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New in Town

New restaurant openings in Fall 2014

Crowded lounge with blue lights

A&O Kitchen + Bar {Balboa Bay Resort, 1221 West Coast Highway, Newport Beach; 949.630.4285}

Well, it’s official: gastropub culture has officially made its mark on the Newport Beach restaurant scene. And good thing, because we sure do love that warm embrace of rustic wood accents, communal dining, and creative, handcrafted cocktails. Welcome to A&O Kitchen + Bar, the newest resident of Balboa Bay Resort. This restaurant (whose name stands for “Anchors & Oceans”) is grounded firmly on the water’s edge, so that friends can gather around the bar overlooking the harbor. An outdoor patio boasts comfortable rattan furniture and fire pits, perfect for accommodating guests any time of year. As for eats, expect hearty entrées like Steak Frites, shared plates like the Pork Belly Sliders, and “Popcorn and Pig” (caramel popcorn with bacon and peanuts). With handcrafted cocktails, beer from an eye-catching, ironclad centerpiece tap, and an impressive wine list, A&O ensures there’s something for everyone. balboabayresort.com

Tortilla Republic {480 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach; 949.393.4888}

This newest location of Tortilla Republic (from Owners Morten Kaag, John Halter, and Mina Azami) channels the colorful and exotic vibe of the original locations in West Hollywood and Kauai. Set in the inviting coastal community of Laguna Beach, the newest Tortilla Republic emphasizes a menu of Mexican dishes with a modern twist, created by Consulting Chef Cathy Shyne. Guests will feast upon small plates and entrées consisting of farm-fresh ingredients and organic foods. Exclusive dishes include Hibiscus Flower Enchiladas, Ancho Seared Salmon, and Short Rib “Chile Verde.” The lively bar offers handcrafted margaritas, cocktails, and tequila flights, all made with 100-percent blue agave tequila. Add to this the beautiful setting with two outdoor patios, a courtyard with a retractable roof, and picturesque ocean views, and you have all the makings of restaurant success. tortillarepublic.com

Mendocino Farms {450 East 17th Street, Costa Mesa; 949.548.2500}

If you’re into eating seasonally and locally, then you’re in luck. Mendocino Farms is on a mission to teach guests how to incorporate local produce into their everyday diets. They do this with a unique approach; namely by reconstructing the concept of fine dining at the sandwich level, with dishes like the Chicken MBT, made with local mozzarella, basil pesto, tomatoes, and roasted local free-range chicken breast on ciabatta. Then there’s the Drunk’n Goat on Highway 128—cranberry walnut bread stuffed with herbes de Provence-marinated Drake Family Farm’s goat cheese, French Brie, cranberry chutney, green apple, and Scarborough Farm’s greens. Countless more seasonal sandwiches, vegan specialties, and farm-fresh favorites showcase a commitment to Northern California and the “slow food” movement at its best, which is quickly becoming a local favorite. mendocinofarms.com

Oak Grill & Aqua Lounge {690 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach; 949.760.4920}

In July, Oak Grill & Aqua Lounge opened their doors, bringing a sense of casual sophistication and fresh, modern cuisine to Newport Beach. In an area where new restaurants and dining opportunities are blossoming every day, Oak Grill & Aqua Lounge brings a subtle elegance with approachable, high-quality cuisine. Executive Chef Marc Johnson and GM Miguel Rodriguez ensure that breakfast, lunch, and dinner items are served with impeccable polish and charm. Try a shared appetizer of Tandoori Spiced Ahi Tartare at Oak Grill before ordering Roasted Alaskan Halibut, Grilled Pork Chops, or Braised Short Ribs from their varied menu. Sharing the same space, Aqua Lounge offers a high-end social experience, with an expansive bar and alfresco dining on the patio. Enjoy a cocktail or California wine before or after dining at Oak Grill, or just come for a playful, stylish lounge experience. oakandaqua.com

Rancho Capistrano Winery {26755 Verdugo Steet #100, San Juan Capistrano; 949.393.4888}

It’s not every day that you meet someone who decides to leave a job of nearly 30 years to open a winery, and actually gets a taste of success. But Rancho Capistrano Winery Owner Kyle Franson is not your everyday winery owner. The recently-opened winery in San Juan Capistrano introduces the perfect way to enjoy California wine country without heading all the way to Napa and Sonoma. While being a polestar for local California varietals, Rancho Capistrano sources grapes both locally and internationally in order to create wines that are both representative of the region and interesting to aficionados the world over. Everything is blended, fermented, aged, filtered, and bottled in the Southern California facility. The resulting wines present ever-changing tasting opportunities, and the grand tasting bar, cozy lounge, and outdoor patio are inviting places to do so. What’s more, there’s a full-service kitchen on-site to sate the need for delicious bites between sips. ranchocapistranowinery.com

Anaheim Packing District {440 South Anaheim Boulevard, Anaheim; 714.635.1350}

If you yearn for a social dining experience packed with history, then check out the historic Packing District in downtown Anaheim. This restored citrus packing house has been completely re-created into a unique culinary gathering place, showcasing more than 20 different food producers and purveyors in a 42,000-square-foot space resembling a covered public market. Here, guests can experience unique culinary offerings from restaurants like Ecco, The Kroft, The Chippy Fish & Grill, Hans’ Handmade Ice Cream, Anaheim Brewery, and famed LA burger joint, Umami Burger, to name a few. Plus, the railroad car patio, indoor and outdoor live music venues, and an outdoor Farmers Park offer spaces for farmers’ markets, concerts, movies, private events, and festivals. Pack your appetite for fun, and you won’t be disappointed. packingdistrict.com

Watertable {Hyatt Regency, Huntington Beach Resort and Spa; 21500 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach; 714.845.4776}

Welcome to Watertable, the sophisticated, contemporary new gastrobar in the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach. Overlooking the spectacular Pacific, Watertable feels both rustic and refined, with modern American cuisine to tempt diners’ taste buds. “Our talented culinary staff and prestigious design team have placed their thoughtful stamp on the restaurant, creating a lively dining destination for Orange County residents and hotel guests alike,” says Paul Devitt, General Manager of Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa. The menu consists of American comfort dishes like the signature Seared Jumbo Scallops with a citrus reduction and cold-smoked heirloom tomatoes, as well as Spanish-style tapas like the Lamb Meatballs with mojo verde. With a world-class wine list, craft cocktails, local beer on tap, and naturally-infused fruit, syrup, and spice waters, Watertable offers intriguing libations as a nod to its moniker. watertablehb.com

Pirozzi {2929 East Coast Highway, Corona del Mar; 949.675.2932}

Craving authentic Italian fare? Vai a Pirozzi! Award-winning Chef Alessandro Pirozzi’s newest dining experience, this restaurant serves handcrafted pasta and pizza daily, with the help of a 900-degree wood-burning oven large enough to bake ten pies simultaneously. In the mood for an impossibly thin slice of prosciutto, or a ball of housemade mozzarella? Then belly-up to the prosciutto and mozzarella bar for a taste that will bowl you over. For dessert, try a scoop of house gelato. Keep an eye out for a lunch menu coming soon, as well as online ordering, making it even easier to get your Italian fix. pirozzicdm.com