As we rounded up our Best New Restaurants of 2015 in Orange County, we encountered a few that just hadn’t been open long enough to make the cut.
Driftwood Kitchen: We can’t deny the stunning view from this Laguna Beach open-air dining room, but we’re looking for more consistent seasonal fare and smoother hospitality. We already love the (often empty) Stateroom Bar.
Twenty-Eight: O.C.’s female chefs club needs “Top Chef” Shirley Chung and partner Stacie Tran, who run this much-anticipated Irvine kitchen. But innovative modern Chinese deserves some extra patience.
Eats Kitchen & Bar: Chef Jason Montelibano is just warming up at the Hotel Irvine’s kitchen and bar. Are fancy bar snacks and gastropub eats enough to warrant our return to this newly modernized Irvine venue?
Waterman’s Harbor: Executive chef John Cuevas holds court at this stylish Dana Point seafooder, but the pricey grub hasn’t grabbed us. Yet. He has the chops, but will our endurance pay off?
Taps Irvine: Impresario Joe Manzella brings his award-heavy fresh brews, outsized surf-and-turf menu, and 10,000-square-foot venue to the Irvine Market Place, a few doors down from BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse. Forget reality shows; this promises to be an authentic smackdown as the two eateries vie for brewery supremacy.
Macallans Public House: Variable service hobbles this upscale gastropub, but the prodigious whiskey list and handsome Brea digs have us wishing for a smoother operation.
4th Street Market: Downtown Santa Ana’s long-awaited indie food hall, complete with rentable kitchen spaces for concept testing, has lots going on with familiar names Jason Quinn, Daniel Godinez, Michael Puglisi, Foodbeast studio, and incubator firm Food Centricity. The Market looks different every time we visit. Stay tuned.