Food & Drink

The Best Brunch Spots in the OC

Published On 06/02/2016 Published On 06/02/2016
Taps

TAPS

Irvine and Brea

The closest OC gets to a Vegas-style upscale buffet is TAPS. The food quality is impeccable, and the choices will make your plate overflow more than your waistline. Its specialty is seafood, so you will find high-end ocean options like freshly shucked oysters and poke. But if you prefer hot breakfast, it has all the traditional choices, like eggs Benedict, and hot, gooey cinnamon rolls. The inclusive buffet also includes your choice of sparkling wine, mimosas, or two glasses of house-brewed beer.
 

Chapter One

Santa Ana

Located in the Downtown Santa Ana Artists Village, Chapter One has one of the most energetic brunches in Orange County, thanks to a house musician who will often pull up guests who have had a couple extra mimosas for a Johnny Cash duet. Whether or not you’re a singer, you should eat “The Hash...Yo,” made with salmon, sweet potato corn hash, poached egg, and toast. Like something sweeter? Then you should hit the bananas Foster-stuffed brioche French toast. Not full yet? Get the Monkey Balls for dessert.
 

Plums Cafe

Plums Cafe

Costa Mesa

Plums Café is a not-so-secret hidden gem known for Pacific Northwest-inspired dishes, like “campfire trout,” which comes with eggs, Oregon pepper bacon, and potatoes, and the Dutch Baby -- a monstrous, deep-dish pancake that’s a must-order for the table.
 

Break of Dawn

Laguna Hills

Break of Dawn was founded by chef Dee Nguyen, who was the sous chef at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel. His food at BOD is creative and up to the standards of that chain’s fanciest brunches. The dishes are modern, with a subtle flair of Vietnamese flavor. The bacon and eggs, for instance, sounds deceptively simple; in fact, the eggs are tempura flash-fried (!!) and served with house-cured pork belly, kimchi spiced crema, and potatoes. The beef brisket is equally impressive, made with a beef tongue ragu, king oyster mushroom, and merlot poached eggs.

Stacks Pancake House

Stacks Pancake House

Mission Viejo

This Hawaiian restaurant serves a melting pot of east and west flavors joined in the aloha style. The homey cafe is best known for its gigantic, melt-in-your mouth banana macadamia nut pancakes, served with homemade coconut syrup, and the self-explanatory Captain Crunch French toast. But the savory items are equally delicious. The kalbi & eggs combo literally is a serving of Korean-style kalbi short ribs with eggs, served with a side of pancakes. Come hungry.

Tacos Ensenada

Lake Forest

Tacos Ensenada is the sort of no-fuss brunch spot where you can show up in your pajamas and they will still welcome you like family -- especially if your family happens to speak Spanish. Lots of people order lunch for breakfast here, and it’s not the wrong choice: the menudo is a specialty, and goes great with a 30oz Tecate bottle. If you still feel like eggs, order the chile verde and ask for a side of eggs over easy. Boom.
 

Grits

Grits

Fullerton

This Southern comfort food spot does unique dishes like a “Pork Cheek Benny," which is an interpretation of eggs Benedict, but made with jalapeño grits, poached egg, and Hollandaise sauce on top. Other fun items include a Dr. Pepper pork shank, and the crispy chicken skins served with bacon jam, all of which go great with the curated craft beers or five-day cold-brew coffee.

Taco Maria

Taco Maria

Costa Mesa

Chef/owner Carlos Salgado is one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs of 2015 and is a 2016 James Beard Award semifinalist, so it’s no surprise that brunch at Taco Maria is a refined affair. It's served as a three-course prix-fixe, with starters including the bean-topped bread dish moletes, and entrees including chilaquiles with mole-soaked chips, hanger steak, fried egg, and cotija.
 

Old Vine Cafe

Old Vine Café

Costa Mesa

This woodsy restaurant’s menu is split into sweets, savory, and deserts, which means essentially breakfast dessert options (baked pumpkin French toast), omelets (smoked salmon; goat) and specialty dishes like the Southern staple, scrapple, served with panko-crusted green tomatoes.

Las Brisas

Las Brisas

Laguna Beach

Las Brisas is an Orange County dining institution that overlooks the Pacific Ocean from the heights of the Laguna Beach cliffs, with brunch that comes in two forms, depending on the day you visit. The buffet, served Monday through Saturday, includes the compulsory waffle and omelet stations and classic favorites like eggs Benedict, as well as more unusual options like picadillo beef crepes and Mexican lasagna. But if you want the real deal, hit the Sunday plated brunch: the four-course meal includes Champagne and freshly baked pan dolce, as well as entrees like crepes de Laguna, filled with spicy scallops, shrimp, fish, and a velvety citrus velouté sauce.
 

SideDoor

Corona Del Mar

This sort of Game of Thrones-ish gastropub’s food isn’t medieval. It has a fried chicken & buttermilk waffle dish that is one of the most popular items on the brunch menu, and a prime rib sandwich that uses the same prime rib from the fancier Five Crowns restaurant next door, so you can expect a flavorful and juicy sandwich.

Orange Hill Restaurant

Orange Hill Restaurant

Orange

Sipping your mimosa in this rustic setting while overlooking Catalina Island will make you feel like you are on vacation. Aside from the basic buffet waffle, omelet, and carving stations, it also offers a fresh seafood selection, as well as low-cholesterol and gluten-free sections (are you sure this isn’t LA?). If you don’t want to buffet, it also has à la carte brunch, with items such as rib-eye steak & eggs and bananas Foster-style French toast.
 

Cha Cha's Latin Kitchen

Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen

Brea

Cha Cha’s is known mostly for happy hour, but don’t knock its late, Latin-jazzy brunch. Starting at 11:30am on weekends, you can get the $24 brunch special, which includes endless chips & salsa, the choice of a Bloody Mary or mimosa, salad, and a choice of entrée, including fresh manila clams and a stuffed quesadilla. Regardless of what else you get, also order the queso fundito, which is muy, muy bueno.

Cafe Mimosa

San Clemente

Cafe Mimosa is less than a mile from the beach, and set in a former house, with tables on the patio that provide a cool ocean breeze with your French-influenced food. Options include the “Oeufs en Meurette,” -- red wine poached eggs with beef bourgeon, and seven different Benedicts, ranging from the classic ham guy to a lobster option.

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1. TAPS Fish House & Brewery The Market Place, 13390 Jamboree Rd, Irvine, CA 92602

The closest OC gets to a Vegas-style upscale buffet is TAPS. The food quality is impeccable, and the choices will make your plate overflow more than your waistline. The cajun-creole menu offers fresh seafood like Drunken Mahi Mahi and Whole-Roasted Branzino. And if you prefer hot breakfast, it has all the traditional choices, like eggs Benedict, and hot, gooey cinnamon rolls.

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2. Chapter One: The Modern Local 227 N Broadway, Santa Ana, CA 92701 (Orange County)

Located in the Downtown Santa Ana Artist's Village and housed in an ex-book store, this global eatery supplies a rotating menu of eclectic dishes, such as duck fat fries, yakisoba stir-fry, fish and chips, goat cheese fritters, and burgers. And along with great cocktails, Chapter One also has one of the most energetic brunches in Orange County, thanks to an energetic house musician creative eats. Highlights include the “The Hash…Yo,” (made with salmon, sweet potato corn hash, poached egg and toast) and bananas foster stuffed brioche French toast

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3. Plums Cafe 369 E 17th St, Costa Mesa, CA 92627 (Orange County)

Known for its Pacific Northwest/Oregon-inspired dishes, this not-so-secret hidden gem in Costa Mesa boasts menu options like the crunchy albacore tuna sandwich, salmon BLT, and a number of artisan cocktails... with favorites being the PDX mojito (made with raspberries) and "Pain Reliever:" pineapple, OJ, rum, coconut, mutmeg, and mint). For brunch, get the The Dutch Baby -- a monstrous, deep dish pancake.

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4. Break of Dawn 24291 Avenida de La Carlota, Laguna Hills, CA 92653 (Orange County)

Founded by the former sous chef at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel (Chef Dee Nguyen), Break of Dawn offers a creative, modern menu with a subtle flair of Vietnamese flavor. For instance, the seemingly standard bacon and eggs actually features tempura flash fried eggs, house-cured pork belly, kimchi spiced crema, and potatoes. The beef brisket is similarly altered: beef tongue ragu, king oyster mushroom, and merlot poached eggs.

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5. Stacks Pancake House 27680 Marguerite Pkwy, Mission Viejo, CA 92692 (Orange County)

This popular Mission Viejo breakfast and lunch spot goes far beyond pancakes with its creative, cosmopolitan menu, which acts as a melting pot of East and West flavors. Alongside the famous macadamia nut pancakes and Captain Crunch French toast, Stacks supplied Hawaiian loco moco, Japanese fried rice omelettes, Korean kalbi ribs, French crepes, and, of course, American-style eggs Benedict.

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6. Tacos Ensenada 24601 Raymond Way, Ste 1, Lake Forest, CA 92630-4460 (Orange County)

This no-fuss joint in Lake Forest is known for its hearty Mexican fare and house-made salsas. Tacos Ensenada offers a comprehensive menu full of breakfast tacos, burritos, and tortas, along with mariscos, seafood tostadas, and vegetarian options. For brunch, try the weekend-only menudo -- a traditional soup made with a broth of beef stomach and a red chili pepper -- that goes great with a 30oz Tecate.

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7. Grits Fullerton 133 W Chapman Ave, # 102, Fullerton, CA 92832 (Orange County)

Toting Southern comfort food, Grits exists "because Fullerton dining needed a kick in the ass." Dinner highlights include biscuits and bone marrow, bacon cornbread, and blue crab tostadas, along with a constantly rotating tap of American beers. For brunch, guests can try unique eats like the “Pork Cheek Benny," which is an interpretation of eggs Benedict, but made with jalapeño grits, poached egg, and Hollandaise sauce on top.

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8. Taco Maria 3313 Hyland Ave, Costa Mesa, CA 92626 (Orange County)

Helmed by James Beard Award nominee Carlos Salgado, Taco Maria is a refined, Mexican-American restaurant in Costa Mesa. The four-course prix-fixe dinner that rotates regularly based on Salgado's freshest finds is the main draw, and for good reason. Expect clever and unique dishes like sturgeon tacos, roasted chile with Dungeness crab and potatoes, and English peas with bacon.

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9. Old Vine Café 2937 Bristol St #A102, Costa Mesa, CA 92626 (Orange County)

This cozy, woodsy spot supplies a decadent menu that's split into sweets, savory, and deserts, which means essentially breakfast dessert options (baked pumpkin French toast), omelets (smoked salmon; goat) and specialty dishes like the southern-staple scrapple, served with panko-crusted green tomatoes. Dinner features a number of Italian options, like eggplant burrata, hand-made gnocchi, sautéed sea scallops, and an impressive wine list.

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10. Las Brisas 361 Cliff Dr, Laguna Beach, CA 92651 (Orange County)

This Orange county institution is known for its Mexican seafood options and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Alongside chef's specials like snapper veracruzano, shrimp tampiqueños, and 10 speciality margaritas, Las Brisas also offers a popular Sunday Brunch that comes in two forms, depending on the day you visit: a buffet (featuring compulsory waffle and omelet stations) and a four-course, plated meal that includes champagne and freshly baked pan dolce

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11. SideDoor 3801 E Coast Hwy, Corona del Mar, CA 92625 (Orange County)

Once a secret hideaway of the stars, Sidedoor was converted in 1963 and has since been a popular, family-owned and operated English gastropub. The menu at the cozy eatery includes a selection of cheeses, cured meats and sandwiches, along with traditional Cornish pasties and a number of craft and local beers. For brunch, be sure to try the fried chicken and buttermilk waffle dish or the flavorful prime rib sandwich.

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12. Orange Hill Restaurant 6410 E Chapman Ave, Los Angeles, CA 92869

Check out Orange Hill for a romantic fine-dining experience. Situated alongside the winding roads of Orange County, this spo offers beautiful views of downtown Los Angeles, the magical Disneyland, and California’s sweeping coastline. Their USDA prime steaks and a signature Chilean seabass pair perfectly with an array of red and white options from their award-winning wine list. Relax in the West Coast warmth on the outdoor patio.

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13. Cha Cha's Latin Kitchen 110 W Birch St, Brea, CA 92821 (Orange County)

Known for its lively happy hour, this Mexican restaurant totes cantina-style eats (like wood-oven carnitas, enchiladas, and a variety of tacos) in addition to colorful, South of the Border-inspired cocktails. The late, Latin-jazzy brunch allows guests to bask in endless chips and salsa while sipping on a mimosa or Blood Mary. If you're still hungry, go for the traditional -- but nonetheless memorable -- flan.

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14. Cafe Mimosa 243 Avenida del Mar, San Clemente, CA 92672 (Orange County)

Supplying a range of French and New American options, Cafe Mimosa is perfect for casual gatherings, intimate dates, and brunch. The cozy building (which was once a house) is set a mile from the beach, so guests can enjoy dishes like the "Oeufs en Meurette," -- red wine poached eggs with beef bourgeon -- (or seven different Benedicts) on Cafe Mimosa's breezy patio.