Restaurant
Credit: Ed Visions

14 Brand-New Restaurants in Orange County (Spoiler: We’re Obsessed!)

The OC Dining Scene Keeps Getting Better and Better

If there’s one article you’ll want to fully read, it’s this one. There’s sort of this not-to-subtle competition around town to try out the best new restaurants once they hit the scene. Lucky for you, we’re here to dish! Orange County has become a culinary hub for adventurous chefs and rambunctious restaurateurs looking to brand their names onto our forever-hungry hearts. If you’re in need of an idea about where to take your next date or where to gather the gals, we’ve got you covered. Here are 14 new restaurants in Orange County that we’re totally obsessed with.

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Palmilla Cocina y Tequila

Best New Restaurants in OC
Credit: Palmilla Cocina y Tequila

This location on Newport Blvd has been begging for a trendy restaurant after lying dormant for years. Our wishes were granted when Palmilla opened up in late July and fulfilled all of our organically abstract, dimly lit dreams. You’ll feel like you’ve been whisked away to Cabo San Lucas and, with over 15 types of margaritas on the menu, you might actually believe you’re there once the tequila takes hold. The indoor-outdoor space was designed by award-winning architect Gulla Jónsdóttir and is replete with arched walkways, glowy rattan lanterns, custom-made wood furnishings and a fully retractable roof! Snag a seat at the stunning bartop, where mixologists shake up muddled margs, or cozy up in a booth and share some appetizers like queso fundido, seafood nachos or braised short rib taquitos. Whether it’s date night or girls’ night out, this is a great place to end up!

Location: Newport Beach

 

Starfish

Best New Restaurants OC - Sugarfish
Credit: Ed Visions

Neighbors to Newport sandwich icon C’est Si Bon, Starfish’s second iteration has been packed to the brim every single day since its grand opening. With the original location putting down roots in Laguna Beach, Newport natives have made this south country staple feel quite at home with a warm—dare we say, red hot—welcome.

Opening in late spring of this year, Starfish is on a roll (there’s your sushi pun) with their Pan-Asian plates that are soy delicious (couldn’t help ourselves). Two things you need to know: First, this place is small, so reservations are a must at the moment. Second, it’s all about Opium Hour, their version of happy hour that is every day from 3-6 p.m. We love a happy hour that is actually worth our while, and Starfish’s gives diners half off of their beloved libations as well as access to nearly 30 menu options that are heavily discounted to anywhere from $9 to $15.

Location: Newport Beach

 

Skål Pizza

As if we need a reason to love Lido Marina Village any more, they opened an upscale pizza joint and confirmed this 2.5-acre oceanfront oasis is as good as it gets. Skål, meaning cheers, is a sister restaurant to fan favorite Malibu Farm and is located next to Tress Apothecary. This spot, with harbor views and seaside slices, has given your favorite late-night grub a serious glow up with pizzas that are almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

They use their wood-fired oven to char everything from crusts to carrots and whip up some serious pastas and pizzas. Two of our favorite dishes are the butternut squash and sage pizza and the brown butter beet pasta—both are insanely tasty and Instagram-worthy. Pair your pizza or pasta with their Swiss Marg cocktail and you’ll be a happy camper! Skål is open noon-8 p.m. during the week and extends tol 9 p.m. on the weekends. But plan ahead because they’re closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Location: Newport Beach

10.25

 

Goop Kitchen

Best New Restaurants in OC
Credit: Christina Tadin

If you have opened up Instagram in the last month, you have definitely seen a post or 20 about the opening of Goop Kitchen in Costa Mesa. Every influencer and their mother have flaunted that signature white-and-green Goop to-go bag filled with things like their spring roll salad or the chicken salad lunchbox, which is basically the adult version of a Lunchable. We love Goop because it is healthy but hearty and has proven to stand up to all the hype. Also, if you go to pick up at their ghost kitchen location in the old Grant’s Guns building off of Newport Blvd, you’ll have quite the experience where you magically unlock a locker containing your food for a no-contact quick grab and Goop. Don’t sleep on their brownies and take advantage of their 10% off deal for first-time customers when ordering through their website.

Location: Costa Mesa

11/2

 

BOK Kitchen

Best New Restaurants in OC
Credit: Junyoung Jeon

BOK, which stands for Body of Knowledge, is putting Fountain Valley on the food map with their Asian fusion fare. Open for brunch and dinner, this place is super cool with its dark and moody interior design and plates that are perfect for sharing. You can go sweet or savory for brunch with chicken and waffles or shrimp and grits. Dinner offers an exciting assortment of dishes that range in spice, temperature and origin. There are five different types of fries you can order, which we appreciate, and a Ha Noi Sampler for the adventurous eater who is looking to experiment. The word on the street is that all of their dessert options are insane, so don’t be that person who says they don’t have room—you do, and we all know it.

Location: Fountain Valley

 

Rare Society

Rare Society
Credit: Matt Furman

What’s an old-school, Las Vegas-style steakhouse doing in surfer-centric San Clemente? Well, this somewhat unusual newcomer is making waves in the city by the sea, bringing the turf to the surf. Debuting earlier this summer, this hip haunt is the ultimate spot for a meat cute. If you’re like me and are a chronically indecisive orderer, opt for one of their meat boards, which features a selection of chef-determined cuts for the night and is served with sauces on a lazy Susan, meaning you can marvel at your mélange of meats from all angles. Pair it with an old fashioned for a little buzz with your beef. 

Location: San Clemente

11/15

 

Blossoms & Brass

 New Restaurants in OC
Credit: Kenneth Ussenko

South Coast Plaza is home to one of the best restaurants in Orange County, according to a guy named Michelin (looking at you Din Tai Fung), but there’s a newbie on the block who goes by the name of Blossoms & Brass, and she’s slinging small plates, specialty cocktails and signature dishes from 3 to 11 p.m. on the weekends and 9:30 p.m. on weekdays. We dare you to try the Miso-cilin cocktail, which has unusual ingredients like miso and kimchi, but you’ll be able to brag about the buzz after. They do a super cool and refreshing watermelon tartar as well as their own take on the cult classic lobster roll—both worthy of an order.

Location: Costa Mesa

 

Fennel Kitchen and Bar

You don’t need to fly all the way to Greece to experience the Med; now you can just pop over to Fennel in Aliso Viejo and get your falafel fix. This place is ideal for a power lunch to fuel that afternoon slump. Feeling fancy? Order the tower of thinly sliced potatoes topped with crème fraiche and caviar. That’s sure to impress a client or two. There’s also salads and bowls and things between buns, which can all be eaten in the light and airy interior of this restaurant located in the Aliso Viejo Town Center.

Location: Aliso Viejo

 

Newport Beach Whaler

This place just opened like yesterday (okay, maybe a week ago, but you get it), and as of press time, 28 of the 35 Yelp reviews are five stars. This place ain’t fancy—like don’t expect microgreens tweezered onto a tiny dish with some sort of cold foam around it. But do expect good vibes, a lot of fried food and a proper spot for pounding drinks with friends (and that’s where the fried food comes in). Newport Beach Whaler took over the old China Palace location, gave her a nice facelift and a better patio situation and reintroduced her to the world like a girl from “The Swan.” Drop a pin now because this is going to be your new home base for day drinking.

Location: Newport Beach

 

The Brant

Restaurants in OC
Credit: Natalie Brummett

We found your new date-night spot; it’s located just a coastal cruise up PCH at oceanfront outdoor mall Pacific City. It’s called The Brant, and it’s downright delicious. Start with a blood orange coconut mai tai and go from there. Savor our iconic West Coast sunsets on display nightly, banter over a pretzel bread board or some bacon-wrapped dates and fawn over each other while splitting their famous fried chicken sandwich. This spot is casual but cool and will leave your belly and heart feeling full.

Location: Huntington Beach

 

Truly Pizza

Restaurants in Orange County
Credit: Truly Pizza

Dana Point is going through a sort of culinary renaissance, a good grub glow-up, and I, for one, am loving watching this little surfer town take shape. Truly Pizza is the latest addition to South County’s finest, and they are serving up salads, sandwiches and slices that’ll make you wanna slap your mama. They offer two types of pies to accommodate any picky pizza pundits—one square and one round and have an array of toppings and flavors like the umami mushroom, the sweet and spicy, and the smoky vodka. Their organic soft serve is an absolute must, and we recommend topping with EVOO and salt. Trust us!

Location: Dana Point

10/15

 

Bloom

We have a thing for SJC. Yeah, that’s right—we’re on a nickname basis with this West Coast-gone-Western South County city you might know as San Juan Capistrano. From the people that brought you Olea on 17th St in Newport Beach comes equally as suave sister restaurant Bloom. This is the kind of spot where your dish might deserve its own designated photoshoot. Everything on the menu looks good, so when in doubt, order the crispy chicken sandwich. The housemade pickles, tangy slaw, garlic dill aioli and criminally crispy chicken will not do you wrong. The only problem is that everyone else at the table will want a bite too.

Location: San Juan Capistrano

 

Cabana

We have a secret; a new hot spot is coming to Laguna Beach! Imagine drinking a mezcal mango margarita while a sizzling plate of filet mignon and farm-fresh veggies sits right in front of you, giving you a glorious fajita facial. This might be the best self-care hack of all time. Cabana is getting ready to open its doors in the heart of this seaside city, and you will want to be in line to indulge in their artisanal cocktails and Latin cuisine.

Location: Laguna Beach

 

Parakeet Cafe

Best New Restaurants in OC
Credit: Alexis Fraser

Spreading its wings, Parakeet Cafe has landed in Newport Beach! This picture-perfect, all-day restaurant is located in the Crystal Cove Shopping Center, bringing a fresh and vibrant  approach to cafe fare, baked goods and beverages. With original locations all across San Diego, Parakeet Cafe is a locally loved neighborhood spot with a menu of feel-good dining options made using locally sourced, seasonal and organic ingredients. Every item on the menu is made in house (think avocado toast, fresh salads, hearty soups and shareable tapas), and many dishes even accommodate dietary preferences, such as vegetarian, gluten-free, paleo and vegan. Treat yourself to one of their superfood lattes, house-brewed teas or protein-packed smoothies. Oh yeah—don’t forget to snap a few pics against the tropical wallpaper!

Location: Newport Beach

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Jane Adler is a marketing and branding consultant by trade, but a writer by preference. She shares a name with Meryl Streep's iconic character from It's Complicated and is presently trying to manifest that life (particularly that Santa Barbara house) for herself. Jane is an avid consumer of content and carbs and often used the latter to write on the former.
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