Grabbing a bite to eat has never been such a difficult task as it is in Costa Mesa. With so many amazing and unique options for food and drinks choosing where to eat is no easy feat. No matter what you are looking for, Costa Mesa restaurants are incredibly diverse and full of flavor inspiration from all around the planet.
I’ve teamed up Travel Costa Mesa to bring you this post detailing my favorite foodie finds from my recent visit to the city to help them promote their new Eatcation campaign.
One thing that I quickly noticed and had to adapt to- many of the best restaurants in Costa Mesa are located in malls and shopping centers. Even the Michelin star restaurant that I dined at was in a shopping mall!
But, given that Costa Mesa is home to South Coast Plaza — the largest shopping mall on the West Coast, it’s not a surprise that there’s heavy mall culture to be found in Costa Mesa.
Also, you’ll notice many of the best Costa Mesa restaurants are located in three specific shopping centers- CAMP, LAB and SoCo Collection. As you eat your way through Costa Mesa you’ll become very familiar with these three spots.
We took a look at some of the best local spots in Costa Mesa so you and your taste buds can start making reservations. Let’s dig in!
The 22 Best Restaurants in Costa Mesa
2937 Bristol Street || +1 714-617-4888
Folks has an ever-evolving menu that changes seasonally meaning you always have a reason to go back. However, they do keep some of the fan favorites on the menu year-round.
Order a salad to start out your meal but be ready for a full stomach because the salad’s at Folks are very large. We had the chopped salad as an appetizer and three of us sharing it couldn’t finish it.
My favorite dish (that is available all year) was the meatballs with Sunday gravy. The slow simmered sauce has bits of brisket, chicken thighs and pork cheek in it. Thankfully they serve an amazing crusty bread to sop up the last of the sauce- you’re not going to want any of it to go to waste!
The Italian sausage pizza is also another classic that brings a little taste of Europe all the way to California. The naturally leavened dough had the perfect chew to it, the sauce tasted fresh and tangy and I loved the big pieces of Italian sausage.
Folks also carries a nice selection of natural wines to go along with your meal.
3313 Hyland Avenue || +1 949-284-0609
For a little bit of charm and shopping, check out We Olive & Wine Bar for a unique blend wines and oils for you to try out and enjoy.
Try some oils from various olive blends and enjoy some locally created wine while you get ready for dinner or as a break in shopping.
They offer small glasses and let you make your own flight if you are just stopping by. The convenient location is right next to Taco Maria inside the SOCO shopping center. I created my own wine flight while I waited for my table to become ready at Taco Maria.
3313 Hyland Avenue || +1 714-538-8444
If you are looking for one of the best Mexican restaurants Costa mesa has to offer, then you will be blown away by Taco María.
Taco Maria is one of only two restaurants in Costa Mesa to have received a Michelin star, the other being Hana re sushi bar, which I hope to be able to try on my next visit.
This buzzing spot is always busy and has an exciting atmosphere with plenty to look at and take in. If you’re dining alone be sure to ask for a seat the bar so you can see the chefs in action. It was something akin to synchronized swimming the way the chefs called out orders, fired up dishes and perfectly plated each dish.
The menu is semi-prix fixe meaning that there are 4 categories with 2 options in each category for you to choose from. Since it is a Michelin starred restaurant I went all out and chose the 4-course dinner with the wine pairings. I found the price to be reasonable at $84 for the four courses and $42 to add the 4 wines. $126 for a 4-course wine dinner from a Michelin star restaurant isn’t bad at all.
Some of my favorite dishes of the night were the Dungeness crab tostadas and striped bass served with fingerling potatoes in an anchovy sauce.
As a (half) Mexican person living in Mexico, it’s oftentimes difficult to impress me with Mexican food but Taco Maria managed to do it!
Pro tip: You’ll want to call for reservations well in advance.
1767 Newport Boulevard || +1 949-873-5075
For the diner looking to satisfy their sweet tooth, there is no better spot than Fill Bakeshop.
You may have to wait in a line that often goes out the door, but that’s easily justifiable with Fills Hawaiian style donuts that have a very unique texture for a satisfying bite. The unique texture comes from donuts being made from a mix of rice flour and traditional pastry dough.
The result is a donut with a chewy texture unlike any other donut that I’ve ever tried. Unique flavors and toppings include Thai tea Butterfinger, jasmine milk tea, strawberry shortcake and cookies and cream.
Fill’s is always playing with their menu and in fact were debuting the Thai tea Butterfinger the day of our visit meaning we were some of the first ever people to try it!
Donuts are made fresh daily and the store stays open until they sell out, which they often do.
1215 Baker Street Suite A || +1 714-852-3772
Almost nothing beats a classic milkshake on a warm day and The Straw has found the perfect recipe to appease your hunger.
These milkshakes were voted to be the best in America by Travel & Leisure and just one look at their stunning presentation makes it easy to see why!
This is another Costa Mesa restaurant where the menu is always changing and being updated so you can try out a new and exciting shake with every visit.
Menu options include The Bangkok Betty with mango and coconut cream that was inspired by the popular Thai mango sticky rice dessert or the Campfire that might take you back to your childhood as it contains roasted marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers.
The Straw also has a line of adult/boozy milkshakes and craft beers.
2937 Bristol Street || +1 714-545-1411
This stylish and cozy bar offers something for every wine lover to try out. You can try wine by the glass to see what is catching your attention or stop by to pickup a bottle of one of your favorites.
A nice salad will be the perfect complement to their bloody Mary’s and stopping by for brunch is always a great idea with the outdoor seating option adding to any weekend morning.
Brunch menu items I’m dying to go back and try include the lengua (beef tongue) omelet, rabbit mole, or the omelet with slow cooked goat meat.
If you’re not feeling that adventurous you could try the southern brunch (biscuits with pancetta gravy – yes please), the pizza omelet or the savory baked French toast.
The dinner menu not only has 4 different 4 course tasting menus for you to choose from (original, Italian, vegan and vegetarian) but also a wide range of dishes including swordfish belly, Indonesian shrimp curry, grilled lamb chops and pulled duck leg.
2930 Bristol Street || +1 657-247-5222
No Costa Mesa food tour would be complete without a stop to LA Brisket for some melt in your mouth meat.
LA Brisket has something for everyone from classic brisket to a more modern brisket bowl over rice paired with California slaw to please any diner. I don’t typically love slaw but the California version had purple cabbage and a light vinaigrette rather than mayonnaise. I loved this version!
Carnivores will be pleased to know LA Brisket serves all-natural meat with every order and has plenty of sandwiches for the diner looking for a quick lunch. LA Brisket also sells meat by the pound and half-pound for carryout.
750 St Clair Street || +1 714-754-1944
If you are looking for a diverse breakfast spot that offers a great mix of options, Roosters is a great spot to grab some breakfast with a small café feel.
This Costa Mesa breakfast restaurant has plenty of healthy options like scrambled eggs, sausage, and avocado with a variety of menu options offering exciting blends of flavors and sizes for every eater.
They also have heartier dishes like their huge breakfast burrito that I tried. It was stuffed with scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, cheddar cheese and your choice of bacon or Portuguese sausage. This would be a great hangover meal to soak up last nights libations!
If you are looking for something a little more adventurous, try out the Elvis sandwich which is a slice of French toast topped with peanut butter and bananas with a drizzle of chocolate and powdered sugar to top off the ultimate sweet-lovers breakfast.
436 E 17th Street || +1 949-722-9453
Dive bars all around America have inspired many other restaurants and Wild Goose is trying to bring back some old-fashioned neighborhood vibes to Costa Mesa.
There is always plenty of nightlife at the Wild Goose and the food will keep you around all night as you try some of what they describe as “elevated pub grub”.
Favorites include the wild boar corndog poppers or bison chili. Come on Tuesday’s and you’ll even find $2 tacos.
Other menu items that caught my attention were the Nashville hot chicken sliders, the short rib grilled cheese or some seriously impressive burgers I saw being delivered to the table next to ours.
Wild Goose takes what we all love about dive bars and brings them into the 21st century with flavor and options galore.
428 E 17th Street || +1 949-287-5292
An excellent atmosphere with plenty of Mexican spice to liven up the mood, Playa Mesa makes any night a blast with great energy and people to enjoy a meal or drink with.
Playa Mesa’s Mexican chef and staff are committed to preserving authentic dishes. Menu inspiration came from both coastal Baja and mainland Mexico and draws from the chef’s personal travels throughout Mexico.
Playa Mesa’s menu features options such as shrimp enchiladas, mussels in a lamb broth, crispy fish tacos and honey beer battered squash blossoms. Also, be sure to start your meal with the Mexican street corn- it’s the best I’ve ever found outside of Mexico!
Regular readers know about my love of mezcal and Playa Mesa has a bar stocked with an impressive mezcal selection. My bartender was very knowledgable about the mezcals they had behind the bar and walked me through selecting a mezcal I had never tried before.
Playa Mesa brings some of the best flavors from Mexico right to your plate in California.
2930 Bristol Street || +1 714-556-0176
Grabbing a bite to eat for brunch can be an exciting and unique experience at Habana.
Their brunch had an impressive array of options and a great aesthetic. The Sunday brunch buffet options give you the freedom to eat whatever you feel like and has plenty of unique options to expand your tastes.
Plenty of seafood (even paella!) and made to order omelets ensure that no guest leaves with an empty stomach and the bottomless mimosas are always a nice bonus.
3333 Bristol St #1073 || +1 714-619-5688
Not many places to eat in Costa Mesa offer a traditional Japanese meal, but Marugame Udon has everything you’ll want for a reasonable price.
The traditional Udon is excellent and gives you a unique blend of flavors normally found across the Pacific.
The menu isn’t massive, but whatever you order will be an exciting experience and the efficient staff will have you taken care of in no time. This is great because you can often find an intimidating line snaking out of the place.
But, not to worry, Marugame has it down to a science. Get in line and place your order and you’ll be assigned a table as you make your way down the line collecting your udon and whatever tempura dishes to go along with it.
By the time you reach the end, pay and dress your udon your table will be ready.
This makes a great alternative to waiting for a table at Din Tai Fung, which is located directly above Marugame. Or, you can do like we did and put your name on the waitlist at Din Tai Fung (they text you 15 minutes before your table is ready) and have a bowl of udon before going upstairs for the famous dumplings!
3333 Bristol Street (located inside South Coast Plaza) || +1 714-549-3388
An internationally renowned name, Din Tai Fung offers you some of the best Chinese food in Costa Mesa.
You’ll want to make a reservation beforehand, but even if you don’t it is absolutely worth the wait.
The Pork Xiaolongbao buns are an essential starter to any meal
and the pork fried noodles are a great second course.
The gorgeous interior design and convenient location makes this spot a great option after a long day of shopping.
3321 Hyland Avenue Suite F || +1 949-500-5561
ARC would be my go to restaurant for a first date or romantic night out. The lovely atmosphere and lighting comes to life at night and is the perfect location for a date night with plenty of ambiance.
The wood-fired oven and grill gives each dish a little extra something to the bite and keeps the whole place smelling amazing throughout the night.
Plenty of drinks and dishes make this a location you’ll never want to leave once you are settled in.
Must try dishes are the award winning massive to the point of being intimidated burger
and the premium steaks.
2937 Bristol Street Suite A101B || +1 714-850-1780
Blending the atmosphere of an upscale bar with the fun of a chemistry lab, the Wine Lab makes for a fun evening with great food and more wine than you know what to do with.
Come for the bottle or try out the test tube wine options that let you find just the taste you want for your perfect wine.
Tapas and cheese help the wine go down and the atmosphere will have you trying every wine on the menu without even realizing what time it is.
3333 S Bristol Street || +1 714-557-5679
Cost mesa food options are plentiful and AnQi offers an exciting upscale Asian cuisine that is sure to impress.
The interior design is nothing short of breathtaking and transports you to the heart of Asia with décor and design that is truly unique.
The menu offers a premium take on traditional Asian dishes with garlic noodles being locally famous.
No matter what you order, the atmosphere alone will be enough to make the experience worth the trip and leave you wanting to come back soon.
296 E 17th Street || +1 949-645-7626
Just as the name suggests, Mi Casa hopes to make you feel comfortable and at home whenever you stop by.
Try some chili rellenos or any number of tacos or enchiladas for a tasty meal in a welcoming environment. Come during happy hour and mingle with the locals for a great time and great chat.
If you are feeling a little adventurous at the end of your meal look for the churros for a tasty treat that will leave you wanting more the second you finish your plate.
633 Anton Boulevard || +1 714-546-7405
Finding a steakhouse in Costa Mesa just got a lot easier with Mastro’s steakhouse offering an upscale dining experience for the steak lover.
Even the walk into the restaurant feels fancy with the gorgeous ceiling décor captivating you as you walk in.
The meals on offer are plentiful and the cuts of meat are unlike any other in the area.
For an extra special dining experience, you can book a special room with a direct view into the kitchen to see behind the scenes.
2981 Bristol St Suite B-2 || +1 714-957-8626
Umami burger offers a great casual burger joint with plenty of personality for the diner looking for a nice lunch option.
The cool interior design features several posters that make the room feel more alive and the buns come with a logo burned into them for some added photo potential.
The burgers come in a very neat package and look very appealing on the plate that goes great with some fries or a salad.
2937 Bristol Street || +1 714-641-5010
This stylish little Vietnamese joint offers a great mix of flavors and options to the diner looking to try some Vietnamese style cuisine.
This spot offers everything from authentic Vietnamese noodles to bahn mi sandwiches so that everyone can find something they like on the menu.
Try variations on traditional Vietnamese food that has been adapted and evolved into a very unique and appealing style that offers a unique shock of pleasure to the pallet.
2937 Bristol Street || +1 714-884-3717
Taco Asylum has a great atmosphere and aesthetic going on that makes it feel unique and quirky in all of its own ways.
The custom taco trays and interior design that has plenty of variety always leaves you appreciating something new about the experience with every trip.
Try any number of tacos and stop by the bar for a wide variety of drinks to keep you locked up all night.
1767 Newport Boulevard || +1 949-873-5057
Toast is a kitchen and bakery that brings some southern style to California with a very pleasing and upscale twist.
Every dish looks like it was plated specifically for Instagram and there is plenty of passion in the meals.
The Nashville Hot Chicken over biscuits was delicious but heavy for sure- this would be another great hangover dish or something to share with a friend.
The lomo saltado offers a unique take on the classic Peruvian dish and the Thai chilaquiles is a Thai-Mexican fusion that the locals can’t get enough of.
Must-Try Costa Mesa Breweries-
Nothing is quite as satisfying as enjoying a cold beer that is being brewed right next to your table.
Breweries are a great option for some additional ambiance to your dining experience and there are several outstanding breweries located within walking distance of both CAMP and the LAB.
Gunwhales has many great in-house ales and IPA options. Their hazy and west coast IPA’s offer a nice refreshing end to any warm Californian day.
I also was able to try Salty Bear’s hazy citrus IPA. It was maybe my favorite beer I had during my time in Costa Mesa. The citrus was light and crisp but the hoppiness balanced it all out perfectly.
Which of these restaurants in Costa Mesa do you most want to try? Let me know in the comments section below!
Disclaimer: This post was produced in collaboration with Travel Costa Mesa. All opinions remain my own, as always.