Getting a bite to eat has never been more difficult than in Costa Mesa. With so many wonderful and unusual food and drink choices, deciding where to dine is a difficult task. Whatever you’re searching for, Costa Mesa restaurants are tremendously diversified, with taste inspiration from all around the world.
To help promote their new Eatcation campaign, I’ve collaborated with Visit Costa Mesa to bring you this piece describing my favorite gourmet discoveries from my recent visit to the city.
I immediately realized and had to adjust to the fact that many of the greatest restaurants in Costa Mesa are situated in malls and shopping complexes. Even the Michelin-starred restaurant where I ate was located in a retail mall!
This is unusual for me since many restaurants in Oklahoma City (my birthplace) and Merida (my adopted hometown) are more freestanding operations.
Nonetheless, considering that Costa Mesa is home to South Coast Plaza, the biggest shopping mall on the West Coast, it is not surprising that there is a strong mall culture in the city.
You’ll also note that many of the greatest Costa Mesa restaurants are concentrated in three distinct retail centers: CAMP, LAB, and SoCo Collection. These three restaurants will become extremely familiar to you as you eat your way across Costa Mesa.
We looked at some of the greatest Costa Mesa restaurants so you and your taste buds can start making plans. Let’s get started!
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- 1 Costa Mesa’s Top 20 Restaurants
- 1.1 People’s Pizzeria
- 1.2 We are Olive & Wine Bar.
- 1.3 Mara Tacos
- 1.4 Fill the Bakeshop and Creamery
- 1.5 Contemporary Milkshakes with a Straw
- 1.6 The Old Vine Kitchen and Bar
- 1.7 The Rooster Café
- 1.8 Wild Goose Inn
- 1.9 Mesa Playa
- 1.10 Habana
- 1.11 Udon Marugame
- 1.12 Din Tai Fung Restaurant
- 1.13 ARC Food & Beverage
- 1.14 Wine Laboratory
- 1.15 AnQi
- 1.16 My House
- 1.17 Steakhouse Mastro’s
- 1.18 Burgers with umami flavor
- 1.19 Vietnamese in the East Borough
- 1.20 Toast Bakery and Kitchen
- 2 Costa Mesa Brewery You Should Visit
- 3 Which of these Costa Mesa restaurants do you want to try the most? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below!
Costa Mesa’s Top 20 Restaurants
2937 Bristol Street || Phone: +1 714-617-4888
People has a constantly changing menu that varies seasonally, so there’s always something new to try. Several fan favorites, though, remain on the menu all year.
Order a salad to begin your dinner, but be prepared to leave with a full tummy since the salads at People are really enormous. We tried the chopped salad as an appetizer and couldn’t finish it between the three of us.
My favorite meal (offered year-round) was the meatballs with Sunday gravy. The slow-cooked sauce contains beef, chicken thighs, and pig cheek. Fortunately, they provide some delicious crusty bread to sop up the remains of the sauce- you won’t want any of it to go to waste!
Another staple that delivers a small flavor of Europe all the way to California is the Italian sausage pizza. The organically leavened dough had the proper texture, the sauce was fresh and acidic, and the large bits of Italian sausage were delicious.
They also have a wonderful range of natural wines to complement your meal.
We are Olive & Wine Bar.
|| +1 949-284-0609 || 3313 Hyland Avenue
Our Olive & Wine Bar offers unique mix wines and oils for you to taste and enjoy for a little bit of charm and shopping.
When getting ready for dinner or taking a break from shopping, try several oils from different olive blends and sip some locally produced wine.
If you’re only passing through, they have little glasses and will let you build your own flight. The handy location is within the SOCO retail area, just next to Taco Maria. I constructed my own wine flight as I waited for my table to become available at Taco Maria.
|| +1 714-538-8444 || 3313 Hyland Avenue
If you’re searching for one of the top Mexican restaurants in Costa Mesa, Taco Mara will not disappoint.
Taco Maria is one of only two Michelin-starred restaurants in Costa Mesa, the other being Hana re sushi bar, which I plan to sample on my next visit.
This lively place is often packed and offers an engaging environment with much to see and do. If you’re eating alone, request a seat at the bar so you can see the cooks at work. The way the cooks yelled out orders, heated up dishes, and expertly presented each meal reminded me of synchronized swimming.
The menu is semi-fixed, which means there are four categories to pick from, each with two alternatives. Since it is a Michelin-starred restaurant, I went all out and ordered the four-course meal with wine pairings. I thought the pricing was acceptable at $84 for the four dishes and $42 for the four wines. A four-course wine meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant for $126 isn’t terrible at all.
The Dungeness crab tostadas and striped fish with fingerling potatoes in anchovy sauce were two of my favorite meals of the night.
Being a (half) Mexican living in Mexico, it’s tough to please me with Mexican cuisine, but Taco Maria succeeded!
Good tip: Make reservations as far in advance as possible.
Fill the Bakeshop and Creamery
949-873-5075 | 1767 Newport Boulevard
Fill Bakeshop is the ideal place for those wishing to satiate their sweet craving.
You may have to wait in a line that often extends out the door, but it is easily justified by Fills Hawaiian-style donuts, which have a really unusual texture for a delightful bite. Donuts with a distinctive texture are produced using a combination of rice flour and typical pastry dough.
The end product is a chewy doughnut unlike any other donut I’ve ever had. Thai tea Butterfinger, jasmine milk tea, strawberry shortcake, and cookies and cream are among the unusual tastes and garnishes.
Fills is continuously experimenting with their menu, and on the day of our visit, they were premiering the Thai tea Butterfinger, so we were among the first to experience it!
Donuts are prepared fresh everyday, and the shop is open until they run out, which happens often.
Contemporary Milkshakes with a Straw
||+1 714-852-3772 1215 Baker Street Suite A
On a hot day, almost nothing surpasses a traditional milkshake, and The Straw offers the right formula to satisfy your appetite.
Travel & Leisure named these milkshakes the finest in America, and it’s easy to understand why with their magnificent presentation!
Several Costa Mesa restaurants alter their menus, and here is where the menu is constantly changed so you may sample a new and intriguing shake with each visit.
The Bangkok Betty, with mango and coconut cream, was inspired by the iconic Thai mango sticky rice dessert, while the Campfire, with toasted marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers, may transport you back to your youth.
Craft brews and boozy milkshakes. The Straw also offers an adult line.
The Old Vine Kitchen and Bar
2937 Bristol Street || Phone: +1 714-545-1411
This elegant and friendly pub has something for every wine enthusiast to experience. You may sample wine by the glass to see what appeals to you, or you can swing by to pick up a bottle of one of your favorites.
A beautiful salad will be the ideal accompaniment to their bloody Marys, and going over for brunch is always a good idea, especially with the outside sitting option.
Brunch menu options I can’t wait to return and try the lengua (beef tongue) omelet, rabbit mole, or omelet with slow-cooked goat meat.
If you’re not feeling brave, consider the southern brunch (biscuits with pancetta gravy, please), pizza omelet, or savory baked French toast.
The evening menu includes not only four separate four-course tasting menus (original, Italian, vegan, and vegetarian), but also a variety of foods such as swordfish belly, Indonesian shrimp curry, grilled lamb chops, and pulled duck leg.
The Rooster Café
750 St. Clair St. || 714-754-1944
Roosters is a nice location to get some breakfast with a tiny caf atmosphere if you’re searching for a variety breakfast restaurant that provides a great range of selections.
This Costa Mesa breakfast restaurant offers a range of menu selections with interesting combinations of tastes and sizes for every appetite, including scrambled eggs, sausage, and avocado.
They also serve heartier fare, such as their massive breakfast burrito, which I tasted. It was loaded with scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, cheddar cheese, and bacon or Portuguese sausage of your choice. This would be an excellent hangover lunch to help you recover from the night before!
Try the Elvis sandwich, which is a piece of French toast covered with peanut butter and bananas, with a drizzle of chocolate and powdered sugar to finish off the ultimate sweet-lovers breakfast.
Wild Goose Inn
+1 949-722-9453 || 436 E 17th St
Several other eateries have been influenced by dive bars around America, and Wild Goose is attempting to bring back some old-fashioned neighborhood feel to Costa Mesa.
The Wild Goose always has lots of nightlife, and the cuisine will keep you there all night as you enjoy some of their upscale pub fare.
Popular dishes include wild boar corndog poppers and bison chili. On Tuesdays, you can even get $2 tacos.
Other menu items that piqued my interest were Nashville hot chicken sliders, short rib grilled cheese, and some pretty amazing burgers brought to the table next to ours.
Wild Goose combines everything we love about dive bars and puts it into the twenty-first century with taste and selections aplenty.
||428 E 17th St ||+1 949-287-5292
Playa Mesa has a terrific environment with enough of Mexican flavor to liven up the mood, making every night a fun with tremendous energy and people to have a meal or drink with.
The Mexican chef and crew at Playa Mesas are dedicated to maintaining traditional meals. The menu takes influence from both coastal Baja and mainland Mexico, as well as the chef’s own trips across Mexico.
Menu items at Playa Mesas include shrimp enchiladas, mussels in a lamb broth, crispy fish tacos, and honey beer-battered squash blossoms. Additionally, start your dinner with the greatest Mexican street corn I’ve ever had outside of Mexico!
Frequent readers know how much I like mezcal, and Playa Mesa offers an amazing mezcal variety. My bartender was incredibly educated about the mezcals on the menu and guided me through the process of picking a mezcal I had never experienced before.
Playa Mesa provides some of Mexico’s greatest tastes directly to your plate in California.
2930 Bristol Street || Phone: +1 714-556-0176
At Habana, grabbing a bite to eat for brunch can be an exciting and one-of-a-kind experience.
Their breakfast has a terrific appearance as well as an astounding choice of alternatives. The Sunday brunch buffet selections allow you to eat anything you like and provide a variety of interesting alternatives to broaden your palate.
Lots of seafood (including paella!) and made-to-order omelets guarantee that no visitor goes hungry, and endless mimosas are always a welcome addition.
3333 Bristol Street, Suite 1073 || +1 714-619-5688
There aren’t many restaurants in Costa Mesa that provide traditional Japanese cuisine, but Marugame Udon offers everything you’ll need at a fair price.
The original Udon is wonderful and offers a unique combination of tastes found around the Ocean.
The menu isn’t extensive, but anything you choose will be a memorable experience, and the attentive staff will have you taken care of in no time. This is fantastic since there is often a scary queue snaking out of the door.
But don’t worry, Marugame has it all figured out. Step in line, place your order, and you’ll be allocated a table as you work your way down the line, collecting your udon and any tempura items that come with it.
Your table will be ready by the time you finish, pay, and dress your udon.
This is an excellent alternative to waiting in line at Din Tai Fung, which is right above Marugame. You may also do what we did and put your name on the Din Tai Fung waitlist (they phone you 15 minutes before your table is available) and eat a bowl of udon before heading upstairs for the famed dumplings!
Din Tai Fung Restaurant
+1 714-549-3388 || 3333 Bristol Street (within South Coast Plaza)
Din Tai Fung, a globally recognized brand, serves some of the greatest Chinese cuisine in Costa Mesa.
You should make a reservation ahead of time, but even without one, it is well worth the wait.
The Pork Xiaolongbao Buns are a must-have appetizer for every dinner.
The pork fried noodles make an excellent second dish.
The beautiful interior design and handy location make this an excellent place to unwind after a long day of shopping.
ARC Food & Beverage
+1 949-500-5561 | 3321 Hyland Avenue Suite F
ARC would be my first choice for a first date or a romantic night out. At night, the gorgeous ambience and lights come to life, making it the ideal spot for a date night with lots of ambiances.
The wood-fired oven and grill provide a little something extra to each meal and keep the entire area smelling great all night.
There are plenty of beverages and foods to make this a place you won’t want to leave after you’ve settled down.
The award-winning enormous to the point of intimidation burger is a must-try.
as well as the premium steaks.
+1 714-850-1780 | 2937 Bristol Street, Suite A101B
The Wine Lab, which combines the ambience of an elite bar with the excitement of a chemical lab, provides for a wonderful evening with delicious cuisine and more wine than you know what to do with.
Come for the bottle or try the test tube wine selections to obtain the ideal taste for your perfect wine.
Tapas and cheese complement the wine, and the atmosphere will have you drinking every wine on the menu before you realize what time it is.
3333 South Bristol Street || +1 (714) 557-5679
Costa Mesa restaurants abound, and AnQi serves an innovative upmarket Asian cuisine that is guaranteed to amaze.
The interior design is nothing short of spectacular, transporting you to the heart of Asia with absolutely distinctive decor and design.
The menu features a premium spin on classic Asian foods, like garlic noodles, which are popular in the area.
Whatever you choose, the atmosphere will be enough to make the journey worthwhile and leave you wanting to return soon.
+1 949-645-7626 || 296 E 17th St
Mi Casa, as the name implies, wishes to make you feel at ease and at home anytime you visit.
For a good supper in a pleasant setting, try some chili Rellenos or any variety of tacos or enchiladas. Come during happy hour and interact with the locals for a good time and a good conversation.
If you’re feeling daring towards the conclusion of your meal, seek for the churros for a delectable treat that will leave you wanting more the moment you complete your plate.
633 Anton Boulevard || (714) 546-7405
Mastros steakhouse offers an exquisite dining experience for the steak enthusiast, making it much simpler to find a steakhouse in Costa Mesa.
Even the entrance inside the restaurant seems opulent, with the stunning ceiling decor enticing you as you enter.
The meals are ample, and the cuts of meat are unlike anything else in the neighborhood.
You may rent a private area with a direct view into the kitchen to observe what goes on behind the scenes for an extra exceptional eating experience.
Burgers with umami flavor
||+1 714-957-8626 ||2981 Bristol St Suite B-2
Umami Burger is a terrific informal burger place with a lot of personality for those searching for a decent lunch choice.
The unique interior design includes various posters that bring the area to life, and the buns come with a logo burnt into them for more picture opportunities.
The burgers arrive in a really attractive container and look fantastic on the dish with some fries or a salad.
Vietnamese in the East Borough
2937 Bristol Street || Phone: +1 714-641-5010
This sleek small Vietnamese establishment provides a terrific combination of tastes and alternatives for those interested in trying Vietnamese-style food. Costa Mesa restaurants seem to cater to practically all interests and preferences!
This restaurant serves everything from traditional Vietnamese noodles to Bahn mi sandwiches, so there is something for everyone on the menu.
Experience variants on traditional Vietnamese cuisine that have been developed and evolved into a highly distinct and attractive style that provides a distinctive jolt of delight to the palate.
Toast Bakery and Kitchen
949-873-5057 | 1767 Newport Boulevard
Toast is a restaurant and bakery that brings southern flair to California with an upmarket touch.
Every dish seems to have been plated expressly for Instagram, and the dinners are full of enthusiasm.
The Nashville Hot Chicken over Biscuits was amazing yet filling—a terrific hangover meal or something to split with a buddy.
The lomo saltado is a creative variation on a traditional Peruvian meal, while the Thai chilaquiles is a Thai-Mexican fusion that the locals like.
Costa Mesa Brewery You Should Visit
Nothing beats drinking a cool beer that is being brewed right next to your table.
Breweries are a terrific way to add some ambience to your eating experience, and there are numerous excellent breweries within walking distance of both CAMP and the LAB.
Gunwhales features a variety of excellent in-house ales including IPAs. These hazy and west coast IPAs are a great way to conclude a hot California day.
I was also able to sample Salty Bears’ hazy citrus IPA. That was maybe my favorite beer I drank while in Costa Mesa. The citrus was bright and sharp, yet the hoppiness properly balanced everything.
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This content was created in conjunction with Tourism Costa Mesa. As usual, all views are mine.