on the beach. The drink program is progressive, and the food well-executed.
With kids under 12 Fisherman’s at San Clemente Pier. Pure stimulation for surfers, sunsets, waves crashing, and people-watching. The kids like the fish ’n’ chips, while Emily and I go for a bucket of clams and the bread bowl chowder.
I admire Any Hillstone operation [Bandera, Gulfstream, Houston’s, R+D Kitchen], for keen attention to every detail. Count on a great dining experience.

Andrew Dorsey
Owner, SOCIAL, Costa Mesa
Date night Eat Chow, Costa Mesa,for breakfast dates.
Healthy choice Seabirds Kitchen, Costa Mesa. It’s vegan and I love the avocado tacos and jerk chicken tacos.
Guilty pleasure Maple bacon doughnut from Sidecar Donuts, Costa Mesa.

Eliott Montero
Assistant General Manager and Bar Director, Mesa, Costa Mesa
Pizza craving Mozza, Newport Beach. Ask for the Michael Bassler Special. You won’t be disappointed.
Dive bar The Huddle, Costa Mesa. Cheap beer, strong drinks, and open at 6 a.m. for us vampires.
Splurge meal Cal Shabu, Costa Mesa. A ton of beer and sake, all the meat you can handle, an Uber ride home, then a nap and over to Kitsch bar for Fernet Branca, if you can.
Underrated A Restaurant, Newport Beach. You hardly hear about it, but it has amazing classic American food with incredible service.

Jay Selman
Host‑Founder, WINE Bar
Wine Bar Cucina Enoteca, Irvine, has wine-friendly dishes, and the selection is reasonably priced.
Pizza Craving Rance’s Chicago Pizza, Costa Mesa. The thin chicken-garlic pizza just rocks.
Underrated Pina’s Bistro, Tustin. Italian dishes with a personal touch, in a tiny strip mall where you don’t expect a jewel. But that’s what it is.favorite restaurant for wine
When I bring wine, I often pick Pescadou, Newport Beach. When I buy off the list, The Winery, Tustin.

Jenny Ross
Chef‑owner, 118 Degrees,Lemon Drop Fresh Juicery, Costa Mesa and Anaheim
Take out-of-towners Cucina Enoteca, Irvine and Newport Beach. They have something for everybody and show off fun California ingredients.
Hang Lucca, Irvine, especially for weekend breakfasts.
Date night Sol Cocina, Newport Beach. We love chef Deb Schneider’s guacamoles.
I envy Chef Cathy Pavlos’ garden and outdoor kitchen at Provenance, Newport Beach.

Shelly Register
Culinary Director, A Market, Newport Beach
Guilty pleasure Roscoe’s House of Chicken ’n Waffles, Anaheim, for fried chicken, and the cheesy onion scrambled eggs.
Pizza craving Laventina’s, Newport Beach. The cheese and the pizza are just great. Get there before 11 and the pizza is so fresh and good for the price.
Dining incognito Bamboo Bistro, Corona del Mar, for Brodard grilled pork spring rolls and roasted duck salad.


Wine grower, Formaglini Vineyards
Date night Playground, Santa Ana
Celebration meal Napa Rose
Underrated spot Felix’s Continental, Orange

General Manager, Hyatt Regency Newport Beach
Date night Chapter One, downtown Santa Ana
Neighborhood hang SideDoor and Mutt Lynch’s, Newport Beach
Sushi Kitayama, Newport Beach


General Manager, TAPS Fish House & Brewery, Brea
Sentimental favorite The Cat & The Custard Cup, La Habra
Pizza craving Tony’s Little Italy, Placentia – amazing deep dish.
Dining incognito Habana, Costa Mesa


Owner, Tranquil Tea Lounge, Fullerton
Underrated Stefano’s, Yorba Linda for delicious sandwiches.
Pizza craving Rance’s Chicago Pizza, Costa Mesa for deep dish. For gourmet personal size pies, it’s SPIN Neapolitan in Orange. For best all‑round pizza, Angelo’s and Vinci’s in Fullerton.
Neighborhood hang Red Thai Room, Yorba Linda – amazing dishes and nice ambience tucked away in a suburban corner.


Chef‑owner, Harlow’s Fine Cuisine & Cocktails, San Juan Capistrano
With kids under 12 Sabatino’s Italian, Mission Viejo
Late night noshing Blind Pig, Rancho Santa Margarita
Underrated Knuckle Heads, San Clemente – great hot dogs.

Executive Director, Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina, Newport Beach
Late night noshing Aqua Lounge, Newport Beach.
Out‑of‑town visitors Beachcomber Café, Crystal Cove.
Neighborhood hang Gulfstream, Corona del Mar.

Director of Wine, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Newport Beach
Neighborhood hang 370 Common, Laguna Beach
Kids under 12 Mare, Laguna Beach – all four of my kids specified this.
Pizza craving Z Pizza, Laguna Beach

Owner, Taco Asylum, Costa Mesa
Neighborhood hang Lola Gaspar, downtown Santa Ana
Late night noshing Tsuruhashi, Costa Mesa
Sushi Oshima, Orange – best in SoCal hands down


General Manager, Anaheim White House
Late night 25 Degrees, Huntington Beach
Sushi bar Sushi on Fire, Huntington Beach
Sentimental favorite Baci





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