Cocktails and Comfort Food Await at These Local Hideaways
As the temps begin to drop in Orange County, so does the perfect opportunity to savor the season with a romantic dinner date at an enchanting restaurant. Nestled amid palm trees and coastal charm, Orange County boasts a culinary scene as diverse as its landscape. Whether you’re starting cuffing season with a new flame or rekindling a long-term romance, these spots are perfect for any winter date night. From intimate bistros with flickering candlelight to charming eateries serving farm-to-table cuisine, here are 11 cozy restaurants that’ll set the stage for an unforgettable winter evening with your special someone.
Nestled in the heart of Tustin, Pacific Catch is shell-ebrating big this winter with a limited-time menu of seafood specialties. Who needs five golden rings when you can have five shellfish favorites? The classics are being reinvented this winter with a seasonal twist. Think creamy clam chowder with applewood bacon, steamed clams in buttery white-wine sauce, chile-based cioppino with calamari and show-stopping surf and turf platters. Get cozy in one of the booths on their heated patio, and if you’re feeling fancy, opt for the Garlic Dungeness Crab, which comes sauteed in garlic-lemon butter and will warm you up from the inside out.
For Pacific Catch, it’s always the season of giving. This sustainable fish house partners with the Surfrider Foundation to support the world’s oceans and sustainably source their seafood. And while fresh fish may be what they’re known for, don’t miss out on Pacific Catch’s lineup of holiday cocktails! Trust us—it’s worth holding off on the morning peppermint mocha for their peppermint espresso martini. Their recently opened Tustin location has a laid-back vibe that’s reminiscent of a day at the dock. Rattan pendants hang over light-washed wood dining tables, and the blue-tiled bar is perfect for casual meet-ups during the holiday season.
Nestled in the heart of Irvine, The Goldfinch is the quintessential destination for a captivating winter date night. As you step into the warmly lit space, you’ll find an intimate haven that complements the crispness in the air. Aside from its staple menus, The Goldfinch boasts a tasty selection of seasonal dishes and cocktails. Locally sourced ingredients take center stage, elevating classic dishes with a touch of seasonal flair; each bite reflects the restaurant’s dedication to providing a genuine taste of California in the winter. Indulge in seasonal creations like the Iberico Pluma Pork Steak with chili rellenos and braised white beans or the Fresh Grilled Swordfish with mango cucumber salsa, tempura green beans and lemon herb couscous.
As the crisp winter air settles around Newport Beach, A Restaurant emerges as a haven for those seeking a distinctive and delightful winter date night experience. Step into the charming world of the original A Restaurant, located in Newport Beach, which has been a culinary staple for decades. The dinner menu is delightfully decadent and pairs perfectly with plush burgundy seating and a system of wooden arches centered at a cozy bar. Known for serving the classics, you’ll find tried-and-true favorites alongside some adventurous selections, and the same can be said for A’s cocktail program.
Location: Newport Beach
As you step into The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar, the scent of exquisite wines and delectable dishes fills the air, creating an atmosphere that’s as sophisticated as it is inviting. From the first sip of a rich, velvety wine to the last indulgent taste of a thoughtfully crafted dessert, The Winery promises an unforgettable evening, where the connection between exceptional food, fine wine and the magic of winter converges into a beautiful evening for you and yours. For the inside scoop on special events and secret menus, we recommend becoming a VIP member.
Winter is all about cozying up, and there’s no place that sparks magic quite like Lola Gaspar. Housed inside Downtown Santa Ana’s historic Santora Building is this cocktail bar and taqueria, which has been a star in the Artist Village since 2008. Lola Gaspar’s daily menu features mouthwatering tacos, melty quesadillas and inventive, hand-crafted cocktails—all of which are even more elevated on its special Tuesday menu. Lola Gaspar makes for a sultry date night, and the perfect nightcap to a night out in DTSA—especially if you make it to The Witches Brew Night Market!
Location: Santa Ana
For a fantastically decadent dining experience, head over to Antonello Ristorante in Santa Ana. Tucked away, this winsome restaurant exudes the kind of warmth you can only find when sharing a delicious meal with someone you love. Rich, savory aromas waft from the kitchen as you take a seat and indulge in Antonello‘s commitment to authentic Italian cuisine with fresh and thoughtfully sourced ingredients. Whether you’re indulging in their renowned pasta and meat dishes or savoring a glass of fine wine from their extensive selection, every moment at Antonello Ristorante is a celebration of love.
Location: Santa Ana
Indulge in the captivating allure of the winter season with date night at The Cellar. Nestled in the heart of Fullerton, this dining and cocktail destination exudes warmth and timeless elegance. Whether you’re relishing the luxurious, comforting flavors of the decadent food or sipping on one of their thoughtfully crafted cocktails, The Cellar promises a cozy night out. Winter is all about bundling up, and The Cellar effortlessly captures that essence with its rich, dark wood interior, brick and leather accents and soft, ambient lighting.
Set in a historic old home, the Anaheim White House offers all the culinary finesse you could hope for from an authentic Italian eatery, including luxurious tapas, a caviar selection and plenty of pasta, seafood and meat dishes. The fusion of sophistication and intimacy adds to the restaurant’s timeless ambiance, characterized by classic architecture and a touch of old-world elegance, providing an unmatched setting for a romantic rendezvous.
Nothing says winter in California quite like natural wood interiors, large windows and an entire wall dedicated to premium wines. Featuring over 25 wines by the glass and a menu that highlights the restaurant’s wood-fired oven, Wine Gallery Laguna Beach is an idyllic spot for first dates or partners who want to switch up their routine. Indulge in artisanal pizzas, small bites, delicious entrees and more within a casual, community-forward atmosphere that’s perfect for those date nights when you’re feeling social or want to people-watch.
Location: Laguna Beach
Get ready to cozy up for a feast that celebrates seasonal flavors in an unexpected way. For a winter date that’s nothing short of spectacular, look no further than The Craftsman 1904. Open only for dinner service, this Anaheim restaurant offers guests an undeniably warm and elegant atmosphere along with an unmatched, eight-course prix-fixe meal. A Smoke and Fire culinary project, The Craftsman 1904 is located in a restored craftsman-style bungalow that features succulent meat cooked on an offset smoker, creative cocktails to pair with your meal, an expansive wine list and seasonal menu changes.
After a sunset stroll, let the evening unfold at Arc Butcher & Baker, where you and your sweetheart can enjoy a curated selection of comforting bites, wine and beer. Keeping true to the restaurant’s interior design choices, most of their dishes are served on wood, clay and cast iron, allowing the ingredients to take center stage in a setting that is both cozy and picturesque. This spot is sure to impress, and we wouldn’t be surprised if you make it a monthly (or weekly) date night destination.
Location: Newport Beach
Born and raised near the Pacific Coast, Jordan Nishkian is a California girl through and through. She graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a BA in Creative Writing and a BA in Anthropology, and her favorite place to be is curled up in a comfy chair with a book in her hand and a pen in her hair.