Garden Grove Guide
Credit: Great Wolf Lodge

A Local’s Guide to Discovering the Hidden Gems of Garden Grove

Vietnamese Cuisine, Tea Bars and Boutiques Abound in This Enclave of Orange County

Garden Grove, located in the heart of Orange County, boasts a rich history and vibrant cultural diversity. Originally a farming community, the city has transformed significantly over the years. Today, it is celebrated for its exceptional Vietnamese and Korean cuisines, reflecting its multicultural heritage.

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Visitors of Garden Grove will find pockets rich in culture, like Koreatown—a 2-mile stretch of Garden Grove Boulevard that stands as an ode to an immigrant community that came to the US in the 1970s and ’80s. There’s also the Little Saigon district, the largest Vietnamese community outside Vietnam, straddling the cities of Garden Grove and Westminster. Here, the rich Vietnamese culture of local residents shines through a collection of authentic shops, bakeries, restaurants and community events. Garden Grove’s blend of historical significance, culinary excellence, and cultural richness makes it a unique and captivating destination. Here are 17 of many that we think you would love to explore.

Our guide to Garden Grove is an invitation to ditch the crowded beaches of Orange County and explore an enclave full of culture, traditions and devilishly delicious food. Let’s dig in!

 

SteelCraft Garden Grove

Credit: Steel Craft

Imagine an outdoor eatery composed of repurposed shipping containers—serving everything from Nashville hot chicken and stuffed burritos to fresh coffee and craft beer. SteelCraft is an ideal place to bring an indecisive crew and catch some sunshine at the same time. Located in the heart of Garden Grove, this outdoor community food court features a communal dining space with nine food and beverage vendors. Craving carbs? Cruise over to Aldente to build your own pasta creation, or bop over to Bird Talk for one of their decadent Honey Butter sandos featuring a fried chicken breast dipped in signature honey butter sauce, leafy green lettuce and mayo. There’s also Swagyu Burger if you’re feelin’ beefy, La Taqueria Brand for authentic street tacos and OniGuru if it’s Japanese you crave.

Local Insight: SteelCraft features an all-day happy hour on Mondays and live music on the weekends. Keep an eye on the calendar for more events, like holiday pop-up markets and 80s nights!

 

Luvinage Medical & Head Spa

While we all know that spas are plentiful in Southern California, few target the wellness of skin and scalp the way Luvinage Medical & Head Spa does. Head here (pun intended) for spa treatments that promote relaxation and improve the health of your scalp, hair and skin. Their holistic approach starts with an analysis, progresses to herbal regeneration and caps with treatments for hair loss, moisturization, hydrotherapy and more. They even use a soothing “halo” jet stream system to rinse your scalp! Facial treatments use laser energy to elevate your skincare. You can schedule a free consultation that will help customize a treatment program. 

Local Insight: Members and first-time clients receive a discount on select services!

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Sweet Rolled Tacos

There’s something genius about tacos as a format—an outside shell that holds messy foods in the middle—and Sweet Rolled Tacos takes the concept to heart. A self-identified “melting pot of taste, texture and aesthetic,” this little dessert shop in Garden Grove places premium rolled ice cream in a crispy taco-waffle shell for the ultimate indulgence. First, pick your shell color—black, blue, green, purple, red or original—and then match it with a flavor profile from their expansive menu. We’re fans of the Matcha Bliss—rolled matcha ice cream, nestled in a colored shell and topped with matcha whipped cream, matcha pocky, matcha drizzle, and then decorated with mochi and a fortune cookie.

 

Michelin-Recommended Restaurants

Credit: Calvin Hang

Craving a critically acclaimed bite? Believe it or not, Garden Grove is chock-full of culinary gems that have earned some pretty high praise. While Michelin stars themselves are reserved for the dining elite, this city boasts several notable selections recognized by Michelin for their quality and value. For a delightful fusion experience, head to ​Garlic & Chives, where Vietnamese flavors get a modern twist. Phở lovers won’t want to miss Phở 79, a Bib Gourmand-awarded local favorite known for its rich broths and comforting noodle bowls. There’s also the Michelin-recognized ​Taira Sushi & Sake—a tiny hole-in-the-wall spot tucked inside a mall that delivers big on flavor and experience.

 

The Vintage 1979

Sunny afternoons are perfect for tea time, and The Vintage 1979 delivers in spades. Often referred to as “the prettiest cafe in Orange County,” this whimsical outpost offers a selection of cakes, pastries and drinks inspired by the nostalgia of the 70s. Order a tower of sweets or lollipop ice cream, or if you’re in the mood for savory, select from a menu of quiche, sandwiches and salads. Ask about the Family Tea Set, which includes a dessert platter and tea service that could easily accommodate a group of six. Be sure to pay attention to their newest drink creations—if you choose correctly, your drink might arrive with an adorable edible bear on top!

 

Smoke Queen BBQ

Garden Grove Guide
Credit: Smoke Queen BBQ

Meet Winnie, the Smoke Queen. This chef and restaurateur mastered the art of live-fire cooking during the pandemic, and now Smoke Queen BBQ serves as the go-to for Asian American barbecue in Garden Grove. With flavor and spices that blend a Chinese and Malaysian heritage, the cuts here are infused with flavors that define a new category of barbecue. White oak is the wood of choice, and the slow-smoking method delivers signature items that span cuisines—think Cantonese-style pork belly and Texas-style smoked brisket. The smoke shop is located in a 70-year-old residential home that was converted into a commercial restaurant. Catering and pre-order party trays are also available.

 

Phin Smith

Take our word for it: coffee connoisseurs must not skip a trip to Phin Smith when in Garden Grove. With a mandate to “find your cup,” this coffee shop goes beyond your average cuppa to create memorable coffee experiences. The menu was inspired by a collection of industry experts—baristas, roasters, thinkers, students and recipe makers. They start with beans from the highlands of Vietnam and then innovate sips from there. The menu dives into specialty drips that smack of cravings—think peanut butter or bananas in your coffee. If it’s hot out, go for the Taiwanese Sea Salt Coffee, or if you’re feeling adventurous, consider the Charcoal Latte—a brew that looks as it sounds.

 

Céd Coffee & Donut

Sometimes, a coffee alone just won’t do—which is why coffee and doughnuts are a classic combination. Céd Coffee & Donut delivers in high style with doughnut flavors like strawberry cream and s’mores, not to mention their selection of fancy financiers. They even use specialty flour imported from Japan to make the cakes! Coffee creativity comes in innovative forms, too—like the ube latte or corn latte. A proper education in matcha can be found here as well; options include culinary-grade, ceremonial-grade, and stone-ground ceremonial. The mochi doughnuts are in high demand, so get there early!

 

Yigah

Garden Grove Guide
Credit: Yigah

Korean comfort food is alive and well at Yigah in Garden Grove. The wood-paneled walls and cozy booths invite guests to settle in for an authentic Korean feast. Start with a seafood pancake and move on to a bossam meal, where you make wraps with boiled pork belly, napa cabbage and spicy pickled radish. If you’re with a crowd, don’t skip their popular version of galbijjim—a giant portion of spicy braised short ribs with torched cheese on top. Yigah is open seven days a week and always ready to feed a craving.

 

Bowling + Karaoke at Valley View Lanes

Let’s go bowling! Whether a casual outing with friends or as a player in a fierce league competition, Valley View Lanes is ready to receive your strike. Featuring 14 lanes, an arcade, pool and ping pong tables, as well as token karaoke, this alley is an ideal entertainment venue for friends and family. If you join a league, you’ll get free games on Mondays and Tuesdays every week of the season. Or consider a group package, starting at 4-6 lanes with options to reserve the whole center for a private event. Every neighborhood needs its own bowling alley, and Garden Grove is no exception.

 

Tastea Garden Grove

A shop with a name that doesn’t sell the concept short, Tastea brings a tea experience that goes beyond generic juices and blended drinks. This shop is a boba-and-fry concept that need not be questioned. Go for a mango milk tea and match it with crispy butterflied shrimp for a perfect afternoon snack. Or stick with a dessert option, like the tiger milk tea, a combination of formosa tea, non-dairy creamer and brown sugar drizzle with crème brulee. There are other iced options, too—from hazelnut-spiked coffee and avo smoothies to slushy freezes in multiple flavors. Tastea is a truly unique tea bar and a welcome addition to Garden Grove.

 

Precious Closet

The best retail clothing shops are those where you feel like you’re walking into a cozy home closet. That’s the vibe Precious Closet brings to Garden Grove—a store where you can find a large selection of aó dài, the traditional dress for Vietnamese women, alongside modern daywear as well. You’ll be asked to remove your shoes upon entry, so come prepared with socks. And while the shop space is small, it is also very popular—given its viral presence on TikTok. Regardless of how busy they are, this Garden Grove shop is known for its hospitality, with its owners always available to help curate clothing or accessories.

 

Garden Grove Farmers Market

Credit: Iñigo De la Maza on Unsplash

The community comes alive every Sunday morning at the Garden Grove Farmers Market. Taking place on Main Street in historic Downtown Garden Grove, this open-air market features produce, food, crafts, jewelry, arts and more. Grab a gourmet tamale and take a stroll while you stock up on weekly provisions. Or, go for a new style with his and hers hats and sunglasses. There’s live music every weekend and almost always California oranges from Garcia Farms. Farmers markets always showcase the best of a community, and this weekly one in Garden Grove is a must-visit.

 

NOVA Kitchen

Asian fusion never goes out of style, as proven by the dining experience at NOVA Kitchen. Their approach: explore the elements—wood, fire, earth, metal and water—to engage all senses. NOVA Kitchen also features live music and theme nights. Be sure to stay up-to-date with their calendar. Thursdays are for sushi and cocktails, Wednesdays are for wine, and happy hour happens every weekday from 4-6 p.m. We recommend starting with the dumplings—a colorful assortment of the soup type—and then getting creative with the deep-dish tuna pizza. You didn’t hear it here, but we’re told there’s a secret cocktail menu on request.

 

Great Wolf Lodge Water Park

Garden Grove Guide
Credit: Great Wolf Lodge

When the sun comes out in Southern California, everyone turns their attention to fun in the water. Sure, there are plenty of nearby beaches, but when in Garden Grove, there’s only one choice: Great Wolf Lodge Water Park. This 105,000-square-foot indoor water park offers exciting attractions and delicious dining for the whole pod. Even if the sun isn’t out (we’re looking at you, June Gloom), you can still enjoy this Garden Grove water park, which is kept at a warm 84 degrees year-round. There are forts, creeks and tornadoes to explore and  suites at the lodge where the fam can recharge. For the little ones who believe in magic, don’t miss the MagiQuest Live Action Game. Then, steal some time at the alley and arcade before bedtime.

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