With price points ranging from $10 to $25 bucks, we sorted through all the Orange County Restaurant Week lunch menus to narrow it down. If we had all the time, money and metabolism in the world, here’s our short list broken down by price point. If a place accepts reservations, we suggest making them (or at least arriving a bit early; everyone loves a good deal).
A super short list in general, this was a no-brainer. There’s a reason why Chef Brian Huskey’s Tackle Box made our Top 5 in their opening year. Dude knows how to serve up excellent grub in the best setting. Located right along the main beach in Corona del Mar, in addition to the main course, your meal includes a choice of Jones Soda and snack. We always recommend his signature Buffalo Cauliflower for munching. Can’t go wrong with a Crab Cake burger, either. Although pork katsu anything is usually a good call. Note: Costa Mesa’s Tackle Box branch will only be doing the dinner special. Runner up: Stag Bar + Kitchen. Another option to head to the beach, but a limited menu of simple salad, fries and sliders. It’s also an excuse to hit up Seaside for some donuts afterwards.
For a few more dollars, the list grows by leaps and bounds. Our top pick was Puesto, because they offered gluten-free, vegetarian, and plant based options. We also dig their Frozen Horchata dessert and Puesto Perfect Guac to start. When it comes to menus, we are always on the lookout for options beyond soup or salad as a first course. One runner up, Villa Roma Argentine & Italian Cuisine, knocked our socks off with their paella during OCRW kickoff over the weekend. We’ll exit off La Paz and the 5 to check out their empanada appetizer and Entrana skirt steak with chimichurri and potatoes.
New kid on the block TOAST Kitchen + Bakery guarantees a sweet ending with Chef John Park’s creative flavors. For three courses, we’ll even hedge our bets on their version of Avocado Toast topped with rooibos pickled cauliflower. Taco Rosa gets our vote of confidence for two words: Golden Horchata. Tumeric, ginger, pepper and cinnamon– oh my! Their easily accessible Newport and Irvine eats allow us to dash in and out during lunch hour. If the weather is more rain than sun, then we’d also hit Yoshiharu Ramen for a steaming bowl of broth.
Here’s where things got tough. We will be straight up and say that a primary reason for putting UVA Bar on our list was because this would fulfill the minimum dollar amount spent at Downtown Disney for free parking. Then again, offering both ahi and salmon dishes on the restaurant week menu is pretty cool of them. We also want to head to The Country Club for brunch! Minus their ribeye option, any entree plus choice of donut or fruit is close to actual price, but still a tasty reminder to head over for a weekend indulgence.
Classy yet comforting dishes from Hendrix in Laguna Niguel are what Chef Rainier Schwarz specializes in. Trust us when we tell you to order the chicken served with those drip potatoes. We are giddy just thinking about them. For hotel dining, Heirloom Farmhouse Kitchen inside Marriott Irvine Spectrum is upping the ante on stereotypical eats with Charcuterie plates and Pacific Salmon with squash risotto.
Our final and highest price point, we think a deciding factor for those meals is convenience. If it’s not far for you to visit, then it’s worth the extra investment. From the South, visit Abesan inside Bluefin for a delectable four courses. Continuing the oceanic theme, Starfish in Laguna is offering more options than we can process, plus upgrades. Head here for the most diverse selection.
Driving towards the airport or South Coast Metro area? The all-you-can-eat feast at Agora Churrascaria is $7 less than actual price. We say go for it, and smuggle home some cheese bread for later. Terrace by Mix Mix includes a glass of sparkling or house wine, so we are definitely working our way to the plaza for a quick errand and lunch. Our favorite bites include the Albacore Tostada and House Made Agnolotti.
Lastly, working our way North means driving by Old Town Orange and Haven Craft Kitchen + Bar. The former gastropub will entice you with Chicken Liver Toast and Fried Jidori Chicken Sandwich dripping with smoked blue cheese dressing. In Anaheim, we pay a visit to Chef Alfonso Ramirez and his fine dining options at Catal Restaurant. Head upstairs for Chicken Paella and Spanish Manchego Salad. It’s also another Downtown Disney dining option.
All Orange County Restaurant Week menus are avaiable at www.ocrestaurantweek.com. OC Restaurant Week is from March 3 to March 9.
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.