ORANGE COUNTY BRUNCH GUIDE
Written By: Minerva Thai
Photography By: Duc Duong
The clink of champagne flutes and the clatter of silver utensils upon porcelain plates set the tone as we look out at the picturesque horizon on the Pacific. Is this what a Sunday morning in Southern California feels like? Last week, we sat at a reclaimed wood table and stared at platters of sumptuous food, more hearty than elegant but luxurious in ingredients. Our friend slid over a towering Bloody Mary, filled to the brim with peppery tomato and impaled with an ambitious skewer of salt, brine, and seafood. We had planned next weekend to have a morning of waiting, plate in hand, through a buffet line for all-you-care-to-eat specialties and customized pancakes. How were these all categorized as the same “meal” type? Different stacks for different packs, we suppose.
In the ranks of culinary portmanteau, words such as the whimsical “spork” and compromising “tofurkey,” while brunch—the combination of breakfast and lunch—seems most beloved. We talk about it for the experience and titter about the perfect dishes or alcoholic deals at restaurants (bottomless mimosas anyone?). Instead of “Ladies Who Lunch,” it is a meal time about “Families/Couples/Friends Who Brunch.” That might just be where the commonalities end though. As we crawled through Orange County region by region, we found ourselves delving into a wide range of brunch styles from simple to lavish, rustic to modern, sober to alcohol-friendly. Though not all-encompassing, this guide should serve as a detailed outline of some of the top brunches to be found around town and their stories. It can help you plan out your weekends, because the last thing you’d want to do after sleeping in is scramble for reservations.
Let Sunday Funday begin! Join a lively crowd at La Vida Cantina and indulge in their brunch menu. Their Breakfast Tostaditas are a great wake up call. Crispy tortillas topped with refried black beans, poached eggs, succulent shredded pork, avocado, tomatillo sauce, Mexican cream, and cotija cheese. Other options, such as Pan Crepes or Izzy’s French Toast, are a sweet start to your morning with fresh berries and crispy jalapeno bacon on the side. Bottomless Bloody Marys and Mimosas are a welcome treat on their menu, but their Sexymosa and La Vida Cruda are real show stoppers as well.
1870 Harbor Blvd
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
SOCIAL Costa Mesa is an ingredient-focused restaurant with delectable dishes and cocktails—all with the freshest ingredients. And on Sundays, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., SOCIAL offers a fantastic brunch menu. From savory dishes like the Breakfast Burger and the Social Benedict to the sweet plates like the Cinnamon French Toast and Cinnamon and Sugar Donuts with horchata glaze (served with vanilla ice cream!), this is a brunch must. Don’t forget the craft brunch libations! You’ll want a couple of either the house Bloody Marys or a Magic Carpet Ride with vodka, sauvignon blanc, jasmine, and grapefruit.
512 W 19th St.
Costa Mesa, Ca 92627
During brunch hours, The Crow Bar and Kitchen’s menu is close to 50 percent breakfast and 50 percent lunch with items ranging from building one’s own scramble and omelet, to ordering one of many award-winning burgers. Their Breakfast Burrito gave a nod to Orange County’s large Mexican influence and the Californian popular produce by using thick slices of fresh avocado. Of course, the classic and simple yet beloved American Breakfast consisting of fried eggs, crispy bacon, sausage links and home fries came out too and was a solid plate.2325 E Coast Hwy Corona del Mar, CA 92625 949.675.0070
Zinqué is perfect for a lazy Sunday when you want to kick back with some friends, enjoy a gorgeous view of Newport harbor, and dine in an even more gorgeously designed location. Zinqué offers brunchers both a delectable menu and a comfortable, trendy setting. A favorite among locals, the Quiche Lorraine, can be seen on several plates when dining. With pancetta and aged gruyere, this delightful dish is not your average quiche. Spend your next brunch at Zinqué for an Instagrammable spot will definitely become a go-to.
3446 Via Oporto
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Braving the parking lot at The CAMP during a Friday night would not be the best idea, but coming by on a weekend morning may bring better luck for a spot. You would not want to overlook the tucked-away location of ECCO Pizzeria & Bar, a restaurant providing locally sourced, organically grown ingredients for their Italian food and passionate about serving “fresh, soulful food.” The brunch menu reads at about 50 percent typical breakfast items and 50 percent lunch items (with, of course, plenty of pizza options). If you don’t want to select an entree, there are some preselected Breakfast Classics via the Americano and Sobeca Brunch. Can’t decide between breakfast and lunch? Have both by choosing from the Breakfast Style Pizza + Eggs section!2937 Bristol St, Ste A103 Costa Mesa, CA 92626 714.444.ECCO TAPS Fish House and Brewery
Do you love seafood? TAPS Fish House and Brewery sure does, and they make no effort to hide their enthusiasm for brunch. Though many may think of this restaurant as a Happy Hour and dinner type of establishment, they do not understand the full picture. The whole restaurant transforms on Sundays for their aptly named Brunch Extravaganza, and what a party it is. Though there is much to swoon over, the most popular section of the brunch is predictably so but no less amazing. Make sure to save room for items such as the Crab Legs, and definitely include the Philly Cheese Steak Omelet. Made-to-order Bananas Foster will be waiting for you when you are done.101 E Imperial Hwy Brea, CA 92821 714.257.0101 Haute Cakes Caffe
Their logo cutely displays “Breakfast. Lunch. Pastries. With Love.” underneath the H (spatula) C graphic. They solely focus on pre-dinner dishes and are not open for the late afternoons or evenings. The name is the restaurant’s riff on pancakes; every one is a haute cake, and there are several variations. If you are hankering for a classic, go for their Buttermilk Haute Cakes. Those a bit more adventurous may want to explore the Blueberry Cornmeal Haute Cakes or the Orange Ricotta Haute Cakes. Whichever route you choose, make sure to dig in with gusto and enjoy the accompanying maple syrup, fresh fruit, and butter. Not feeling pancakes? Opt for their large menu of scrambles, sandwiches, and salads.1807 Westcliff Dr Newport Beach, CA 92660 949.642.4114 Plum’s Cafe & Catering
A local favorite, Plums Cafe frequently finds itself with more than enough hungry brunch guests. The restaurant features a Pacific Northwestern-styled menu and the side service of catering. As a diner, you get to choose from a list of entrees with the option of adding in-house coffee or tea along with an alcoholic brunch cocktail of choice for an additional price. Try for the Williamette Hazelnut Pancakes with marion berry compote or their Alderwood Smoked Salmon Hash. For the wow! factor, you might have to consider sitting tight and waiting about 20 minutes for an order of the Plums Famous Dutch Baby, a monstrous deep dish pancake skillet with powdered sugar and lemon that is surely bigger than your head.369 E 17th St, Ste 7 Costa Mesa, CA 92627 949.722.plum
Primarily listed as a breakfast menu, the dishes available in the morning time slots for the weekend certainly lean more towards the eggs and bacon crowd, but there are more savory lunch-like dishes at The Porch. Consider that they have Chicken & Waffles and even sandwiches during breakfast. If you want what the locals rave for, though, you have to go with their Signature Eggs Benedict and the option of having bottomless mimosas, because hey, who doesn’t want runny eggs and endless alcoholic juice on a Sunday morning? The restaurant is focused on being THE place for locals with craft drinks and great food that isn’t too casual or formal.508 29th St Newport Beach, CA 92663 949.673.1600 Zinc Cafe & Market
With three locations (two of which are in Orange County), Zinc Cafe is no stranger to breakfast. Known for their market and full cafe style menu, the restaurant does not have brunch in a traditional sense where you sit down to eat; there are plenty of grab-and-go options. If you are, however, searching for that experience, there is patio seating space available. To those browsing the extensive menu, they may not realize that Zinc Cafe is a vegetarian eatery, because it is not explicitly publicized anywhere. They just aim to make good food that also happens to be vegetarian. You will see egg dishes, cereals, toasts, and more on the menu. We have our eyes on those quiches.
Early Bird Cafe
Early Bird Cafe follows its name well, opening seven days a week at 7 a.m. on weekdays, and 6:30 a.m. on weekends and open until the early afternoon to hungry early risers. We recommend their most popular dish, the Eggs Benedict. Composed of a butter-toasted English muffin, quality speck, perfectly poached eggs and a from-scratch hollandaise spiked with a smidge of Sriracha, the eggs benedict are something else and certainly a plate with zip. Their monster of French Toast is also well-liked and heavily ordered. Spread with orange butter, housemade applesauce, toasted almonds and orange segments, this is a French Toast not too sweet or heavy and easily finished by one person.1000 B E Bastanchury Rd Fullerton, CA 92835 714.529.4100
Nick’s Laguna Beach
The breakfast menu is small at Nick’s Laguna Beach, but it has strong, savory dishes. Just a handful of dishes are featured during these early hours, but each one has a flavor profile that brings in fans. Take for example their Fried Chicken & Waffle Stack (with sausage gravy, maple syrup and Nueske’s bacon), and their Short Rib Benedict—do those not sound hearty to you? If that is not enough to get you going, grab a cup of quality joe to wake up your morning.440 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651 949.376.8595 Madison Square & Garden Cafe
Need to do some eclectic shopping while you dine? A quaint restaurant that has a storefront of unique home and garden gifts, Madison Square & Garden Cafe is set in a beautiful backyard garden and is dog-friendly for those canine lovers around. When visiting, order at the counter before taking a look-see around the shelves and displays of quirky products. The locals enjoy the Madison Rancheros and the not-so-common German Apple Pancake with thinly sliced and sautéed Granny Smith apples mixed in a German batter and topped with cinnamon and brown sugar.320 N Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651 949.494.0137 Old Vine Cafe
Nestled in the natural greens and rusty browns of The CAMP in Costa Mesa, Old Vine Cafe is poised and ready for guests seeking a quaint and secluded dining experience. Searching for popular dishes? Those in highest demand are the omelets. There is a Goat Omelet made with Pepper Jack and slow-cooked goat. There is a nostalgia-inspired Pizza Omelet with housemade meatballs, Mozzarella and hearty tomato sauce. They also feature a “comfort” section during brunch, which includes the likes of Biscuits and Gravy in multiple ways for different palates. If you’re game, there are also more exotic meats to look through including a Rabbit Mole, a glorious plate with cashew and chile mole over braised rabbit and paired with housemade cornbread.2937 Bristol St, Ste A102 Costa Mesa, CA 92626 714.545.1411
Mollie’s Country Kitchen
Mom-and-pop shops are what make communities go ’round, and Mollie’s Country Kitchen is one of those places. We say they do brunch on the weekends, but they specialize in breakfast it seems, so brunch runs just about every day of the week. Though the interior may seem severely outdated to the eyes, the menu is the enticing element to the tongue. Locals claim that Mollie’s Country Kitchen does Mexican breakfast very well and can also produce a good Country Skillet. We say not to judge a restaurant by its interior (except in cleanliness of course) but let the food do the talking. If you are in the area, drop by and fill up!27932 La Paz Rd, Ste M Laguna Niguel, CA 92677 949.643.9174 Stacks Pancake House
With a name like Stacks, how could a person not expect breakfast foods? However, this restaurant does not stick with the stagnant breakfast items that have been done over and over again. Their menu reflects a mishmash of varying cultural influences, and locals most particularly note their affinity for Hawaiian-inspired dishes. Their Kalua Pork Omelet is a popular pick there as is their Captain Mac Nut French Toast. If you are craving some more Hawaiian flair after an early morning of surfing, dig into their Loco Moco, a typical Hawaiian dish that encompasses just all the breakfast foods you need in different style—choice of hamburger patty, spam, or Portuguese sausage paired with two eggs, gravy, and steamed rice. How’s that stack up for size?27680 Marguerite Pkwy, Ste C Mission Viejo, CA 92692 949.218.4600 SideDoor
Sidling up along the stucco wall, we found our way to SideDoor off of Pacific Coast Highway. For several years, the restaurant has served brunch and began doing so after Five Crowns had ceased theirs. The menu has a balanced mix of 50 percent breakfast-oriented items and 50 percent lunch-oriented items, making for a location to please all walks of life. The most popular dishes during lunch are their Prime Rib Sandwich, Green Eggs and Ham Benedict, Cheese and Charcuterie boards and Fried Chicken and Buttermilk Waffles. Though one might see recognizable names, each traditional breakfast and lunch dish has been given a spin resulting in a fresh perspective on what it means to order a certain plate. Their warm hospitality and service seemed to put diners at ease, and we were grateful for their guidance. Worth noting is also their attention to providing craft cocktails during the brunch hours rather than the default Bloody Mary or mimosa (though they do have a bottomless option of this).
To get a better sense of the breadth of their fare, we sought out a few drinks. The seasonally rotating cocktail list is a compilation of the bartenders’ analysis for upcoming seasons and trends, and only the most liked of all suggestions make it to the menu. What you might see in one month could differ from the next month. The Mexican 75 made with Blanco tequila, grapefruit juice, peach bitters and champagne, was a nod to the French 75 but with Mexican spin. The SideDoor Bottomless Mimosa could appease those of you looking for a value-driven choice. This is served beautifully with Brut cava and a flight of seasonal fruit juices (orange, grapefruit, cranberry and pineapple at our visit), making for a popular and interactive way for guests to play bartender. Most common combination? Cranberry and the cava. A bite of their Green Eggs & Ham Benedict (green hollandaise sauce created with pureed spinach) revealed why it is one of their most popular dishes. We highly recommend this one for its herbaceous flavors and savory saltiness. Don’t forget the cheese and meat either though—grab a board of three choices or five choices, whichever tickles your fancy.
The SideDoor brunch is a la carte but with every dish being delectably savory; we recommend arriving with plenty of food-sharing friends in tow so that you can experience everything.3801 E Coast Hwy Corona del Mar, CA 92625 949.717.4322
Ramos House Cafe
With a vintage feel and close-knit environment, the Ramos House Cafe makes a person feel as if they are at a bed-and-breakfast. During the weekends, they serve only the brunch menu and for one set price of $40 per person. If you want to partake in such an atmosphere of history and American cuisine, choose to go during brunch where they have a prix fixe choice-of menu granting the option of a drink, appetizer, and entree per person (dessert is extra). We hear that the unique Apple Cinnamon Beignets are strongly recommended by visitors. Consider this a getaway type of morning.31752 Los Rios St San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675 949.443.1342 Memphis Cafe
Popular dishes are primarily the southern home-style dishes—an option that not many have in Orange County. We fawn over the infamous Southern Eggs Benedict, which causes our eyes to roll back in happiness upon first bite. The combination of poached eggs, sliced corned beef and grilled brioche with a hot pepper hollandaise atop a crisp potato hash proves to be effective in wooing anyone over. The Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Waffles with maple syrup and country gravy harkens to the South with crunchy and savory love.2920 Bristol St Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Break of Dawn
We begin our meal by starting in on the dishes and tasting the international influences in every bite at Break of Dawn. The Smoked Salmon comes with a crispy oatmeal pancake that’s made with oatmeal soaked in milk overnight, a relish of fennel, cucumber, and preserved kumquat caper mayo. An herb poached egg finishes everything off nicely with its savory runny yolk. The Lamb is a ragout featuring leg of lamb braised overnight with sumac (Middle Eastern), spätzle (German), tomatoes, brussels sprouts, English peas, arugula, cauliflower, olives, feta cheese (Greek), pepitas (Mexican) and 63-degree egg (a slow poach used frequently in Japanese cuisine). If you want to order the Bloody Mary, be prepared to sip down a drink made with wasabi, soju, pickled green beans and bacon. Yes, it is delicious.24351 Avenida De La Carlota #N-6 Laguna Hills, CA 92653 949.587.9418
A European-inspired restaurant in downtown Seal Beach, Crema Cafe attracts droves of brunch-seekers who just want to have good breakfast food. With its own bakery, the restaurant provides fresh baked goods on a daily basis, which you can take to-go or order during your meal. A pet-friendly patio allows those walking by to see what guests are eating and perhaps tempts them inside whether for a famous crepe or omelet. Each vibrant dish demonstrates the health-forward thinking of the menu and the short walk to the beach re emphasizes this mindset. If you want to go for a walk down the shore after brunch, visit Crema Cafe. Maybe you’ll even consider their Smoked Salmon Benedict or their Croque Madame.322 Main St Seal Beach, CA 90740 562.493.2501 Anepalco’s Cafe
On paper, Anepalco’s Chilaquiles seems simple—tortilla chips, omelet-style eggs, a signature red sauce, cotija cheese, sour cream, avocado mousse, and pico de gallo. On tongue, it is more complex than one could imagine, and we attribute it to the secret ingredients in their sauce. Understandably the most popular dishes come from the Mexican breakfast section of the menu. This includes the Mexican Truffle Burger made with eight ounces of all-natural beef, gruyere, arugula, tomato, and truffle oil. You’ll like it. Promise.3737 W Chapman Ave, Orange, CA 92868 415 S. Main St., Orange, CA 92868
Rialto Cafe stands nearby its namesake and embodies a retro charm that brings in curious guests who fall in love with the atmosphere. Black and white is used artfully to create a welcoming, simplistic atmosphere that focuses on their gourmet cafe dining and eye for design. Here, brunch is not a separately designated menu, but rather, an overlap of hours between breakfast and lunch options. Seek out their Stuffed French Toast (mascarpone stuffed in a French baguette and topped with seasonal fruit, whipped cream, and crème anglaise) for a treat or their Rialto Rancheros (baguette slices topped with a sundried tomato spread, fried eggs, and aged Blue cheese) if you want the locals’ favorites.108 W Wilshire Ave Fullerton, CA 92832
Monarch Beach Resort’s newest dining experience, AVEO Table + Bar, boasts traditional dishes we love with a Mediterranean concept—always seasonal, always fresh. The cuisine at AVEO Table + Bar makes an impression just as memorable, though, with Mediterranean menu items that will transport you to aquamarine waters and a warm breeze in no time. AVEO Table + Bar gains recognition by taking advantage of resort-grown herbs and vegetables when crafting their cocktails as well. Brunch has never been better, but be sure to make reservations for Sunday brunch!
One Monarch Beach Resort
Dana Point, CA 92629