Growing up in San Diego, trips throughout Southern California were my favorite ways to spend a weekend and one of my favorite destinations was Costa Mesa. To me, South Coast Plaza was (and still is!) the mecca of shopping in Southern California, and as a child I of course appreciated the close proximity to Disneyland as well. When Travel Costa Mesa reached out to invite me to check out their destination, I jumped at the chance to discover it from a new lens now as an adult (and foodie).
One fact I did not realize is that Costa Mesa truly is a foodie destination. Just a few awards & accolades include:
- 11 of the Top 75 Restaurants in Orange County in 2019 are in Costa Mesa according to the OC Register.
- Rand McNally named Costa Mesa in Best of the Road competition for Best in Food.
- Taco Maria was named one of the 31 Best Mexican Restaurants in America by Thrillist.
- Taco Maria’s Carlos Salgado is a four-time James Beard Award nominee.
- Food and Wine Magazine included The Crack Shack in its list of Best Fried Chicken the U.S.
- Bravo’s “Top Chef” Alum own and operate unique restaurants in Costa Mesa:
- Chef Amar Santana owns and operates Vaca and opening The Hall Global Eatery in 2019
- Chef Richard Blais opened The Crack Shack in Costa Mesa
- Chef Brian Huskey opened his second location of Tackle Box in Costa Mesa
To celebrate Costa Mesa’s culinary scene, Travel Costa Mesa is partnering with the Los Angeles Times for their second annual TASTE Food Festival on October 18th & 19th, 2019! At TASTE, attendees can enjoy unlimited tasting’s from the region’s best restaurants, chef demos, live entertainment, and more.
These are just a few of the participating restaurants at TASTE:
- Taco Maria, Carlos Salgado will do a Chef Demo
- Wahoo’s Fish Taco, Wing Lam (founder) will do a Chef Demo
- Mastro’s Steakhouse
- Filomena’s Italian Kitchen
- Black Market Bakery
- We Olive & Wine Bar
- Toast Kitchen & Bakery
To get your tickets to TASTE, follow this link. Additionally, there are a number of packages available including booking a 1-night stay at a number of Costa Mesa area hotels will get you two 1-day tickets to TASTE – a $200 value!
Keep reading below to see the highlights of my quick stay in Costa Mesa!
WHERE TO STAY
Avenue of the Arts Costa Mesa, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel
If you want a unique hotel experience in Southern California, be sure to check out the Avenue of the Arts Hotel – A 4-star Tribute Portfolio hotel from Marriott. Nestled in the heart of the Costa Mesa Art District, this hotel feels miles away from the congested Southern California environment. Our room overlooked a park with no streets in sight, making for a quiet, relaxing oasis. However, jump in your car and it’s a 2-3 minute drive to South Coast Plaza and a thriving restaurant and bar scene. I loved that we were so close to everything but were able to return to our quiet hotel.
And, of course, being in the center of the Art district, this hotel encompasses the vital art scene with beautiful and modern art throughout the premises. The hotel rooms have clean, modern lines with touches of mid-century modern.
WHERE TO DINE & DRINK
Seabirds Kitchen at The LAB
Seabirds Kitchen started out as a local vegan food truck and grew so popular, they opened up a restaurant a few years later. Their menu changes often and is based on seasonal offerings. They make everything in-house and their unique menu items made it hard to choose! You can come here several times a week and always find something new to try. I had the beet burger (one of their signature dishes). It was so filling and delicious. After one of these, you may swear off meat forever.
Located right in the middle of the Arts center, is Vaca, a restaurant with authentic Spanish cuisine and a long list of amazing tapas, everything from meats, seafood, and other traditional fare. We especially loved their craft cocktails, Vieiras a la Plancha, and Pulpo a la Gallega tapas!
I was really looking forward to our dinner at Taco Maria, and it did not disappoint! Fresh, 5-star local Mexican food – yes please! Chef Carlos Salgado is critically acclaimed, with a long string of awards and accolades. He was named Food & Wine Best Chef 2015, and a James Beard Award semi-finalist for Best Chef in years 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019!
We opted for the food and wine pairing. Each dish was perfectly matched with unique, boutique wines personally selected by the owners. The four-course meal included items such as Taco de Esturon made from smoked sturgeon, peanut, chile morita, cucumber. Or how about Campechana, a small plate of octopus, abalone, shrimp, cherry tomato and charred avocado. My favorite (and it was hard to pick) was the Mole de Cacahuate – Aspen skirt steak, peanut moles, cebollitas.
I’ve been hearing about this place forever and couldn’t wait to try their gluten-free (and vegan!) donuts. It’s a small donut shop in a non-descript strip mall, and the smell of fresh-baked donuts hits you as soon as you open the door. You can tell that everything is made fresh everyday and their commitment to making ‘The World’s Freshest Doughnut’ is spot-on. Their mission is to consistently use a “from the earth” approach in their sourcing of ingredients and after one bite of my donut, I totally agree!
Jan’s Health Bar
Because I am all about balance, we headed to Jan’s Health Bar for a healthy green smoothie and acai bowl to balance out our doughnuts!
Terrace by MixMix
What trip to Costa Mesa is complete without a visit to South Coast Plaza. We had lunch at Terrace by MixMix, an indoor/outdoor patio restaurant that was a great way to relax in between shopping. Since we we had Access Lounge access, we received a VIP package that included a free glass of wine with lunch. This restaurant specializes in light, small plates, using fresh locally sourced ingredients. I opted for the seared Ahi salad, which was accompanied by arugula, avocado and other fresh vegetables that was light and refreshing. Adding a glass of crisp white wine made for the perfect light lunch.
We went to Vitaly Café for a quick, healthy breakfast. They have an amazing selection of vegan and vegetarian options, numerous types of Avocado toasts and acai bowls. The owners, Maurizio and Barbara Cocchi, are from Italy and proudly make everything from scratch.
Located conveniently at our hotel, Silver Trumpet is the perfect spot to dine at pre-theater or to grab a cocktail at post-theater. Also if you are staying at the hotel, be ready for a real treat at breakfast! I tried the decadent Lobster Omelet, which was incredible.
WHAT TO DO
Segerstrom Center for the Arts
One of the big perks of staying at the Avenue of the Arts hotel is its proximity to the Costa Mesa Theater District. Just walk across the street and you are at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts with 4 performance venues, studio space, education lab, the South Coast Repertory theatre, the Arts Plaza, and Noguchi Sculpture Gardens. The Segerstrom Center for the Arts features Broadway plays, ballets, concerts, and more. It’s truly a beautiful space with something for everyone. During the summer, there are free outdoor concerts on the weekend.
Manis & Pedis at Lollipop Nail Studio
Not only is this nail studio adorable (interior design goals!), but it also offers non-toxic nail services. Try the Cali-Cure Manicure or Pedicure which uses CBD oil in the treatments!
Shopping at The CAMP
We loved shopping at The CAMP! This mixed-use development focuses on independent business owners, with a green and eco-friendly approach. We loved checking out local designers, as well as stocking up on designer goodies at 2nd Street!
VIP Status at the Access Suite at South Coast Plaza
Shopping at South Coast Plaza while in Costa Mesa is a must, so why not do it in style while enjoying the Access Suite. This lounge is accessible to those staying in Costa Mesa hotels and AMEX Platinum and Centurion card holders. We enjoyed champagne and snacks and a place to put our feet up! From there, shop till you drop at South Coast Plaza, home to more than 250 luxury and boutique shops.
No need to even leave the mall to relax, with Spa Nordstrom located right in the Nordstrom at South Coast Plaza. Request Samantha for a facial, and you will not be sorry!
Workout at Trim Fitness
Always wanting to get my workout in, we headed to Trim Fitness for a Lagree Pilates class and oh boy was it a workout! Trim Fitness also has XXX Climb classes which may only be 30 minutes but will sure pack in a punch!
Safe travels y’all!
Chelsea Rose Martin