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Eat Your Way Through Orange County

10 reasons why Costa Mesa should be your next dining destination
Photo: Courtesy of Travel Costa Mesa
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Looking to explore a fresh dining scene for your next long weekend getaway? Costa Mesa, California, should be on your radar.

Located in the heart of Orange County, this restaurant haven is packed with more high-caliber dining than some cities twice its size. From mouthwatering soup-infused dumplings to modern Mexican, and everything in between, here are 10 places to eat, drink, play, shop and stay on your trip, courtesy of our partner, Travel Costa Mesa.

1 EAT: Vaca

Photo: Courtesy of Travel Costa Mesa

Starstruck by celebrity chefs? Head to Vaca, the hot, new restaurant run by Season 13 runner-up of Top Chef season 13 runner-up Amar Santana. This pan-Spanish tapas restaurant serves shared plates, along with dry-aged steaks and a killer Spanish wine list. So take some friends and be sure everyone’s hungry.

2 EAT: Din Tai Fung

Photo: Courtesy of Din Tai Fung

The Costa Mesa outpost of this authentic Taiwanese place draws massive crowds with its delicate, ethereal xiaolongbao—soup dumplings. See your favorite dishes being made right before your very eyes. You’ll soon understand why the New York Times once called the original location one of the 10 best restaurants in the world.

3 EAT: Taco María

Photo: Courtesy of Travel Costa Mesa

Michelin-starred chef Carlos Salgado serves up what he calls "Alta California cuisine," a modern combo of Mexican and American culture. A Food & Wine Best New Chef 2015, Salgado also impressed Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold: Taco María ranks number two on Gold's 2015 list of best restaurants. Don't miss the aguachile with Hokkaido scallops, cucumber, citrus, serrano and herbs.

4 EAT: Old Vine Café

Be sure to hit up the Old Vine Café, a local favorite, on your way back to the airport. Try the creamy porcini mushroom mac and cheese or sautéed sea scallops for the perfect OC dinner. Chef Mark McDonald even serves seasonal variations on breakfast favorites like sugar-dusted French toast, hearty omelets and more.

5 DRINK: Leatherby's Café Rouge

Photo: Courtesy of Travel Costa Mesa

Leatherby’s is the premier place for pre-theater drinks. Located in Segerstrom Center for the Arts, the restaurant offers tasty snacks, refreshing cocktails and full pre fixe meals in theatrical themes ranging from Mamma Mia to The Nutcracker.

6 DRINK: Mesa

Photo: Courtesy of Platform Media Group

When you’re ready to rub elbows with the beautiful people, head to Mesa. The retractable roof makes it a fantastic late-night gathering spot, and the signature cocktail list is mind-blowing. Be sure to try the O'mai Captain, complete with aged rum, ginger, fresh OJ and toasted pumpkin seeds.

7 SHOP: South Coast Plaza

Photo: Courtesy of Travel Costa Mesa

From culinary to couture, South Coast Plaza is a can't–miss stop in Orange County. The world–renowned shopping destination is made up of more than 250 fashion retailers and home to a variety of irresistible restaurants. A perfect place to indulge in more ways than one.

8 PLAY: ST Pâtisserie Chocolat

Chef Stéphane Tréand is one of the few people in the United States to boast a Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) master craftsman certification, and it shows in his chocolates. Head to his pâtisserie to sample luxurious gelatos or check out the Stéphane Tréand Pastry School just next door to learn about the art of dessert making. Don't leave without grabbing a box of truffles to take home.

9 PLAY: SOCO and The OC Mix

For a little retail therapy, SOCO and The OC Mix have all kinds of restaurants and gourmet gift shops, from Portola Coffee Lab to Savory Spice Shop to The Cheese Shop. You can hit up a wine tasting at LCA Wine or stop by for an olive oil tasting at We Olive, an OC Mix staple.

10 PLAY: Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Photo: Courtesy of Travel Costa Mesa 

Expand your palate with the theatrical and musical offerings at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. From beautiful art installations placed throughout the campus to rotating Broadway shows and a host of other award-winning performances, it’s clear to see why Costa Mesa is known as the City of the Arts™.

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