We've dined out enough to know that some areas have a higher concentration of deliciousness than others. When friends seek our advice, I tend to draw a blank when put on the spot. So this is my first installment in what I hope to be a series of quick references to Orange County dining.
The main drag of Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach is an idyllic example of Southern California living. You've got surf, sand, and relaxed dining as far as the eye can see. There really is something for everyone, but I've got my favorites.
One of a handful of restaurants in the county where I go below street level to dine, Brussels Bistro is a gem. Beer drinkers will appreciate the selections of brew bottled and on tap. I am fond of the regional cuisine. How many can resist the aroma of Belgian frites with homemade sauces? Others will crave a pot of mussels with their choice of flavor. There's also live music during the week and a DJ on the weekends. 222 Forest Avenue.
Nostalgic treats of all sorts can be found across the street at Candy Baron. Some may say it's overpriced, but when it's not easy to locate elsewhere it is worth every penny. I enjoy inching my way through the aisles to debate between classics (Razzles, Glee Gum) and old fashioned (Bit-O-Honey, Zagnuts). The perfect alternative when craving dessert to-go. Smuggle some into Pageant of the Masters. 231 Forest Avenue.
Down the street and around the corner is the third concept by local chef Marc Cohen, the playfully named Watermarc. He is praised by Zagat, LA Times, and OC Register for his distinctive flavor palate. With a sophisticated selection of grazing plates, it is only rivaled by the equally vast list of wines by the glass. One of the few spots where I order the same item over and over again: The burger. Not your typical patty, we're talking 1/2 pound of blended Angus chuck, sirloin and short rib. If that's not enough of a flavor profile, try my favorite add-on - duck confit, red onion marmalade, brie and aioli. 448 South Coast Highway.
For that seafood craving on a beach bum budget, hike upstairs to House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer. No question about what's offered here! Raw, chilled, grilled, or fried, diners have a conundrum....What to get? With prices starting at $5 for their hobo fish plate (DELICIOUS, by the way), your group will be asking why you've been keeping this a secret. Carnivores can indulge in steak and chicken options without feeling left out. Bread & water are upon request, so be sure to ask when seated. Oh, and you must save room for the dessert featuring bananas foster + bread pudding. 540 South Coast Highway, #200.