There were very few that I would deem awful dining experiences. We only ate at two restaurants that I rated as below average, Famous Dave's BBQ and Javier's at the Irvine Spectrum. Talk about some awful BBQ and tasteless Mexican food.
Anyways let's look on the positive side. Out of the 77 restaurants, we dined at this year, 21 of them got a very respectable rating of 3.5 or higher. I had wanted to try to make 100 restaurants this year, but of course, a more steady workload at my job helped to prevent that. Thanks, job! Hopefully, 2018 will be the year that we have more opportunity to venture out and try more restaurants, and finally make a dent in our ever-growing restaurant wishlist.
Before I get to the top 10 restaurants for this year, some thanks need to be spread around. I would first like to thank those of you reading this restaurant blog, which started over eight years ago. I love eating out, writing these reviews, and sharing my newest food finds with all of you. So without you, I probably would have stopped writing long ago, like so many of the other blogs I used to read back when I started. I appreciate all of the questions, comments, recommendations, criticisms, and even the irate emails that people send me telling me that I don't know anything about restaurants or food.
I also have to thank my friends and family, many who long ago stopped reading the drivel I have written on this blog, but have continued to support me by going out to some pretty shady looking restaurants with me, and didn't complain too much when things are not that great. I appreciate your company and experiencing these places with all of you. I look forward to more food adventures with all of you in the coming year.
As is the case with all of my year-end posts, I would like to save the last thank you to the person that means the most to me on this entire earth, my beautiful wife Katie. She has been my biggest supporter since day one and is always ready to go out and explore the next great restaurant in OC with me. She is not only my partner with this blog, but also my partner in life, and I could not ask for a better one. Here's to many more years and restaurant experiences together.
Now without further ado, here are our top 10 restaurants that we had the pleasure of eating at this year, starting with number ten and working our way to the best of the bunch at number one. Happiest of new years to all of you, and may this be the most delicious year yet for you.
#10 Cassano's - San Clemente
We were pretty excited to find this local, family-run Italian spot that had a couple of out of the ordinary pizzas, a solid meatball sandwich, and other Italian-American favorites. Just the kind of place we wished was in our neighborhood.
#9 Crack Shack - Costa Mesa
I feel that OC hit the restaurant lottery when celebrity chef Richard Blais and his business partner decided to convert an old Chase Bank into another location of their critically acclaimed San Diego all day chicken and egg restaurant concept. The chicken sandwiches are great but don't sleep on the fries, some of the best I had in 2017.
#8 Burritos La Palma - Santa Ana
After all the mentions of this place in the OC Weekly, I had to give them a try. The hype is real. Definitely the best tortillas you will find in OC, but I kind of fell in love with their Torta also. This Zacatecas restaurant is a refreshing change from the usual Mexican joints you are used to. We will be back for sure in 2018.
#7 Urbana - Anaheim
The parking and crowds at the Anaheim Packing House haven't really gotten any better, and some of the reason for that is probably due to Urbana. Gourmet taco places are still popping up in OC, but the best of the bunch are the ones here. Yes, five dollars a taco are a bit much, but these are special tacos that look almost like works of art but are way more delicious than what you'd imagine the Mona Lisa to taste like.
#6 Burnt Crumbs - Irvine
The Spaghetti Grilled Cheese sandwich got them on the map, and it is delicious, but the rest of the menu needs to be explored as well. I loved the Crispy Pork Sandwich and their burger and fries are also very solid. Not just Instagram-worthy food, it's good as well.
#5 Tio Flaco's - Fountain Valley
A basic menu, cooking their proteins over wood, and some excellent tortillas and salsas had me loving this little restaurant that I think used to be a Wienerschnitzel in a former life. If I had an uncle that made tacos like these, I would never leave his house. Good and simple, the owners wanted to recreate the tacos they had in Tijuana, and they have achieved their goal.
#4 Paderia Bakehouse - Fountain Valley
The same day we hit Tio Flaco's we also made it to Paderia. You can safely say it was the best food day we had in 2017. The cookies here are what dreams are made of, and blow any other cookie you have had away. Sure it's a challenge getting here before they run out, but you will be happy once you get their cookies home. I'm still trying to find reasons to do some of my errands in Fountain Valley just so I have a reason to stop by.
#3 Sabroso! - Anaheim
You know you've hit restaurant gold when you aren't really hungry when you go to a place, and you are blown away by the food and can't stop eating. That happened to me here. Restaurants that have been on TV are sometimes hit or miss, but the Chili Verde and the tamales at Sabroso! made this visit feel like a home run. One of the best Mexican restaurants we've been to during the run of this blog.
#2 Hendrix - Laguna Niguel
From the team that has given us Driftwood Kitchen and The Deck in Laguna, they have their biggest hit to date with the opening of this Laguna Niguel eatery. Rotisserie is the star of the show at Hendrix, and whether you get their lamb, chicken, or pork you will leave happy and satisfied. Starters and sides are not to be missed either.
#1 Old Vine Cafe - Costa Mesa
It takes a lot of originality to make breakfast stand out, and Chef Mark McDonald has done just that at his restaurant at The Camp for over 10 years now. Old Vine has notoriously long waits for brunch, with innovative breakfast dishes like the Reuben Omelette, Rabbit Mole, Baked Caramel Apple French Toast and my favorite item, the Open Faced, which is an omelet with a biscuit inside of it and a chipotle gravy that will have you licking your plate clean, the wait times are not going to diminish any time soon. Impressive, and the reason Old Vine is our restaurant of the year for 2017.
Thanks again for taking the time to read this restaurant blog, and I look forward t seeing what restaurants and what is in store for all of us in 2018.