We’re back with another round of “How to avoid heat stroke.” Or as everybody else refers to it, summer in Orange County. This time, we’re taking a look at two of our favorite cities to chill in. Occupying opposite ends of the 55 freeway, Santa Ana and Costa Mesa are constantly changing with their offerings.
Fully operational as of a couple of weeks ago, this 17th Street oasis is not only family-friendly, but possesses an accommodating wrap-around bar for a lively happy hour. We’ve already expressed our respect for Chef Rolando Rubalcava, so all that’s left is to try it for yourself. Note: They’ve got a wicked mezcal and tequila selection. 428 E. 17th St., (949) 287-5292; www.playamesa.com.
While the fair might not be the coolest place around, temperature-wise, we can tell you our preferred time to visit is after dark. Stand under the misters for a while, then search for Chicken Charlie’s Deep Fried Filet Mignon or the Caramel Crack Fries from Biggy’s. Either way, you’ll be thirsty for ice cold beer afterwards; that’ll cool you down. And remember, tickets to Pacific Amphitheater shows include fair admission. www.ocfair.com.
Up and running in their second location at SoCo, all you need to know is that there’s finally beer and wine available! Oh, full operating hours as well. And congrats to the team on their recent feature in Cooking Channel’s Seaside Snacks & Shacks, which aired this week. 3321 Hyland Ave., Ste. E; www.tackleboxoc.com.
Chef Abel Vargas made his debut by launching his new menu at Mesa on Wednesday. Hanger Steak over carrot harissa puree will fulfill your appetite, while grilled peaches paired with burrata make for an excellent pairing. We always recommend reservations if you aren’t headed straight for the bar. And we are big fans of their live music Wednesdays. 725 Baker St., (714) 557-6700; www.mesacostamesa.com.
Patina Restaurant Group’s Santa Ana outpost inside Bowers Museum recently gained Chef Brian Kiepler. His goal to update Tangata’s Pacific Rim cuisine was successful and delicious, as we discovered last week. Work up an appetite by exploring both floors of the museum, or spend the afternoon walking off lunch. Either way, we definitely recommend his Filipino adobo pork sandwich. Crab Cakes with grilled pineapple relish also delivered good flavor. We didn’t even know they were serving weekend brunch; now we have another reason to head back. 2002 N. Main St., (714) 550-0906; www.patinagroup.com/tangata.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Dear Lacy, it’s that they love their beer. Get your al fresco dining on and order at the counter before having a seat. Twinkle lights and ample shade from the trees offer a cozy vibe. With Scoops OC next door, all your indulgences are covered. 601 E. Santa Ana Blvd., (714) 480-0225; www.dearlacy.com.
We could remind you about the ice blended and cold latte drinks. However, we know you’re all about the soft serve. As much as we enjoy black sesame (As dark as our cold, cold heart), the thing to ‘gram is a matcha/sesame swirl. It’s perfect after a long day in the universe. We are seriously salivating just thinking about it. 305 E. 4th St., Ste. 105, (714) 677-2736; www.gomrmatcha.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.