Costa Mesa is only a short drive away from where I live in Irvine, which means I’m there pretty often. In Costa Mesa, you’ll find excellent fare ranging from fantastic mom and pop places, holes-in-the-wall eateries, to Michelin-starred offerings — in fact, Costa Mesa is seeing the most Michelin love of all cities in Orange County.
(photo courtesy of Travel Costa Mesa)
Din Tai Fung
My first experience was back in 1994 when I attended a friend’s wedding in Taipei and visited DTF’s original location, which opened in 1972. It is so famous that when I hopped in a taxi and said “I don’t have the address but I’d like to go to Din Tai Fung,” the taxi driver accelerated and said “we’d better get there quickly as they will close soon.”
Its first international location didn’t open until 1996 in Japan, and the first US location didn’t opened in Arcadia until 2000. After moving to OC, we would wake up early and drive up to stand in line for xiao long bao. The South Coast Plaza location opened in 2014 and has been super popular ever since. To be honest, besides the XLBs, I also love their other dumplings, especially the steamed veggie version.
(photo courtesy of Din Tai Fung)
Started as a small market, Fermentation Farm has since expanded to so much more. Its market now boasts a host of products that are made in-house, with the best locally sourced produce and products promoting gut health. There are pickled vegetables, fermented foods, sauces, as well as responsibly sourced proteins like grass-fed beef, and local farm fresh eggs, just to name a few. Chef Amy Lebrun has also created a formidable menu of interesting and delicious fare that aids in your overall health — I can’t stress enough how important gut health is. Check out their regular menu, as well as the awesome Taco Tuesday menu and the fabulous weekend brunch filled with mouthwatering options.
For a more extensive read, check out my post by clicking here.
Le Shrimp Ramen
This Singapore transplant just landed at South Coast Plaza a few months ago and has fast become one of my favorites. The umami-rich pork and shrimp broth brings me back to my childhood, when we would visit Singapore every year during Easter holidays. What a “Ratatouille moment” it was to slurp the umami broth and noodles at Le Shrimp and be transported to a memory from my childhood of eating prawn mee in Singapore hawker stalls. The ramen at Le Shrimp reminds me of prawn mee I would eat there. Highly recommended!
TERRACE by Mix Mix
Chef Ross Pangilinan earned a well-deserved Bib Gourmand accolade last year. The outside patio is an absolute delight, where you’re surrounded by foliage and greenery. It’s like dining in your own private arboretum! The menu is creative, eclectic, and tends to showcase Chef Ross’ Filipino heritage. The restaurant is shifting into a fall menu, and the pizza offerings have also been expanded. Time and time again, I return to one of TERRACE’s signature dishes: Adobo Pork Cheeks with garlic rice.
(photo courtesy of TERRACE by Mix Mix)
Moulin (at SoCo)
While Moulin’s flagship location is in Newport Beach, its Costa Mesa location is just as worthy of a mention. I’m a huge fan of Moulin, whether it be for breakfast, brunch, or lunch. This authentic French patisserie houses some of the loveliest pastries and baked goods you’ll find, and everything is made in-house. Enjoy a flaky croissant while sipping on some cafe au lait, or grab a baguette sandwich to go. If you’re lucky, you might even get the chance to have a little chat with Moulin’s enigmatic owner, Laurent Vrignaud, which is always the icing on the cake.
(photo courtesy of Moulin)
Old Vine Kitchen & Bar
Chef Mark McDonald just launched his Chef’s Seasonal Tasting Menu with wine pairings yesterday — like the one they had from years before — and their as-close-to-scratch-kitchen as possible motto is what makes Old Vine stand out from the rest. I love that they make just about everything in-house and are constantly keeping up with fresh options for diners. Expect to find in-house infused extra virgin olive oils, and freshly baked breads at Old Vine Kitchen as well as special menu items, which change constantly to keep options fresh for their guests. The change in season also means you’’ll see some new additions to the cocktail program, taking advantage of the best of what’s available right now!
(photo courtesy of Old Vine Kitchen & Bar)
If you’re looking for a fun spot to eat some good Mexican food, and drink great margaritas, then look no further than Playa Mesa. From its catchy, vibrant decor, to the attentive service, you will undoubtedly leave feeling satiated, extremely satisfied and looking forward to your next visit. My favorites are the Gobernador tacos.
I’m not a huge fan of sweets, but when I am wanting a doughnut, there is only one place I head to… SideCar! I love a good yeast doughnut and the ones here are so soft and pillowy, with thoughtful seasonal flavors that will taunt and tease you. On weekends, you’ll often find savory doughnut options such as Basil Eggs Benedict. The line is long, but it moves quickly and it is absolutely worth the wait!
(photo courtesy of Sidecar Doughnuts)
Located at Soco Collection, Taco Maria recently re-opened after closing due to the pandemic, and word is, it is difficult to get in. Chef Carlos Salgado’s spot has always been a shining star in Orange County, and the Michelin star it earned last year only confirms its place in the dining hierarchy of OC. The menu is outstanding, featuring exquisite Mexican fare, and is absolutely worth the time and effort to garner a seat at the table. Currently, the restaurant is offering a limited dinner menu. Reservations are necessary.
(photo courtesy Jannette at @MexicanParadox on Instagram)
The Straw: Modern Milkshakes
Tucked away in the corner of a non-descript strip mall off Harbor and Fairview, The Straw is one of those places where you can re-live your childhood one sip at a time. You don’t even need to use your kids as an excuse to come here. Apart from the regular milkshakes, there are vegan and boozy milkshakes available (just ask).
(photo courtesy of The Straw)