Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top 10 Best OC Restaurants of 2015

The end of the year is fast approaching, and thanks to my computer crashing on me this week, it's going to be close trying to get this best of list out before 2016 rolls around. So if this shows up a little late, please forgive me.

2015 was an awesome year for me in so many ways. Number one of course was getting married to the woman of my dreams. Katie finally said yes, and we got hitched in April. Everyone has asked me the same thing, "How's married life"? My answer always is that it's really the same. It has been one smooth transition from dating, to engaged, to marriage. We do the same things, she allows me time to blog, I allow her time to nap, and we just have to find time to see our families.

Speaking of families, 2015 was the year of the wedding for us. Besides our own, we went to six other weddings this year, which gave us plenty of time to see our families. It also gave us a little time to blog some restaurants in some places that we would not normally get to. We always enjoy traveling, but unfortunately due to the abundance of marital bliss going around, our only vacation adventure this year was going to Jamaica for our honeymoon, and the food at the resort was definitely not worth writing about.

As far as this blog goes, this is our sixth year doing it, and we are not stopping anytime soon. I really want to hit at least 1000 different restaurants before I even think of taking some time off.. Right now we are at 580 different restaurants, and 653 different posts. So I guess you can say that we still have a lot of work to do. It's a good thing that I still really enjoy eating out, and hope that this is a great resource for all of you.

As always, before we get to our top ten list, I just want to thank all of my dining partners over this last year. Thanks for allowing me to take so many pictures of your food, before digging in. I would also like to thank all of you out there who have read, commented, and follow us on social media. I greatly appreciate it, and look forward to many more of your suggestions and complaints throughout 2016, and beyond. So without further ado, here's the top 10 restaurants we ate at in Orange County this year.

#10 Cafe Mimosa - The only breakfast spot to make our list this year. It was a spur of the moment decision to try this place while walking the San Clemente Beach Trail, and I could not have been happier with their baked goods, and their pork belly breakfast. As with most breakfast spots around the county, there's going to be a wait, but this place is worth it. With a promise of eating here, I'd even agree to go walking again.

#9 Pub Thirty-Two - Chef driven restaurants are all the rage right now, and they are even popping up in South OC, where chain restaurants used to reign supreme. That's not the case anymore though, with great restaurants like Pub Thirty-Two surfacing in this Mission Viejo shopping center. We had a wonderful meal here that featured Chef Glen Tinsley's version of farm to table cuisine, which almost made us forget the awful meal we had at this same address when it was home to one of the worst Mexican restaurants we had the displeasure of eating at. A definite upgrade now.

#8 Reunion Kitchen and Drink - Coming to us from the people behind Nick's, French 75, and Claim Jumper, (back when they were good), is Anaheim Hills very own, Reunion. This is American comfort food at its best, with a wonderful menu that hasn't missed the mark with any of the items we have tried. Standouts include the Fried Chicken, Meatloaf, and save room for the Butter Cake for dessert. We're eagerly awaiting the opening of a new Reunion in Laguna soon.

#7 South Coast Kitchen - Unfortunately this is one restaurant you will not be able to make it to on this list. It saddened me to hear that this South OC gem had closed after a dispute with its landlord. Chef Justin Davis has headed up to Northern California now, and it's a bummer we won't be able to sample his menu which changed every week depending on what was available. Hope Chef Davis returns to us in OC someday.

#6 Driftwood Kitchen - Usually restaurants with a killer view serve lackluster dishes, and hope that the beautiful OC coastline will be enough to lure people through their doors. We did not find that to be true when we dined at Driftwood Kitchen in Laguna. The food here was prepared simply, and we found lots to like from Chef Rainer Schwarz's menu. I'd probably get the Pork Belly and Butcher Steak combo that I had on my first visit again, but you definitely need to tell them you're celebrating something so you can try their Toffee Cake, which is given out for birthdays, anniversaries, or whatever occasion you care to make up.

#5 SOCIAL - I can admit that SOCIAL may not be for everyone, but we really enjoyed this joint. Part hipster, kind of a rowdy bar scene, and some very good southern food with a California twist make this place a winner. We've been here twice now, and have had a real pleasurable time both visits. I'd talk about the food I had when I was here, but the menu changes often, so you're likely to see other items when you come here. Come in with no preconceived notions, and you will more than likely leave happy.

#4 Leadbelly's Barbecue - I'm a big fan of barbecue, so it's no surprise that there are two barbecue restaurants on this list, the first of which is Leadbelly's in Placentia. I liked that this BBQ place did not pigeon hole their barbecue into a specific region. They just have good meats, and are willing to take chances with the way that they serve them. You have to try their Loaded Pork Garlic Fries for sure, and their Burnt Ends if they are available. If they're not, order something else, and make plans to come back again until you get to try those elusive burnt ends. Worth the trip.

#3 Pina's Bistro - Yes, only one Italian spot on my list, but what a memorable meal it was. I usually shy away from specials, because I always figure that if they were really that great, they'd be on the menu. Glad I didn't listen to my own advice, and had Pina's almost always offered special, the 16 ounce Veal Chop Marsala. This massive chop is flown in directly from New Zealand, and is then cooked wonderfully here at Pina's. Don't scoff at the $40 price of this, you will leave full and satisfied.

#2 370 Common - I figured that since Owner/Chef Ryan Adams was splinting time between this place, and his new venture, The North Left in Santa Ana, that maybe the quality was going to suffer here. I was wrong. Everything we had was great, the Short Rib Poutine, the Hanger Steak, and one of the better Burgers in OC. Definitely one of the crown jewels of OC chef driven restaurants.

#1 Lillie's Q - That leaves Lillie's Q as the best restaurant that we ate at in 2015. We are extremely lucky that this Chicago based restaurant has opened an outpost in Brea. Their barbecue is legit, they have a great variety of sauces on the table, and I can not say enough good things about their grits, which are the best I have ever had. Need another reason to come here? How about all you can eat Sunday brunch? Yes, they have that, and I am salivating just thinking about it.

Okay, so that gives you a few places to try in this new year, if you haven't tried them already. Thanks again for taking the time to read the blog, and I look forward to sharing more dining adventures with you in the new year. Happiest of new years to you are yours.


  1. Great year end review. I've been to Reunion. Great spot especially for date night. Chicken is on point.

    It amazes me how many different restaurants that you've been to. I'm a creature of habit so I tend to try new restaurants very sparingly so applaud you for having more of an open mind. My stomach lives vicariously through yours. My wallet also thanks you.

    - TQT (Mr. Brea's Best fan)

  2. Anonymous/Mr. Brea's Best - Thanks for the kind words. since you love Brea's Best, you need to try Lillie's Q, which is also in Brea. They have a brunch on weekends, all you can eat barbecue, and it's only $25.99, and you will not eat the rest of the day. The brisket alone is worth the price. Give it a try, and let me know how you like it.

    Here's to another year of eating! Thanks for reading the blog.

  3. I love the list of restaurants, just wanted to add my two cents. We love local mom and pop places, but we have to admit that Carrabas Italian restaurant is always on the top of our list for many reasons. The staff is friendly, the food is amazing, and the prices are absolutely in line for the amount of food that you get.

    Crystal Carson @ Tacky Jacks

  4. Crystal - Thnkas for taking the time to read the blog. Unfortunately we do not have any Carrabas in Southern California. Not sure why that is, since they seem to have them almost everywhere else. Thanks for reading the blog, and keep up the good work on yours.

  5. This is so incredibly helpful. I will be traveling through OC later this month and I will be there for several days. I do not like eating anything at hotels because unless it is the Ritz Carlton, it is a let down. Now I know what restaurants I will be spending all of my time at and maybe meetings too.

    Cristopher @ Lamoraga Restaurant

  6. Christopher - Thanks for taking the time to read the blog. Let me know if you make it to any of these places, or if you find better restaurants during your stay. I'd also suggest my favorite restaurant OC at this moment, Selanne Steak Tavern, which is in Laguna. You can't go wrong there. Enjoy your stay.