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David’s guidebook

David

David’s guidebook

Food scene
If you're a foodie, you will want to take notice of the recommendations here. If you're fine with just good food or a good atmosphere, then there are some suggestions for you here as well. The ones for "foodies" will highlight the food in the descriptions. The other ones will highlight other good features about them. None of these places are outrageously expensive and all of them have reasonable options on their menu that can be quite reasonable. I'll list that on my review whenever possible.
This is a family-run restaurant with Latin American inspired dishes. Sure to please a discriminating palate. All natural fresh ingredients on drinks and food. If you're on a budget, get the "Emapanadas de Viento." for $15. It is really enough for one person to eat as a dinner, unless you're a big eater. A great shareable item is their "Queso Fundido." It is just spicy enough to feel good and not burn you out. Also, one of their house margarita's is enough for one person! If you have two, you will really feel it! You need reservations for this place unless you don't mind waiting for an hour. The bar only sits about 8 people, so if it's just two of you, it's worth taking a chance when you don't have a reservation. Unfortunately, lots of other people do the same thing.
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Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen
141 South Glassell Street
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This is a family-run restaurant with Latin American inspired dishes. Sure to please a discriminating palate. All natural fresh ingredients on drinks and food. If you're on a budget, get the "Emapanadas de Viento." for $15. It is really enough for one person to eat as a dinner, unless you're a big eater. A great shareable item is their "Queso Fundido." It is just spicy enough to feel good and not burn you out. Also, one of their house margarita's is enough for one person! If you have two, you will really feel it! You need reservations for this place unless you don't mind waiting for an hour. The bar only sits about 8 people, so if it's just two of you, it's worth taking a chance when you don't have a reservation. Unfortunately, lots of other people do the same thing.
Good vegan options in a meticulously restored space from the 1920's. Great coffees, tea and pastries. A hipster hangout with additional locations in Laguna Beach, Beverly Hills, Melrose, Santa Monica, ... you get the picture.
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Urth Caffé
100 W Chapman Ave
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Good vegan options in a meticulously restored space from the 1920's. Great coffees, tea and pastries. A hipster hangout with additional locations in Laguna Beach, Beverly Hills, Melrose, Santa Monica, ... you get the picture.
Casual Baja-Style Mexican food. Their menu features soft corn tortillas that are GMO-free, infused with herbs and spices from their in-house Tortilleria Organica It's hard to find these tasty, freshly prepared dishes in many places and nowhere else can they be found at such a great value. The Taco Alambre is a sure hit as well as the Calamari or Shrimp tacos. They serve beer, wine and Margarita's too! If you want to splurge, share their cheese flan. It's rich, that's why you need to share it. If you like great-tasting, fresh food that wont break the bank, you will be very pleased here.
Taco Mesa
3533 E Chapman Ave
Casual Baja-Style Mexican food. Their menu features soft corn tortillas that are GMO-free, infused with herbs and spices from their in-house Tortilleria Organica It's hard to find these tasty, freshly prepared dishes in many places and nowhere else can they be found at such a great value. The Taco Alambre is a sure hit as well as the Calamari or Shrimp tacos. They serve beer, wine and Margarita's too! If you want to splurge, share their cheese flan. It's rich, that's why you need to share it. If you like great-tasting, fresh food that wont break the bank, you will be very pleased here.
Unique Yucatan flavors you won't find anywhere else in Orange County. A bit more adventurous than it's sister restaurant, Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen. Truly a great experience. For a reasonably priced meal, get the Panuchos Cochinita Pibil for $14. It makes for a great light meal for one person. The slow roasted pork on this is amazing! Another option for an inexpensive light meal is the Huaraches for $13. The Chorizo is my favorite one. Full entrees are $24 to $92.
Chaak
215 El Camino Real
Unique Yucatan flavors you won't find anywhere else in Orange County. A bit more adventurous than it's sister restaurant, Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen. Truly a great experience. For a reasonably priced meal, get the Panuchos Cochinita Pibil for $14. It makes for a great light meal for one person. The slow roasted pork on this is amazing! Another option for an inexpensive light meal is the Huaraches for $13. The Chorizo is my favorite one. Full entrees are $24 to $92.
Great for a fast good-tasting, juicy hamburger or ahi-tuna sandwich. Not fancy, but very convenient.
The Habit Burger Grill
2777 North Main Street
Great for a fast good-tasting, juicy hamburger or ahi-tuna sandwich. Not fancy, but very convenient.
If you enjoy great steaks and like the idea of sharing meals, you will love Arc. There are a couple of items that you must get regardless of the main entree you'd like. These are their Wedge salad and the Cornbread. They are not like anything you have ever had before. The small salad would be good enough for two people. Their large one is enough for 4. However, their Cornbread you will find you won't want to share. And there's no need to get butter for it, trust me on that.
Arc Food & Libations
3321 Hyland Avenue
If you enjoy great steaks and like the idea of sharing meals, you will love Arc. There are a couple of items that you must get regardless of the main entree you'd like. These are their Wedge salad and the Cornbread. They are not like anything you have ever had before. The small salad would be good enough for two people. Their large one is enough for 4. However, their Cornbread you will find you won't want to share. And there's no need to get butter for it, trust me on that.
This is a great place to go to have drink and watch the sunset. The place is a bit pricey, but it's less than 15 minutes from the apartment and well worth the view. I have not eaten dinner here, other than a couple of apps. So I cannot speak for the food.
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Orange Hill Restaurant
6410 East Chapman Avenue
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This is a great place to go to have drink and watch the sunset. The place is a bit pricey, but it's less than 15 minutes from the apartment and well worth the view. I have not eaten dinner here, other than a couple of apps. So I cannot speak for the food.
Great hamburgers and shakes with fabulous views. They have a wide variety of hamburgers and shakes that are filling and tasty. You sit outside and admire the view over the cliffs of the Pacific. Parking is limited, so when you pull up, there may be a line of cars waiting to get it. Just wait behind all the cars until it's your turn to park. It goes quick enough.
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Crystal Cove Shake Shack
7703 East Coast Highway
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Great hamburgers and shakes with fabulous views. They have a wide variety of hamburgers and shakes that are filling and tasty. You sit outside and admire the view over the cliffs of the Pacific. Parking is limited, so when you pull up, there may be a line of cars waiting to get it. Just wait behind all the cars until it's your turn to park. It goes quick enough.
This is a "see and be seen" place with lots of beautiful people. The food is good and the atmosphere is very lively. There are a lot of drinks being poured, so the place gets louder the later it gets. There are some high rollers here every night, so don't leave your confidence at home. In the same Crystal Cove Shopping Center, there's another place that's similar but more intimidating and it's called Maestro's. The food is amazing there, but quite pricey. I've only been there once.
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Javier's Restaurant - Newport Beach
7832 Pacific Coast Highway
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This is a "see and be seen" place with lots of beautiful people. The food is good and the atmosphere is very lively. There are a lot of drinks being poured, so the place gets louder the later it gets. There are some high rollers here every night, so don't leave your confidence at home. In the same Crystal Cove Shopping Center, there's another place that's similar but more intimidating and it's called Maestro's. The food is amazing there, but quite pricey. I've only been there once.
This is a place for great fresh, organic Mexican food. Their calamari tacos are fabulous as are any of their fish tacos. Try their Agua Fresca for a refreshing fruit drink. They have a few locations, but, in my opinion, this hole in the wall one is the best. It's a hole in the wall in Laguna Beach, so the wall it's in is pretty pricey real estate! This is a casual, sit outside, no we don't have a bathroom onsite kind of place. As such, the prices are very reasonable. So the food is way worth it.
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La Sirena Grill
347 Mermaid Street
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This is a place for great fresh, organic Mexican food. Their calamari tacos are fabulous as are any of their fish tacos. Try their Agua Fresca for a refreshing fruit drink. They have a few locations, but, in my opinion, this hole in the wall one is the best. It's a hole in the wall in Laguna Beach, so the wall it's in is pretty pricey real estate! This is a casual, sit outside, no we don't have a bathroom onsite kind of place. As such, the prices are very reasonable. So the food is way worth it.
This is an inexpensive place to go for savory food. It is not fancy and the shopping center is not the best. But the food is a very good value. A great option is the Tom Ka Gai soup, which is very savory and has lots of chicken. An order of that with rice will set you back about $11 and it's plenty for two people.
Bangkok Taste
2737 N Grand Ave
This is an inexpensive place to go for savory food. It is not fancy and the shopping center is not the best. But the food is a very good value. A great option is the Tom Ka Gai soup, which is very savory and has lots of chicken. An order of that with rice will set you back about $11 and it's plenty for two people.
Neighborhoods
There are many architecturally beautiful homes from the 20's and 30's just a short bike ride or walk from our Cozy Studio. Start by going out on Baker and make left to go south towards Sharon. Then walk towards Flower Street and make a right. Once you're over the short bridge you'll be in the Floral Park neighborhood. The homes from the 20's and 30's are mostly to the left. Wander about to see many beautiful gems. Be sure to get to N Victoria Dr where you'll see massive estates from that era. Several famous individuals have lived in some of the homes.
Floral Park
There are many architecturally beautiful homes from the 20's and 30's just a short bike ride or walk from our Cozy Studio. Start by going out on Baker and make left to go south towards Sharon. Then walk towards Flower Street and make a right. Once you're over the short bridge you'll be in the Floral Park neighborhood. The homes from the 20's and 30's are mostly to the left. Wander about to see many beautiful gems. Be sure to get to N Victoria Dr where you'll see massive estates from that era. Several famous individuals have lived in some of the homes.
The Circle of Orange is a throwback to the 1950's with an antique car store, tons of coffee shops, restaurants, and some antique stores, and beautiful center fountain to absorb it all. There are also several artsy and preppy college students from Chapman University.
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Олд Таун
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The Circle of Orange is a throwback to the 1950's with an antique car store, tons of coffee shops, restaurants, and some antique stores, and beautiful center fountain to absorb it all. There are also several artsy and preppy college students from Chapman University.
My favorite places to enjoy nature
Small and somewhat secluded beach with an an awe-inspiring natural setting. Amazing rock formations, tide pools with marine life, places to sit and read a book in the shade provided by the cliff behind you or in the sun sitting on a rock listening to the crashing waves. To get to it, park near the corner of Poppy and Ocean in Corona del Mar. Then walk towards the overlook on that corner and go down the walking ramp towards the beach. When you get to the beach, walk towards the right as far as you can. Ideally, you would want to go towards a lower tide so you can walk further out. Parts of it are not accessible during high tide.
Little Corona del Mar Beach
Small and somewhat secluded beach with an an awe-inspiring natural setting. Amazing rock formations, tide pools with marine life, places to sit and read a book in the shade provided by the cliff behind you or in the sun sitting on a rock listening to the crashing waves. To get to it, park near the corner of Poppy and Ocean in Corona del Mar. Then walk towards the overlook on that corner and go down the walking ramp towards the beach. When you get to the beach, walk towards the right as far as you can. Ideally, you would want to go towards a lower tide so you can walk further out. Parts of it are not accessible during high tide.
Free Sightseeing
Southern California is filled with beautiful places to see, explore and experience. This is a list of those items Martha and I have particularly enjoyed. There are plenty more. Everything here is at a cost of $5 or less for the entire family. I list them as free because compared to Disney, that IS free!
35-Minute Drive - This is a hidden secret. A great place to bring you picnic, sit at a table on a high perch and enjoy a beautiful sunset over Catalina Island. If you're discreet, you can pop open a bottle of California wine and no one will mind - after all, we ARE in California. You can park your car at the public parking lot for $3 or free across the street. The street being Pacific Coast Highway. The meandering walk to the spot with the picnic table, takes you along a path with breathtaking ocean views, beautiful flowers and an occasional bunny or two - particularly in the spring time. The guest at the Montage enjoy this for $600+ per night. Although you can't use their amenities, you can enjoy the natural beauty and a nice meal with an amazing view for the cost to park your car.
Treasure Island Park
35-Minute Drive - This is a hidden secret. A great place to bring you picnic, sit at a table on a high perch and enjoy a beautiful sunset over Catalina Island. If you're discreet, you can pop open a bottle of California wine and no one will mind - after all, we ARE in California. You can park your car at the public parking lot for $3 or free across the street. The street being Pacific Coast Highway. The meandering walk to the spot with the picnic table, takes you along a path with breathtaking ocean views, beautiful flowers and an occasional bunny or two - particularly in the spring time. The guest at the Montage enjoy this for $600+ per night. Although you can't use their amenities, you can enjoy the natural beauty and a nice meal with an amazing view for the cost to park your car.
25-Minute Drive - The amazing thing about this place is that it's totally free and all you need to do is bring some snack to eat, which you can buy at the Trader Joe's right behind you! This truly is an amazing spot to watch the sunset. There are two sets of Adirondack chairs facing the water on the Trader Joe's side of the Shopping Center parking lot. Look for them at the edge of parking lot closest to Pacific Coast Highway just north of Maestro's restaurant. Get there about 20 minutes before sunset to guarantee a spot. But they often are empty. The fact that it's there free to enjoy is what makes this place so surprising.
Crystal Cove Shopping Center
7845 - 8085 East Coast Highway
25-Minute Drive - The amazing thing about this place is that it's totally free and all you need to do is bring some snack to eat, which you can buy at the Trader Joe's right behind you! This truly is an amazing spot to watch the sunset. There are two sets of Adirondack chairs facing the water on the Trader Joe's side of the Shopping Center parking lot. Look for them at the edge of parking lot closest to Pacific Coast Highway just north of Maestro's restaurant. Get there about 20 minutes before sunset to guarantee a spot. But they often are empty. The fact that it's there free to enjoy is what makes this place so surprising.
30-Minute Drive. Go across the waterway from Balboa Island to the Newport Beach peninsula. The cost for a car and 2 people is about $3 or just $1 per person without a car. It only takes about 3 minutes to go across and about 5 to 10 minutes to get on the ferry. There's plenty to see and do on both sides of the ferry stop. The Newport Peninsula has arcades, restaurants and shops.
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Balboa Island Ferry
410 Agate Avenue
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30-Minute Drive. Go across the waterway from Balboa Island to the Newport Beach peninsula. The cost for a car and 2 people is about $3 or just $1 per person without a car. It only takes about 3 minutes to go across and about 5 to 10 minutes to get on the ferry. There's plenty to see and do on both sides of the ferry stop. The Newport Peninsula has arcades, restaurants and shops.
25-Minute Drive. Pretty homes, shops and great views! You can walk around the entire west side of the island in about 30 minutes. Take the sidewalk that is to the right as you go across the bridge to enter the island. The sidewalk meanders between the homes and the water. You'll see cute beach cottages next to huge multi-million dollar homes with fabulous architecture. Walk along Marine Avenue to enjoy some cute shops, grab a cup of coffee or visit Bluth's Original Banana Stand that was ground zero for the "Arrested Development" sitcom. Parking can be a challenge on weekends. If it is, park on mainland and take the very pleasurable walk across the bridge to get to the island.
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Balboa Island
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25-Minute Drive. Pretty homes, shops and great views! You can walk around the entire west side of the island in about 30 minutes. Take the sidewalk that is to the right as you go across the bridge to enter the island. The sidewalk meanders between the homes and the water. You'll see cute beach cottages next to huge multi-million dollar homes with fabulous architecture. Walk along Marine Avenue to enjoy some cute shops, grab a cup of coffee or visit Bluth's Original Banana Stand that was ground zero for the "Arrested Development" sitcom. Parking can be a challenge on weekends. If it is, park on mainland and take the very pleasurable walk across the bridge to get to the island.
25-Minute Drive - There are about 4 fountains in this open-air shopping mall. The one next to Pain Du Monde and the one by Nordstrom are great to sit, enjoy a coffee and sometimes live entertainment or just watch the world go by. You'll see lots of beautiful people and world travelers along with plenty of dogs with their humans on leashes. There's a beautiful Koy pond that you don't want to miss. There are two food courts (an indoor and an outdoor one) and plenty of specialty shops like the Tesla and Cadillac stores. Catch a great view of the ocean and Catalina Island from the top of the outdoor escalator next to Macy's. Parking is free and there's a plenty of affordable shops, not just expensive ones.
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Newport Center/Fashion Island
401 Newport Center Drive
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25-Minute Drive - There are about 4 fountains in this open-air shopping mall. The one next to Pain Du Monde and the one by Nordstrom are great to sit, enjoy a coffee and sometimes live entertainment or just watch the world go by. You'll see lots of beautiful people and world travelers along with plenty of dogs with their humans on leashes. There's a beautiful Koy pond that you don't want to miss. There are two food courts (an indoor and an outdoor one) and plenty of specialty shops like the Tesla and Cadillac stores. Catch a great view of the ocean and Catalina Island from the top of the outdoor escalator next to Macy's. Parking is free and there's a plenty of affordable shops, not just expensive ones.
40-Minute Drive. This is a lovely marina with several picnic spots, restaurants, shops and beach with calm waters called Doheny State Beach. Many whale-watching trips leave from this marina. The picture shown here is at the top of the cliff that overlooks the marina. You get there by car on a steep-incline road. There's an information center, nature trail and public bathroom there. It's well worth the 40-minute drive.
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Dana Point Harbor
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40-Minute Drive. This is a lovely marina with several picnic spots, restaurants, shops and beach with calm waters called Doheny State Beach. Many whale-watching trips leave from this marina. The picture shown here is at the top of the cliff that overlooks the marina. You get there by car on a steep-incline road. There's an information center, nature trail and public bathroom there. It's well worth the 40-minute drive.
40-Minute Drive. This is a great place to pack a picnic lunch, sit high up on grassy hillside and watch the surfers. There's a fast food place by the beach, if you prefer that.
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Salt Creek Beach
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40-Minute Drive. This is a great place to pack a picnic lunch, sit high up on grassy hillside and watch the surfers. There's a fast food place by the beach, if you prefer that.
90-Minute Drive. This is a great place to enjoy all the sea-lions and bird sanctuary. You can also enjoy the beach here during the summer months. Keep in mind that this area tends to be a bit cooler so it's good to bring an extra layer. You can get quite close to these beautiful and interesting creatures. However, be mindful not to try to feed them or get to close. This is not permitted and they can get quite aggressive if you do.
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La Jolla Cove
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90-Minute Drive. This is a great place to enjoy all the sea-lions and bird sanctuary. You can also enjoy the beach here during the summer months. Keep in mind that this area tends to be a bit cooler so it's good to bring an extra layer. You can get quite close to these beautiful and interesting creatures. However, be mindful not to try to feed them or get to close. This is not permitted and they can get quite aggressive if you do.
Sightseeing
OVERNIGHT TRIP - This is laid-back island life with some great hiking. There are Jeep tours, where buffalo sightings are common, zip-lining, water-sports and much more. The ferry rides take about an hour each way (cost is about $80 RT, PPP) and the drive to a marina to catch the ferry is between 20 and 40 minute. So the round-trip would likely take you about 3 to 4 hours depending on wait times. For that reason, this should be an overnight trip with a one-day stay on the island.
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Santa Catalina Island
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OVERNIGHT TRIP - This is laid-back island life with some great hiking. There are Jeep tours, where buffalo sightings are common, zip-lining, water-sports and much more. The ferry rides take about an hour each way (cost is about $80 RT, PPP) and the drive to a marina to catch the ferry is between 20 and 40 minute. So the round-trip would likely take you about 3 to 4 hours depending on wait times. For that reason, this should be an overnight trip with a one-day stay on the island.