Los Angeles

The Best New Restaurants in Orange County in 2023 So Far

The OC restaurant scene is getting better and better.

Photo by Christina Gandolfo/CGandolfo Pictures, Inc., Courtesy of Joey
Photo by Christina Gandolfo/CGandolfo Pictures, Inc., Courtesy of Joey
Photo by Christina Gandolfo/CGandolfo Pictures, Inc., Courtesy of Joey

Over the last few years, Orange County restaurants have helped the region climb towards culinary recognition, despite being so often overlooked in favour of metropolitan neighbours Los Angeles and San Diego. Its clean-cut reputation has split into something more eclectic, finally reaping the benefits of its pristine coastline and diverse population of locals and visitors.

In 2023, a crop of exciting new restaurants has already emerged, each bringing unique flair to the region. From stunningly good new breweries to creative cocktail lounges, and from killer barbecue to outstanding mariscos, Orange County has grown into an excellent dining region. These are the best new restaurants in Orange County.

Photo by Christina Gandolfo/CGandolfo Pictures, Inc., Courtesy of Joey
Photo by Christina Gandolfo/CGandolfo Pictures, Inc., Courtesy of Joey
Photo by Christina Gandolfo/CGandolfo Pictures, Inc., Courtesy of Joey

JOEY

Newport Beach
Perhaps the buzziest restaurant opening of 2023 so far has been JOEY Newport Beach. The Canadian restaurant chain’s newest addition to its growing US collection is at glitzy Fashion Island, which joins locations in LA, Seattle, and Houston. Guests are met with a glass of champagne upon arrival, then offered seats in the lovely dining room or on the expansive outdoor patio. The space is both chic and casual, with design elements including cozy fire pits and a plethora of large-scale artwork from local talent. The menu is equally eclectic, featuring dishes that range from sushi to chicken parmesan. Unlike many Orange County restaurants, JOEY stays open late, serving until midnight Sunday through Thursday and until 1 am on the weekends.
How to book: Reservations available through their website.

Photo courtesy of Beachwood Pizza & Beer
Photo courtesy of Beachwood Pizza & Beer
Photo courtesy of Beachwood Pizza & Beer

Beachwood Pizza & Beer

Huntington Beach
Local craft beer lovers already know just how special it is when a brewery steps up their food game. Award-winning Southern California craft brewery Beachwood Brewing is taking things even further, giving people even more of their company to love with a new pizza and beer restaurant in Huntington Beach. Located just inland from Bolsa Chica State Beach, you can pair your hazy IPA with a 16-inch sourdough pie, a killer Meatball Sando, or apps including Fried Pickles and Smoked Wings.
How to book: Walk in or order online through Toast.

Photo courtesy of Postino WineCafe
Photo courtesy of Postino WineCafe
Photo courtesy of Postino WineCafe

Postino Wine Cafe

Irvine
If you want shareable plates that go the distance, Postino hits the spot. The new restaurant at Irvine Place is the chain’s first expansion into California, joining locations in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, and Texas. The bruschetta boards are massive and offer a wide variety, with classics like brie, apple, and fig spread; sweet and spicy pepper jam and goat cheese; and mushroom and mascarpone. The best seats may be at the bar, so you can get a quick education from the bartenders about Postino’s expansive wine list. The eclectic ‚Äė70s decor features colourful chandeliers, low curved velvet sofas, and burnt orange galore.
How to book: Walk in or order online through Toast.

Photo courtesy of Laguna Fish Company
Photo courtesy of Laguna Fish Company
Photo courtesy of Laguna Fish Company

Laguna Fish Co.

Laguna Beach
Restaurateur Ivan Spiers, known for Mozambique and Skyloft, has opened his newest concept in the artsy beach city. For this new fast-casual seafood restaurant, Spiers and his team elevated and refined the former Tommy Bahama Restaurant space, with glossy concrete floors and slatted wood ceilings and walls coming together to evoke an old-school fish house gone modern. Grab a bar seat and order up a dozen oysters, some Spanish Octopus Ceviche, Seafood Nachos, or maybe a Seared Tuna Sandwich. Don’t miss the house made Sangria, served by the carafe to wash it all down.
How to book: Walk-ins only.

Photo courtesy of The Goldfinch
Photo courtesy of The Goldfinch
Photo courtesy of The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch

Irvine
The Goldfinch is the place to go for power lunches and romantic dinners on the Irvine Concourse. Located at Eighteen Main-a 17,000-square-foot space on the former site of McCormick & Schmick’s-the restaurant is a fusion of food, decor, and energy. Absurdly high ceilings offer a modern, stark setting, while gold fixtures and velvet booths warm things up. The bar takes centre stage, keeping things casual despite the elegant ambiance. The ever-evolving seasonal menu currently features creative dishes like a Shrimp Pho Burger, and also plenty of classics-there’s an Iceberg Wedge, a Maple-Glazed Double Pork Chop, and Lobster Mac and Cheese.
How to book: Reservations available through their website.

Photo courtesy of Bloom Restaurant & Bar
Photo courtesy of Bloom Restaurant & Bar
Photo courtesy of Bloom Restaurant & Bar

Bloom Restaurant & Bar

San Juan Capistrano
Bloom Restaurant & Bar is ideally situated across from the Mission San Juan Capistrano and within walking distance of the train station. The stunning 2,400-square-foot space is built to withstand heavy foot traffic from all those visitors-but that doesn’t mean they’ve sacrificed food, drink, or style. The restaurant is set in a 1930s-era brick building, and the new concept infuses beautiful modern touches into the historic space. There are beamed ceilings, a retractable glass exhibition kitchen, and a 10-seat bar with moody lighting. The massive arched windows allow plenty of natural light to filter in, and give diners a glimpse of the hustle and bustle of the heart of San Juan Capistrano. The menu leans into comfort, with dishes like Crispy Pork Belly and Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi, Country-Fried Prime Hanger Steak, and a Wagyu Beef Burger.
How to book: Reservations available through OpenTable.

Photo courtesy of The Beach House
Photo courtesy of The Beach House
Photo courtesy of The Beach House

The Beach House

Seal Beach
This restaurant is exactly what it sounds like: an approachable, energetic new spot situated smack dab on the sand. As window shopping goes, it’s hard to imagine walking by without stopping in for a bite of modern California comfort food. The entirety of the restaurant, from its spacious patio to its cozy interior, feels like the perfect place to slurp back oysters on the half shell and sip on a Bloody Mary for Sunday brunch. But the best time to visit may be sunset, when you can watch the sun dip below the Pacific while you snack on Cauliflower Ceviche, Fish & Chips, and Grilled Jumbo Shrimp.
How to book: Walk-ins only.

Photo courtesy of Kai Lounge
Photo courtesy of Kai Lounge
Photo courtesy of Kai Lounge

Kai Lounge

Huntington Beach
Pacific City Mall has no shortage of restaurants, but the indoor-outdoor shopping centre has gone through its fair share of turnover. The latest dining concept from the Wild Thyme Restaurant Group (known for local hit Shorebird), has found a home on the second floor of the retail destination alongside successful mainstays including Tanner’s and Bluegold. The Japanese-inspired menu has so many exciting offerings, it may be hard to narrow down your order. Do you decorate your table with a platter of colourful sashimi and sushi rolls? Or do you fill up on robata skewers and wok entrees like the Black Angus Shaking Beef? Or, best of all, can you gather a group to run the whole thing? The cocktails trend colourful and inventive, like the Green Tea Old Fashioned. And if you’re feeling extra, book a spot inside the Whiskey Room for an intimate 18-course omakase experience.
How to book: Reservations available over the phone at (657) 259-0010.

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Alexa Erickson is a contributor to Thrillist.

Los Angeles

How to Spend a Weekend in Topanga Canyon

Nature and the arts collide in this beloved canyon community.

Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

Situated in the Santa Monica Mountains and known for its vibrant creative community, Topanga is one of Los Angeles’s most prized destinations for art and outdoor enthusiasts alike. And while LA boasts its own sprawling landscape of fun to tap into, you’d be remiss to miss a chance to explore this tucked-away collection of state parks, and cafes, and restaurants-especially when it all rests just 20 minutes away from the city. From a quaint caf√© with dazzling canyon views to a world-renowned, open-air theatre, here are the best ways to pass some time in Topanga now.

Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray

Friday

Book dinner at Inn of the Seventh Ray
Owner Lucille Yaney opened this iconic restaurant in 1975 after spotting the property on a drive through the canyon with her late husband Ralph, and it’s safe to say she had a good eye. The land perfectly fits into Yaney’s vision of a romantic, alfresco dining space with tables tucked into cozy nooks and gazebos, all beneath canapes and fairy lights. Today, Yaney co-owns the venue with executive chef consultant Brad Miller. Together, they continue to fulfil the restaurant’s original mission to serve pure, natural foods reflective of the season’s best. That approach appears in dishes like 8-Hour Black Vinegar Braised Short Rib with creamy rosemary polenta, duck bacon Brussels sprouts, and caramelized onion and fig jam; Roasted Mushroom Toast with oyster mushrooms and sherry tarragon cream; and Beets & Whipped Black Pepper Creme Fraiche. Consider the carbs here. Pastas and sauces are made in-house and from scratch, as is the bread (available regular or gluten-free), an order of which you won’t want to miss. Check out the wine list, too, which offers a robust organic and biodynamic selection that has helped the restaurant garner some impressive accolades in recent years.

Check into Topanga Canyon Inn
In addition to plenty of excellent Airbnbs available to rent in the Canyon, there’s Topanga Canyon Inn, a charming bed and breakfast comprised of two Mediterranean-style buildings-Casa Blanca and Casa Rosa-both built by the owners. Guests can enjoy bespoke design details in each room, along with gorgeous mountain views from their own private balcony. Come morning, join other travellers for breakfast, served daily at Casa Rosa.

Saturday

Get coffee at Café on 27
Ready your camera for a coffee date at this AM eatery and caf√©, where ample (and busy) outdoor seating offers some of the Canyon’s best views. A full breakfast and lunch menu is available (complete with hearty orders like eggs Benedicts, soups, and club sandwiches), but for lighter morning fare, spring for a pastry and any of their specialty drinks, such as the turmeric latte or Moroccan mocha.

Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock

Hike Topanga State Park
Spanning 11,000 acres and 36 miles of trails, Topanga State Park is the largest state park within the Santa Monica Mountains and one of the world’s largest parks within city limits. Visitors can access the grounds via more than 60 entrances. Once on the trails, enjoy sweeping vistas while exploring the region’s range of plants, habitats, and wildlife, including several resident bird species.

Grab lunch at Topanga Living Café
Guided by their Topanga upbringing and need for a community gathering spot with great eats, sibling team Agustina Ferguson and Bayu Suryawan opened this daytime eatery in 2016. Ever since, locals and visitors have found refuge in the caf√©’s warm, airy space and nourishing, hyper-fresh fare-all California-inspired with global influences. Check it out in plates like the Island Style, a breakfast salad with Balinese corn fritters, a poached egg, and house-made chilli jam, or the tacos (Baja Fish or Baja Shrimp, Carne Asada, or Kabocha Squash), made-to-order and served on handmade tortillas. If you’re seeking something shareable, try the Farmers Market Crudite, a seemingly humble order whose bright beet hummus reminds us that eating your vegetables is, indeed, very cool. And take a drink to-go. The team here takes great pride in their coffee (organic espresso, courtesy of their iconic pink La Marzocco machine) and a lineup of made-to-order smoothies, juices, and teas. Shop your way through town
Visitors can stroll through the town centre’s most popular shops for various fun finds, including Moona Star, Pebbles, and Topanga Homegrown. Be sure to stock up on specialty, local snacks at Canyon Gourmet and satiate your sweet tooth while you’re at it. The organic soft-serve there is a must. Pro tip: Top it with any of their artisanal syrups for a winning combo, namely, the vanilla with cardamom.

Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum

Catch a show at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
This beloved open-air theatre has hosted productions for decades and is recognized worldwide for its Shakespeare interpretations. In addition to its annual summer season, which includes works like Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the venue hosts concerts, rehearsals, and classes throughout the year for budding actors and playwrights of all ages.

Snag a slice at Endless Colour
This family-run pizza joint specializes in from-scratch pies with clever topping combinations (think purple potatoes, fontina, and truffle oil in the Purple Molly Potato or spinach, leeks, and goat cheese in the Super Greens). Bring some friends, order a pie or two, and check out the drinks list, which includes offbeat options like orange wines and hard kombucha.

Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery

Sunday

Check out The Canyon Bakery’s “Sunday Funday”
Situated on the grounds of the aforementioned Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, this bakery specializes in naturally leavened breads, pastries, cakes, and cookies using locally sourced, whole grain flours. There’s a takeout window on Sundays, from 9:30 am until the bakery sells out. A strong following lines up for favourites, such as whole grain croissants and gluten-free pizza, so be sure to arrive early to get your fill.

Try tacos to-go at La Chingona
On your way out of town, grab some tacos at La Chingona, where a team puts forth fresh, organic, gluten- and dairy-free tacos. Orders range to include options like grass-fed beef (carne asada), shrimp (wild-caught), and soy chorizo and can be fashioned into plates beyond tacos, too (think tostadas, salads, and bowls). Open only on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays; this taco stand sees good demand. Plan accordingly, pending your travels, especially to savour an order or two of the churros.

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Nicole Schnitzler is a contributor for Thrillist.

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