Tustin, with a long history of agriculture that includes orange, apricot, and walnut groves, is also known as the City of Trees. While most of the orchards are gone because of urban growth, a rich history is still alive and well-preserved in several locations throughout the city. You can also find many fine examples of this heritage in Tustin restaurants.
Incorporated in 1927 by a carriage maker from Northern California, Tustin is also the home of two dirigible hangars. These blimp hangars, used during World War II and the Korean Conflict and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, are the largest wooden structures ever built. Tustin Legacy, designed around these hangars, comprises prime commercial, industrial, and residential development. Tustin Legacy provides a modern quality of life while remembering the past.
Many of the eateries in this Top 11 List are popular Tustin restaurants with a history of their own. Established in or around the oldest, most famous landmarks in town, all of these outstanding restaurants are situated in the heart of Orange County.
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Old Town Tustin
Tustin is one of the oldest historic towns in Orange County, with notable buildings dating back to the 1880s. They line Main Street and El Camino Real. If music and a fairyland of light-wrapped trees don’t lure you down the streets of Old Town Tustin, I’m sure these restaurants will.
The Best Authentic Italian Food in Tustin
611 El Camino Real // 714-544-0273
Roma d’Italia is Tustin’s first and original family-owned Italian restaurant. Dominic Corea, a master carpenter who helped build many of the buildings in Old Town Tustin, decided to buy a small Italian restaurant with his wife, Nina.
Dominic made the fresh bread early every morning, and Nina shared her family recipes and handmade desserts in the restaurant.
Creamy Alfredo, marinara, garlic and olive oil, white wine, creamy basil, meat, and marsala are all the sauces available for Roma’s Signature Pasta dishes. Whether you order angel hair, manicotti, or any other of the twelve kinds of pasta on the menu, you won’t be disappointed.
Chicken, veal, and fresh seafood, along with delicacies, pizza, hot sandwiches, salads, and specialty bread round out this extensive and authentic menu.
Recently, Roma’s introduced a new red wine on the menu. Rather than “sell” me on the taste, they brought samples of two wines so I could decide for myself. That’s what I call service!
Today, Dominic and Nina’s children and grandchildren run the restaurant. But you can still enjoy Nina Corea’s “Slice of Heaven” every day. The red-checked tablecloths and outstanding service make this a truly memorable Italian dining experience. You’ll be humming “That’s Amore” as you come out of this top place to eat in Tustin.
The Best Seafood Restaurant in Tustin
560 El Camino Real // 714-929-7427
Wondering where to eat in Tustin? Seafood and jazz are offered up on Thursday evenings at The Black Marlin where you can get a head start on the weekend. Live entertainment is scheduled Thursday through Saturday evenings and in the afternoon on Sundays.
The Black Marlin, Bar • Fish House • Grill, is located in the historic Tustin Garage, where customers got the full treatment in 1915. In addition to gasoline, motorists received a mini-service on their vehicles, including windshield cleaning. You can expect the same service today from The Black Marlin!
Seafood rules at this landmark Tustin restaurant. The Black Marlin will entice you with Chef Specialties like Pork Belly Brussel Sprouts, Blackened Rock Shrimp Risotto, or Rockefeller-style chilled oysters on the half shell. Or, you can order fried oysters and oyster shots.
Salmon fillet, ahi, trout, two different kinds of pasta, baby back ribs, steak, Surf ‘n’ Turf, and chicken are house specialties.
Gently seared on the outside, served on a bed of sautéed spinach and cranberry goat cheese polenta, the two jumbo scallops and two giant shrimp I ordered were extraordinary. I’ve never eaten such oversized, delectable seafood.
The ubiquitous oysters, and a wide range of omelets, sandwiches, soups, and fresh salads are offered on The Brunch and Lunch menus.
Happy Hour and the Senior Menu are married in the afternoons during the week with great prices on drinks and selected menu items.
Hand-crafted cocktails have international themes and animal names from dogs to mules. An extensive list of beers and wines is available by the glass or bottle. For a corkage fee (free on Mondays) and purchase of an entree, you can bring your wine (if it’s not offered at The Black Marlin).
You will be in sugar heaven if you indulge in the dessert menu. A Memphis Donut or crème brûlée is the perfect way to end your meal here.
The Best Bakery and Café
602 El Camino Real // 714-665-8239
Pastries and bread are the headliners at Cream Pan. Regularly, customers are queued out the door to procure these treats. Yoshinori Inada crafted his famous custard-filled strawberry croissants in 2002 and has been a mainstay in the Tustin restaurant scene ever since.
There is an energetic feeling when you walk into Cream Pan. Signs overhead and display cases filled to the brim allow for easy selecting.
Mountains of specialty pastries dusted with powdered sugar make your mouth water. Tarts, cakes, custards, and cookies are on the dessert menu. Then, there is the donut menu. Just imagine sitting down with the 12 pack of mini cream puffs!
In addition to sweets, however, they also offer several other savory pastries and rice dishes.
House-made brick bread comes in five styles. These oversized square loaves include premium white, whole wheat, sesame, Yama, and raisin. Other loaves of bread are offered as a baguette, Challah, ciabatta, multigrain, and walnut rolls.
If you cannot make up your mind about which sandwich to choose from all the options, the Sandwich Box is the right solution. It is a mix of ham, turkey, egg, and tuna precisely sliced and placed into the perfectly sized box.
Puffy steamed buns as big as a snowball surround delicate pork or chicken centers and are irresistibly placed near the checkout counter.
Be sure to order ahead, especially for the holidays, so that you won’t be disappointed. One visit to Cream Pan will keep you coming back for more; it’s definitely one of the best places to eat in Tustin.
Vegan/Vegetarian Restaurant in Tustin
158 W. Main Street // 714-731-9807
Are you looking for a healthy alternative to traditional restaurant dining? You don’t have to sacrifice taste when choosing vegan or vegetarian meals at Rutabegorz.
This popular health food restaurant in Tustin began serving customers in 1970. While it started as a hippie’s joint only serving coffee and desserts, they now boast a wide variety of seasonal specials, soups, salads, bagels, wraps, and sandwiches. They also serve beer, wine, and cocktails.
Seasonal Specials like the Mediterranean, Farmhouse, Southwest, and Chimichurri Bowls are either vegan or vegetarian. They are served with pita bread or without if you are gluten-free. And, you can add a protein such as chicken, shrimp, turkey, or vegan chick’n for an additional charge.
The giant gourmet veggie patty, made from quinoa, black beans, and corn, was bursting with flavor and served on a toasted burger bun. It also contained melted bleu cheese, BBQ sauce, French fried onion rings, lettuce, tomato, and avocado. The tastes blended so well and satisfied my craving for a burger.
With outside and inside dining, the casual atmosphere and eclectic ambiance create a vibrant and relaxing experience at this specialty Tustin restaurant.
One of the very few privately owned shopping centers on the west coast, Enderle Center still embraces the ambiance of small-town shopping. Harking back to Herman Enderle, who came to Orange County in 1892, the property is home to several popular Tustin restaurants.
Home to antique classic car shows, regular summer entertainment, and holiday events, Enderle Center is a popular venue year-round.
The Best Contemporary and Eastern Mediterranean
17440 17th Street // 714-838-8855
Upscale chic defines this legendary eatery. Zov Karamardian founded the family-run Bistro and Bakery in 1987. Because of her artistry, Zov’s has become a culinary institution with an award-winning bakery, cooking classes, catering, and more.
Always on the menu is the Mediterranean traditional Mezze. Choices include delicious and creamy hummus, lebni, tabouli, babaganoush, muhammara, or red pepper feta dip. The Mezze Platter consists of a sampling of the items above and is also served with stuffed grape leaves, Armenian string cheese, fresh vegetables, marinated olives, and warm pita bread.
Other Mediterranean-influenced dishes include Rosemary Lamb Chops, Kebobs, and Zov’s Famous Golden Lentil Soup. There are an Artisan Charcuterie Board and other contemporary appetizers, as well as the mouthwatering Moroccan Salmon Salad with m’jadarah (lentils and rice) and tangy balsamic dressing.
Ridiculous Sunday, Salted Caramel Budino, and Campfire Cake are just three scrumptious desserts from which to choose on the Dessert Menu. Or, you can order the Gelato Trio. However, if these don’t tempt you, then make your way to the Bakery.
Individual works of art make the dessert case a must-see in Zov’s Bakery. Every eye-catching choice is exquisitely designed and presented.
Daily happy hour and live music that is performed on Friday and Saturday evenings. With cocktail specialties and an extensive beer and wine list, you will be glad you found Zov’s restaurant in Tustin.
The Best Clam Chowder
17260 E. 17th Street // 714-573-1077
Hot mesquite broiling is the secret preparation for seafood at The Crab Cooker. The goal of this top place to eat in Tustin is to find the best seafood to serve their customers. And, you see that achievement when you walk in the door and see all the fresh, luscious seafood in the display case to buy and take home.
The first Crab Cooker restaurant opened in Orange County in 1951, and their Tustin location opened in 1992. This family-owned and operated restaurant specializes in the finest Pacific-caught Dungeness crab, Alaskan red king crab legs and Alaskan killer crab claws, King Salmon, locally caught White Sea Bass, Alaskan halibut, and Mahi Mahi. You can view many kinds of fresh seafood in the case at the front of the restaurant and buy them to take home.
Every day at 7 a.m. they fill the vat with the ingredients for their famous clam chowder. Their secret recipe includes potato, tomato, green bell pepper, onion, and a generous number of clams. If you are in the neighborhood, you can catch the scent of mesquite wafting in the air throughout Enderle Center.
My favorite dishes at The Crab Cooker are the Romano Potatoes – creamy mashed potatoes with cheese; the hand-kneaded Fisherman’s Bread; and, of course, a bowl of Clam Chowder.
Retro casual dining is the experience offered here, with the earthy style of eating off paper plates, a paper placemat, and using plastic utensils. Maybe not elegant, but for sure one of THE places to eat in Tustin.
The Best Japanese Sushi Bar
17582 17th Street, #103 // 714-838-2300
Uoko Japanese Cuisine consistently receives high ratings for food, service, value, and atmosphere. Uoko is the place for traditional sushi, kappo (culinary arts), and Japanese cuisine in a restaurant in Tustin.
Appetizers include shrimp and vegetable tempura, steamed dumplings, calamari, seaweed salad, soybeans, and miso soup.
Sushi and sashimi, ordered by the piece on a paper menu, includes tuna, shrimp, eel, mackerel, roe, scallop, yellowtail, octopus, and crab. Very creative hand rolls made with pressed seaweed and decorative greens can be spicy or crunchy.
Sitting at the sushi bar is always entertaining. I enjoy watching the careful and precise preparation of the fish and rice while sipping on hot sake. Dishes are typically ordered and served one at a time, which allows you to savor the experience.
For those folks who prefer their food cooked, meat teriyaki dishes are on the menu along with Udon and Soba noodle bowls and hot pots.
On a recent visit, a young man sitting next to me ordered his favorite, fish cheeks, from the menu. When a 15-year-old orders fish cheeks, you know they have to be good.
Desserts include custard and my favorite, green tea ice cream — a time-honored way to wrap up a traditional meal at this Tustin, CA restaurant.
The District at Tustin Legacy
Celebrating history with a commitment to the future, The District at Tustin Legacy offers many superb dining opportunities. Two of my favorites are listed here.
The Best Upscale Wine Bar
2647 Park Avenue // 714-258-7600
The subdued and sophisticated interior at The Winery is a perfect setting for a business meeting, a wine tasting, or a birthday celebration. Exemplary service and creative presentation of the California regional cuisine have earned accolades and awards for the ten-year-old wine bar and restaurant.
Based on a wine-country culinary experience, the wine program lays claim to 650 wine selections stored in climate-controlled cellars. When deciding on a wine pairing with a meal, the wait staff guides and provides a sample to aid in the process.
The California regional cuisine consists of Fruits of the Sea like tuna, oysters, crab legs, and shrimp. Add to that appetizers such as pork belly lollipops, salads, prosciutto-wrapped shrimp, wild mushroom and blue cheese flatbread, and an appealing charcuterie artisanal cheese board makes for an exciting meal.
The regular menu includes entrees from the ocean and the land, grilled or slow-braised, and even includes a cauliflower steak for vegan diners.
Nightly specials, however, offer a walk on the wild side with wild game or fowl. It could be New Zealand venison, elk, buffalo, alligator from Louisiana, rabbit, pheasant, quail, squab, or partridge.
We enjoyed seared Opah, a Hawaiian fish, which was one of the nightly specials. The fish served over a bed of spinach, with mini potatoes, pea pods, and a butter sauce was topped with microgreens. We paired it with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc that had a memorable finish.
If you are looking for a lively and classy dining experience in Tustin, you will find it at The Winery.
Tustin’s Best BBQ
2550 Park Ave. // 714-259-1227
Regional influences reign supreme at Lucille’s. From Hatch to St. Louis, and all along the southern U.S. border, BBQ meats and sides reflect the culture and flavors that have become so popular.
Hatch, New Mexico, is the origin of the distinctive green chilis used in the seasoning added to Lucille’s pulled pork and garlic fries.
The savory Hatch Green Chili Garlic Fries, a Premium Side, are fragrant and spicy –a French fry lover’s dream. Another Premium Side includes a lightly-spiced Cauliflower Rice served in a small pot and is quite delicious. I added both of these to my Three Meat Bar-B-Que Combo along with Baby Back Ribs which are tender, meaty, little pork ribs, lean and juicy St. Louis Spareribs, and Pulled Pork.
Lucille’s famous homemade biscuits, complimentary with every meal, are a great way to start. Flaky and warm, served with apple butter, they also make a sweet dessert, if there are any left.
You can celebrate the South with Southern Fried, Mardi Gras, or Nashville Hot Chicken. Bayou Cajun Shrimp, Jambalaya, New Orleans Gumbo, and Southern Fried Catfish & Shrimp make you feel like you are on the Bayou, all while you are sitting in one of Tustin’s best places to eat.
For a hearty and flavorful meal, Lucille’s is hands down a Tustin favorite restaurant.
The Best Brewhouse in Tustin
13011 Newport Avenue, Suite 100 // (714) 665-BEER (2337)
For casual dining and an outstanding collection of craft beers and brewing on-site, this sports bar is the place to be, especially on game days. Weekly specials, All Night Happy Hours, Mug Club Mondays, and Taco Tuesdays are just a few of the reasons to party here.
The Draft List of beers On Cask, On Nitro, and for Growler Fills includes cider from Oregon and a stout and a cider from Colorado. All the remaining drafts on the menu hark from California. There is a lager from San Clemente, a specialty wood-aged beer from Huntington Beach, and IPAs from Santa Rosa, Escondido, and San Diego. Tustin Brewing Company offers a porter, wheat beer, pale ales, IPAs, and stout.
An extensive menu selection of starters will keep you happy while you sample the craft beers and enjoy a game on the big screen TVs.
The regular menu boasts traditional American beer bar favorites like fish and chips, fish tacos, burgers, sandwiches, and pizza. On a recent visit, we decided to try something different, though.
My husband ordered the Sausage Platter, and I ordered the Golden Spike Linguini. We shared, of course, and we were delighted with both meals. The plump, grilled sausages accompanied by tart sauerkraut, red potatoes, and tangy whole-grain mustard were the perfect complement to my vegetarian pasta. There were equal shares of tomatoes, artichokes, spinach, and pasta in the dish, so it wasn’t heavy at all. It was topped with a light butter sauce and shredded parmesan.
If you are looking for a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere with great food, look no further than Tustin Brewing Company, one more of the best restaurants in Tustin.
The Best Greek Food in Tustin
13011 Newport Avenue // 714-731-6600
This award-winning restaurant, serving authentic Greek cuisine since 1996, is an accurate representation of Greece. Homemade meals are made fresh daily in the kitchen of family-run Christakis Greek Cuisine. This caring and attention to detail speak to the authenticity and integrity the family brings to your dining experience. The ambiance and décor are inviting, like being welcomed into a little Greek home.
Typical mezes like hummus, tzatziki, kopanisti, calamari, spanakopita, and dolmades are on both the lunch and dinner menus.
Salads, with or without chicken and lamb, can be ordered with olive oil and vinegar or their amazing thick house dressing of Greek yogurt, spices, and crumbled feta cheese.
Because I couldn’t decide between several of the entrees, fortunately, they offer the Christakis Combo. It includes two lamb chops, pastitsio (imported macaroni, seasoned ground beef, and baked with béchamel sauce and shaved cheese), and dolma (grape leaf stuffed with ground sirloin, rice, and herbs with a lemon dill sauce). I recognized the soft and delicate flavor of nutmeg, which was very pleasing.
Of course, no Greek meal would be complete without a traditional piece of baklava. Honey, ground nuts, spices, and filo dough go into this delectable creation.
Live Mediterranean-style music on Wednesday evenings and live European-style music Thursdays through Saturday evenings cultivate the feeling of being in Europe and a Greek home.
A remarkable number of Old World white and red wines hailing from Greece, Spain, and France fill their award-winning wine menu. Red and white wines from California and Oregon vintners are served from their New World wine list.
If you want to feel the warm and authentic spirit of Greece, you will find it at Christakis.
Which of these restaurants in Tustin do you most want to try? Let me know in the comments section below!
Julie Diebolt Price is a professional photographer, educator, travel writer, and journalist. She helps corporations and solo entrepreneurs establish their brands with imagery and business training. She educates and mentors aspiring photographers. As a journalist who loves to travel, she creates memorable experiences and shares them with words and pictures. Learn more at linktr.ee/PhotoTravelWrite.