Why? I love these restaurants year-round. They provide good service, a solid menu, and a comfortable setting...and their OCRW menu is worth a visit.
Any of the Marc Cohen trifecta: 230 Forest in Laguna Beach, Opah - Seafood Grill in Irvine and Aliso Viejo, Watermarc in Laguna Beach
Chef Cohen knows his stuff, and it's apparent when you come here. While I live closer to one of the Opah's, we prefer Watermarc for its secluded dining room upstairs. I should note that Opah has undergone a bit of a transformation (for the better, of course), so don't be surprised. All three Restaurant Week menus feature specials reflective of each establishment.
Memphis at the Santora in Santa Ana
While I love the location of their original in Costa Mesa, it's just super crowded there (are you seeing the trend?). Get the same excellent cuisine in a prettier locale. Perfect before coffee at Gypsy Den or a drink at The Crosby. Parking structure and street parking are very available in the evenings.
Catal at Downtown Disney
The first of two Patina Group favorites. First off, you've already got five hours of free parking, assuming you remember to validate after the meal. That means walking it off in one of the safest places in Orange County (can we say Fox Patrol?) Servers are welcoming, just like the cuisine. Here is your date nite option.
TAPS Fish House & Brewery in Brea
You're in North County, you say? Okay, I can dish out a rec there. Go to this family-owned seafood joint where their portions are reasonable and the vibe is casual. Kind of the original House of Big Fish & Ice Cold Beer, but with a better decibel level and more family friendly.
Pinot Provence in Costa Mesa
My other Patina Group fave is across from my favorite mall, South Coast Plaza. Don't let its attachment to Westin detract you -- this is lovely hotel dining. While maybe a little formal, I'd rather have this than the opposite end of the spectrum. Call this your affordable business meal, before drinks.
Now go book your reservations, stay warm and dry, and enjoy the good deals. And for all things Orange County Restaurant Week, here's their official link.