Costa Mesa, CA, USA

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One Weekend, Two Food Festivals

Posted on October 30, 2019 | 2:01pm

If Costa Mesa isn’t on your food destination list, we think it should be. It’s home to award-winning dining, including Orange County’s only two Michelin Star restaurants and was recently featured throughout OC Weekly “Best Of 2019” food and drink categories. It’s no surprise, then, that Costa Mesa hosted two events the same weekend to celebrate all things culinary.

The TASTE

October 18-19, Los Angeles Times and Travel Costa Mesa presented the 2nd annual The TASTE Costa Mesa, a 21-and-over food and drink festival that included unlimited tastings, chef demos and live music. The event was held over three sessions–Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday night. Restaurants from Orange County and Long Beach served crowds of hungry foodies who couldn’t wait to get a taste of each dish. 

Group of friends sitting at a table laughing and drinking outdoors.
Photo by Devin Berko

Over a dozen Costa Mesa restaurants participated in The TASTE. Friday included dishes from Tackle Box, Verde Kitchen and Filomena’s Italian Kitchen. Vaca chef Amar Santana was on hand to dish out paella and chef Ross Pangilinan, of Terrace by Mix Mix, talked about his family inspiration during his cooking demo. 

Group of friends holding drinks at The Taste Costa Mesa.
Photo by Devin Berko

Among Saturday afternoon dishes were smoked salmon mousse from Shuck Oyster Bar, tomatillo gazpacho and pork two ways from 2145 Pizza and paella valenciana from Cafe Sevilla, opening at Triangle Square in December.

Smoked salmon mousse from Shuck Oyster Bar.
Photo by Devin Berko

Wahoo’s Fish Taco co-founder Wing Lam and Knife Pleat chef Tony Esnault closed out the event with cooking demonstrations, while guests dined on Costa Mesa’s Toast Kitchen & Bakery, Mesa, Descanso and Silver Trumpet Restaurant & Bar.

Two women holding cocktails at night.
Photo by Devin Berko

VIP ticket holders also enjoyed exclusive dishes from Mastro’s Steakhouse and The Crack Shack, as well as additional drink options and personalized wine tumblers.

The Crack Shack California Dip sandwich on checkered table cloth.
Photo by Devin Berko

SoCal VegFest

October 19-20, OC Fair & Events Center hosted the 5th annual SoCal VegFest. Although the goal of VegFest is to introduce and inspire health conscious living, food lovers had plenty of plant-based options to try. Orange County vegan restaurants such as Vegan by El Zamorano, plant-based fast food The Black Bean, The Donuttery and Cinnaholic served up delicious vegan treats outdoors. Indoor exhibitors included larger brands like Orgain, Forager, Follow Your Heart and Califia Farms. SoCal VegFest also included a cruelty free market, cooking demos, live music kid-friendly events and even a cupcake contest.

I'm on an Eatcation sign on desk.
Photo by Devin Berko

Whether you’re an omnivore or plant-based, Costa Mesa has plenty of delicious options for your next food getaway. From a DIY Top Chef Tour to our Costa Mesa Beer Trail, there’s something for everyone. So go ahead: take an Eatcation™.

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Posted in Events, Food

Celebrating National Taco Day, All Month Long

Posted on September 27, 2019 | 11:46am

October 4 is National Taco Day and, if you’re like us, you can’t wait to celebrate. We’ve put together a list of great places to get tacos in Orange County on National Taco Day, Taco Tuesday, or just because…tacos!

Taco Maria

3313 Hyland Avenue
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Located in SOCO & The OC Mix, Chef Carlos Salgado has been receiving awards since opening Taco Maria in 2013, including a highly coveted Michelin star in June. You can find seasonal options on the a la carte menu. Summer 2019 includes tocino (pork check with piloncillo glaze, salsa de aguacate and peaches) and jardineros (shiitake mushroom chorizo with crispy potato and queso fundido).

Tacos from Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen in Orange, CA
Courtesy of Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen

Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen

141 South Glassell Street
Orange, CA 92866

You won’t see a sign if you’re walking by Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen in Old Towne Orange, but you will see diners lining up for this local favorite. The tacos are served on house-made corn or flour tortillas and come with a choice of black or borracho beans. We recommend the asada with red onion, grilled peppers, cheese and a chimichurri sauce, but you can’t go wrong with the newly named Michelin Bib Gourmand.

Margarita and tacos from Las Brisas in Laguna Beach, CA
Courtesy of Las Brisas

Las Brisas

361 Cliff Drive
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Las Brisas specializes in coastal California cuisine, infused with Mexican flavors. Their tacos are served on homemade corn tortillas with rice and beans. Try their sautéed shrimp tacos with pickled red onions, avocado and salsa roja or their grilled rockfish tacos with radish, cabbage and a chipotle mayo. If you want tacos at Las Brisas go early because they only serve them at lunch.

vegan tacos with purple potatoes

Taqueria El Zamorano

925 West Warner Avenue
Santa Ana, CA 92707

Stop by Monday-Saturday for their large selection of taco options. They specialize in al pastor and carnitas, as well as their homemade tortillas. What makes Taqueria El Zamorano unique, though, is their Sunday vegan pop-up, Vegan by El Zamorano. Try their hibiscus tacos with pineapple, guacamole and salsa verde.

Vegan tacos from La Vegana Mexicana in Santa Ana, CA
Courtesy of La Vegana Mexicana

La Vegana Mexicana

201 East 4th Street
Santa Ana, CA 92701

La Vegana Mexicana serves traditional Mexican food that is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free. The tacos de cantina are stuffed with their house-made garbanzo bean-based chorizo, pickled chiles, carrots and shredded lettuce. They are located in the 4th Street Market.

Come see Taco Maria, Las Brisas and La Vegana Mexicana at TASTE Costa Mesa, presented by The Los Angeles Times and Travel Costa Mesa. Join us for Orange County’s ultimate 21+ culinary block party featuring unlimited food and spirit tastings, chef demos and live music! Learn how you can receive 2 free tickets to TASTE here.

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Posted in Food

7 Eatcation-worthy Happy Hours in Costa Mesa

Posted on September 23, 2019 | 10:54am

Whether you’re a local Orange County resident or traveling and staying in one of our hotels, knowing which happy hour to choose can be tough. How can you find great deals on drinks and delicious food? That’s why we’ve put together a list of happy hours worthy of an Eatcation™.

Playa Mesa margarita, quesito, and pork confit ribs

Playa Mesa Mexican Kitchen

Named “Best New Mexican Restaurant 2019,” Playa Mesa Mexican Kitchen offers up some tasty treats on their happy hour menu. Try the pork confit spare ribs with chives and a piloncillo glaze ($8) or the quesito with scallions and house-made chorizo ($6). Their drafts are $1 off, along with a wine, beer and margarita selection. Playa Mesa serves happy hour Monday-Friday from 3-6pm. They also have a “Tacos & Tequila Tuesday” with $6 margaritas and $3.50 tacos.

Old Vine cocktail and focaccia

Old Vine Kitchen & Bar

You can find half-off bar bites and $3 off classic cocktails at Old Vine Kitchen & Bar. The house-baked focaccia ($5) and the borlotti bean dip ($5) showcase Chef Mark McDonald’s Italian training. Old Vine’s happy hour is available Tuesday-Friday and Sunday from 3-6pm. There’s also a late night happy hour, also Tuesday-Friday and Sunday, from 10pm-midnight with $5 draft Hefeweizen Weihenstephaner and $9 Old Vine classic cocktails.

Wine Lab wine glass with logo and wine flight

Wine Lab

Wine and cheese lovers, rejoice! Not only does Wine Lab offer cheese and charcuterie plates ($13) on their happy hour menu, but they also serve an early-bird cheese plate ($9) until 4pm on weekdays and 3pm on weekends. All beer and selected wines are $2 off, or try the happy hour wine fight for $10.

Memphis Cafe cocktail and crab cakes

Memphis Cafe

A homestyle Southern restaurant may not be an obvious choice for happy hour, but Memphis Cafe’s extensive food selection makes it one of our Eatcation-worthy picks. Chef and co-founder Diego Velasco serves everything from gumbo cheese fries ($7) to steamed mussles and clams with andouille sausage in a tomato broth ($8). You can find $1 off drafts and $2 off wine by the glass. Crafted cocktails are $6 and specialty cocktails are $8. Stop by Memphis Cafe Monday-Friday from 3-6pm for their happy hour menu and specials.

Seasons 52 broccoli flatbread and white wine

Seasons 52

The Seasons 52 happy hour menu is not to be missed. Their small plates are just $5 and include dishes such as Kona-crusted lamb, caramelized grilled sea scallops with lemon mosto and micro greens, and ginger-sesame chicken skewers. They offer a selection wines ($6), cocktails ($6), specialty cocktails ($7) and beers ($4) on the menu. They also have a glass of wine and flatbread special ($12). Seasons 52 serves happy hour Monday-Friday from 3-6pm and is located in South Coast Plaza.

Silver Trumpet cocktail close up

Silver Trumpet Restaurant and Bar

Conveniently in Avenue of the Arts hotel, Silver Trumpet offers a selection of their bar menu items during their happy hour. Try a chophouse slider with caper remoulade, brie and crispy onions ($3), charred Brussels sprouts with toasted cashews and cilantro ($8) or calamari with pickled vegetables and sweet cilantro glaze ($11). Beers are $1 off, well drinks and happy hour wines are $7. You can stop by Monday-Thursday from 2-6pm and 9:30-close, as well as Friday from 2-6pm and all day Sunday.

For even more great Costa Mesa happy hour ideas, check out the “Happiest of Happy Hours.” What’s your favorite happy hour in Costa Mesa?

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Posted in Food, Play

13 Memorable Things to Do in Orange County

Posted on April 30, 2019 | 10:20am

Planning a trip to Orange County? We don’t blame you! With access to some of the best dining, shopping, activities and beaches (not to mention that sunshine), it’s the place to be! And at the center of it all is OC’s not-so-hidden-gem Costa Mesa, the epicenter of the arts, dining and shopping scenes.

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Posted in Events, Food, Hotels

Family-Friendly Dining in Costa Mesa

Posted on April 17, 2019 | 11:40am

We know finding a menu that pleases the whole family isn’t always the easiest task, especially when you want to fully explore your new destination. If you’re ready to find a kid’s menu beyond places like The Claim Jumper and Yard House (although we’ve got those, too) here are a few new kid-friendly restaurants to try on your next trip to Costa Mesa. After all, why eat big-box in Orange County’s Eatcation™ destination?

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Posted in Food