Top 5 Fine-Dining Orange County Restaurants for Foodies

Sophisticated foodies flock to fabulous Orange County for top fine dining experiences paired with incredible views, impeccable service and 5-star meals produced by famous – even Michelin-starred – top chefs.

Let’s take a look at 5 of the best fine-dining restaurants in Orange County, adored by locals and visitors alike.

Taco Maria (Costa Mesa)

Taco de Camarones – Photo by Anne Watson Photography

When Chef Carlos Salgado opened Taco María in 2013, he wanted to honor his family’s culture and their hard work by making Mexican-inspired food with a reverence for its provenance. Using the best ingredients available and applying the techniques and values he learned in Michelin-starred restaurants, Chef Salgado works to create a new Alta California cuisine that represents Mexican food by putting real corn at the foundation. 

No other restaurant has had quite the impact that Taco María has had on the Orange County culinary scene. The restaurant, which serves tasting menus of Salgado’s Mexican-influenced cooking, is at the center of a culinary movement that seems to grow in importance each year. By using perfect seasonal produce and treating regional Mexican dishes with both imagination and respect, Salgado has propelled California-Mexican cooking into the jet stream of abstracted modernist cuisine.

“Taco María has given not only Los Angeles but his native Orange County a sense of place — a place where roasted guinea hens with mole, tortillas stuffed with sturgeon and asparagus velouté with spring garlic stand beside crocks of mushroom chorizo and marinated Baja blood clams.”

Ootoro Sushi (Irvine)

A local favorite by nearly everyone who has tried it, Ootoro Sushi is home to experienced chefs that serve Japanese sushi with fresh flavor and style using special techniques from around the world.

There is no doubt that Ootoro Sushi is quickly becoming the place to be for the best sushi and Omakase in the Orange County area. From the freshest fish selection available every morning (directly imported from Japan), to extravagant and exotic combinations with custom-made sauces, one would be hard-pressed to distinguish an Omakase course with Ootoro Sushi from authentic Japan ambiance. 

Foodies love to go to Ootoro Sushi because they are constantly on the search for exquisite quality, top-level fish prepared by a true Master Chef, paired with exceptional service accompanying a premium dining experience, with rare imported Sakes – all in one place.

SeaSalt Woodfire Grill (Huntington Beach)

SeaSalt Woodfire Grill is where the wood fires of Santa Maria meet the fire pits of Huntington Beach. The “farm-to-fire” grill menu combines the traditions of the Old West with a modern California twist. 

Foodies can indulge in meats slow-grilled alongside seasonally-fresh vegetables over a red oak fire and topped with their own sea salt sensations blended in-house.

Pair your meal with one of their “craft rim” libations and you’ll be making California taste history in The OC. 

Pour Vida Latin Flavor (Anaheim)

Pour Vida Latin Flavor is a quick-paced chef-driven restaurant featuring Chef Jimmy Martinez’s famous handcrafted tacos and juice. Martinez attributes his inspiration to his strong Latin backgroundbeing Puerto Rican and Mexican, he familiarized himself with the flavors of both cultures at an early age.

The restaurant uses farmers’ market ingredients for ceviches influenced by the flavors of South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. There is a classic swordfish ceviche sweetened with papaya. Martinez’s Puerto Rican roots shine through in the crispy wild mushroom empanada filled with a blend of shiitake, oyster, and shimeji mushrooms and a 63-degree egg set on a spread of sofrito—Puerto Rica’s garlicky, citrusy mirepoix.

The nopales (cactus) farmers’ market salad is a worthy tribute to Mexico’s pre-Hispanic green bean, and the chorizo pate surprises the palate with additions of raisin walnut bread and pickled kumquats. There are tacos made with the 50/50 tortilla blend of flour and corn, and there is a full menu of skillet-moist meats and seafood resting atop a mélange of thinly sliced vegetables.

“The menu is all about the way Martinez likes to cook at home, with thoughtful nods to his own background, plus the right touch of refinement—he’s avoiding the usual clichés. With a view of the Pacific Ocean across the Santa Monica Pier, why didn’t anyone think of this before?”

Bourbon Steak, Orange County: A Michael Mina Restaurant (Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point)

Boasting a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean in South Orange County, this modern American steakhouse offers guests an unforgettable 5-star dining experience complemented with breathtaking ocean views. The menu highlights Chef Michael Mina’s signature butter-poached and dry-aged prime steaks along with creative-yet-refined dishes showcasing locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients. 

The beverage program pays homage to the timeless 20th-century cocktails and offers a robust whiskey selection brought to life with unique tables side offerings including Japanese Whisky Service.

Truly a special-occasion restaurant experience, be prepared to be dazzled with delicious dining and impeccable 5-star service. 

As you plan out your next special-occasion dining experience in The OC, consider one of these very unique and memorable restaurants.  Not only do they reflect the culture and vibes of Orange County, they are also guaranteed to leave any foodie satisfied. 

Bon Appetit!