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It wasn’t so long ago when “Mexican” food was best represented stateside by a heaping platter of rice and refried beans along with gloopy enchiladas covered in melted cheese, with maybe a couple hard-shell tacos on the side. Thankfully we’ve come a long way, and now the cuisine of just about every region of Mexico is now well-represented in the American culinary landscape. Today, most people realize that the standard menu of burritos, chimichangas, quesadillas, and the like are in fact more Tex-Mex than authentic Mexican, and that once you head south of the border there’s a whole world of flavorful (and non-cheesy) possibilities to explore. Additionally, while authenticity is prized, some of this country’s most highly regarded chefs, like former pastry chef Alex Stupak and Oklahoma-born Rick Bayless, have also turned their attention and creativity to Mexican, which has become somewhat of a cuisine célèbre.
To assemble our ranking of America’s 50 Best Mexican Restaurants, we analyzed results from surveys we sent out to some of America’s leading culinary authorities, writers, and critics, used to assemble our rankings of America’s 50 Best Casual Restaurants and the 101 Best Restaurants in America. We supplemented those with best-of lists both in print and online, and rounded it out with our personal favorites from around the country. We also made sure to include restaurants that specialize in authentic Mexican fare; while some Tex-Mex classics on the menu are acceptable if done really well, the main focus had to be on true Mexican cuisine. We found that from a high-end restaurant in Chicago specializing in ribeye carne asada to a modest taqueria in Mountain View, Calif. serving some of the finest carnitas you’ll ever encounter, America has no shortage of great Mexican restaurants—and as it turns out, three reside in New York City.
Three close friends from Tijuana, Mexico, and Brawley, Calif. opened Los Tacos No. 1 to bring truly authentic Mexican tacos to those living on the East Coast, and they have succeeded with flying colors. The menu was crafted entirely from family recipes and offers a variety of tacos, quesadillas, and tostadas. Diners can choose from a variety of fillings such as carne asada (grilled steak), pollo asado (grilled chicken), adobada (marinated pork), and nopal (grilled cactus) to incorporate into any taco or tostada. Nopal can be served as a plate or added to a helping of meat as well.
Los Tacos No. 1 scored the respectable #13 spot on our compilation, placing higher than local competitors Empellón Cocina (#24) and Tortilleria Nixtamal (#34). This means that, according to our panel of experts, Los Tacos No. 1 is the best Mexican restaurant in New York City.
The Best Mexican Restaurants Across America
May 5th is pretty much the same as any other day in Mexico. A minor holiday south of the border, it marks Mexico’s defeat of France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Few Mexicans outside of Puebla (the home of mole poblano!) bother celebrating it.
But here in the U.S., thanks to those brilliant marketers working for beer companies and other brands back in the ‘80s, we’ve come to embrace Cinco de Mayo as a celebration of Mexican food, beer, tequila, culture, and more food.
Not that we need a reason to scarf down more tacos , burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and whatever other Americanized or authentic Mexican dish we’ve come to love. As a nation, we’ve fueled the growth and popularity of food trucks, hole-in-the-wall taquerias, fast food joints, and white-linen Mexican restaurants across the country. About 38,000 places serving Mexican food have sprung up in every state as of 2011, beating out the number of Italian and Chinese restaurants in the country, according to ABC News and the U.S. Census Bureau.
To help target the best of those 38,000 (and we’re sure the number’s higher today), Yahoo Food worked with Yelp to formulate a list of 46 of the highest ranked Mexican eateries — based on user ratings and number of reviews— in every region of the country. This is far from a definitive “best of” list, but we hope it serves as a roadmap that will lead you to new discoveries, new food, and new experiences any day of the year.
Tacos El Gordo’s coveted chorizo taco. (Photo: Tacos El Gordo, Facebook)
California: Tacos El Gordo, 689 H Street, Chula Vista 4.5 stars, 1687 reviews.
At Tacos El Gordo there’s one line for the famous adobada and another for the chorizo, carne asada, lengua, cabeza, buche, and other meats. Make sure to bring a friend. You’ll want to cover both lines at once (especially on busy nights) and load up on everything. Don’t forget to ask for pineapple with the adobada and the grilled green onions and peppers with everything else. Super-fresh ingredients and tender, tasty meats make these among the very best tacos served in the San Diego area. “It’s everything you could ask for in a taqueria,” says Steve N. of Orange County, echoing the sentiment of most other Yelpers who make Tacos El Gordo a regular stop.
Yelp’s other top-ranked Mexican restaurants in California:
Adobo Taco Grill, 5695 Woodruff Avenue, Lakewood 5 stars, 264 reviews.
Los Agaves, 600 North Milpas Street , Santa Barbara 4.5 stars, 1355 reviews.
Zacatecas Restaurant, 13737 Inglewood Avenue, Hawthorne 4.5 stars, 690 reviews.
Oscar’s Mexican Seafood, 703 Turquoise Street, San Diego 4.5 stars, 1340 reviews.
Santos Lucha Libre’s veggie tostado. Photo: Santos Lucha Libre, Facebook
Arizona: Santos Lucha Libre, 9822 North 7th Street, Phoenix 5 stars, 263 reviews.
Squires of the squared circle! Rulers of ring! Titans of the turnbuckle! Santos Lucha Libra deserves the belt for serving up some of the best tacos and one-pound burritos in Phoenix. The wrestling motif also adds a little extra spice to this Sunnyslope fave. The good folks behind the counter will even give out samples of the chicken, pork and pork to Santos newbies. Choose you level of heat and then build things up with black or pinto beans, roasted corn, pickled or diced onions, and a variety of salsas. “This was one of my favorite meals … ever,” writes Anne S. of Richmond, Va.
Yelp’s other top-ranked Mexican restaurants in Arizona:
Tortilla Fish, 1320 W. Elliot Road, Tempe 4.5 stars, 194 reviews.
La Santisima Gourmet Taco Shop, 1919 N. 16th Street, Phoenix 4.5 stars, 674 reviews.
Elote Cafe, 771 State Route 179, Sedona 4.5 stars, 960 reviews.
Los Tacos No. 1′s chicken and steak combo. (Photo: Los Tacos No. 1)
New York: Los Tacos No. 1, Chelsea Market, 75 9th Avenue 4.5 stars, 596 reviews.
If you’re gonna call your restaurant Los Tacos No. 1, it better be damn good. Turns out this stand tucked in the Chelsea Market is more than good. Yelpers from the West Coast and south-of-the-border Mex hot spots say this place delivers with authentic, fresh, and flavorful steak, chicken, pork and cactus tacos, and tostados, as well as quesadillas and mulas. “Any more authentic and you’d be on a dirt road in Mexico. Best tacos I’ve had in the U.S., period,”writes Marcus S. of Montgomery, N.Y. Yelpers aren’t deterred by the long lines (especially around lunchtime) and fairly steep prices ($3 to $3.75 per taco). “It was mind-blowing good!” writes Sarah P.
And now for something different: El Dorado Cantina’s Chicken Feinstein. (Photo: El Dorado Cantina)
Nevada: El Dorado Cantina, 3025 Industrial Road, Las Vegas 4.5 stars, 439 reviews.
El Dorado Cantina scores big with Yelpers for using organic and non-GMO ingredients, which often include the name of the farm or producer they’re sourced from. Chef Paco, who’ll probably visit your table to see how you’re doing, goes out of his way to offer plenty of vegetarian and vegan dishes, all at reasonable prices. Standouts include the Chicken Feinstein, with crispy onions, serrano chiles, fried eggs, and house potatoes, and Paco’s chicken mole sample. “Fresh ingredients, skillfully prepared … the flavor palettes are so much deeper and nuanced than you find at most Mexican-influenced,” writes Jeremie S. of Denver.
Yelp’s other top-ranked Mexican restaurants in Nevada:
Juan’s Flaming Fajitas & Cantina, 9640 West Tropicana, Las Vegas, 4.5 stars, 378 reviews.
Mariscos Playa Escondida, 1203 E. Charleston Boulevard, Las Vegas 4.5 stars, 158 reviews.
Tacos El Gordo, 1724 East Charleston Boulevard, Las Vegas 4.5 stars, 631 reviews.
Frijoles & Frescas Grilled Tacos, 7000 W. Charleston Boulevard, Las Vegas 4.5 stars, 208 reviews.
Restaurante Yesenia, 581 E. Moana Lane, Reno 4.5 stars, 124 reviews.
Tacos and baby burritos at Tacos Chukis. (Photo: Tacos Chukis)
Washington: Tacos Chukis, 219 Broadway East, Seattle 4.5 stars, 453 reviews.
If you have trouble finding Tacos Chukis, keep trying. Yelpers and other aficionados of Seattle’s Mexican food scene say it’s worth the search. “Taco Chukis comes as close to making the perfect taco as I’ve seen,” writes local Shane B. Tucked within the nooks and crannies of the Broadway Alley mall on Capitol Hill, The place has built up a strong following with what reviewers say is perfectly seasoned beef, chicken, pork, and cactus. Tacos Chukis also takes extra care to balance all the ingredients that make up the tacos, mulitas, baby burritos, and quesadillas. “Every item is so amazing!” says Eder R. of Auburn.
Yelp’s other top-ranked Mexican restaurant in Washington:
El Balcon, 326 Pacific Avenue, Bremerton 4.5 stars, 164 reviews.
Capital Tacos’ El Cubano. Photo: Capital Tacos
Florida: Capital Tacos, 6765 Land O’ Lakes Boulevard, Land O’ Lakes 5 stars, 155 reviews.
Most restaurants and taquerias on this list stick to a traditional combination of ingredients. Not Capital Tacos. With 16 signature tacos, burritos, bowls, Capital keeps the crowds coming with its mixes, mash-ups, and blends. “The tacos are put together in such a way you would never ever think all of it would mesh together so perfectly,” says Rachel M. of Wesley Chapel. But somehow it all does. Standouts include the Mean Verde, with fried avocado and refried pinto beans the Johnny Reb, with smoked sausage and street corn the Texas Flood, with beef brisket and chipotle BBQ sauce and the Longrider, with seared ahi tuna. “The food is just amazing,” writes Ash P. of New Port Richie. “Unique flavors and ingredients.”
Yelp’s other top-ranked Mexican restaurants in Florida:
El Guanaco , 331 N.E. 44th Street, Oakland Park 4.5 stars, 261 reviews.
Alegria Tacos, 3801 N. Andrews Ave., Oakland Park 4.5 stars, 260 reviews.
Border Grill Fresh-Mex, 5695-A Vineland Road, Orlando 4.5 stars, 360 reviews.
Si Senor Fresh Mex, 3546 St. Johns Bluff Road, Jacksonville 4.5 stars, 147 reviews.
Just one of Red Iguana’s pescado dishes. Photo: Red Iguana
Utah: Red Iguana, 736 W. N. Temple, Salt Lake City 4.5 stars, 1303 reviews.
Red Iguana’s menu is packed with classics, signature tacos, combo plates, gourmet burritos, and Marvels of Mexico. Then there are the moles, probably the restaurant’s most popular item. “Wished I could have every one,” wrote Howie C., of Fountain Valley, Calif., after he tried the tasting sampler. Other Yelper must-haves include Puntas De Filete A La Nortena, sirloin tips sautéed with bacon and served with almond mole and enchiladas suizas, which feature two corn tortillas filled with chicken and avocado, topped with mole poblano. Finish it all off with the flan. “By far the highlight of our Salt Lake City trip!” writes Sandra R. of Las Vegas.
One of the combos from Ono Tacos. (Photo: Ono Tacos)
Hawaii: Ono Tacos, 910 Honoapiilani Highway, Lahaina 4.5 stars, 704 reviews.
Yelpers are surprised when they find a Mexican joint on Maui. They’re even more surprised when it’s as good as Ono Tacos, an old-school food truck that focuses on the basics: tacos, burritos, tortas, quesadillas, and bacon-wrapped hotdogs. “We tried every kind of taco and loved them all!” writes Jennie L. of Kailua. Yelpers say the fish and the shrimp tacos truly shine. “These tacos are the best in the whole world,” says Kelli H. of San Clemente, Calif. Don’t forget the pickled onions and be careful of the red sauce it’s pretty hot. The incredibly friendly service ranks as high as the food.
Finish things off with the flan at Techoch Mexican. (Photo: Techoch Mexican)
Massachusetts: Tenoch Mexican, 24 Riverside Ave., Medford 4.5 stars 344 reviews.
Tenoch specializes in tortas but also serves up excellent tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and enchiladas. “Everything about Tenoch is top notch … all the food is phenomenal, from the breakfast burritos to the tortas,” raves local Mike M. Tenoch’s food trucks, Tenoch Móvil and El Jarocho, also roll through the streets of Boston and Cambridge. Here’s the schedule. The torta campechana with chorizo, chipotle mayo, beans, onions, tomatoes and avocado is a Yelp favorite. “Best Mexican sandwich I’ve ever eaten,” says Amanda B. of Andover.
Yelp’s other top-ranked Mexican restaurant in Massachusetts:
Taqueria El Amigo, 196 Willow Street, Waltham 4.5 stars, 294 reviews.
The triumvirate at Tacos Tierra Caliente. Photo: Tacos Tierra Caliente
Texas: Tacos Tierra Caliente, 1919 W. Alabama Street, Houston, 4.5 stars, 362 reviews.
Authentic. Fresh. Inexpensive. Tasty. Consistent. Chances are that any adjective used to describe a sublime taco stand has already been applied to this food truck. “Delicious tacos - doesn’t matter what you order,” reports Melinda T. of Sugar Land. Whatever you get, ask for the free avocado slices. Yelpers give the Pastor, barbacoa, chicharron, lengua, and bistek high marks. “There was not a single bad bite to be found,” reported local Daniel l., after he mowed through just about all the tacos on the menu.
Yelp’s other top-ranked Mexican restaurants in Texas:
Titas Taco House, 320 Wilson Road, Humble 5 stars, 159 reviews.
Cabo Bobs Burritos, 500 East Ben White Boulevard, Austin 4.5 stars, 442 reviews.
Now that’s a brunch. Photo: Mas Tacos
Tennessee: Mas Tacos, 732 McFerrin Street, Nashville 345 stars, 38 reviews.
Start things off at this Yelp fave with a cup of chicken tortilla soup. The “broth blew me away. I was not expecting to taste what I tasted,” says Justin V of Ithaca, N.Y. The creative lineup of tacos sounds just as good: pulled pork or fried fish with cabbage and dill yogurt spicy carne molida with roasted tomatoes and fresh corn quinoa and sweet potato with roasted tomatillo salsa and the cast iron chicken with charred onions and jalapeños. Expect long lines and loads of hipsters. Yelpers don’t seem to mind. “I’ve had tacos in Mexico. I’ve had tacos in Guatemala. I’ve had tacos from LA food trucks and these are the best #$%*! tacos I’ve had in my life,” says Matthew L. of Delray Beach, Fla.
Mixed pork and beef tacos at El Chilango. (Photo: El Chilango)
Virginia: El Chilango, 14th St North and North Quinn Street, Arlington 4.5 stars, 328 reviews.
Yelpers say the crew running this truck is among the nicest around. “These guys never seem to have a bad day,” says local regular D.K. They’re even known to slip you a free taco, just because they feel like it. Each El Chilango taco - asada, lengua, chorizo, al pastor, pollo, and mixto with beef and pork sausage – gets raves. “All of them were amazing,” local Marina R writes. Corey F. of Irvine even believes it was divine intervention lead him to El Chilango: “Today my prayers were answered with this discovery. Holy $%*! they do it perfect!” Well put, Corey, well put.
Yelp’s other top-ranked Mexican restaurant in Virginia:
Al Carbon Chicken, 1871 Seminole Trail, Charlottesville 5 stars, 86 reviews.
La Cocina takes a new approach with its quinoa salad and tofu. (Photo: Christina T., Yelp)
Oregon: La Cocina Restaurant, 3939 N.E. Martin Luther King Boulevard, Portland 4.5 stars, 147 reviews.
Whatever the folks at La Cocina are doing, they’re doing it right. Vegetarian and vegan Yelpers appreciate the La Cocina, quinoa, and cuerna salads. Fish fans love the white fish, salmon and shrimp burritos, as well as the ceviche and Seven Mares seafood stew. “This was HANDS DOWN the best Mexican food I have ever eaten,” writes Tanner A. of Lake Oswego. Carnivores are happy to dig into the chicken or carnitas mole, chicken or beef enchiladas, and the al pastor burrito, “EVERYTHING was good. Way to go La Cocina. NE Portland NEEDED you!” Yelped local Amy H.
Yelp’s other top-ranked Mexican restaurant in Oregon:
Spork, 937 N.W. Newport Avenue, Bend 4.5 stars, 196 reviews.
Covering all the bases at El Taco Luchador. (Photo: El Taco Luchador, Facebook)
Kentucky: El Taco Luchador, 938 Baxter Avenue, Louisville 4.5 stars, 187 reviews.
This taqueria serves up the best Mexican-style street food in Louisville, Yelpers report. The menu focuses on nine types of tacos, seven tortas and a handful of chip-salsa combos. All deliver big flavors. “Would I eat here at least 5 days a week if my scheduled allowed me to? Yes,” says Louisville local Bernadette A. If Yelpers had that option, chances are they’d order the Baja fish taco, an all-around favorite: golden fried, beer-battered fish topped with chipotle aioli and house-pickled red cabbage. Yelpers also herald the double-cooked carnitas, with guacamole, green tomatillo salsa and pickled onions mole fries, and the sweet plantains. “… not a lackluster plate to be had,” writes local Sarah R.
.Pozole and tostadas at El Matador. (Photo: El Matador)
New Jersey: El Matador Mexican Restaurant, 258 Montgomery Street, Bloomfield 4.5 stars 181 reviews.
No pretensions, just delicious, authentic food served up by a friendly family. Yelpers give thanks for El Matador, saying its cemitas, chilaquiles, tacos, tostadas, sopas, quesadillas, and huaraches, fill a huge gap in the local dining scene. “ … always fresh, flavorful, filling and delicious,” writes Andrew S. of Montclair. Tamales, menudo, whole fried snapper, and enchiladas rule the roost. “Everything is great. EVERYTHING!” says Gary S., Glen Ridge.
The Pantry’s Chil Rellenos. (Photo: Pantry Restaurant)
New Mexico: Pantry Restaurant, 1820 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe 4.5 stars, 380 reviews.
If you happen to be hungry and in Santa Fe around breakfast time, do what the locals have been doing for the last 65 years: head over to the Pantry and make sure to order the famous huevos rancheros. “Hit all the right places: spicy, crunchy bacon, eggs were fresh and the beans were perfect,” writes Foodie B. of San Francisco. After breakfast, you’ll probably start thinking about coming back for lunch and dinner. Try any of the tacos, the carne adovada plate of slow-roasted pork in red chili marinade, the Frito pie, or the Santa Fe Beef Brisket. “Coming from California and being regular Mexican food connoisseurs, we felt this place was incredible,” says Dar G. of Auburn, Calif.
El Limon’s fish tacos. (Photo: Stephanie O., Yelp)
Pennsylvania: El Limon, 103 Fayette Street, Conshohocken 4.5 stars, 400 reviews.
It seems that every other Yelp review for El Limon includes the word “best”: “best Mexican food,” “ best burrito,” “best tacos,” “best mole,” “best nachos,” “best drunk food,” “best al pastor” … Large portions, fair prices, fresh ingredients, unpretentious atmosphere, consistent quality. No wonder locals and out-of-towners think El Limon is the best in the area. “I live over an hour away and sometimes I’ll get the craving and just hop in my car. It’s that good,” promises William Y. of Philly. Friendly, efficient staff keeps the long lines moving.
Fish taco and duck mole from the White Duck. (Photo: Dynomutt, Yelp)
North Carolina: White Duck Taco Shop, 1 Roberts Street, Asheville 4.5 stars, 392 reviews.
Looking for traditional al pastor, chorizo, polo, carne asada, or lengua? White Duck Taco probably isn’t the place. But if you’re in the mood for tacos filled with Bangkok shrimp with curry sauce, jerk chicken, black bean, steak and cheese, Thai peanut chicken, bahn mi tofu, BBQ carnitas, and specials like lump crab and mole duck, then join the crowd at this River Arts District favorite. “Delicious tacos that you cannot find anywhere else in Asheville,” writes local Emily T. Or any place else, for that matter. “Really wonderful, fresh, interesting ingredients … a little quirky,” says Stacey V., another local.
Las Tortas delivers with the La Nortena. (Brittany N., Yelp)
Colorado: Las Tortas, 5307 Leetsdale Drive, Denver 4.5 stars, 258 reviews.
Las Tortas recipes come from Founder Guillermo Campillo pulled recipes from his family’s kitchen in Guadalajara, Mexico, to create many of the Las Tortas’ revered sandwiches. He even brought his aunt Maru to the U.S. to help create the hot and mild sauces for the Tortas Ahogadas. The family affair paid off. “This place has to be one of the best sandwich shops in Denver,” writes local Liddy G. Inexpensive and huge, the breakfast and lunch tortas dominate the menu at this clean, small busy shop. Yelpers want Campillo to keep it that way. “These cats know what they are doing around a sandy,” says J K., Englewood.
Yelp’s other top-ranked Mexican restaurant in Colorado:
Torta Grill, 1818 E Colfax Avenue, Denver 4.5 stars, 206 reviews.
L’ Patron delivers delicious simplicity. (Photo: Scott R., Yelp)
Illinois: L’ Patron Tacos, 2815 W Diversey Avenue, Chicago 4.5 stars, 564 reviews.
In a town filled with Mexican restaurants, Yelpers say L’ Patron rises above the competition with its fresh and flavorful tortas, tacos and burritos. The signature al pastor Gringa and carne asada Gringo, both with melted chihuahua cheese, stand out as Yelp faves. “The absolute best tacos I’ve had outside of California,” promises Diana S. of Alexandria, Va. The pescado filet with roasted serrano aioli dressed cabbage, the Lomo Encebollado rib eye and onion, and a host of traditional favorites beat back the competition. “I can see now where all the hype comes from,” local Michael C. wrote after a recent visit. Order ahead to avoid the typically long lines and brace yourself for some loud music. If the food doesn’t get you dancing the disco ball hanging from the ceiling will put you in the mood. “What’s not to love?” asks local Kate P.
Yelp’s other top-ranked Mexican restaurant in Illinois:
El Habanero, 3300 W Fullerton Avenue, Chicago 4.5 stars, 132 reviews.
A taco sampler at Bakersfield OTR. (Photo: Bakersfield OTR)
Ohio: Bakersfield OTR, 1213 Vine Street, Cincinnati 4.5 stars, 491 reviews.
This place is almost always busy. But solid tacos, good prices, big tortas, and the music of Johnny Cash reward those who wait. Yelpers say Bakersfield is a great hang with a western twang that still managed to gives off a cool New York/L.A. vibe. Inexpensive, authentic food seals the deal. “Great tacos, good booze, always packed for good reason,” writes local Austin M. Most Yelpers like the short rib, mole and mahi fish tacos. They all love the margaritas.
Beef and pork tacos done right at Taco Bar. (Photo: Taco Bar)
Maryland: Taco Bar, 10003 Fields Road, Gaithersburg 4.5 stars, 543 reviews.
Nothing fancy here, just plenty of cheap beer and tacos. But, then again, who needs anything fancy with that combo? Certainly not D W. of Rockville. “Go here every chance I get,” he writes. Besides authentic tacos, the place also serves up burritos, tostadas, tortas and plenty of combination plates. Taco Bar is attached to a beer and wine store AND a gas station load up on all the essentials with just one trip. “Best tacos ever. I love you can get gas and a car wash at the same time,” writes Paul H. of Falls Church. We don’t blame him.
Russ & Daughters – the bagels are actually just okay, but you are here for their lox sandwiches (with scallion cream cheese)… and they are legendary. Russ & Daughters is a super famous Lower East Side establishment that’s been in business for 100 years. That’s a long time to be on the top in NYC. And expect a line… there is always a well-deserved wait for these sandwiches.
Absolute Bagels and Murray’s Bagels are both great choices for iconic NYC bagels. The crust is firm and crunchy, and the interior is dense and chewy. They are made by hand and shaped by hand, unlike the sad-tasting mass produced ones that so many of you are stuck eating.
3. Di Fara Pizza
When you think about food in New York City, pizza is probably one of the first foods you think of Not eating pizza in NYC would be the same as getting into a car and not going anywhere – you simply do not do that.
In any New York City travel or food guide, you’ll find dozens of legendary pizza restaurants like Lombardi’s, which is one of the first pizzerias in America, and Grimaldi’s which is known for their coal brick oven pizza.
But when I asked where to go for the best pizza in New York City, I got an overwhelming answer to try Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn.
Long known, especially among the food obsessed of New York, Di Fara Pizza is a small family run restaurant owned by pizza making legend, Domenico DeMarco (and now his family as he’s getting quite elderly). In this article on Business Insider, DeMarco explains that one of the reasons why their pizza is so good is because their ingredients, including the tomatoes and cheese, all come directly from Italy.
One day on my food trip to New York City my wife and I decided to take a food mission to Brooklyn, stopping first at Di Fara Pizza. We arrived about 20 minutes before they opened at noon, and I was lucky to be first in line for the day. After much contemplation, and reading this post from Serious Eats, I finally decided to order the classic thin crust round pie, with half only cheese and half with pepperoni.
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Yes, you do want to look at your pizza up this close.
I put in my order, and after about 15 minutes my pizza came out of the oven, the cheese sizzling and nearly sliding around on top of the pie. What I loved most is that they scissor cut on some fresh basil right on the top of the sizzling cheese before serving it.
Words are hard to describe how good and how simple tasting the pizza at Di Fara Pizza was.
The crust was thin and crisp on the bottom, gooey on the inside, with a slight sweet and slightly tart tomato sauce, a perfect layer of cheese, and that fresh basil to give it the extra touch.
Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn
Address: 1424 Avenue J, Brooklyn, NY 11230, USA
Open hours: 12 pm – 8 pm on Tuesday – Sunday (closed on Mondays)
Prices: Prices at Di Fara Pizza are known to be kind of ridiculously expensive. I paid $31 for my full pizza, or if you’ll pay $5 per slice.
How to get there: Di Fara is located in Brooklyn. I took the subway from Manhattan all the way to Avenue J station, which took about 45 minutes, and the restaurant is literally across the street from the exit of the subway station.
Chicken over rice at The Halal Guys
Best of 2019 – Winners
With a wide variety of toppings and clean ingredients, Banzai Bowls serves up acai meals that taste too good to be healthy.
This local institution has been churning out traditional boil-and-bake bagels for 33 years, which has to count for something, right? With soft, robust, chewy bagels made fresh throughout the day, customers should be prepared to wait in line, but you’ll be rewarded with a delicious everything, plus schmear.
270 E. 17th St.
Costa Mesa – 949.645.7877
303 S. Broadway St., Ste. 108
Laguna Beach – 949.494.6296
3601 Jamboree Rd., Ste. 19
Newport Beach – 949.851.1920
It’s All About the Cake
When it comes to baking, It’s All About the Cake definitely takes the cake (pun intended). From cupcakes to petit fours to mini pies, the desserts here are uniform in perfection. But the cakes are truly showstoppers. The carrot cake especially contains the ideal balance of sweet, moist and delicate.
24921 Dana Point Harbor Dr., Ste. B100
Dana Point – 949.240.7100
Best Bar for Dancing
The Continental Room
Although this place has (rightfully) earned a reputation as one of the county’s top venues for rowdy indie-rock bands, it also hosts some equally wild dance parties. From the monthly Funk Night to hip-hop events and even Top 40 club nights, the Continental Room’s intimate dance floor is almost always packed. Its vintage atmosphere and low lighting seem to invite guests to get down like nobody’s watching. Perhaps the oldest bar in Fullerton can teach some of the county’s newer clubs a thing or two about how to throw a grade-A dance party.
115 W. Santa Fe Ave.
Fullerton – 714.526.4529
Best Bar in Long Beach
The Bamboo Club
Opened back in March, the Bamboo Club is still the most buzzworthy bar in Long Beach. What was for years the grimy Liquid Lounge is now a kitschy, moody, even romantic tiki bar. Go early and snag one of the semi-private huts, or saddle up to the bar for a front-row seat on live-music nights. There’s a creative, smallish food menu (tea-brined fried-chicken sandwiches! Oysters of the day!), but the drinks are the star here: complex, tropical-hued craft cocktails, including painkillers and zombies as good as they come—plus, the banana daiquiris are not only tart and delicious, but also dangerously easy to knock back.
3522 Anaheim St.
Long Beach – 562.343.2534
This ‘cue gives the county a kick—and it’s not just the spicy homemade sauce slathered over all the hog and cow Leadbelly’s Barbecue heaps on plates! Don’t let the compact quarters fool you. Leadbelly’s is big on flavor, everything from the tender tri-tip and brisket to the sausage that emerge from its humble yet mighty smoker. The loaded pork-belly garlic fries make any other piled-on frites seem skimpy. Pair any main course with sides such as the jalapeño mac and cheese, hush puppies, and creamed corn, then prepare to call for a stretcher to wheel you out. After that, don’t feel alone in singing the Leadbelly blues until your next trip out.
711 N. Placentia Ave.
Fullerton – 714.616.9560
Luis Del Pozo at Gracias Madre
Orange County’s best-kept secret is no longer tucked away inside the AC Hotel Irvine. Having joined the soon-to-open Gracias Madre as bar manager, Luis Del Pozo has it all: a great palate, a fantastic personality, great hustle and a bow tie.
Gracias Madre, 1617 Westcliff Dr., Ste. 112
Best Beer Selection
The La Palma Beer Trail
From the O.G. Bruery at Dunn Way that opened 11 years ago all the way to Honey Pot Meadery, there are now almost a dozen breweries along a 6-mile stretch on La Palma Avenue in Placentia and Anaheim. Considering the average brewery contains around 20 taps, there’s easily more than 300 beers from vastly different producers, all waiting for some proper beer tasting and perhaps a crowler to go. On the trail, you’ll find the Bruery, Phantom Ales, Asylum, Bottle Logic, Brewery X, Bruery Terreux, Stereo, the Beer Co., All-American Brew Works and Honey Pot. Who will open up next?
Best Bikini Bar
It doesn’t get much more old-school than Deva’s, a dive bar tucked away in Tustin’s El Camino Plaza, where a friendly crew of scantily clad bartenders are ready to serve you. The relaxed ambiance draws in a humble, working-class crowd and nixes all pretensions of today’s hip, modern dives. It remains a hidden gem, with its cheap drink prices, early-morning happy hour specials and personable staff, who make great conversation and bring just the right amount of lovable sass. The shape of the bar separates the pool tables and dart boards from the bar, granting patrons ample space to enjoy their night as they’d like.
672 El Camino Real
Tustin – 714.731.9900
Offering fresh boba, cold drinks, smoothies and slushies, Boba Junkie is addicting! Traditional flavors such as Thai tea and house Earl Grey make it easy for first-time customers to find something familiar. The café’s tea selection focuses on sweet floral flavors such as jasmine and lavender, both of which pair well with the warm brown sugar boba. Whether it’s rainbow jelly or horchata foam, there’s no shortage of toppings options. Boba Junkie is also an active part of the community, providing fundraising opportunities for the area’s schools and organizations.
1200 W. Warner Ave., Ste. B
Santa Ana – 714.486.3022
Tucked into UC Irvine-adjacent University Town Center is this hardcore morning spot. Get your eggy preferences on while sipping on an appropriately caffeinated and/or boozy drink. And contemplating Breakfast Republic’s creative monthly specials is a must.
Best Breakfast Burrito
Looking for a breakfast burrito larger than your forearm? Look no further than Troy’s Drive-In! The kitchen fills giant burritos with your choice of simple yet delicious breakfast ingredients. The results may seem daunting, but the awesome flavor gives you the motivation to eat yourself into a food coma. Just make sure you get there before breakfast ends at 11:30 a.m.
404 Lincoln Ave.
Orange – 714.637.8631
The long-standing brand finally launched the most decadent, non-hotel Sunday menu we’ve encountered in a while. If splurging is your goal, throw down for that caviar supplement, Russian king crab leg or roasted Angus beef filet add-on. Marché Moderne’s brunch is super-bougie—and we mean that in the best possible way.
7862 E. Pacific Coast Hwy.
Newport Beach – 714.434.7900
When your lunchtime hunger pangs kick in, your best option to fill up is at a buffet. And Mother India is there to greet you with open arms and comforting foods. The cozy Costa Mesa eatery boasts a carefully curated buffet, with mildly spicy curries, tender tandoor dishes and fanciful biryanis. And don’t forget the naan you’ll need something to mop up all the delicious sauces that pool on your plate. Somehow, they all taste great separately and together—just like they should.
While all the burgers at Umami Burger are great, there’s no question its BBQ Pitmaster is not only its finest burger, but also that in all of Orange County. It starts with coating a beef patty with an exquisite espresso dry rub—let’s repeat those words for those in the back: espresso dry rub. That’s topped with slaw, salsa verde, jalapeño, okra pickles, and a generous slathering of the house barbecue sauce and miso mustard. This isn’t a burger you eat it’s one you devour.
338 S. Anaheim Blvd.
Anaheim – 714.991.8626
2981 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa – 714.957.8626
527 Spectrum Center Dr.
Irvine – 949.396.1830
Few other burrito joints in Orange County have mastered rolling together three simple ingredients so deliciously and with such generous portions. Pound for pound, Taco Adobe’s bean-and-cheese burrito is the best in Orange County thanks to its flawless execution of the fairly simple, as well as the price, coming in at just $8.95.
121 N. Lemon St.
Orange – 714.628.0633
Best Butcher Shop
Electric City Butcher
Over the past four years, Electric City Butcher has been part of a larger conversation between chefs, farmers and restaurants to create a more humane, sustainable model for meat production. It supplies quality cuts to Santa Ana eateries such as Lola Gaspar, Alta Baja, Vacation and Chapter One: the modern local, as well as the Whole30-approved delivery service Model Meals, but you can check it out in person at its 4th Street Market spot.
Best Catering Service
Taking the social pressure out of planning events by being a full-service catering company with reasonable pricing, Canyon Catering offers a delicious menu and beautiful décor that are sure to liven up any gathering, whether it’s a small birthday party or a corporate event. Plus, its down-to-earth staff are sure to make your events special without feeling overly elite.
Best Chinese Restaurant
New Moon Restaurant
A new moon is usually a time for contemplation and change. But in Buena Park, New Moon is the best place to get stuffed on Chinese food. When Porto’s moved into the Entertainment Zone on Beach Boulevard, it had a bigger plot than it knew what to do with. Thankfully, it decided to share space with this contemporary-Chinese restaurant chain that leaves pretenders in the dust. Any shrimp-based dish is destined to delight, whether the insatiably plump shellfish is served garlicky on a bed of spinach or with candy-glazed walnuts. Other Americanized offerings on the menu will be familiar in name, but enjoyed with new appreciation for how tastefully they come out of the kitchen. And at the end of your meal comes a fortune cookie drizzled in chocolate. Any guiding wisdom inside it is an added bonus.
Best Cheese Shop
A large, refrigerated display case just off the Cellar’s front entrance is filled with a variety of domestic and imported cheeses, from Chällerhocker and Harbison to fromages you’ve never heard of. But the Cellar is more than rodent heaven, as it also features artisan meats, sausages, bread, crackers, condiments and just about anything you’d want pickled available for takeout. You can also dine in on a variety of gourmet (but moderately priced) breakfast, lunch and dinner meals that you can wash down with fine wines, craft beers, kombuchas, designer waters and other delightful elixirs. Make sure to check out the artwork on the constantly changing menu board.
156 Avenida Del Mar
San Clemente – 949.492.3663
Every weekend, scores of people line up to enjoy a churro recipe that’s evolved to perfection over 50 years. Don Churros, a food stand now located at the Anaheim Indoor Marketplace’s parking lot, is where the Gomez familia continues to satisfy the sweet-toothed with snacks straight from the highlands of Jalisco. There’s el tradicional, a simple churro that’s anything but as it crinkles into its fluffy interiors upon first bite. The namesake Don Churro is a churro grueso that’s a stocky take and is best served with vanilla-bean ice cream drizzled with cajeta. And the sweets don’t stop Don Churros added another crowd pleaser to its menu with a funnel-cake-flavored churro. Order either the tradicional or the grueso and have the treat come back covered in powdered sugar with a scoop of strawberry ice cream and a strawberry drizzle. Life’s too short not to churro!
Common Room Roasters
There’s a diverse selection of pour-over coffees at Common Room Roasters, but brew produced from the beans farmed by Eduin Hernandez of Colombia stands out. With notes of cinnamon and hazelnut, this balanced coffee tastes incredibly bold with spurious notes of sweetness.
882 Production Place
Newport Beach – 949.220.7868
Bear Coast Coffee
Longtime aficionado Jeff Clinard sources Bear Coast Coffee’s beans directly from farmers who use sustainable practices. Sweet Bloom of Colorado has been the company’s go-to roaster from the get-go and will now help guide Bear Coast as it develops its own roasting skills. In house, the staff already make almond milk fresh daily, as well as create all the syrups and flavorings, including lavender-infused caramel, a vanilla with nutmeg notes and a dark chocolate ganache. But it’s the coffee that makes regulars out of first-timers. Hired for their warmth and humanity, the baristas are taught to make great art on milk. And if you want to get in the game, Bear Coast holds latte-art throwdowns from time to time.
618 1/2 Avenida Victoria
San Clemente – 949.482.0618
34052 La Plaza, Ste. 103
Dana Point – 949.388.1103
197 Avenida La Pata
Best Cold Brew
The Lost Bean
A good cold brew is hard to find. Many either don’t give you that desired electric jolt or are just lackluster after being watered down during the brewing process. But the Lost Bean’s refreshingly chilled cold brew has a strong flavor that provides a much-needed jumpstart after the first sip. Pair it with your milk of choice, or drink it black, and the brilliant caffeine rush will course through your veins throughout the day. The only downside? The Lost Bean prepares a limited supply, so it’s best to order it early or call ahead to inquire whether it’s in stock. If high demand isn’t a sign of quality, then what else is?
13011 Newport Ave., Ste. 104
Tustin – 714.544.2584
3335 Susan St.
Costa Mesa – 714.884.3180
4632 Barranca Pkwy.
Irvine – 949.333.2241
Best craft Beer Shop
Stepping into Hollingshead’s Delicatessan is like entering a 1980s sitcom it has a little bit of that Midwestern Happy Days vibe and a smidge of Family Ties, and it reminds one of the bar in Cheers, where everybody knows your name. You’ll find a good mix of local beer, something interesting from a recent tap takeover, or even perhaps an old forgotten favorite. And then there’s beer to go, which goes great with whatever deli selection you choose (hint: get the pickled eggs).
Best Craft Cocktails
If you want complex cocktails constructed with an amazing array of fresh herbs, bitters, juices and syrups, then Central Bar in Tustin is where you want to go. The Last of the Oaxacans—made with mezcal, lime, Maraschino liqueur and green chartreuse and served in a coup glass—is especially good, as is the Jam Session, which has vodka, cherry, blackberry, hibiscus and burlesque bitters. Want to go off the menu and order something real old-school, such as a Last Word or Aviation? The bar staff will gladly do that. And the drinks aren’t extravagantly priced it’ll cost more than a gin and tonic at your usual hang, but you’re also getting so much more.
If you’ve ever wondered what the right amount of fluff is for a cupcake, you’ll find the answer at SusieCakes. Made daily with fresh ingredients, the bakery offers various flavors that will soothe any sweet tooth. The red-velvet cupcake is akin to eating a cream cheese-coated cloud. And the flourless cupcakes have the same taste and consistency as the scratch-made brownies! Join SusieCakes’ reward program, and you’ll instantly get TWO free cupcakes. It’s that easy to enjoy a delicious treat—what are you waiting for?
3321 Hyland Ave., Ste. J
Costa Mesa – 714.265.2253
25473 Rancho Niguel Rd., Ste. B
Laguna Niguel – 949.214.2253
2043 Westcliff Dr., Ste. 104
Newport Beach – 949.646.6881
Best Date Night
All you need to know about Descanso can be found in these three words: Benihana with tacos. And that’s more than an elevator pitch it’s what you should tell your date when you propose to take them out. Everything they’ll expect of a teppanyaki experience is here: the showboating chef, the mountain of fried rice, the meat sizzling on the griddle. They’re guaranteed to agree to go because who wouldn’t want dinner and a show? But at Descanso, instead of bland, barely seasoned pseudo-Japanese stir-fries, you get real Mexican alambres oozing cheese as well as chicken tacos on two-toned tortillas topped with orange segments and crispy skin.
1555 Adams Ave., Ste. 103
Costa Mesa – 714.486.3798
Best Day-Drinking Bar
Though some of the best day-drinking you can do takes place between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., the Fling doesn’t unlock its door until the relatively late time of 10, but we’re calling it OC’s best place for the time-honored activity because it’s the Fling. The bright-red wallpaper, naugahyde booths, old paintings, cheap drinks and creepy guys all scream day-drinking paradise. Sure, there are plenty of places where you can down a beer and a shot when the sun is still high in the sky, but none of them offers the Fling’s style.
2370 Tustin Ave.
Santa Ana – 714.547.8972
El Gaucho Meat Market #2
Argentines are known to be a carnivorous bunch thanks to their legendary asados, wherein a variety of meat gets tossed on a grill. El Gaucho Meat Market in Anaheim (#1 is in Manhattan Beach) does its national reputation proud. Here is where you’ll find Argentine chorizo, beef short ribs and chicken milanesa. The market also has chimichurri, Quilmes Argentinian beer and alfajores among its selection. But for those looking for a quicker bite, the sandwich counter is where it’s at. The menu resembles that of a retro burger joint, but it reads long on affordable sandwiches, such as the matambre (translation: hunger killer) and the Uruguayan chivito, a heavy hitter with beef, bacon and ham. And those aren’t even the best items! Did we mention there are empanadas, too? They’re perfect companions while watching the Albicelestes take the field on the deli’s mounted TV screens.
847 State College
Anaheim – 714.776.6400
Although best known for giving classic Italian dishes a twist, what CUCINA Enoteca also does perfectly is desserts. The decadent chocolate semifreddo feuilletine is any sweet tooth’s dream its rich, mousse-y base has a slight bitter tang at the end that complements the overall sweetness. Cocoa nibs and vanilla cream top off the dish, adding texture and a new flavor to the traditional dessert.
951 Newport Center Dr.
Newport Beach – 949.706.1416
532 Spectrum Center Dr.
Irvine – 949.861.2222
Best Dim Sum
Capital Seafood Restaurant
For the entire dim sum and brunch experience, with all the best Chinese dishes, platters and desserts, head straight to Capital Seafood Restaurant at the Irvine Spectrum. The fast-paced eatery buzzes with energy from the moment it opens its doors. Brunch features dozens of waiters pushing carts filled to the brim with a myriad of Chinese dishes and platters, including such best-sellers as shumai, pork dumplings, sticky rice and kai-lan. Among the crowd-pleasing traditional Chinese desserts are mango pudding and pineapple custard buns served fresh out of the oven, they offer the perfect balance of sweet, tangy and fluffy dough in each bite.
Though it has just six locations, Woody’s Diner is an Orange County institution. It’s not some new hip or retro joint that will probably disappear in six months or maybe after two years, but rather it’s a classic diner that continues to reinvest in itself and reinvent its offerings without sacrificing its mission. All it wants to do is serve you some quintessentially Californian cuisine at a decent price point in a bright, comfortable, surf-themed setting. And it does that well, from the Woody omelet (fluffy eggs holding bacon, ham, sausage, green onions, and jack and Cheddar cheeses, then topped with slices of avocado and a dollop of sour cream) to the Ole Burger (with a patty topped with not only pepper jack cheese, but also grilled jalapeños), not to mention the crispiest onion rings around.
Blinking Owl Distillery
Husband-and-wife team Robin and Brian Christenson have created a tasting room where the drinks are as beautiful as the gleaming copper stills. Blinking Owl’s boutique spirits inhabit serious cocktails all over town, but there’s no better place to sample them than at the distillery’s own marble bar, which simply evokes swanky cocktail culture.
Best Dive Bar
Cassidy’s is great in all the ways a dive bar can be. The restrooms suck. The seats are old. The walls are covered in photos, many yellowed from decades of exposure to the salt air. Fights sometimes happen outside. The video games are dull. The pool tables are okay. You go there to drink beer or hard alcohol—or a combination of both. Really tall bros named Chad and Steve love the place. They sell crazy-good burgers, but there are no fries (you can get chips, though). Even if you live close and go here often, people will sometimes get all surly with you. There is nothing hip or cool about Cassidy’s, but it’s the hippest, coolest joint in all of OC.
2603 Newport Blvd.
Newport Beach – 949.675.8949
Best Dog-Friendly Restaurant
Lazy Dog Cafe
Founded in 2003, Lazy Dog Cafe has become the go-to place for dog owners. On the wide patio, you can relax by the fire or at a table with your pup, who can order (with your help) from a special menu. Brown rice accompanies a grilled beef patty or chicken breast in a special bowl. And there’s plenty to keep you satisfied, too, including a pork belly BLT and indigo cornbread fries, plus extensive happy hour deals. Don’t forget to grab a bone-shaped mint on the way out!
Best Doughnut Shop
Hands down one of the best places populating Old Town Tustin is this delicious pastry shop. Go classic with a light and airy sugar flavor, or opt for one of the more labor-intensive selections such as the oeuf (egg), Oliboli’s riff on a Benny.
135 W. First St., Ste. B
Tustin – 714.760.4876
Best Family-Friendly Restaurant
With the warmth of Arab hospitality, Kareem’s Restaurant in Anaheim’s Little Arabia District easily feels like home. Patrons don’t even have to be regulars to be treated like family. Nesrine Omari, the falafel queen who has been with the restaurant since the beginning, makes every meal taste as if it were home-cooked. And her congeniality and attentiveness are legendary. Two of Omari’s children who are around the same age as the restaurant itself have taken the initiative to help keep Kareem’s going after their father passed away a few years go. Boasting the best falafels and hummus in Little Arabia, the food is so good no child would want to order chicken strips and fries. But don’t take our word for it: Folks can read all the endearing messages scrawled in permanent marker on a banner inside the restaurant or watch Yallah Habibi, a hilarious web-series pilot based on the family business!
1208 S. Brookhurst St.
Anaheim – 714.215.4035
Best Farmers’ Market
Orange Home Grown Farmers & Artisans Market
While it may appear modest compared to other markets in the area, the folks here are a tight community of established vendors who have a rapport with their customers as well as the Old Towne community. The Handmade Marketplace kicked off earlier this year, allowing those specializing in crafts to also sell their wares. A free parking structure, live entertainment and even free dog-sitting make this weekly jaunt worth a visit.
Best Filipino Restaurant
Nestled next to El Superior in a Buena Park strip mall, Maria’s Kusina is easy—but not advisable—to miss. The panciteria de Manila near Knott’s Berry Farm is the best place to pack on the Pinoy pounds after a day of walking all over the theme park. The pork sisig seasoned with the sour, citrus taste of calamansi sauce and topped with a fried egg is a great place to begin this decadent dining experience. The extensive menu also offers a variety of pancit we recommend the pancit canton, a stir-fry of thin egg noodles, vegetables, pork and chicken. Maria’s savory chicken lives up to its name, and the siopaos are as bulging as patrons will feel after retiring their plates. Word to the wise: Bring your kuyas, as portions are big enough to share.
6901 La Palma Ave.
Buena Park – 714.521.0108
Best Fish Taco
Easy and simple with just a few key ingredients, the fish tacos at A’s Burgers are truly hard to not love. The aioli sauce has a bit of a tang but not so overpowering that it tastes too much like mayo, and there is just the right amount of pico de gallo so you’re not getting a mouthful of lettuce and tomato. The fish itself is cooked perfectly, with savory, sweet and moist in perfect balance. And every fish-taco order is accompanied by chips and salsa to add a bit of spice to your meal.
34344 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Dana Point – 949.496.4460
28698 Camino Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano – 949.364.2099
Best Food Hall
4th Street Market
You can have a michelada, a lobster roll and a scoop of creamy ice cream at the 4th Street Market in downtown Santa Ana. This trendy food hall offers 10 stalls with tasty and delicious food offerings, plus a coffee shop and cocktail bar. The large outdoor patio is perfect for enjoying a multicultural meal with friends, and live bands are often performing there. The marketplace also hosts lots of food-themed events, so there’s no excuse to not get your grub on here.
Best Food Stand
Naugles By the Beach
A Riverside-born fast-food chain for late-night drunks in the 1970s, Naugles Tacos & Burgers came roaring back with new owner Christian Ziebarth in 2012 and its first permanent 2.0 location in Fountain Valley three years later. Customers who’d sobered up by then discovered their old pre-hangover chow actually was not bad (who knew?), which made it all the more exciting to see a beachside stand open in a former Wahoo’s spot across from the Waterfront Hilton in Huntington Beach. Though it’s currently open only on weekends, once the hungry find parking (better to bike), they can devour tried-and-true burritos, bun tacos, Hombre Nachos, crispy shelled tacos and soft flour tortilla tacos brimming with that addicting seasoned ground beef.
21351 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Best Food Truck
Tacos El Gringo
In case you think we’ve lost our cabezas, this food truck’s Instagram page starts with the following disclaimer: “Don’t let the GRINGO fool you! [We’re] Santa Ana-raised, taking notes from your abuelas’ favorite recipes.” Addictively delicious “straight tacos” are served with asada, pollo, carnitas, chorizo and al pastor, but even meat-lovers will dive into vegetarian tacos and burritos stuffed with potatoes, cilantro, grilled onions, soy chorizo and a plant-based queso. Tacos El Gringo often pops up around OC breweries, but if you can’t find the truck, make up an event just so you can book it.
Best French Toast
This French restaurant serves a brioche HOUSE. This coconut toast is stacked, and that’s a fact—ain’t holding nothing back. It sits atop a creamy foundation of vanilla anglaise and passion fruit, with coco-mango gelato melting upon the roof for extra deliciousness. You will see a server walk by with one and immediately have to order it, so just go right ahead from the start and savor the most delightful sugar rush.
7862 E. Pacific Coast Hwy.
Newport Beach – 714.434.7900
Best Fried Chicken
With chicken being such a universal food, it’s difficult to find a truly scrumptious fried-chicken place but easy to find a meal to flex on social media. No place meets both criteria like Two Birds in Irvine. Just one glance at its Instagram feed will have you drooling. Maybe its recipe for success comes from founding chef Andrew Gruel, who also happens to be a frequent judge for Food Network shows.
Taquiero Taco Patio
The authenticity of the tacos at Taquiero Taco Patio is undeniable, but the fries are a hidden gem. Crispy as hell and topped with your choice of al pastor or carne asada, then smothered in chipotle sauce, sour cream, cheese and avocado, one order will comfortably feed a large family or study group.
Best Gay Bar
The interior of this beloved venue boasts a gorgeous, Victorian-inspired aesthetic, plus there’s a pool table and digital jukebox to entertain guests. While the décor may be glossy, Tin Lizzie’s atmosphere is relaxed and chill, inviting you to schmooze with your friends, make new ones or enjoy one of the many events held here, including television-viewing parties and drag queen bingo. Drink specials are offered throughout the week, and the fancy cocktails will sate the more discerning, artsy drinkers who walk through the Lizzie’s fabulous doors.
Best Greek Restaurant
Enjoy a taste of Greece without leaving Orange County. Greek Bistro offers perfectly seasoned staples of the European country. Start your meal with the soothing hummus and tangy tzatziki dips, accompanied by delicate pita bread. The incredibly tender chicken and lamb platters are great for sharing family-style, and the side of grilled vegetables has an incredible smoky flavor. And don’t forget to save room for the decadent baklava.
25292 McIntyre St., Ste. A
Laguna Hills – 949.249.2222
Best Happy Hour
The Cauldron Spirits and Brews
Sure, the Cauldron Spirits and Brews offers seemingly normal midday happy hour drink specials, with well drinks, local craft beers and wines selected by the head witch herself shedding a dollar in price. Specialty drinks—such as the Harvest Moon, which casts a new spell on the classic screwdriver—shed two. But when the clock strikes midnight, it becomes the “witching hour” at the Cauldron. That means all those midday drink specials return until closing on select nights. And if revelers begin to feel “light as a feather, stiff as a board,” then it’s probably time to summon an Uber!
Best Hot Dogs
Friends Mike Richards and Nick Harris spent years training to become “wiener-masters,” and now Joe Schmoe’s specializes in gourmet hot dogs adorned with creative yet delicious toppings. With a secret menu almost as long as the regular one, you’ll find treasures such as the Blood Hound Dog, a bacon-wrapped sausage smothered in rich Chedder cheese, caramelized onions and a dash of barbecue sauce. Of course, you can get a regular Frankfurter, too, but with 20 scrumptious options to choose from, why would you want to?
Best Ice Cream
A decade ago, this Dutch company opened its first U.S. shop in LA, and luckily for us, it ventured south into OC, landing in Dana Point. Paradis Handcrafted’s chefs create each batch from scratch, adding flavorings from around the world, including bourbon vanilla from Madagascar and organic cocoa from the Dominican Republic, as well as ripe, fresh fruit. Narrowing down your selection will give you brain freeze, as you sample extremely lush, but never oversugared flavors from a metal spoon. The super-creamy speculoos with fresh-baked Belgian cookies is a party in your mouth, and the Amarena cherry chip and sweet-yet-tart raspberry peach are must-trys. But the stracciatella and sea-salted caramel are the best we’ve ever licked—a chilly paradise.
34255 Pacific Coast Hwy., Ste. 114
Dana Point – 949.441.7070
Best Indian Restaurant
In addition to its namesake, Dosa Place offers an enormous array of Indian dishes. But standing above the rest is the aloo gobi, a cauliflower and potato curry plate that is spiced to perfection, with a kick that’s just hard enough to be satisfying.
13812 Red Hill Ave.
Tustin – 714.505.7777
Best Italian Food
Angelo’s and Vinci’s Ristorante
A visit to Angelo’s and Vinci’s Ristorante will make you feel as if you’ve traveled to Italy. Its four floors are filled with eclectic décor, including life-like Sicilian puppets. This family-owned restaurant passed down to a long-time employee, who has continued serving traditional dishes such as Lasagna Angelo’s and linguini with fresh clams, as well as a world-class, thick and doughy, cheesy pizza that may become your new favorite.
Best Japanese Restaurant
While you can get sushi rolls here, this is not why you go to Fukada. Instead, you want to concentrate on the traditional Japanese fare. The soba with sansai is available cold or hot either way, you’ll get a heaping variety of Japanese mountain vegetables atop perfect noodles in a nourishing broth. You can make your own tempura combo plate each vegetable and protein listed comes two to an order, so mix a bit of lotus root with shrimp for a party in your mouth. But definitely get a spicy tuna donburi bowl: soft tuna is mixed with a not-too-spicy mayonnaise, then scooped on top of your choice of brown or white rice and sprinkled with chopped seaweed. Mix in the accompanying dollop of wasabi, plus a dash or two of soy sauce, and you have achieved nirvana.
Best Juice or Smoothie
Vibe Organic Kitchen & Juice
Homemade coconut milk is the base for all the smoothies here, where your opinion of a plant-based diet may change. Plus, the smoothies come in a bowl, allowing you to slurp and chew all that cool deliciousness. The juice blends are 100 percent organic and made to order. Try the Spicy Green, with pineapple, cucumber, kale, jalapeño and lime—something that tastes this thrilling has to be a danger! Ginger, lemon and cayenne pepper come together in a shot named Fireball. If all that’s too risky, try the hand-squeezed lemonade there’s none better—except for grandma’s version.
1000 Bristol St. N.
Newport Beach – 949.478.4118
34255 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Dana Point – 949.259.5514
Best Korean Barbecue
Cham Sut Gol Korean BBQ
It’s time to play the game show sweeping the countryside, from Big Orange to Little Saigon: BRING! MY!! MEAT. Contestants choose items from an all-you-can-meat—I mean, all-you-can-eat menu. We’re talking brisket, pork belly, bulgogi, chicken, spicy pork, pork chop, diamond-cut pork belly, beef belly and CSG dduk kalbi (seasoned beef and pork patty). Cook ’em on the grill in the center of your table, then finish your mound before everyone else so you can be the first one to slam the tableside buzzer. Tell the attentive server who quickly shows up, “BRING! MY!! MEAT. ” Repeat again and again. What’s in store for the player who eats the most meat, Johnny? “It’s an all-expenses-paid trip to Hoag cardiology, Monty!”
9252 Garden Grove Blvd., Ste. 10
Garden Grove – 714.590.9292
Best Korean Restaurant
Kyung Bok Kung
Kyung Bok Kung is one of the few places (if not the only one) in the county to offer han-jeongsik, a blowout feast originally designed for royalty in imperial Korea. The defining characteristic of the meal is an overwhelming spread served all at once. At Kyung Bok Kung, your table will be blanketed with about 15 different dishes, with no expense spared on presentation. There will be rich porridge, gurgling soups, bright salads, savory pancakes, perfectly sliced sashimi, sizzling barbecue meats and whole fish. And that’s not counting the sides and sauces. By the end, you’ll think to yourself, “How am I going to finish all this?” Also: “My Instagram followers are going to be so jealous!”
Best Late-Night Dining
El Toro Bravo
Finding good Mexican food is always the best feeling, but it’s even better at 2 a.m. This 24-hour dining destination serves up à la carte tacos in a hurry. But if you’re absurdly hungry, order some meat to go (El Toro Bravo sells it by the pound) so you can create your own paradise for your late-night cravings.
562 W. 19th St.
Costa Mesa – 949.791.8183
1450 El Camino Real, Ste. B
Tustin – 714.665.1400
24012 Avenida De La Carlota
Laguna Hills – 949.652.5444
Best Lobster Roll
Lobster rolls are an East Coast classic, but that doesn’t mean the West Coast should make do with something makeshift. Slapfish doesn’t mess around with this crustacean. Its lobster roll is as authentic as you can get: The warm, delicately crispy bun jumps with flavor and texture, and the melt-in-your-mouth lobster meat is drenched in a mayo, butter and lemon sauce that’s just the right amount of sweet, salty and tangy.
Best Local Brewery, Long Beach
Not many California breweries make a proper Belgian-style lambic, much less a three-year blend called a gueuze. But Beachwood Blendery owner Gabe Gordon sought to demystify the magic beer quality brewers/blenders such as Brasserie Cantillon in Belgium have made for decades. Gordon and his team installed probes in that noted blendery, then set their Long Beach location to mimic that environment. What resulted is a tart, funky, complex beer called Funk Yeah!, which won gold at this year’s Great American Beer Festival.
247 Long Beach Blvd.
Long Beach – 562.436.4020
Best Local Brewery, North OC
TAPS Brewery & Barrel Room
One of OC’s crown jewels since it opened in 1999, the company’s brewery project in Tustin suddenly set the new standard for what a beer-tasting experience can be. TAPS Brewery & Barrel Room offers exceptional brews crafted in a variety of styles, everything from classic European lagers to the pastry stouts and hazies. Add that to the comfortable indoor/outdoor seating, games, warm hospitality and tasty bites sizzling out of a perma food truck, and you’ve got yourself a win.
Best Local Brewery, South OC
Pizza Port San Clemente
Pizza Port is a true icon of craft brewing in the United States, and OC is blessed to be home to one of its locations. Since 2002, the beers that flow out of its San Clemente taps have been made by some of the most storied brewers in the world, including Tomme Arthur at the Lost Abbey and Jeff Bagby, who’s now at Bagby Beer Co. Where will current brewer Jon Eckelberger be in 10 years? Time will tell.
Best Local IPA
Noble Ale Works
Orange County is home to the most consistent award-winning India Pale Ales. And Nobility Double IPA from Noble Ale Works has won two back-to-back awards at the World Beer Cup, a feat no other brewery has done in the past decade. Whether it be session IPA, West Coast, or hazy, the brewers here have it dialed down to a science.
1621 Sinclair St., Ste. B
Anaheim – 714.634.2739
Best Local Sour Beer
Thankfully, many of the sour-beer makers have dialed back the tooth-enamel-stripping sour warheads of yesteryear. Good brewers have found that a pleasant, balanced, almost wine-like acidity is where it’s at. Bruery Terreux’s team does this best with two huge wooden barrels called foeders, in which a constant flow of delicious fruited sours are produced, not to mention a library’s worth of barrels holding beers that will be blended into what we’ll be drinking in a couple of years.
Best Local Winery
Cowboy Canyon Winery/Giracci Vineyards
Because of a recent accident involving a minifridge, you can now experience the wonders of two South Orange County wineries in one cozy tasting room. For the indefinite future, the Cowboy Canyon Winery tasting room is now located in neighbor Giracci Vineyard’s dodecagon tasting room. Now, you can sample Cowboy Canyon’s lush barbera, sangiovese and other Italian wines in the same place as Giracci’s drier zinfandels and pinots. And when the fireplace is roaring during the colder months, you’ll want to be enveloped in the room’s big, comfy chairs with a glass of wine nearby. Though six tastings for $20 sounds expensive, with the generous pours here, you’re basically getting two full glasses.
Cowboy Canyon Winery, 16162 Jackson Ranch Rd.
Silverado – 714.202.0212
Giracci Vineyards, 16162 Jackson Ranch Rd.
Silverado – 714.602.1109
Avila’s El Ranchito
Based on price alone, Avila’s El Ranchito’s 12 Orange County locations offer the best margaritas. They always have deals going on, whether it is Taco Tuesday or just happy hour, when you’ll choose from a number of different kinds. But the best one at which to sip these award-winning tequila-based concoctions is in Newport Beach, where the recently remodeled restaurant is within walking distance of the ocean, making the environment as relaxing as the margaritas.
2800 Newport Blvd.
Newport Beach – 949.675.6855
Best Mexican Restaurant
La Super Birria
Even though the owners finally changed the sign outside from Dulceria Caracol to La Super Birria, you still walk in feeling as though you’ve discovered El Dorado in the jungle. The golden treasure you find at La Super Birria is the birria de res itself, a spicy, brick-red stew of beef so tender it verges on collapse. And where it isn’t falling apart, there are just enough bits of fat left behind to make you shudder with delight. The fact that it’s the kind of home-style bowl of food an abuelita would make is confirmed by the actual abuelitas tending to the huge stew pot in the kitchen. These ladies also hand-make the tortillas you eat on the side—which are the thickest, best specimens in a town with a lot of tortillas. Soft but also chewy, light but also hearty, they possess a pure corn flavor and are as perfect an accompaniment to the birria de res as oyster crackers are to clam chowder.
1041 W. First St.
Santa Ana – 657.245.3810
Alta Baja Market
Though micheladas are often considered simple beer cocktails, there’s no better place to test that theory than at Alta Baja Market in downtown Santa Ana. There’s a whole michelada menu. Sure, it includes traditional flavors such as La Mera Mera (made with savory michelada mix, Negra Modelo and a chile rim) and the La Santera (with lime juice, Modelo Especial and a chile rim), but our favorite has long been La Chiquita, a spicy passion fruit blend with Modelo Especial. There’s also the spicy La Malandrina (made with avocado, serranos and Modelo Especial) and the pineapple-coconut La Traviesa (with Negra Modelo). Oh, and during weekend brunch, try La Ultima: an extra-large La Santera or La Mera Mera served with a plate of aguachile or the vegan cucumber/radish/spicy bar mix botanas.
Best Mediterranean Restaurant
Olive Tree Restaurant
When it comes to excelling in Arabic food, Olive Tree won’t be uprooted any time soon. Alan Abdo’s restaurant in Anaheim’s Little Arabia District remains stellar from start to finish. Appetizers set the tone, whether it’s Palestinian fries dusted with zataar seasoning or refreshing labne with pools of olive oil waiting to be scooped with pita bread. For a quick lunch, the sandwiches are as affordable as they are delicious. But do plan to make time to dine in. The lamb shanks are legendary for their fall-off-the-bone tenderness. Arayes kufta may take a bit longer for the kitchen to cook up, but the grilled beef patties stuffed inside toasted pita bread are well worth the wait. And the restaurant offers the best Iftar buffet during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, bringing out drinks such as Qamar Al-Deen, a thick, sweet apricot juice that translates to “moon of religion.” As with everything else at Olive Tree, it’s divine!
Best Neighborhood Bar, Long Beach
Since 1934, Joe Jost’s has been keeping Long Beach locals nice and sudsy. (Joe’s actually opened in 1924, but you know, Prohibition.) It claims to have the coldest beer in town, which you can determine for yourself when your schooner comes with ice bits floating atop your brew. Play some pool in the back, or sit up front at the bar and indulge in what are definitely the best pickled eggs in town. And don’t skip the Joe’s Special, a slice of fresh rye bread topped with a Polish sausage made from the Jost family’s own recipe. As you can see from the hundred or so photos of patrons donning the dive bar’s famous T-shirt around the globe, Joe Jost’s is downright beloved.
2803 E. Anaheim St.
Long Beach – 562.439.5446
Best Neighborhood Bar, North OC
Chapter One: the modern local
Want to go someplace where you can get cozy with a book and a drink? Everything in Chapter One: the modern local will remind you of a library, especially the books tucked into every nook and cranny. This downtown Santa Ana lounge offers 14 IPA and beer selections, as well as a comprehensive cocktail menu. But it’s famous for its flavored Moscow mule drinks, among them the schnozberry, OC and green chile. And to soak up the alcohol, the kitchen puts unusual twists on bar standards try the Good American burger, which has pork belly and melted cheese inside the patty. And if you’re looking for a private room, check out the crimson-painted Red Room—perfect for theme nights, comedy shows, and trivia or wine-and-paint nights.
Best Neighborhood Bar, South OC
Sure it’s bizarre to call a warehouse brewery a neighborhood bar, but that’s exactly what this tasting room feels like. While the only true residents within strolling distance are the mobile-home-dwellers, you can access Docent Brewing by bicycle along San Juan Creek, the free trolley in the summer, and Lyft and Uber year-round. Among the towering brew tanks, you’ll find plush couches and a long bar with stools, games, kids, laughter, serious ale pours, and brewers who love what they craft but don’t take themselves too seriously. These guides to all things beer are now pouring wine, so it’s creeping closer to a neighborhood bar in a more accepted sense. Maybe a partnership with a local distiller is also brewing? When you order your flight, include Docent’s award-winning Double Nickels—even get it with your second flight because it’s that good. And make your belly happy with a Mountaineer Roll because it’s cheap and delicious. But wherever you are, endeavor to follow Docent’s motto: “Have fun. Drink local. Be you, no matter what.”
33049 Calle Aviador, Ste. C
San Juan Capistrano – 949.767.8170
Best New Local Brewery
As most of the breweries here are at the extreme north or south of the county, there’s strangly little competition in the middle. But that is where you’ll find GameCraft Brewing. The beer made by young Andrew Moy and his team are a good mix of German and American styles that span from light lagers to the hazy-hypey. The brewery’s gaming theme sings to the local crowd, who show up in droves to eat, drink and game.
23301 Avenida de la Carlota, Ste. C
Laguna Hills – 949.734.0910
Best New Restaurant
You wouldn’t think of finding much of a nightlife in La Palma, let alone in a minimall where a printing shop, a dry cleaner and a State Farm agent close up before sundown. But as you approach Gram’s Kitchen after dark, you hear not only signs of life, but also boisterous live music pouring from the open doors. The place feels as if it were teleported from New Orleans’ Bourbon Street itself. A jazz-and-blues band rocks the house on the weekends, and the food rivals anything produced by Emeril Lagasse and the late Paul Prudhomme. The red beans and rice, a soul-food dish that’s a meal unto itself, gets topped with an oar-sized slab of succulent fried catfish cocooned in cornmeal. In the shrimp and grits, the heat of the cayenne travels from your face toward your legs, which, because of the music, will be eager to get out on the dance floor.
12 Centerpointe Dr., Ste. 106
La Palma – 657.255.4036
Best New Restaurant in Long Beach
From the design (Baja-meets-LA with a dash of Miami) to the beverages (a carefully selected list of natural wines and craft beers, as well as a house-made Michelada mix) to the food (near-equal quantity of vegan or carnivorous dishes laden with authentic Mexican flavors), not to mention the dessert (the best vegan churros possibly anywhere), Little Vice is the coolest spot in town. Come for Siesta Hour and enjoy discounted menu items while lounging on the patio. Bonus: Little Vice has its own parking lot.
3317 E. Seventh St.
Long Beach – 562.343.7157
Best Outdoor Dining
Deck On Laguna Beach
Pretty much exactly what it is called, Deck On Laguna Beach is on a deck with a breathtaking view right off Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. It specializes in seafood, but you’ll also find items such as cheeseburgers and chips and guacamole.
627 Sleepy Hollow Lane
Laguna Beach – 949.494.6700
Zubies Dry Dock
Aficionados of raw oysters know the location where you consume them does not matter. The freshest, briniest slime can be served at an inexpensive sushi stand, and a five-star restaurant’s priciest oysters can go bad, forcing you to deposit your stomach contents in said five-star restroom’s porcelain rig. Assuming all good oysters are equal, let us turn to the raw ones served ceviche-style at Zubies Dry Dock. A half-dozen small, sweet, creamy oysters are buried in their shells under mounds of chopped onions, cilantro, tomatoes, green peppers and white fish. They are served on a bed of ice with six lemon wedges and little plastic containers of cocktail sauce and horseradish. Too unwieldy to pick up and slurp and too confetti-like to stay on your fork, the oysters require the accompaniment of tortilla chips to collect every last morsel.
9059 Adams Ave.
Huntington Beach – 714.963.6362
Aunt Yese’s Home Cooking
Flapjacks never taste better than when they’re homemade, and Aunt Yese’s Home Cooking is the next best thing to your own kitchen. Though the plain, fluffy pancakes are amazing on their own, breakfast enthusiasts will want to get the “Special Pancakes,” which mixes any combination of toppings—including chocolate chips, bananas and blueberries—right into the batter.
12444 Brookhurst St.
Garden Grove – 714.512.6150
Best Peruvian Restaurant
The menu at Luis Uechi’s strip-mall restaurant is a laser-focused greatest-hits parade of Peruvian standards: arroz chaufa, saltado, tallarin saltado and ají de gallina. Nearly everything is cooked in a blazing-hot wok from which flames erupt in bursts. All the entrées are well-made, but none more so than the lomo saltado. There’s not a single scrap of the steak that isn’t soft and seared as though Vietnamese bo luc lac. And unlike other Peruvian restaurants that take the shortcut of using frozen fries for their saltado, Higo Chicken takes the extra step of cutting and frying the potato spears from scratch. When you add it up, it’s small details such as these that make this place stand above the rest.
722 E. Whittier Blvd.
La Habra – 562.524.2026
It doesn’t get much more hole-in-the-wall, mom-and-pop than this. The only thing complex about Pho Vina is the rich, earthy broth. It’s so delicious it could be eaten on its own, but choosing toppings and fillings only add to the flavor. And you don’t have to be running a fever to enjoy lightning-fast service.
5773 E. La Palma Ave.
Anaheim – 714.777.3785
Karen Uyeda is the one-woman baking show behind the Irvine-based cottage bakery Sweetcie Pie, which offers an array of sumptuous baked goods, including fruit tarts, apple dumplings and pies made to order. Uyeda’s pride and passion for pies is apparent in their quality and taste, from their delectable fillings to their crunchy, soft crusts. Options on her website shill traditional favorites such as cherry, peach and apple, as well as boysenberry, strawberry rhubarb and cherry amaretto (which won her the top prize at KCRW-FM’s Good Food Pie Contest in 2017). Got something else on your mind? Uyeda says she’s always willing to take requests.
Tony’s Little Italy
Though Tony’s Little Italy specializes in Chicago-style deep dish, it also offers a classic New York-style slice. But no matter your preference, you’ll get an amazing pie that’s worth the long wait. The chrome décor and checkered tiles only add to the authentic Italian experience.
1808 N. Placentia Ave., Ste. B
Placentia – 714.528.2159
The Olde Ship
Since 1993, the Olde Ship has been British expats’ favorite watering hole for an authentic taste of home, as well as a tavern in which to watch matches and try trivia. Here, you’ll find English favorites such as fish and chips, bangers and mash, and the best sticky toffee pudding around.
1120 W. 17th St.
Santa Ana – 714.550.6700
709 N. Harbor Blvd.
Fullerton – 714.871.7447
Best Punk-Rock Bar
For more than 20 years, Chain Reaction has been the first stop for many of Orange County’s up-and-coming punk acts. The all-ages-welcome venue has long been a staple for anyone wanting to check out some fresh talent while moshing as though it were 1979. And for the 21-and-older crowd, beer is now on tap.
1652 Lincoln Ave.
Anaheim – 714.635.6067
If grandma’s chicken noodle soup is a home cure-all, what’s served at Kashiwa Ramen is prescription-strength. The viscosity of the liquid that lubricates the noodles is closer to hand lotion. It coats the spoon and doesn’t so much pour as flow as if hot candle wax. And as it’s exposed to cold air, the surface starts to congeal into a film. The best way to take your dose is to have it reduced even further as the dipping sauce for the tsukemen. As the naked noodles are dipped into it and slurped, all the nuances of the components coalesce: the acid tickle of the squeezed lime, the concentrated umami of the reduced-to-gravy soup, and the chewy comforts of the ramen. If you’re not instantly cured of what ails you, you’re at least going to feel a lot better, as your meal seems to coo, “There, there everything’s going to be all right.”
1420 Baker St., Ste. C
Costa Mesa – 657.232.0223
Let it be known that before the Michelin Guide awarded Taco María a star this year—one of only two OC restaurants to receive the honor—we’d been writing and preaching about Carlos Salgado’s Costa Mesa temple to high-end Mexican cuisine since it opened in 2011. Heck, we were already believers when he started Taco María as a food truck he named after the women in his family. Before any other publication, we lauded that modest first effort and his epoch-changing brick-and-mortar restaurant in nearly every Best Of Issue since. But as we now swell up with pride, we’re also a bit wistful that Taco María’s alta cocina prix-fixe meals are no longer Orange County’s little secret. Worldwide acclaim has now made it hard to get a table. So when you do snag a reservation and hear someone in the dining room proclaiming, “We told you so!” – that’ll be us.
3313 Hyland Ave., Ste. C-21
Costa Mesa – 714.538.8444
Serving delicious American barbecue in more-than-generous portions, it’s no wonder where the name of this joint came from. Start with a mouth-watering plate of pork burnt ends, but save room for the ribs. It’s hard not to fall in love with meat treated to a well-balanced rub that’s been cooked to perfection and falls right off the bone. Now there’s a rib done right.
711 N. Placentia Ave.
Fullerton – 714.616.9560
Best Rooftop Bar
This bar attracts an energetic crowd with its view of the Pacific Ocean and sounds of the 1990s. The terrace offers comfortable seating and outdoor fireplaces, as well as a bar. All of which make the Bungalow an ideal destination to relax and escape the hustle and bustle below of Huntington Beach’s Main Street.
At Pacific City, 21058 Pacific Coast Hwy., Ste. 240
Huntington Beach – 714.374.0399
Best Sandwich Shop
Get some bang for your buck while exciting your taste buds at Sandwich Society. This sandwich shop takes pride in crafting delicious options, whether your choice is hot or cold, hoagie or wrap, grilled cheese or bánh mì. And each one pairs well with Sandwich Society’s fries or salads.
2031 E. First St., Ste. A3
Santa Ana – 714.835.3878
Best Seafood Restaurant
Though all the dishes utilize simple ingredients, everything at Coastal Kitchen is as satisfying as a day at the beach. Among the favorites are the seared ahi tuna salad, which is given a refreshing twist thanks to mangos, and the jumbo lump crab cake entrée, which is spiced up with a creole mustard sauce. And for an added treat, finish your meal with a slice of tangy Key lime pie.
Best Shabu Shabu
All but one of the six cuts of beef Miss Shabu serves for your swishing pleasure are USDA Prime. This means that each paper-thin slice you order will exhibit a marbling pattern as intricate as lace, so everything you lower into the boiling broth essentially melts as it cooks. Each cut of beef you choose for your all-you-can-eat swish-a-thon—from the prime chuck eye to the brisket to the rib-eye to the top blade—disintegrates in your mouth. At the end of the meal, after you’re nearly overdosed on beef, the waiter will dump rice into your now intensely concentrated boiling broth and turn it into a tableside Korean risotto—a creamy, starchy, umami-packed, slow-moving sludge that owes a debt of gratitude to the graders at the USDA.
5450 Beach Blvd., Ste. 102
Buena Park – 714.464.3222
Best Signature Cocktail
Silly Rabbit at Mix Mix Kitchen Bar
The Silly Rabbit is a vibrant cocktail that incorporates reposado tequila complemented with an herbaceous carrot and Thai chile syrup, lime juice, with a wonderful mezcal mist. The drink bursts with redolent notes and finishes with sweet spice.
Best Sports Bar
Lopez & Lefty’s Sports Cantina
There are plenty of sports bars in Orange County, but Lopez & Lefty’s in Anaheim pretty much nails all the major items. There are a bunch of TV screens an impressive array of more than 25 beers a menu full of great burgers, sandwiches, tacos and other fried things—and it’s centrally located. Seriously, it’s a sports bar, which is not that difficult to do right. Still, Lopez & Lefty’s is a comfortable place to hang, even when the post-season isn’t on the line.
1759 S. Claudina Way
Anaheim – 714.300.0000
Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill
Leave it to chef Maro Molteni (of Maro Wood Grill fame) and his brother Martin to class up an iconic establishment on Pacific Coast Highway. Maro’s grilling prowess is what makes the beefy courses here sing whether it’s the Angus hanger or teriyaki rib-eye, you can count on a perfect, medium-rare (or medium, depending on your preference) ode to meat. Royal Hawaiian’s finishing touches of house-made chimichurri and pumpkin purée only enhance your meal.
311 N. Coast Hwy.
Laguna Beach – 949.715.1470
The Japanese word omakase means “chef’s choice,” giving sushi masters a free license to serve you whatever they think best. But lately, the word has come to mean something more: an ultra-expensive, multicourse meal that can tick up to the triple digits. This is certainly the case at a certain Costa Mesa sushi restaurant that recently earned a Michelin star. But at Sushi Noguchi, the prix-fixe meal called “Jun’s Omakase” has always retailed for the same price. There’s a seared albacore salad to start, then a carpaccio of the day. Next is a sampler plate with a trio of cooked items among them may be a fish-stuffed shishito tempura, a braised pork belly with hot mustard, or a crispy-fried shrimp katsu on a stick. After that, expect another raw fish dish to precede a four-piece nigiri. This might then be followed by a baked blue-crab hand roll so sweet it could double as dessert. What’s served varies according to the season, but one thing remains constant: Jun’s Omakase proves not only that you don’t have to pay a premium for a quality experience, but also that omakase can mean “bargain.”
18507 Yorba Linda Blvd.
Yorba Linda – 714.777.6789
At Taco María, the price of tortilla transcendence is worth every centavo. Though a pair of arrachera tacos costs $17 per plate, chef Carlos Salgado’s masterpiece is a visual beauty from the blue-corn tortilla to the glazed Applewood bacon strip atop its fillings. And it tastes as good as it looks. A medium-rare hanger steak, roasted chiles and queso Oaxaca offer all the right hints of heat and tender smokiness. Of course, as with all of Salgado’s menu items, the arrachera tacos are as ethical as they are tantalizing to the senses. The tortillas are heirloom and non-GMO, making for a titan of tacos in more ways than one.
3313 Hyland Ave., Ste. C-21
Costa Mesa – 714.538.8444
Best Taco Catering
This family-owned catering service prides itself on making the best Mexican street tacos, ones that will have your guests begging you for the phone number. Tacos Zapata always shows up on time, offering not only asada, al pastor, carnitas, chorizo, pollo and grilled veggies, but also lengua, cabeza and tripa.
1330 S. Brookhurst Rd.
Fullerton – 714.870.1812
Best Taco Tuesday
Taco Mesa Tortilleria Orgánica & Cafè
At a restaurant that boasts quality deals five days a week, Taco Tuesday at Taco Mesa is the ultimate steal: seven different tacos are offered for $1.75 apiece, plus $3.75 margaritas all day. Locals favor the chile verde and beer-battered-fish options, but no matter what your choice, all are served on house-made, GMO-free corn tortillas. The lines run out the door during the dinner rush, so come early!
Best Tea House
Tranquil Tea Lounge
This is not your grandma’s tea house. From the moment you enter the Tranquil Tea Lounge’s modern environs, your tension headache and stressed mindset exit. Sniff from jars of leaves before picking just the right variety of green, black, white, oolong, etc. to brew, then sit back and enjoy the peace—and maybe some scones, too.
Best Thai Restaurant
Despite its small location, Sutha Thai is chock-full of noodle-y goodness. Among its wonderful Thai dishes is the spicy noodles served with pad kee mow. The dish is seasoned to perfection and presented along with a colorful array of vegetables.
Best Untraditional Burger
Nashville BBQ Burger at Burger Parlor
Take a trip to the South without ever leaving Orange County! Burger Parlor’s Nashville BBQ Burger stays true to its name, with its tangy, sweet and spicy flavors. A patty rests inside a bun, surrounded by caramelized onion rings. Atop that is cheese and a couple of sticks of bacon. And, of course, this superb burger is flavored southern-style with barbecue sauce.
204 N. Harbor Blvd.
Fullerton – 714.441.2003
149 N. Glassell St.
Orange – 714.602.8220
Best Vegan Restaurant
If the man who single-handedly takes your order, makes everything on the menu, then serves your food wasn’t doing it at F&H Shack, he’d be doing so from a street cart someplace like Manhattan. And there would be lines down the block for his falafels, hummus and foul, the only three dishes he sells. Each is available as a plate or a sandwich, and all are vegan without even trying. Everything is so well-made it wouldn’t occur to you that just one man is responsible.
512 S. Brookhurst St., Ste 8
Anaheim – 714.860.4266
Best Vegetarian Restaurant
For too long, the county’s vegetarians had few choices for eating out, but we’re now in an age when even fast-food joints serve meat-free burgers—vegetarian restaurants needed to up their game. Au Lac remains competitive by continuing to serve stupendously flavored, plant-based Vietnamese food without taking any shortcuts. The claypot of “fish” is particularly good, partially because of the black pepper, but mostly because the fake fish truly tastes great.
16563 Brookhurst St.
Fountain Valley – 714.418.0658
Best Vietnamese Iced Coffee
7 Leaves Cafe
For a new twist on an expat favorite, 7 Leaves offers its creamy Vietnamese iced coffee topped with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon. The company’s founders learned coffee-brewing techniques in Vietnam, then brought the process to the U.S. to share with local espresso-lovers.
Best Vietnamese Restaurant
Pho Thanh Binh
Not only is Pho Thanh Binh good for the body and soul, but it’s also good for the wallet. In addition to heaping portions of pho, the Vietnamese curries explode with flavor—and with the help of one of the Sriracha bottles on each table, they can have a real kick, too.
107 Via Pico Plaza
San Clemente – 949.369.3879
Mama’s On 39
Belgian waffles are a dime a dozen nowadays—unless you’re eating at Mama’s On 39. Add buttermilk fried chicken for a down-home treat . . . or ice cream to transform it into a sweet dessert. But the best version is the classic breakfast staple, which is available to satisfy your desires at any time here.
21022 Beach Blvd.
Huntington Beach – 714.374.1166
11122 Los Alamitos Blvd.
Los Alamitos – 562.357.6970
2601 W. Coast Hwy.
Newport Beach – 949.447.5444
Best Waterfront Dining
While many OC dining rooms overlook the Pacific Ocean, how many allow you to eat with your toes in the sand? The flagship location of Tackle Box is an easygoing spot right on Corona del Mar state beach. Get there early for sunny chilaquiles, or hang for lunch and inhale buffalo cauliflower and “Cali” cheesesteak. Top Chef alumnus Brian Huskey’s menu is a feast for both your eyes and your taste buds.
3029 E. Shore Ave.
Corona del Mar – 949.723.0502
Best Whiskey Bar
Bosscat Kitchen & Libations
Bosscat’s menu lists whiskeys from [deep breath] Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky (which takes up about two pages), Michigan, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Canada, Japan, Ireland and Scotland (which is broken up by Highlands, Lowlands, Campbeltown, Speyside, Islands, Islay and blended Scotches). Next to each whiskey is its per-pour price, which ranges from $8 to $340 (for the 32-year-old Islay Laphroaig). Various flights are available, too. Bosscat, which also serves meals and appetizers that appeal to all ages, is such a winning formula that its Newport Beach-based owners opened a second location in Houston in 2016, and there’s an Orange spot scheduled for 2020.
Best Wine Bar
The tranquility of the shopping center surrounding it spills into the Wine Lab, which is airy and welcoming despite its small size. Guests can choose to sit at tables lining the walls or around the U-shaped bar. On one end of that U are taps for craft beers, while the other end is reserved for featured red and white wines, which can come from California, Oregon, Washington or Europe. You can also order bottled wines and beers, glasses of port, ice wines, and hard kombucha. There are tasting flights of wines or beers, which are cheaper during happy hours, and helping to further enliven the senses (and soak up the alcohol) are flatbreads, intriguing cheeses and charcuterie platters. Make sure to save room for the warm chocolate cookies with chocolate sauce.
2937 Bristol St., Ste. A101B
Costa Mesa – 714.850.1780
Best Wine Shop
OC Wine Mart
Leave it to Julie Lim to take wine (and beer) shopping to the next level. In addition to an extensive selection of self-serve pours to sample, OC Wine Mart has aisles of desirable bottles and seating galore at which to enjoy them. Factor in the wine mart’s cheeky BTS (“Better Than Sex”) burritos and deli options, and you’ve got the makings of a leisurely meal, too.
1691 E. Lincoln Ave.
Orange – 714.202.5886
Okay, we know what you are thinking: How can Wingstop be the best when it’s a chain across the United States? But wing-lovers swear by Wingstop’s wings. There are more than 15 flavors to choose from, and you can order them bone-in or bone-out. Plus, the fries serve as the perfect complement to the birds.
Located along the oceanfront inside the Inn at Pine Knoll Shores, the Clamdigger Restaurant is a convenient and popular spot for Crystal Coast vacationers to enjoy a hearty breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The restaurant features an inviting wood-lined interior that has a rustic and nautical appeal. Breakfast patrons will find a wide selections of egg dishes, pancakes, waffles, french toast, biscuits and sandwiches, as well as an array of 3-egg omelets. Lunch patrons will enjoy a wealth of light appetizers, soups and salads, as well as a long list of sandwiches, and seafood dishes. Dinnertime guests can choose from beef entrées, seafood dishes, Italian fare, and southern classics, as well as lighter sandwiches and dishes for smaller appetites. The sheer variety of menu selections is where the Clamdigger Restaurant really shines, and patrons can pop in every day, and find something new to sample.
18 Exciting New Restaurants in Los Angeles Right Now
Eater LA’s heatmap has been updated every month for more than 10 years running, but during the deeper months of the pandemic, this map was not revised with new restaurants. However, we do think it is finally time to highlight places that have opened in the past year. Restaurants are placed on the map in geographical order.
Added: In the Kitchen, Playita, Bé Ù, Lucky’s, Menya Tigre
Removed: Kuya Lord, AGL’s Craft Meats, Brothers Meatballs, Fellow Traveler
A number of LA restaurants have resumed on-site dining service. However, this map should not be taken as endorsement for dining in, as there are still safety concerns: for updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit the Los Angeles Public Health website. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.
Cosme – New York, NY
SO GOOD! It’s no wonder this is supposedly President Obama’s favorite restaurant in NYC. We were recommended this restaurant by a very trustworthy Seattle chef/friend and now I want to fly to Mexico City to try Chef Enrique Olvera’s Pujol and eno and then to Cabo for Manta.
Who knew Mexican fare could be so refined and modern?! Stunning stunning food. My mouth is still salivating thinking about the brown butter on the lobster and the duck carnitas. I also have to mention how incredible the staff was. Our server couldn’t have been more friendly and welcoming. He has fabulous suggestions and just made the night that much more enjoyable. You won’t regret this dinner choice. Go for a drink beforehand and take in the cool space.
Tuna tostada, daisy capers, yuzu, avocado
Lobster, shiso, ginger mojo, brown butter
Mole verde, pine nuts, chile güero, brussels sprouts, kale
Duck carnitas, onions, radishes, cilantro
Huckleberry raspado, cheese, coconut milk, lime
Julian Medina's wildly successful high-Mexican concept delivers refined restaurant food that draws strongly on the flavors of rural Mexico, minus the rough edges. This is very good Mexican food, but only for people that are not really that into it -- which is to say Midtown diners. That said, the man did put grasshopper tacos on the menu, so he deserves some street cred!
Be aware of the managers having personal motives disguised as hospitality.
Worst service ever – we visited the restaurant yesterday and received the worst service ever in new york. The waitress was very rude and service very slow. When we walked away the manager did apologize for the behavior of the waitress.
Why is it so noisey? – Selected our lunch from the Summer Restaurant Week menu. We had the ceviche de pescado (flounder) and tacos de cochinita (braised pork, it was really good) and the guac trio. We were nearly full by the time we were done with the apps.
For our entrees, we had the pescado a la talla (tilapia) and enchiladas de carnitas (this is like the appetizer only dressed up differently).
We chose the coconut flan for dessert. I've had better flan.
The noise level high compared to how many people were in the restaurant. It's not a large place and there weren't that many people and yet it was so noisey.
Theater district mexican food – The guac was less than average, not prepared fresh. and i wonder exactly when it was prepared? The red creamy sauce served with the guac was the highlight!
No fresh salsa and chips when you sit down, either. The only chips we got were with the guac.
The tacos were less than authentic. any true mexican place serves its meat on a double layer of flour tortiallas. here you only get one? weirdo.
tacos al pastor very disappointing pork.. tasted like it could have been prepared for a barbeque joint. it was gross.. i had to douse it in habanero sauce to get it down. doesnt this dish traditionally have cilantro and onions.
the other two in my party liked the beef tacos.
dessert was best part of meal. flan yummy. chorizzos warm, and though greasy, not bad with the sauce
the waitress seemed annoyed at first, but did warm up at the end
My NEW Favorite Restaurant in NYC – This place is amazing.
Delicious & Gourmet tasting Mexican food.
You can taste the passion that goes into making the drinks & dishes here!
You must try their "Frutas Guacamole" it is such a unique combination of tastes and flavors!
Their chipotle salsa on the side is equally delicious!
For an entree, I ordered the eggplant, lentil and plantain dish. wow! It was an explosion of spices and flavors.
I highly recommend getting the "Sandia margarita" its so good. Its fresh crushed watermelon and lime!
They have so many tequila's here, drink until you can't drink anymore! Oh and the free shots of tequila we were offered went down so smooth!
I can't wait to go back again! This is NOW my favorite restaurant!!
Always a Favorite. – Always a favorite. The food is brilliant and the service warm and kind. The Shrimp Tacos are fantastic and the hongos truffle quesadilla is ridiculous. The management always welcoming and my favorite server Sylvia is the sweetest. Warm and cozy decor. For midtown this place is great!
All hail TOLOACHE – I'm a Gringo born and raised in Brooklyn. LOL I love food and living in New York where you can find so many cultures the best food will always stand out. Good food etches itself in my brain. I will quote myself after eating at Toloache "I have died and gone to heaven" said ME. Trust me the decor is very nice and the drinks are awesome. This aside it's all about the food what FLAVA. I wanted to bow down and worship the Chef but that would disturb other patrons. When I go to the Theater District I tend to ignore the the restaurants in the area as tourist traps. Not this one. NO WAY. Go here. It's Mexican food at its finest. Chris WOW
Rip Off – This place is an absolute rip off. The food is just okay, which is a lot better than most Mexican in NYC I will admit. But the prices are absurd. They charge four bucks for chips and salsa. I would boycott on that basis alone. Stay away!
Not Americanized Mexican – A lively place with a friendly staff and a great atmosphere. No complaints about the food only the size of the servings. Don't be so stingy!
Brilliant Margaritas, great food – We were touched by the very warm, friendly service. The food is great (try the spicy red guacamole) and the frozen Margaritas are the best in town. This is our new favorite in the Theater District.
Great in Theaterland – At last, a good, cheerful restaurant/bar in the Theater District. Good, imaginative food and charming service. First-rate margaritas, good Mexican beer and a reasonable wine list (though wine isn't really ideal with Mexican food).
Still dreaming about that Guacamole – The trio of guacamole is unbelievable!! Pomegranate in your guacamole. who would have thought!! I couldn't get enough of it. The blueberry margarita was delicioso! It was so rich, packed with antioxidants you didn't feel guilty about having it at all!! Definitely a do over!
great margaritas! – went last yr, great time.
the tequila selection was excellent.
got in right away, good service.
very accessible, in midtown.
am i at 100 chars yet? sheesh.
Testing again – I need to test this website to see how it works, please don't worry about my review, testing testing testing
Create your own fun – Love this place! It's cozy & fun and not TOO loud and right in the Theater District. The Margarita menu will get you right into the spirit with an interesting selection you'll want to try. Same goes for the custom made guacamole, a must. But for a non-meat eating person like me, there were plenty of choices and everything tasted clean and fresh- not drenched in sauce and beans. The Lobster Tacos were amazing. A great place for a small meal or an evening. Two thumbs up from me.
Times Square Gem That will impress NYC Foodies – This is the place I can take family and friends to and know they will be duely impressed! Lobster tacos, guacamole made to order(including a unique "fruit" guacamole that is lovely), tasty sangria, and the creamiest flan I've ever had! The service is friendly and knowledgeable, and the decor is fantastic.
Fantastic Mexican Food – Had their lunch special and it was great. Can't wait to go back to NY. Check out the happy hour specials too.
Overrated – This "wannabe" Nuevo Latino restaurant's service and food don't match the price and quality. My friend's brick oven-roasted shredded suckling pig was nasty tasting (like wild game)--I couldn't stomach more than one bite and I love pork. He returned it and replaced it with the guajillo-marinated pork tacos which tasted just like the plate he returned (he's been in the restaurant business so he knows all the tricks.) I ordered the marinated pork and it didn't taste the same. My daughter enjoyed her chile-rubbed skirt steak tacos although they were on the greasy side. I don't drink so I can't tell if $13 is an average price for a margarita but it seems a bit steep to me. The $12 guacamole order had less than half an avocado (I watched it being made.) Our waiter was polite but not friendly, and although the manager apologized for the returned item (which he also took off the tab) he didn't offer the generally standard drink on the house or anything else to compensate my friend for the inconvenience. We most definitely won't be back there.
Lovely Place, Kind Service, Excellent Mexican! – My boyfriend and I frequently go here and always have a lovely experience. We LOVE the waitress Sylvia who must be the sweetest and nicest server I have ever had. We went there recently later in the evening and ended up being the only people in the place and the manager and server insisted we take our time and didn't dare rush us. We had a lovely meal and were treated like royalty I really appreciated it. We always get a few things and share them all. Of course they have nice frozen margaritas as well as an excellent tequila and wine list. We always get guacamole (we are obsessed!), the yummy shrimp tacos, I love the creamy tortilla soup. Everything we have had has really been great. Its NOT a cheap low quality mexican joint, its a nice restaurant with quality fresh ingredients, I will glady pay the price for what they have, and the friendly service.
Love the Tamales (and more) – I've eaten at Toloache 3 times and I really like the food. The chef takes traditional Mexican flavors/ foods (such as tamarind, lime, barbacoa) and combines them in fresh new ways. This goes way beyond the usual Tex-Mex. Normally I hate tamales because they are so heavy on the grease. But Toloache's tamales are light, fluffy and absolutely delicious.
good Mexican food – This is a good lunch spot since it's right next door to the office, but having recently relocated here from LA I have to say it's a little sad that the "nice" Mexican place is really not all that great compared to the lower end places back in LA.
Guacamole Heaven – I am not a huge fan of Mexican food but Toloache changed my mind. After sitting down and browsing the menu, I was instantly attracted to the lobster tacos. As I waited for my meal, they brought out a trio of guacamoles with chips. I dug into the first guac and was pleasantly surprised. I have never loved guacamole. until this one. It was thick and chunky, in a good way, and the fruit one with pomegrante seeds was really unique. The tomato salsa was delicious too. After gorging myself with chips and guac, I managed to save room for the tacos and I'm glad I did. The creative take on traditional tacos made for a great dish. I really enjoyed the restaurant and would recommend it to anyone.
Sangria. GREAT, food. not so good – My friends and I ventured to this little Mexican spot for a pre show dinner at about 5:30. We started out with sangrias (recommend red>>white) which were phenomenal. We were excited about the guac bar only to be mildly disappointed. The traditional was good not great, the "fruity" one with mango and pomegranate was a pleasant surprise and the "spicy" one. was not at all spicy.. I ordered the skirt steak tacos. which were very small. They were more like taco "sliders" and were about that size. And the order came with two tacos and nothing else. My friend ordered the chicken enchilada which was a let down for her, but you might like it if you like pulled chicken. The remaining two liked their chicken quesadillas. The rice and beans were moderate and the corn on the cob was not really good (recommend cafe habana on prince st for that). Then, to top it off, we were being hovered over to get up and get out. Overall, I wouldn't really recommend or go back.
Modern and Comforting – A friend and I walked in - sans reservation - after a show. Both of us were starving so I think we ordered a little of everything on the menu. The creations from this kitchen are delectable. Succulent, savory and sweet, and so full of flavor.
The avocado fries are so creative and tastey! The panko was light and crispy, the warm avocado creamy and sweet. You could taste something a little tart and salty sprinkled on the fries - lime maybe? It was perfect.
The plantains were sweet, perfectly tender and the dipping sauce - also served with the avocado fries - was amazing. There was a nice heat to it without setting your mouth on fire or overwhelming the flavor of the plantains.
There was a special of crab empanadas. The pastry was light and crisp, and substantial without being doughy or too thick, which can be a little tricky with empanadas. It was perfect for the light sweetness of the crab.
My friend ordered the lobster tacos - they were also a special of the day - and he thought they were wonderful.
Now this is where it gets really good. I ordered Carnitas de Lechon. Let me just say it was the most flavorful, beautifully seasoned roasted pig I have ever had the absolute pleasure of tasting. The habanero-sour orange salsa was so delicous it literally made my mouth water. The entre is served on a fresh corn tortilla but be assured, this is no taco. I had to mention the tortilla because of the flavor it was so fresh and light. And the chef tops all of the delicsousness off with a crispy chicharron. Oh, heaven.
And don't let me forget the dessert. The tres leches de limon. seriously? Seriously? The sponge of the cake was light - no easy accomplishment in a cake soaked in three kinds of milk the flavors were delicate, nothing overwhelmed, it was a perfect balance.
Thank you, Chef Medina, your creations, and the staff's execution of them, were an utter delight. And thank you J. - service was impeccable.
Unlike any other Mexican I've tasted – I made reservations at Toloache after reading cuozzo's review of mexican restaurants in the post. The food really is unlike any Mexican I've had before - the flavors are familiar but presented in a beautiful and unexpected style. I would highly recommend Toloache to anyone looking for an upscale mexican experience.
awful eatery! – Have to agree with aplv review from 5/31/08. Was in NYC this past week, and decided to go there for lunch with my daughter on the day of returning to home. Our hotel was right across the street, and we passed this restaurant every day, and we wanted to try it. It looked appealing from the outside, but don't let that decieve you!! The other reviewers on this site obviously don't know a thing about Mexican food! Guacomole was $11 extra if you wanted to order it, and you didn't get chips and salsa before the meal. Being of Mexican heritage, and a lover of Mexican food, I would not recommend this place to anyone. It is way overpriced for what you get, and the waiter was very pushy and extremely rude! He was very disgusted because we did not order a cocktail or anything from the dessert menu that he shoved in our hands without asking if we wanted any. Don't go here!! It is a tourist trap!!
great food – Been there twice. Had terrific meals both times. A friend who works nearby orders take out all the time and likes the food very much. Not sure why some have posted bad reviews and complained about the service. my two experiences were both very pleasant.
Best Mexican in Midtown . or in the whole city. – I stopped into Toloache with my boyfriend over the weekend after hearing some friends rave about it and boy were they right! The food was so flavorful, so intense. The guacamole can't even be described. I guess the best word is fresh. Everything there is so FRESH! Even the drinks. My boyfriend had a drink called De la Calle, which is a margarita with cucumbers, basil, and my favorite--jicama! All crushed mojito-style right into the drink. I had the Margarita Sandia (watermelon margarita). Oh my God! It was so juicy, so delicious with the real crushed-up watermelon inside. Our other favorite was the fish tacos. Tempura-battered tilapia fish with some of that awesome guacamole and jicama coleslaw right on the taco! When I bit into it, I couldn't believe what I was tasting. And I don't think I would've ordered them if it wasn't for our waiter. He was so nice, and so knowledgeable about the menu. He really helped make our choices easy. My boyfriend and I love Mexican food, and we've eaten at most Mexicans around the city. Dos Caminos, Mesa Grill, Rosa Mexicano to name a few. We were so surprised with Toloache's food we don't think we'll be back to any of the others anytime soon. Why have a dry, cheeseless chicken enchilada with green sauce at Rosa Mexicano when you can have a moist, cheesy, chicken enchilada with fresh figs inside--FIGS. --at Toloache? I very highly recommend this place.
Amazing Authenticity – Wow!! The food was absolutely amazing and the authenticity of the menu is obvious just by looking at the ingredients. I've never had better tacos in NYC. I definitely recommend the micheladas as well. I can't wait to go back.
tasty dishes – stopped by the other night to check it out. was amazed by the tasty and beautifully presented modern mexican fare..The steak ceviche was full of flavor and texture and the tequila list is ridiculous..In a neighborhood full of mediocre restaurants trying to pass themselves off as "fine dining", Toloache truly shines.
Typical tourist trap near Times Square with very pushy waiters! – My husband and I are residents of NY. We only stopped here because we got out of a show very hungry on a rainy Saturday night. The decor is good and inviting so we entered. The drinks tasted good but had very little alcohol in them. The food was below average, small portions, and extremely overpriced. The average entree costs $22. With just 2 entrees and 2 drinks, we had a $90 bill including the tip! The worst part of the experience was the extremely pushy waiter. He kept recommending the most expensive drinks and meals on the menu even when we were midway through our main course! We clearly told him that we were stuffed and wanted the check but he kept insisting on other "smaller dishes" and dessert. He kept interrupting us and insisting we order more and more so it ruined our evening! Stay away if possible!
Amazing Food – I haven't been to the place itself, but I was at this fundraiser recently and the owner/chef along with his kitchen staff were so friendly. The food was delicious - I was standing by the kitchen area the whole time and the waiters offered these delicious appetizers - red herring with crackers, taquitos, bite size tortas de bistec, and so much more. Oh god, I don't even want to get into how delicious the Toloache was (the drink). Tequila with frozen blueberries. you couldn't even feel a thing. I must've had 3 and had a splendid night. The owner/chef went out and spoke to all the guests - a very charismatic guy. The staff was so nice as well. I hope to go the restaurant itself in the future!
delicious food rude staff – I went there for dinner with my boyfriend about one hour before they close. This place looked very nice but not as cozy as we expected. We didn't even have a time to open the menu when a server without even saying hello, ostentatiously looking at his wach asked " you wanna order something?" When we asked what would he suggest he said he didn't know what we like and than he left. Complete lack of decorum. Unbelievable. I really wanted to tried this food otherwise we would just leave this restaurant. While ordering he asked us 3 times to repet our order. I understand this is Mexican Restaurant but we live in US and English is our language and this is so frustrated You go to a restaurant and you can not comunicate with people because they hardly speak this language and they are so rude. The food was so good thouh.