Where to Eat in Orange County in 2020: A Map of the Best Places

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Main News Photo

(Orange County Register)

For the previous five years, this guide has served as an adventurous scavenger hunt, a bucket-list ranking of the 75 best places to eat in Orange County.

But 2020 changed the way we eat, so this year’s installment is a bit different. This moment calls for a more utilitarian approach.

We’re all hungry for normalcy. But as much as we might crave a normal restaurant routine, that’s not happening. Not yet. Takeout still feels like the smartest solution for many people right now. And while many others may be eager to dine out again, that doesn’t mean we’re ready to be lingering indoors for hours on end with a hundred maskless strangers.

I’ve spent much of the year ordering takeout, so I’ve dedicated a good chunk of this guide to the best of what I’ve discovered along the way, like the extraordinary crispy tacos and shrimp aguachile from Taco María in Costa Mesa. Or the exquisite curbside tasting menus from Marché Moderne in Crystal Cove. Or the truly peerless tom yum with freshwater prawns at Thai Avenue in Garden Grove. But also a wide range of kabobs, dumplings, ramen, pizza and so much more. 

This certainly wasn’t the ideal year to open a new restaurant. Nonetheless, a handful of restaurateurs plowed forward with new projects despite the odds being stacked against them. We’ll end 2020 with far fewer openings than usual, but what we’ve gotten thus far has been a small but remarkable collection of new places that everyone will eventually want to venture out and try.

If there’s been a silver lining to this strange and difficult year, I am thrilled to have so many new options for dining outdoors. Patios have sprung up in parking lots, hidden backyards, neighboring courtyards and on sidewalks throughout the county, many of them surprisingly charming. Date night awaits.

There are 80 restaurants in this year’s guide. These are by no means the only good places to eat in Orange County, but they are my favorites for this moment.

Best Places to Eat in Orange County in 2020


Category: Business News, Travel and Tourism, Destination Irvine