Are you looking for the best dining in Orange County? Here are four top Orange County restaurants to check out now.
By Laura Okey
Experience authentic traditional Italian cooking at North Italia, a self-proclaimed love letter to Italy. Having mastered the art of handmade pasta and pizza, the food is prepared from scratch every day in order to deliver the freshest and highest quality dish. North Italia’s new seasonal entrees and cocktails are crafted with fall flavors and spices. Featured items include the burrata tortelloni with roasted butternut squash, mushroom, Brussels leaves, hazelnut and sage brown butter; and a seasonal vegetable salad with butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, radicchio, pecorino, farro, pistachio, date and white balsamic vinaigrette. Sip on seasonal cocktails like the apple bourbon punch with apple and vanilla infused Buffalo Trace, lemon, clover honey and chai tea or the spiced plum martini with gran gala orange brandy, mulling spice, pomegranate, plum bitters and bubbly wine. The regular menu is available, too. 2957 Michelson Drive, Irvine, 949.629.7060. northitaliarestaurant.com
Head to Irvine’s Los Olivos Marketplace for a contemporary take on authentic Mexican cuisine at new restaurant Puesto. Inspired by the vibrant art, culture and energy of his native Mexico City, executive chef/partner Luisteen Gonzalez sources local ingredients to create Puesto’s signature tacos made with crispy melted cheese, housemade corn tortillas and from-scratch salsas. Featured menu items include specialty tacos such as the filet Mignon taco with crispy melted cheese, avocado and spicy pistachio serrano salsa; chicken al pastor taco with crispy melted cheese, hibiscus and chipotle tinga, avocado and piña habanero pico; and vegetarian options such as the zucchini and cactus taco with crispy melted cheese, zucchini, corn, tomato, cactus, avocado and cilantro-tomatillo; and sustainable seafood options like the tamarindo shrimp tacos with crispy tamarindo-chile shrimp nestled in guacamole and cilantro. All of Puesto’s salsas are made from scratch using local ingredients, with tortillas made in-house using organic, non-GMO, blue corn masa sourced from local purveyor, Kernel of Truth. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. 8577 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine. eatpuesto.com
K’ya Bistro Bar
Featuring small plates and an emphasis on sharing, K’ya Bistro Bar offers over 50 plates under $10. Enjoy bold flavors from the Mediterranean and a lively atmosphere.The restaurant recently debuted five hand-crafted cocktails and several new menu items, all with a special seasonal twist. These new cocktails will warm you right up this winter—like the Rye Old Fashioned featuring rye whiskey, angostura bitters, orange bitters and cherry juice; and a spicy goose with Grey Goose vodka, cucumber and jalapeno. Menu additions include items like roasted root vegetables with goat cheese, black barley and truffle honey; lobster mac and cheese with bacon and truffle crust; fried chicken (leg and thigh only) with a garlic-basil dip and more. The regular menu is also available—try the lobster meatballs with truffle-bacon mashed potatoes and lobster sauce. Additionally, the new late-night happy hour is Tuesday through Thursday 8-10 p.m. and features gourmet small plates under $6 along with popular drinks (including new seasonal options) under $5. La Casa del Camino hotel, 1289 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, 855.990.0281. kyabistro.com
Twenty Eight’s executive chef Jay Lacuesta has introduced a new winter menu showcasing comforting meat-centric dishes and vibrant, flavorful vegetables of the season. Some featured items include uni and bone marrow toast made with hickory-smoked salt, brown butter breadcrumbs and chives; Mediterranean octopus made with soy garlic glaze, harissa-spiced roasted eggplant, pickled onions, frisée and lemon; W agyu beef cheek made with Imperial Farm beef cheek, romesco sauce, oranges, torn croutons and celery ; and oxtail noodles made with braised, handmade wide egg noodles, caramelized onions and pork cracklings . In addition to Twenty Eight’s new winter menu, the restaurant offers seasonal craft cocktails and a weekday happy hour at the bar from 3-7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and all night Thursday and Friday. 19530 Jamboree Road, Irvine, 949.852.2828. twentyeightoc.com