THE BEST GETAWAY EVER AWAITS YOU IN COSTA MESA, CALIFORNIA
By Linda Kissam “Food, Wine & Travel Diva”
Yearning to explore a fresh dining and shopping scene for your next long weekend getaway? Costa Mesa, California, should be on your radar.
Located in the heart of Orange County (the OC), this area is packed with more high-caliber dining and shopping than cities twice its size. From California fusion cuisine to modern Italian to hip, non-stuffy wine bars, there are more places to try out than you will likely have time for. The grand upscale South Coast Plaza shopping mall is beyond anything you’re likely to have experienced.
Costa Mesa is kind of a Cinderella story. It was first called Harper. Swedish immigrant Carl Segerstrom started growing lima beans in 1900. Twenty years later it was renamed for the coastal tablelands it sits on above Newport Bay. The bean fields and dairy farms eventually morphed into a diva-worthy sprawling shopping mall and a world-class performing arts complex, which earned the town the reputation “The City of the Arts.” Arts, food, shopping …whatever your passion…you’ll find it here. Guaranteed.
Costa Mesa today has transformed itself into a suburban hot spot. It’s about 60 minutes south from the LAX airport, just minutes from the John Wayne Airport, and 2 hours from San Diego. Beaches are about 30 minutes away. A year round Mediterranean climate means you can visit any season.
“What is there to do in Costa Mesa?”
Excellent question! This article is all about places for couples, singles and girlfriends to go, presented in an easy to read format. I’ve experienced each and every one. If they made it into this article, you can expect they are the best of the best. Eat, drink, relax and shop on your trip.
Boy have I been missing out the past few years. This local treasure is just 20 minutes from my home. Did I know about it? NO. Should I have known about it? YES. It is not an undiscovered gem, it’s a local’s treasure. Plenty of people know about this place with little advertisement, so I am at a loss to know why it got past me. It’s worth a trip no matter where you live. Located behind a strip mall on Bristol Street, just five minutes off the freeway, it’s easy to get to. You won’t see it coming. You have to trust your GPS has taken you to the right place. Even sitting in my car right at the entrance, I had to ask the Valet guy if he knew where CAMP was. Apparently I was right in front of it. It’s a winding path of about 12 independent shops and restaurants.
The owners describe is as, “… a green, eco-friendly retail campus dedicated to an active, healthy lifestyle mindful of environmentalism and supportive of the local community. The CAMP balances culture, sophistication, and functionality, blurring the boundaries between nature and everyday bustle of life in Orange County, California.”
Here are some of my suggestions:
Have Brunch at Old Vine Café – Big portions artfully presented. Moderate prices. Great service. Wine, beer cocktails. Indoor and patio seating. Best dill pickles in SoCal. Inventive wine pairings with a seasonal menu. www.oldvinecafe.com
Take a sip at the Wine LAB – Wine tasting as you’ve never experienced it is right next to Old Vine Café. Flights are attractively priced and served in lab test tubes. Think the Starbucks of wine tasting shops. Free Wi-Fi. Sit back and relax. No rush. Have a glass of wine as you work on your computer. A good place for singles, date night, or after work stop over. Bottles of interesting well-priced wines for sale also. https://winelab.net/
Go for contemporary Italian at Vitaly – Talking of a “find,” visitors hit the jackpot here. On first glance it looks like a menu of coffees and gelato. Not exactly. They have that, but they also serve authentic Italian food. The owners are from Bologna bringing a contemporary but authentic lunch and dinner menu you will not forget. No Chianti candles or red tablecloths. Just pure from-scratch goodness from two of the nicest people you will ever meet. www.vitaly.net/
Stay at the Avenue of the Arts – A Tribute Portfolio Hotel has the feel of a boutique European hotel. Tucked away a couple of blocks off the main drag, the popular Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Vacca, South Coast Plaza and The CAMP this hotel is a serene place to relax. Muted hotel colors, fast elevators, gorgeous lake and green belt views from spacious rooms makes this a place to consider. It recently received the 4-Diamond Rating from AAA for the fourth year in a row and was recognized as Best Hotel by Marriott International in 2018. The knowledgeable, friendly staff help make this a memorable stay.
Try Happy Hour at VACA, which is a complimentary shuttle ride from the hotel. Owned and operated by Chef Amar Santana (Bravo TV’s Top Chef Season 13) and partner Ahmed Labbate, Vaca’s menu is all about the diverse regions of Spain along with Amar’s own culinary creations. Elaborate cocktails and an inspirational appetizer menu makes this a great place to relax before or after taking in an event at the Segerstrom Center or taking off to a cooking class. http://www.vacarestaurant.com/
Cooking class at Sur La Table, at South Coast Plaza. Drive (4 minutes), or walk from Vaca (20 minutes). Check the website for class schedule. Classes run in the $70 range and last for two hours. Check all the upscale shops after your class. Once you get back to the hotel, relax at their friendly contemporary bar.
TWENTY MINUTES AWAY
17th Street – 17th street is undergoing a Metamorphosis of new restaurants and shops. It makes sense. Although 17th starts in Costa Mesa, it’s a short drive to the 17th that is the hype and glam of Newport Beach. Competition is good for business. Good for Costa Mesa to step up its game. 17th street is about 15 minutes by car or Uber from the hotel.
Breakfast at The Crack Shack, 196 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa. If you like chicken done the SoCal way, you’ll love this unique but casual place. Bravo TV’s Top Chef All-Stars winner Richard Blais brought his chicken and egg concept to Costa Mesa in November 2017. You’ll love the ingredient source from Mendocino Farms. Their free range Jadori chickens means high-quality chicken entrees like sandwiches, salads, and chicken oysters. It’s an elevated menu but great for families and groups. Cocktails, wine and beer. Good prices. Be sure to try the house made lemonade and all the yummy dipping sauces. https://www.crackshack.com/
Brunch at The Country Club. It’s not really a country club, but a cool vibe, adults only, restaurant on 17th Street. Walk in and you’re in the land of red leather booths and low, low lighting. It’s a treat to sit and relax . Enjoy food or a drink without the kiddos running around. Brunch is served every day. No lunch, but there is a great dinner menu and live music many days. Opened December 5, 2017, the menu celebrates traditional American cuisine. Chef Zachary Scherer brings 11 years of noteworthy experience having assisted in leading the culinary teams at restaurants such as Georges at the Cove in San Diego, The Playground in Santa Ana, and Haven Gastropub in Orange, where he served as Executive Sous Chef. https://www.countryclubcm.com/menu/#brunch
Explore SoCo and the OC Mix. It houses more than 300,000 square feet of showrooms, coffee houses, cake stores, restaurants, artisan food purveyors and the small but mighty Certified Farmer’s Market. It’s a 10 minute drive from 17th Street. While you’re there try wine tasting at LCA Wines. They focus solely on wine tasting, wine education and retail wine sales. Friendly, no pressure service. It’s a glorious place to end your vacation.
Plan your Costa Mesa getaway at www.TravelCostaMesa.com.
Linda Kissam ‘Food, Wine & Shopping Diva’ is a professional travel, food, and wine writer based out of Southern California, who specializes in easy, breezy destination stories sharing her favorite things about the places she visits. Visit www.AllInGoodTaste.info.