Unique Restaurants in Orange County, CA: 12 Unmissable Places to Eat in OC

by Jen
Unique Restaurants in Orange County, CA
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If you’re searching for unique restaurants in Orange County, you’re in the right place! Using our local knowledge, this guide is here to spotlight 12 of Orange County’s best restaurants. Don’t miss these!

In Orange County, it’s all about unique dining experiences that go beyond the usual. This place is a hotspot for foodies looking for something out of the ordinary. From hidden speakeasies to charming beachfront eateries, every restaurant has its own story and a distinct flavor to offer.

I’ve wandered through this county, uncovering spots that are more than just places to eat. There’s a restaurant tucked away in a secret garden, a bar hidden behind a bookshelf, and family-run kitchens serving up generations-old recipes. In Orange County, you’re as likely to stumble upon a gourmet meal in a casual setting as you are to find a culinary gem in a bustling market.

Join me as we explore the most unique restaurants in Orange County, CA. Whether it’s a meal with a view or a secret dining spot known to few, this guide will take you to some of the most extraordinary places to eat in the area. Plus, when you’re not dining, there are plenty of free things to do in Orange County. Let’s dive in and discover the unique restaurants in Orange County.

The top restaurants to visit in Orange County, CA right now

Unique Restaurants in Orange County, CA: 12 Extraordinary Places to Eat in Orange County, California

Are you ready to discover what Orange County has on its menu? From enchanting multi-course dinners to innovative culinary fusions, we’ve got a lineup that’s sure to dazzle. Let’s embark on a journey to discover the best places to eat in Orange County.

Ever imagined dining in a place that feels like stepping into a fantasy novel? Or what about savoring a dish where French, Italian, and Japanese flavors blend seamlessly? Orange County’s dining landscape offers these unique experiences and more. Here’s your essential guide to the most unique restaurants in Orange County. Prepare to transform your dining into an adventure you won’t forget!

1. The Hobbit

The Hobbit in Orange County stands out for its enchanting décor and immersive dining experience. Located in the heart of Orange, this restaurant is a blend of fantasy and fine dining. The interior, reminiscent of a cozy, European-style house, sets the stage for an evening that’s as much about the ambiance as it is about the exquisite food.

What makes The Hobbit truly unique is its format: a multi-course prix-fixe menu spread over four hours. Each course is a carefully crafted piece of culinary art, designed to take you on a flavorful adventure. The experience here is intimate and detailed. In my opinion, The Hobbit is one of the best places to eat in Orange County for those seeking something beyond the ordinary.

A word of advice: reservations at The Hobbit are coveted and often need to be made months in advance, so plan ahead to secure your spot. It’s a sought-after event in the local dining scene!

In terms of cost, it’s on the higher end. This reflects the quality and uniqueness of the experience. For a memorable evening in Orange County, whether it’s a special occasion or a treat for the senses, The Hobbit is a top choice. Its combination of storybook charm and gourmet dishes makes it a standout destination for food enthusiasts.

The Hobbit is one of the unique restaurants in Orange Country, CA.
The Hobbit in Orange County merges fantasy and dining, offering an enchanting European-style ambiance for fine cuisine.

2. The Blind Rabbit

Tucked away in Anaheim, The Blind Rabbit is a speakeasy that takes you back in time. This hidden gem in Orange County, accessible through sake barrels and exiting through a bookcase, is all about the thrill of discovery. It’s not just a bar – it’s an experience that captures the essence of the Prohibition era with a modern twist.

At The Blind Rabbit, the rules add to its charm. The intimate setting encourages a quiet, relaxed atmosphere, perfect for those who appreciate a bit of mystery with their drinks. With a 90-minute dining and drinking limit, every visit feels exclusive and special. This time frame ensures that each guest can fully immerse in the unique ambiance.

What makes this speakeasy one of the coolest places to eat in Orange County is its attention to detail. From the decor to the meticulously crafted cocktails, everything here is about creating an unforgettable experience. It’s a must-visit for those looking for a night out that’s out of the ordinary.

Remember, the key to enjoying The Blind Rabbit is to embrace its speakeasy spirit. It’s a small, cozy spot, so reservations are essential. For a taste of history with a side of mystery, this Anaheim speakeasy is a standout choice in Orange County’s dining scene.

The Blind Rabbit: a hidden, Prohibition-style speakeasy accessed through sake barrels and a bookcase exit.
The Blind Rabbit: a hidden, Prohibition-style speakeasy accessed through sake barrels and a bookcase exit.

3. Strong Water

Have you ever stepped into a restaurant and felt like you’ve entered another world? That’s the magic of Strong Water in Anaheim. This tiki and nautical-themed rum bar offers an immersive experience akin to being on a sunken treasure ship. The dimly lit space, rich wood, and burgundy décor transport you inside the cabin of a large wooden ship, complete with tropical music and drinks served in tiki mugs.

The owners, with their deep experience in creating themed dining spaces, have crafted an environment where every detail contributes to the narrative. It’s a place where you can enjoy Asian fusion dishes with Hawaiian and Filipino flavors, perfectly complemented by a variety of rum drinks.

For a personal recommendation, try one of their signature rum cocktails. They’re a hit and add to the overall thematic experience. The intimate setting, accommodating around 45 to 50 people, makes reservations essential. There’s a two-hour time limit to ensure everyone gets to enjoy this unique spot.

Without a doubt, Strong Water is one of the most fun and unique restaurants in Orange County, for those seeking an adventurous and thematic dining experience. It’s a place where you can dress up to match the theme and fully immerse yourself in the ambiance. For an evening that’s as much about the setting as it is about the food and drinks, Strong Water is a destination worth exploring.

Strong Water: a tiki-themed rum bar, evoking a sunken treasure ship with its nautical decor, dimly lit ambiance, and tropical drinks.
Strong Water: a tiki-themed rum bar, evoking a sunken treasure ship with its nautical decor, dimly lit ambiance, and tropical drinks. | Source: https://www.strongwateranaheim.com/

4. Past Memories

Next up on our list of the coolest places to eat in Orange County is Past Memories. Located in Garden Grove, this Korean bar and restaurant is a lively spot that captures the essence of Seoul’s streetside tents, where food and drinks flow as freely as the conversation.

Past Memories stands out for its authentic anju, or Korean bar snacks. The menu is a celebration of flavors, featuring dishes like the fiery nakji bokkeum (spicy octopus stir-fry), creamy corn cheese, and the standout odeng guk. This refreshing dashi-based broth, with a hint of spice from sliced jalapeno peppers, is brimming with odeng (fish cakes), a staple in Seoul’s drinking tents.

The ambiance here is as authentic as the food. The interior, with its old-world Korean hanok-style wood furnishings and post-war era signage, transports you to another time and place. It’s a setting that’s both nostalgic and vibrant, perfect for those weekend nights when you want to be part of a convivial, energetic crowd.

For a truly unique experience in Orange County, Past Memories is a gem. It’s a place where the soju cocktails and pitchers of Hite beer complement a menu that’s a tribute to Korean street food. Whether you’re a fan of Korean cuisine or looking to try something new, this Garden Grove spot is a must for an evening of fun, flavor, and memories.

Past Memories is one of the unique restaurants in Orange County, CA.
Past Memories embodies Seoul’s lively streetside tent vibe, offering a vibrant Korean bar and restaurant experience.

5. The Vox Kitchen

At The Vox Kitchen in Fountain Valley, a world of flavors awaits. This restaurant is a standout for its modern Pan-Asian cuisine, inspired by the Chifa movement—a fusion of Peruvian and Chinese flavors that emerged from East Asian immigration. It’s where tradition and innovation come together, offering a menu as diverse as it is flavorful.

Here, the dishes are a blend of Peruvian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Taiwanese influences. Each is a unique celebration of global tastes. The restaurant’s passion for combining traditional flavors with innovative techniques is evident in every dish, securing its spot among Orange County’s best restaurants.

When planning your visit, keep in mind that The Vox Kitchen is popular for its distinctive cuisine, so reservations are recommended. The restaurant offers both dine-in and delivery options, catering to a variety of dining preferences. For a taste of global fusion in a vibrant, welcoming setting, The Vox Kitchen is a destination that promises an exciting culinary journey right in the heart of Fountain Valley.

The Vox Kitchen serves modern Pan-Asian cuisine, blending Peruvian and Chinese flavors from the Chifa movement.
The Vox Kitchen serves modern Pan-Asian cuisine, blending Peruvian and Chinese flavors from the Chifa movement.

6. Goodies in the Pantry

Goodies in the Pantry, situated in the heart of Orange, is a standout for smoked meat enthusiasts. This unique spot specializes in artisanal smoked meats, showcasing the meticulous craft of traditional smoking techniques with a modern flair. Each bite here is a journey through rich, smoky flavors. Believe me, it’s one of the best places in Orange County to eat.

The highlight of Goodies in the Pantry is undoubtedly their range of smoked meats. I recommend trying their smoked pork ribs or Boston butt roast, which are not just meals but experiences in themselves. These selections are smoked to perfection, offering a depth of flavor that is both robust and refined.

For those planning a visit, it’s worth noting that Goodies in the Pantry offers a cozy and intimate setting. It’s perfect for both casual outings and special occasions. Located conveniently in Orange, it’s a must-visit for anyone seeking an exceptional smoked meat experience. With its commitment to quality and flavor, Goodies in the Pantry stands out as a destination that’s both unique and deeply satisfying.

Goodies in the Pantry is a top spot showcasing traditional smoking techniques with a modern twist for rich, flavorful bites.
Goodies in the Pantry is a top spot showcasing traditional smoking techniques with a modern twist for rich, flavorful bites. | Source: https://www.goodiesinthepantry.com/

7. Patagonia Empanadas

Patagonia Empanadas in the City of Orange is a delightful spot that brings the authentic taste of Argentina to Orange County, CA. Known for its delicious and affordable Argentine food, this restaurant is a go-to for those seeking cheap eats in Orange County without compromising on flavor or quality.

The menu at Patagonia Empanadas is a celebration of Argentine cuisine, with a variety of empanadas taking center stage. From classic beef or chicken to more adventurous flavors like chipotle beef and spicy shrimp, each empanada is a pocket of rich, savory goodness. The restaurant also offers other Argentine specialties, ensuring there’s something for every palate.

I recommend trying their Lomito Patagonia or the Buenos Aires Steak for a hearty and satisfying meal. These dishes, along with their signature empanadas, make Patagonia Empanadas a must-visit for anyone craving a taste of Argentina.

Located at 2279 N Tustin St in Orange, Patagonia Empanadas is one of the best places for lunch in OC. With its friendly ambiance and excellent customer service, it’s a perfect spot for a casual meal, whether you’re dining alone or with friends and family. For a taste of Argentina in the heart of Orange County, Patagonia Empanadas is a restaurant you can’t miss.

Patagonia Empanadas brings authentic Argentine flavors, offering delicious and affordable eats without compromising quality.
Patagonia Empanadas brings authentic Argentine flavors, offering delicious and affordable eats without compromising quality.

8. Barolo Italian Cafe

Discover a taste of Italy right in downtown Tustin at Barolo Italian Cafe. This hidden gem stands out for its authentic Italian dishes. With a menu that spans from fresh fish to homemade desserts, Barolo Cafe is a delightful journey through Italian flavors and offers some of the best food in Orange County, California.

The cafe’s charm is partly due to its owner and Executive Chef Giuseppe Galietta, originally from Salerno, Italy. His expertise in fish and shellfish dishes adds a special touch to the menu. What’s more, Barolo Cafe has a unique connection with the Anaheim Ducks Hockey Team, serving as their pre-game dining spot for over twenty years.

For those interested in a genuine Italian dining experience, Barolo Italian Cafe offers catering and delivery services. Located at 13771 Newport Ave, Tustin, the cafe is a key player in the local community, actively supporting fundraising events and contributing to nonprofits across Orange County, CA.

Barolo Italian Cafe is a place to eat in Orange County that I recommend to all. It’s a place where every meal is an homage to Italian cooking, set in a cozy and welcoming setting in the heart of Tustin.

Barolo Italian Cafe brings authentic Italian flavors to Orange County with a diverse menu, showcasing some of the area's best cuisine.
Barolo Italian Cafe brings authentic Italian flavors to Orange County with a diverse menu, showcasing some of the area’s best cuisine.

9. Cafe Hiro

Is there a place where French and Italian cuisine meet with a Japanese twist? Absolutely, and it’s called Cafe Hiro. This Cypress gem is a fusion wonderland, offering a unique blend of culinary styles that make it one of the most fun places to eat in Orange County, CA.

At Cafe Hiro, Chef Hiro Ohiwa crafts dishes that are both familiar and intriguingly novel. Imagine spaghetti tossed with sea urchin or red beans covered by a slightly jellied green tea mousse. These are the kinds of inventive combinations that await you here! The menu is a playful yet sophisticated exploration of flavors, where each dish is a surprise.

The ambiance of Cafe Hiro adds to its charm. It’s a cozy spot that makes you feel snug and welcome, perfect for lively debates over which unique dish to try next. The restaurant’s approach to fusion cuisine is about creating a dining experience that’s both comforting and adventurous.

Located in Cypress, Cafe Hiro is a destination for those seeking something out of the ordinary. It’s a place where culinary boundaries are playfully crossed, and every meal is an opportunity to explore new tastes. For a dining experience that’s as enjoyable as it is unique, Cafe Hiro is a must-visit restaurant in OC.

Cafe Hiro in Cypress merges French and Italian cuisine with a Japanese twist.
Cafe Hiro in Cypress merges French and Italian cuisine with a Japanese twist.

10. Teddy’s Deli

Looking for a hidden gem in Laguna Hills where you can grab some of the best food in Orange County? Teddy’s Deli is your answer. This tucked-away spot is a haven for sandwich lovers, offering an array of mouth-watering deli favorites that are both hearty and delicious.

At Teddy’s Deli, it’s all about the sandwiches. They’re generously filled with fresh, quality ingredients. Whether you’re into classic deli meats or more unique combinations, there’s something here to satisfy every craving. A personal favorite is their famous pastrami sandwich. Trust me, it’s a must-try that perfectly encapsulates the deli’s dedication to great taste.

Finding Teddy’s Deli is part of the fun. It’s located at 23011 Moulton Pkwy G-2, Laguna Hills, a bit hidden but well worth the search. The atmosphere inside is just as inviting as the food, which makes it an ideal spot for a casual lunch or a quick, satisfying bite. For those on the hunt for the best sandwiches in Orange County, Teddy’s Deli is a delightful discovery.

eddy's Deli is a hidden gem for sandwich enthusiasts, serving up some of the finest and most hearty deli favorites in Orange County.
eddy’s Deli is a hidden gem for sandwich enthusiasts, serving up some of the finest and most hearty deli favorites in Orange County.

11. Andrei’s Restaurant

Andrei’s Restaurant in Irvine stands out for its dedication to organic and local ingredients. Inspired by Andrei Olenicoff’s vision, this restaurant is a celebration of healthy, sustainable eating. It’s a spot where every dish tells a story of care and quality.

Since its opening in 2009, Andrei’s has focused on offering meals that are both tasty and good for you. Their menu is a mix of creative dishes, all made with the freshest ingredients from nearby farms. This approach to food makes Andrei’s a unique dining experience in Orange County.

The restaurant also supports a great cause. All of its net profits go to The Andrei Foundation, helping various charities. So, dining at Andrei’s means you’re enjoying excellent food and helping others at the same time.

You’ll find Andrei’s Restaurant in the bustling heart of Irvine. As such, it’s a convenient and rewarding stop for anyone exploring Orange County’s best restaurants. It’s a place where good food and good deeds come together, creating a dining experience that’s both enjoyable and meaningful.

12. The Black Trumpet Bistro Tapas & Wine Bar

Last up on our list of unique restaurants in Orange County is The Black Trumpet Bistro Tapas & Wine Bar, a family-run gem in the heart of Huntington Beach. This bistro stands out for its Mediterranean tapas and intimate, jazz-inspired atmosphere, offering a dining experience that’s both cozy and culturally rich.

Specializing in Mediterranean tapas, The Black Trumpet Bistro brings flavors from Italy, France, Spain, Greece, and Morocco right to the shores of Huntington Beach. The menu is a celebration of small plates, perfect for sharing and sampling a variety of tastes. From the house special risotto to truffle fries and tuna tartare, each dish showcases the bistro’s commitment to fresh ingredients and great recipes.

What makes this place truly unique is its ambiance. Dining at The Black Trumpet Bistro is like stepping into a jazz club, where the music and mood create a perfect backdrop for enjoying hearty food and engaging conversation. It’s an ideal spot for a low-key night out, whether you’re savoring a meal in their cozy dining room or indulging in their popular homemade sangria.

Located in Huntington Beach, The Black Trumpet Bistro is a must-visit for anyone looking for a unique place to eat in Orange County. Here, the vibrant flavors of Mediterranean cuisine blend seamlessly with the soulful rhythms of a jazz bistro, crafting an experience that’s not just a meal, but a memorable journey through taste and sound.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Unique Restaurants in Orange County, CA

Searching for more information to help you decide where to eat in Orange County? Here are some common questions (and answers) I get asked a lot about Orange County’s best restaurants.

What food is famous in Orange County?

Some of the famous foods in Orange County include:

  1. Mexican Cuisine: Thanks to its proximity to Mexico and a large Hispanic population, Orange County offers some of the best Mexican food in the United States. This includes tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and more, often found in both street-style taquerias and upscale Mexican restaurants.
  2. Vietnamese Cuisine: The city of Westminster in Orange County is home to Little Saigon, the largest Vietnamese community outside Vietnam. Here, you can enjoy authentic Vietnamese dishes like pho, banh mi, and various rice and noodle dishes.
  3. Seafood: Given its coastal location, Orange County boasts a variety of fresh seafood. Restaurants along the coast, especially in cities like Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, offer fresh catches of the day, sushi, and other seafood specialties.
  4. California Cuisine: Emphasizing fresh, local ingredients, California cuisine is well-represented in Orange County. This style of cooking often includes innovative and health-conscious dishes, with an emphasis on organic and locally-sourced produce.
  5. Farm-to-Table Restaurants: There’s a growing trend of farm-to-table dining in Orange County. Restaurants focus on sustainability and locally-sourced ingredients, offering seasonal menus that change based on what’s available locally.
  6. Avocado Dishes: California is known for its avocados, and Orange County is no exception. You’ll find avocados used in various dishes, from avocado toast to guacamole, and even in more innovative creations.

Can I find cheap eats in Orange County, California?

Absolutely! Orange County offers a variety of affordable dining options that don’t skimp on flavor or quality. Teddy’s Deli in Laguna Hills is a prime example. Known for its generous, flavor-packed sandwiches, it’s a perfect spot for a hearty meal without breaking the bank. Similarly, Patagonia Empanadas in the City of Orange brings the authentic taste of Argentina with its delicious and wallet-friendly empanadas. My personal favorite out of these two for cheap eats in OC is Teddy’s Deli. Their famous pastrami sandwich, priced reasonably, is unbeatable!

Flavorful delights at Patagonia Empanadas, a go-to spot for cheap eats.
Flavorful delights at Patagonia Empanadas, a go-to spot for cheap eats.

Where is the best fine-dining restaurant in Orange County?

When it comes to fine dining in Orange County, The Hobbit in Orange stands out. This restaurant offers a unique and luxurious dining experience that sets it apart from others. The Hobbit provides a multi-course meal spread over several hours, allowing diners to savor each dish and enjoy a leisurely, sophisticated evening. The ambiance, with its elegant decor, enhances the overall experience. It’s the perfect spot for special occasions.

Are there restaurants in Orange County with a view?

Here are some of the unique restaurants in Orange County with great views:

  1. Las Brisas (Laguna Beach): This iconic restaurant offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and is famous for its Mexican Riviera cuisine.
  2. The Beachcomber at Crystal Cove (Newport Coast): Located right on the beach, this spot offers a classic Southern California experience with views of the ocean and sand.
  3. The Rooftop Lounge (Laguna Beach): Situated atop La Casa del Camino hotel, this lounge offers panoramic ocean views and is a great spot for sunset cocktails.
  4. Duke’s Huntington Beach: Named after the legendary surfer Duke Kahanamoku, this restaurant provides a front-row seat to the Huntington Beach shoreline.
  5. The Harbor Grill (Dana Point): Located in Dana Point Harbor, this restaurant offers views of the marina and a selection of fresh seafood.
  6. The Deck on Laguna Beach: This open-air restaurant offers a casual dining experience right on the beach, with unobstructed views of the ocean.
  7. Pelican Grill (Newport Coast): Part of The Resort at Pelican Hill, this grill offers views of the golf course and Pacific Ocean.
  8. Mastro’s Ocean Club (Newport Coast): Known for its high-end dining experience, this restaurant provides spectacular ocean views, especially at sunset.

Which city in Orange County is the best for food?

Choosing the “best” city for food in Orange County, California, can be subjective as it depends on personal taste preferences and the type of cuisine you’re interested in. However, several cities in Orange County are renowned for their diverse and vibrant food scenes. Here are a few notable ones:

  1. Anaheim: Best known for being the home of Disneyland, Anaheim offers a wide range of dining options. The Anaheim Packing District is a food hall with a variety of artisan eateries. There are also numerous restaurants around the Disneyland Resort area. The city also has a growing craft brewery scene.
  2. Santa Ana: This city is known for its authentic Mexican cuisine, thanks to its vibrant Latino community. The 4th Street Market is a popular food hall with diverse offerings. Santa Ana also has a range of upscale restaurants and hip eateries.
  3. Costa Mesa: Often referred to as the culinary capital of Orange County, Costa Mesa boasts a high concentration of acclaimed restaurants. The South Coast Plaza area and the SOCO and The OC Mix complex are notable for fine dining and trendy cafes.
  4. Newport Beach: Known for its seafood and upscale dining, Newport Beach offers a variety of waterfront restaurants with stunning views. It’s a great place for fresh, high-quality seafood, as well as for international cuisine.
  5. Irvine: Irvine is known for its diverse population and, consequently, a wide array of international cuisines. It’s particularly renowned for its Asian food offerings, with many Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Southeast Asian restaurants.

Recap: Unique Restaurants in Orange County

Orange County’s unique restaurants are a treasure trove of flavors and experiences. Each restaurant we’ve explored offers something special. From the creative dishes at The Vox Kitchen to the homey feel of Teddy’s Deli, there’s always something new to try.

If I had to recommend just one place, it would be The Hobbit. Dining here is more than a meal. It’s an event that stays with you. The elegant atmosphere and the excitement of booking in advance make it a standout experience.

For great food that’s easy on the wallet, Teddy’s Deli and Patagonia Empanadas are top picks. And for something different, Cafe Hiro’s mix of cuisines is a fun surprise.

In Orange County, every meal is an opportunity for discovery, infused with that distinctive California charm. Whether you live here or are just visiting, these unique restaurants are worth exploring. So, get ready to explore the unique restaurants in Orange County, CA – your new favorite dish might be waiting just around the corner!

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