Springtime around here is the calm before the tourism storm. It’s time to get our fill of festivals and restaurant updates while traffic is relatively light. Stretching from Long Beach through Laguna Beach, we’ve researched a mix of options for you to try on for size.
Brunch is Coming to Hidalgo’s Cocina & Cócteles – Fullerton
Formerly Cafe Hidalgo, this Downtown Fullerton venue was purchased by the same owner as the Cellar a few doors down. With a revamped lunch and dinner menu, it’s also launching Saturday and Sunday brunch this weekend from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The brunch menu is so new, in fact, that it has yet to release a finalized copy. If you’re in the area, swing by with your squad to Hidalgo’s spacious dining room or easy-breezy patio and order from the full bar (we had a refreshing white sangria). Pictured above is the short rib barbacoa enchilada. 305 N. Harbor Blvd., (714) 447-3202; www.hidalgofullerton.com.
Queen Mary Hosts Chili and BBQ Cook-Off! – Long Beach
Mark your calendar for Saturday, May 11. That’s when ICS- and KCBS-sanctioned competitions are going down at Queen Mary‘s waterfront. Whether you kick some ladderball butt or show off your watermelon-eating skills during the contest, you’ll find more than good eats that day. Twenty-five barbecue and 30 chili options await, so go easy on breakfast in the morning. Entry costs $35 and also buys you five tasting tickets to use between noon and 5 p.m., but the $75 VIP option includes 10 tasting tickets ($3 per ticket, if bought separately), two drink tickets and entry an hour earlier. You decide. Additional info can be found on the website. 1126 Queens Hwy., (877) 342-0738; www.queenmary.com.
Driftwood Spring Menu is Going Strong – Laguna Beach
Offering some of the best ocean views along PCH, Driftwood Kitchen’s menu is just as special. Chef Rainer Schwarz recently updated the dining room’s selections to go along with the changing seasons. Of note is the house-cured steelhead salmon and a blackfoot buffalo rib-eye (pictured) atop creamy parsnip purée, then finished with ancho chile glaze. The extensive wine list and playful cocktails also aim to please. Set aside an evening to feast before summer descends upon Laguna. 619 Sleepy Hollow Lane, (949) 715-7700; www.driftwoodkitchen.com.
Rosé All Day at Philz – all locations
While OC is undeniably a caffeinated county, folks are always looking for new ways to cool down. The Philz Coffee phamily is ready to assist, launching its Iced Coffee Rosé ahead of the summer months. Inspired by Mediterranean tastes, the finishing touch is a subtly sweet rose cream. Order off the Philz app so you don’t have to wait, or chill in line if you’ve got more time. And use the hashtag #philzroseallday to be featured on the official social media. www.philzcoffee.com.
El Pollo Loco Gets Corny – all locations
Salads might not be for everyone, but that crazy chicken is working hard to change your mind. Hit up your nearest El Pollo Loco for the new street corn tostada. Queso fresco, sweet corn, chile lime, and the eatery’s flaming, citrus-marinated chicken team up with creamy cilantro dressing for a tasty forkful. Looking for extra green? There’s a chicken and avocado version, too. www.elpolloloco.com.
Paik’s Noodle Headed to Zion Market – Irvine
In a move that was well-received by Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, the Korean Chinese quick-service chain known as Paik’s Noodle is expanding its Orange County reach beyond Buena Park. Now hiring, it’ll be found in Northwood Town Center’s Zion Market. The chain is best known for hearty portions of jajangmyeon (black bean sauce noodles). One major difference from the Buena Park location will be the lack of seating, unless the Paris Baguette on-site allows diners to stuff their faces in its respective space. 4800 Irvine Blvd., (714) 832-5600; www.zionmarket.com.
A contributing writer for OC Weekly, Anne Marie freelances for multiple online and print publications, and guest judges for culinary competitions. A Bay Area transplant, she graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management from Cal Poly Pomona. Find her on Instagram as brekkiefan.