The Grand Iced Shellfish Platter at Water Grill. Photo Credit: Alan de Herrera

Looking for a great place to eat in Orange County? Check out these must-try Orange County restaurants.

By Laura Okey

Water Grill South Coast Plaza
Hailed as one of the best seafood restaurants in Southern California, the first Orange County outpost of highly anticipated Water Grill now occupies the former Scott’s Restaurant space across from South Coast Plaza. Though it has the same address as former Scott’s Restaurant, the building itself has been completely redone. The 18,000 square-foot venue boasts an elegant and meticulous design. The raw bar is remarkably designed with oyster shells embedded throughout the bar top; the chandelier above is also made entirely of hanging strings of oyster shells. At the raw bar, choose from an impressive selection of both Pacific and Eastern oyster varieties, as well as clams, scallops, lobster and crab. The menu is focused on first-of-season seafood—expect to dine on the broadest selection of fin fish, oysters, crustaceans and shellfish. Lunch and dinner favorites include wild Columbia River king salmon with lemon nage and heirloom tomatoes and wild Ross Sea Chilean sea bass with cauliflower purée, lemon chutney, hazelnuts and brown butter. The weekend brunch menu includes highlights like baked salmon rillettes with crème fraiche, mustard, dill and tobiko and crab Benedict with jumbo lump blue crab, poached organic eggs and grilled asparagus. M-Th 11 a.m.-11 p.m., F 11 a.m.-midnight, Sa 10 a.m.-midnight, Su 10 a.m.-11 p.m. 3300 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 949.208.7060.


Las Brisas
Order Las Brisas’ signature guacamole from it’s seaside menu

Las Brisas
Forever a staple to the Laguna Beach dining scene, Las Brisas now offers a seaside menu as remarkable as its panoramic ocean view. Exclusive to the outdoor patio, enjoy items like filet Mignon and bacon tacos made with maple chile bacon, filet Mignon, pico de gallo and cotija cheese served with mashed-potato-like tater tots, or the halibut tamatillo—wild caught halibut with roasted house made tomatillo sauce, fingerling potatoes and charred asparagus. Guests can also indulge on Las Brisas signature items like its incredible guacamole, ceviche, king crab cocktail, seafood tower and much more. Su-Th 8 a.m.-10 p.m., F-Sa 8 a.m.-11 p.m. 361 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach, 949.497.5434.


Orange Hill Restaurant
Orange Hill Restaurant

Orange Hill Restaurant
Debuting its newly redesigned and remodeled O BAR, take in Orange Hill Restaurant’s breathtaking hilltop views while sipping on an eclectic collection of libations. Helmed by cocktail mastermind Allan Camarena, the expansive bar program will feature a vast selection of single malts, Japanese and Taiwanese whiskies, craft cocktails incorporating fresh, local and organic ingredients, a beer list featuring local breweries like Barley Forge (Costa Mesa) and Bottle Logic (Anaheim) and a thoughtfully composed wine list curated by master sommelier Michael Jordan. Cocktails include the Mezcal Me On My Cellphone, with Vida mezcal, green chartreuse, blood orange and lime ($16); and Smoke & Honey, with Makers Mark, vanilla citrus liqueur, honey, bitters and islay rinse ($14). The bar-only happy hour will feature bar bites and $2 off draft beers, $9 cocktails, $8 champagne cocktails and $7 wines. M-Th 4:30-10 p.m., F-Sa 4:30-11 p.m., Su 4:30-10 p.m. 6410 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, 714.997.2910.


Bone Marrow Mac and Cheese at The Recess Room

The Recess Room
Add an element of nostalgia to your dining experience at brand new Fountain Valley restaurant. The Recess Room features modern American tapas-style cuisine along with a soon-to-be launching beverage program highlighting locally focused craft beers and handcrafted cocktails. Items on the menu include bone marrow mac and cheese with cali-cal cheddar, pepperjack, mozzarella, bacon, orecchiette and bechamel; and a pork belly BLT with Kurobuta pork, maple, roma tomato and chipotle aioli on ciabatta with beer-battered fries. The restaurant’s throwback style (with a hopscotch twist) includes a ceiling resembling a 1960s redwood basketball floor and a chain curtain mimicking playground swings. The restaurant inspiration stems from a fateful day, three decades ago, when five boys picked up a game of handball during school recess on a Fountain Valley playground. They went on to be lifelong friends and shared a common dream of opening a restaurant. Manning the kitchen is executive chef Sergioivan Ortega, whose experience includes Orange County restaurants such as Social, Arc, Providence and Cucina Enoteca; and behind the bar is mixologist Carlo Navarro whose background boasts Pure Nightclub at Caesars Palace, Wynn Hotel and Kahunaville at Treasure Island. M-Su 5:30-10:30 p.m. 18380 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, 714.377.0398.

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