Orange County Restaurants

Establishment neighborhood
Broadway by Amar Santana
328 Glenneyre St., Laguna Beach
Chef Amar Santana has rapidly gained a following in the OC culinary world since the 2011 opening of his namesake restaurant. A Dominican Republic native and longtime New Yorker, he infuses a mix of the two worlds in both his menu and space: the food is worldly and inventive, from potato pierogi to grilled quail, and the space is a nod to industrial New York with dark wood and rustic concrete. And the team is pretty serious about their wine. It's fun to score a seat at the chef's table to get a look into what's happening in the kitchen.
Bear Flag Fish Co.
3421 Via Lido, Balboa Peninsula
The NY Times may have deemed the fish taco as the unofficial fast food of Laguna, but that's doesn't mean they're all equal. This restaurant-market hybrid continues to impress us with theirs—Baja-style with the freshest catch and house-made slaw. Also on offer: incredible poke, chowder, seafood plates, and one of the best grilled seafood sandwiches we've had. Get here early and be prepared to wait—but trust: it's worth it. (Or if you're looking to cook, head to the market section for the daily seasonal catch and a few lemons, then head home to make the perfect meal.)
2301 San Joaquin Hills Rd., Corona del Mar
This farm-to-table restaurant is situated on more than seven acres of greenery inside Roger's Gardens—fitting, given the menu concentrates on locally-sourced produce. Chef Rich Mead serves up a mix of excellent salads and seafood for lunch and dinner. It's particularly festive around the holidays and, thanks to its popularity amongst locals, requires a bit of pre-planning to secure a reservation. Food photograph: courtesy of Diana Hossfeld
Zinc Café and Market
350 Ocean Ave., Laguna Beach
We've been fans of Zinc since it first got its start Orange County before expanding to other locations (there are similar outposts in Corona del Mar and DTLA). Like its sister locations, the Laguna Beach space is bright and airy making it a great spot for a low-key breakfast or lunch meeting—it's also perfect for carry-out. Go for the salads (tri-colore and avocado), baked goods (scones, croissants, and gluten-free muffins), and wood-fired pizzas (margherita, funghi, pesto).