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Travel Costa Mesa Blog

Costa Mesa: Your Next Foodie Destination

Posted on September 26, 2018 | 1:53pm | Travel Costa Mesa


vaca sea urchin

Looking for Southern California’s newest culinary epicenter? As culinary innovators have flocked to the area, Costa Mesa has come out on top as a Southern California foodie destination well worth the trip.


From making Travel + Leisure’s list of the best milkshakes in the United States – check out The Straw – to housing five of the top 10 ramen houses in Orange County, Costa Mesa has earned acclaim from food critics and associations for just about everything your heart (and stomach) could desire.


This year, Costa Mesa is even the home to The Los Angeles Times’ expansion of its annual foodie fête, The Taste. The TASTE – Costa Mesa takes place October 19-21st and highlights some of the best of Orange County and Costa Mesa’s best culinary talent with a three-day foodie block party celebration.


When it comes to chefs to watch, Chef Carlos Salgado and his restaurant Taco Maria may lead the pack. Salgado is a two-time nominee of the prestigious James Beard Award; received The American Economic Institute’s 2018 Excellence Award; and was ranked as one of the 10 Best Mexican Chefs in the U.S. by Food and Wine Magazine. If that’s not enough, the Los Angeles Times named Taco Maria its Best Restaurant of the Year of 2018, as chosen by the late beloved and prolific food critic Jonathan Gold.And, despite the ever-mounting accolades, Chef Carlos still serves up his “Alta California” –a blend of Mexican tradition and Southern California flavors like his famous blue corn tortillas – in an unassuming but inviting location in Costa Mesa’s hip SOCO and The OC Mix.


Costa Mesa is also home to three restaurants headed by Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” alums. Vaca, headed by Chef Amar Santana of season 13, serves a Spanish-inspired menu heavy in tapas like his erizos con huevo pictured at the top and mouthwatering paellas with an extensive list of Spanish wines and craft cocktails.

the crack shack costa mesa

Next up on the Top Chef tour is The Crack Shack, opened by “Top Chef: All Stars” winner Richard Blais. The playful menu focuses on all things chicken with a full menu of fried chicken sandwiches like the Firebird or the Coop Deville using elevated ingredients to add a SoCal twist.


Tackle Box, headed by season 11 “Top Chef” contender Brian Huskey, offers fresh casual coastal dishes like poached shrimp, fried catfish or Maine lobster sandwiches; Salmon or Korean BBQ burgers; and salmon poke and buffalo cauliflower sides. With simple, flavorsome and honest ingredients, it’ll feel like you’re living an endless summer.

tackle box costa mesa

If you want to live like a local, Taco Mesa has been a Costa Mesa favorite for nearly 30 years. Don’t let the walk-up atmosphere or low prices fool you – Taco Mesa focuses on using organic and natural ingredients without additives and MSG. So grab a plate of tacos and a beer and enjoy a deliciously straightforward meal on their colorful outdoor patio.


Just around the corner, Toast Kitchen & Bakery takes a modern approach to both its food and philosophy by donating 10% of its profits to charity. The restaurant serves everything from brunch to dinner, featuring fried chicken and waffles, Thai chile chilaquiles, a wagyu burger, and scallop and grits.


Transport yourself to pre-Castro Cuba at Habana, a Cuban and Latin American inspired spot with an award-winning menu of dishes like plantain crusted chicken breast and slow roasted pork osso-buco with yucca mashed potatoes and collard greens. If it’s your first time, you’ll want to dine on the open air patio, which has been rated as one of the top 100 in the U.S. by Open Table, under romantic bistro lights and surrounded by greenery.

goodtown doughnuts costa mesa

Even donut lovers will rejoice over Costa Mesa’s offerings between the much buzzed about Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee and Goodtown Doughnuts. If you head to Sidecar Doughnuts on a weekend, you’re sure to find a line but for good reason. The mom and pop shop offers seasonal handcrafted donuts that have earned praise from everyone from Goop to The Cooking Channel and Zagat LA. Goodtown Doughnuts is the place to be for fresh and flavorful vegan options.


Still need some more convincing? See what the foodie experts at Foodbeast have to say.


Download the Costa Mesa Visitor Guide to start planning your eatcation and find the best Costa Mesa hotel deals!