Just because you don’t have time or funds to take a cross-country trip doesn’t mean you can’t discover a whole new world just beyond your backyard. Today’s
staycation foodcation spotlight focuses on some newer gems and old goodies that are must-visits in Orange County, California. The OC has really become a foodie destination in the last few years. There’s been an explosion of tasty food trends in the area, so let’s explore what you should eat!
Stop #1: Pizzeria Sapori
Sal Maniaci, the owner and chef of Sapori Ristorante, has served authentic Italian food in Newport Beach for more than 25 years. Sal and his staff are so passionate about pizza that they can talk about it for hours! But don’t worry, it’s not all talk at Sapori. It all comes down to the pizza, which is delicious. I tried five different pies (all for research, of course) and I can honestly say that Sapori is the best Neapolitan pizza I’ve had on the West Coast. The dough is fermented for 72 hours and ingredients (including the tomatoes) are imported directly from Italy. Even the wood-fired oven was imported from Naples. Any of the pizzas at Sapori will impress — even a simple marinara will change what you thought you knew about pizza, and the Neapolitan is delightfully thin and crispy along the edges. Each bite is bursting with flavor, but the dough does not expand in your stomach the way lower-quality pizza does.
Signature must-order pizzas include: Capricciosa with San Marzano tomato, artichokes, mushrooms, prosciutto cotto, house-made mozzarella, pecorino romano, basil, and extra virgin olive oil; Sapori with grape tomatoes, homemade mozzarella, grilled eggplant and zucchini, pecorino romano, and extra virgin olive oil; and Casertana with sausage, Italian rapini, and smoked mozzarella di bufala. Don’t forget the Nutella dessert pie topped with chocolate, whipped cream, and strawberries.
Stop #2: Burnt Crumbs
Burnt Crumbs is not your average sandwich shop. Everything from their meats to their sauces are all made in house. The most popular and Instagrammable dish is the Spaghetti Grilled Cheese Sandwich (above). Be prepared to get your hands dirty as you pull apart the spaghetti noodles, marinara, meat sauce, and fresh mozzarella cheese on the toasted sourdough bread. Another popular favorite is the fried chicken biscuit smothered in garlic potato spread, country gravy, and sriracha honey. If you’re an avocado fan, Burnt Crumbs does a solid smashed avocado with house ricotta. Grab a freshly brewed fruit purée sweet tea to wash it all down.
Stop #3: Ways & Means Oyster House
It’s not a vacation unless you’ve taken some Insta-worthy photos, and Lot 579 will not disappoint. Pacific City, which opened in fall of 2015, is an open-air mall that is located on prime real estate right across from the beach. The mall has a slew of shops and restaurants to check out, but the must-stop located inside Pacific City is the luxury food hall known as Lot 579. The food hall boasts a slew of unique fast-service restaurants, which serve up artisan handmade gelato popsicles, craft beer, Australian meat pies, and spaghetti grilled cheese sandwiches, among other delights. Most importantly, there are murals all over with foodie sayings and quirky, colorful backgrounds that every Instagrammer will appreciate.
Also located inside Pacific City, Ways & Means specializes in oysters. The menu is filled with uniquely dressed oysters such as the Paniolo, which are oysters topped with sweet and spicy bacon, bacon vinaigrette, pineapple jalapeño syrup, and bourbon brown sugar. There’s even a “Baller” oyster boat that is topped with a pound of king crab legs and a pound of Maine lobster. Once you’re done going through Ways & Means’ many oyster possibilities, don’t forget to get an order of their drool-inducing chowder fries. Made with herb French fries and clam chowder and topped with sweet and spicy bacon, these fries will hit all the right spots! Looking to try something different? Order the chorizo octopus with fingerling potatoes and then walk across the street and enjoy the beach!
Stop #4: Wursthaus
Downtown Santa Ana’s Fourth Street has gone through a complete revitalization in the last two years, bringing new food and culture to the area. Food halls and mom-and-pops line the streets, and there is no shortage of must-visit restaurants. One worthy must-do is Wursthaus. Enjoy a no-frills dining experience with a menu devoted to handmade sausages and draught beers of German and Belgian origin. Try a hot dog on a freshly made bun or on a pretzel roll or go all-out and choose from their exotic sausages like hickory smoked wild boar, duck and bacon with jalapeño, Santa Fe-style buffalo, lamb with apple and garlic topped with mint, or smoked alligator. Top off your sausage meal with an order of drunken Belgian fries topped with Wursthaus’ “haus” andalouse sauce, IPA-caramelized onions, and your choice of sausage.
Stop #5: The Rooftop lounge at La Casa del Camino
After a full day of non-stop eating, I checked into the historic hotel La Casa del Camino, which epitomizes Laguna Beach. The rooftop lounge has outstanding views of the Pacific Ocean with a nice cocktail list. Enjoy a grand OC sunset with a beautiful view of the beach. The rooftop lounge is known for its mojitos in seven flavors: classic, strawberry, mango, wild berry, tropical, Champagne, and ginger. The hotel, which originally opened in 1929, is a vintage Spanish-inspired hotel just steps away from the ocean. In addition to their vintage rooms, they have 10 one-of-a-kind suites dedicated to surf culture and decorated in collaboration with brands like Billabong, Rip Curl, Etnies, Roxy, Quiksilver, L* Space, and Lost.