Photos: The 10 most beautiful restaurants in Orange County are a feast for the eyes

10 honorable mentions

The Cellar: Dark, romantic and subterranean, this venerable Fullerton restaurant feels like a Vegas Rat Pack hangout circa 1967.

The Hobbit: It doesn’t look like much from the street, but once inside this Orange restaurant, you’ll appreciate the Tolkien-esque atmosphere, which is built more to Gandalf than Bilbo scale and feels slightly British pub-ish.

Il Garage: A massive rollup door in this restaurant behind Stanton’s Park Ave Restaurant opens to a huge vegetable garden, where you’re free to stroll around. The expansive grounds are especially pretty after dark.

Mesa: Retractable roof, indoor trees, a big fireplace – there’s a huge coolness quotient to this well-appointed Costa Mesa hipster hangout, particularly around its attractive bar.

Ramos House Cafe: The courtyard is the place to be for brunch on weekends, where it’s leafy and beautiful but not especially quiet – trains roll into the nearby Amtrak station regularly. It’s surrounded by old town San Juan Capistrano, one of O.C.’s most beautiful historic neighborhoods.

Red O: Imagine a Moorish palace designed by Kanye West. This Fashion Island restaurant is over the top, eye-popping and rich with romantic details such as backlit bottles, huge fan palms, slipcovers over chairs and intricately patterned floor tiles.

Sapphire Laguna: Everyone loves the ocean-close patio at this popular PCH hangout, but the bar, with its beautiful wood-slab top, is an attraction unto itself, as are the fascinating lighting fixtures.

Sol Cocina: The bar and the window tables are the best places to be, but anywhere in this stylish, upscale Newport Mexican restaurant with a harbor view feels like it’s part of the action.

South of Nick’s: Natural shades, huge wood beams, large dark-colored banquettes and a few historic touches create a solid, rustic atmosphere, making this San Clemente restaurant a calming place to be even on busy weekends.

Watertable: One of O.C.’s most attractive hotel restaurants is inside the Hyatt Huntington Beach, with a long, inviting bar, plenty of softly lit nooks and crannies to settle into, and lots of outdoor seating that takes advantage of its stunning ocean-adjacent location.

Memorable restaurants excel at many things: great food, an imaginative chef, exemplary service, a friendly atmosphere.

Many of the best have an extra attribute – they’re beautiful to look at. Dining at a thoughtfully designed and aesthetically pleasing restaurant can be a transformative experience, ending your tough workweek on a well-deserved high note or turning a birthday celebration into a timeless memory.

Here are 10 of Orange County’s most beautiful restaurants, as chosen by yours truly, the Register’s architecture critic, with input from our team of food writers, editors and photographers.

AnQi: Everything about this high-end Asian restaurant and bar in South Coast Plaza is urbane and more than a little showy – an impression reinforced by the presence of a fashion runway in the middle of the room. The bar is a magical place where backlighting turns bottles into artwork. Sumptuous fabrics and chic art are everywhere, and the room is subtly subdivided to create private spaces and intimate corners.

Bistro Papillote: Playful filigree dominates in this intimate French restaurant – in the decorative ironwork on the front facade, in the delicate, small chandeliers inside, in the wallpaper depicting Old World architecture. Fronted by a verdant herb garden, it’s a welcome visual respite from the minimalist modernism of the rest of Costa Mesa’s South Coast Collection.

Fig & Olive: This airy Mediterranean restaurant at Fashion Island conveys a sense of Euro-coolness: high ceilings, large exposed wood beams, white walls, tastefully understated decor and strategically displayed indoor plants. Bottles are used decoratively throughout the restaurant, and the bar is huge and inviting.

Habana: Hemingway would have felt right at home in this moody, romantic boite, where cigars (outdoors, of course) have never been taboo. The Cuban-cuisine stalwart in The Lab in Costa Mesa resides in a repurposed, older industrial building, and the structure’s raw-edged roots are still visible, which gives it a rustic and slightly devil-may-care stylishness. The best spot for dinner is the patio – particularly after dark, when the candles are lit and the buzz of pedestrian traffic can be heard but not seen behind the lush landscaping.

Javier’s: You enter this upscale Mexican restaurant in Newport’s Crystal Cove Promenade through a Moorish arch surrounded by a forest of palms and other tropical landscaping, lit magnificently after dark. Inside, a tequila tree displays some of Javier’s huge selection. This is one of the county’s premier Margarita destinations, and everywhere you look there are seductive places to enjoy one: rich, brown leather banquettes indoors; a sexily illuminated, wraparound covered patio that offers spectacular views of the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.

Provenance: Chef Cathy Pavlos didn’t change the essentials when she took over the former Sage Restaurant in Newport’s Eastbluff. Instead, she capitalized on a good thing: this restaurant’s magnificent and secluded patio. It’s now ringed by herb and vegetable gardens, and it’s generously shaded by a handsome pergola. Inside, everything’s light, bright and airy by day, but don’t discount Provenance’s nocturnal charms. The large glass-fronted wine cases on the right-hand wall display some excellent California selections, and the bar is quiet and friendly enough to carry on a conversation with strangers during the dinner hour.

Selanne Steak Tavern: Retired Anaheim Ducks star Teemu Selanne has reimagined the former French 75 in Laguna as a swanky club plucked from somewhere in his native Finland. The look is fresh white and wood, the epitome of Nordic elan. Now that its uncomfortable bar stools have been replaced, the bar is the place to be in this bustling, fashionable night spot – it’s one of the most convivial social scenes on the O.C. coast.

Stonehill Tavern: This dazzling, upscale restaurant-bar epitomizes the laid-back sophistication of coastal Southern California dining. New York-based interior designer Tony Chi has taken full advantage of a prime location in the St. Regis Monarch Beach resort in Dana Point. Floor-to-ceiling glass cases display its generous inventory of wine and spirits. The bar’s green-and-white mosaic floor tiles cast a subtly Mediterranean feel, and when you enter the dining room it will be hard to focus on the menu because the Pacific Ocean vistas are so distracting.

Studio at Montage: This restaurant has a commanding view of the ocean from its blufftop perch in the middle of the massive Montage Laguna Beach. Sited on an east-west axis, the place looks like a Craftsman bungalow from Old Towne Orange that was magically transported to the edge of the Pacific. Rich dark browns and rugged wood beams dominate the room, counterbalanced by shades of cream and sand. The bar, in the middle of the room, is surprisingly casual for such an upscale restaurant – a great place to start your evening.

Little Sparrow: This trendy, downtown Santa Ana spot might not be everyone’s idea of beautiful, but it excels at an essential quality: coziness, especially its small, inviting bar. The room is full of comfortable places to sit; everything feels homey. And when it’s time to honor your reservation, you walk through a long tunnel-like corridor that subtly shifts the occasion from happy hour to dinner.

Contact the writer: 714-796-7979 or phodgins@ocregister.com

Lansner: 10 things for my Powerball winnings

Since I’m winning the Powerball jackpot, I better have a plan.

That’s because I am guessing that being a centimillionaire has some challenges, other than considering a presidential bid or pondering what pro sports team to buy or in what city the franchise you already own should play.

As a public service, since it is possible I may have to share the bounty with other winners, here are 10 things to think about – after you leave the accountant’s office.

1. Be smart. Suddenly, you’re very popular. Old pals and distant relatives didn’t accidentally rediscover you. Remember, size matters when it comes to checkbooks!

2. Be patient. Being filthy rich means time is on your side. Do your homework on the big decisions, from what your new lifestyle will be to what endeavors you will fund to what sports car you’ll be driving.

3. Be selfish. You won! It’s OK to worry a lot about how this will change your life for the better. Other people and charities can wait.

4. Be kind. Think of those people close to you who are down on their luck and never ask for help. Reach out and help this bunch.

5. Be generous. Don’t give only to the usual mega-charities. Find smaller, high-quality causes that truly are changing lives in your community.

6. Be inspirational. Make a real difference. Figure out how to use your new freedoms to inspire others with your efforts or words, not just with cash.

7. Be inspired. It’s hugely tempting to simply kick back without financial pressures. Push yourself to find novel ways to change the lives of you and your loved ones. Think outside of the billionaire’s box!

8. Be silly. Make a list of fun things to do. Bring the whole block to Disneyland. Have the In-N-Out truck come to your house. Buy a Nissan Juke. Responsible outrageousness is occasionally acceptable.

9. Be humble. Never liked caviar or Champagne? Stick to burgers and brewskis. Don’t forget the person you were before the drawing. The toughest challenge of instant wealth is realizing that all you are now is rich.

10: Be original: When the numbers 1-2-3-4-5 and Powerball 6 are announced, you may think “What moron would choose those numbers?” This guy!

Contact the writer: jlansner@ocregister.com

Firefighters prepare for likely increase in swift-water rescues during El Nino

The phone call came in for a man, clad in a red t-shirt, who dropped from the 57 freeway right into the Santa Ana River, not much from Angel Stadium.

The swift-water training exercise stimulated 25 firefighters from Anaheim, Orange and Yard Grove into action, leading to partial closures of nearby bridges spanning Orangewood and also Chapman Avenues.

Numerous firemans quickly got rid of the hefty layers, boots and also various other protective gear commonly put on to battle blazes. For this sort of rescue, they slipped on light-weight tennis shoes, yellow bike helmets as well as life vests that would help them to move freely– as well as safely– in any kind of fast-moving water.

On the links, regarding 25 feet above the riverbed, various other firemens presented air-inflated fire hoses that would function as a lifeline for prospective victims who might be brushed up down the stream.

“Individuals are tired of reading about El Nino, but it’s here and also we require to be prepared,” said Battalion Chief Chris Boyd of the Orange Fire Department, that led the drill on a recent Friday morning.

Firefighters from throughout Orange Region commonly train at the very least annually on ways to rescue individuals that could drop– or hop– right into the Santa Ana River, its tributaries and regional flood-control networks.

After a number of years of drought, the correspondence course is especially appropriate this season with the arrival of the vicious tornado system known as El Nino. Orange County usually averages concerning 13 inches of rain from October to May, but El Nino is expected to generate greater than double that amount throughout the very same time, baseding on the National Climate Service.

“The most challenging component is not understanding where the individual is at,” claimed Capt. Aaron Mooney of the Anaheim Fire Division, who supplies shore-side assistance to firemens who get involved in the water.

“Often you have no idea if they’ve currently passed you or if they’re still concerning you,” Mooney claimed. “Our training aids us prepare, yet you never ever recognize exactly what to expect.”

The preliminary of El Nino storms roared into Orange Region last week, causing four ask for swift-water rescues, stated Capt. Steve Concialdi of the Orange Region Fire Authority.

In one instance, a male in his mid-40s was brushed up into the Brea Creek on Jan. 5 and traveled regarding a mile down the water prior to he had the ability to pull himself out of the water.

The adhering to day, a homeless female was brought away by fast-moving water in a draining ditch in Garden Grove. Firemans were called, but a Yard Grove law enforcement agent pulled the lady to shore.

“It’s very tough and also it’s very chaotic, however we do the most effective that we can to keep in mind our training,” said Yard Grove Fire Capt. Jim Gabbard, that reacted to the swift-water phone call including the homeless female.

With the arrival of El Nino, Concialdi said that he expected to see a minimum of a dozen more swift-water saves through spring. OCFA firemans that are educated for swift-water rescues job from stations in Irvine, Buena Park, Goal Viejo and also Placentia.

“Also one foot of fast-moving water might catch you off-guard,” Concialdi claimed. “It doesn’t take much.”

Get in touch with the writer: 714-704-3769 or amarroquin@ocregister.com!.?.!

Relief may be in sight: Gas prices to drop up to 20 cents in a week

While gas prices are hovering just above $3 a gallon, relief may be in sight.

The price hikes Orange County has seen since Dec. 16 have started to fall, and GasBuddy predicts within a week prices in the region will be 15 cents to 20 cents lower than they are today.

“Prices are going back to where they should be,” GasBuddy petroleum analyst Allison Mac said. “They have been going up since Dec. 16 because of refinery issues. We saw prices go up here while the rest of the nation was seeing $1.99 prices.”

“Some of the refinery issues have been fixed and some of the refineries are back up and running. But the main thing here is that imports have increased,” she said.

At the end of December, gas prices in Orange County rose more than 16 cents in a week because of partial shutdowns at two California refineries and a drop in imports of refined gasoline and gasoline ingredients.

A Tesoro refinery in Carson and a Chevron refinery in El Segundo were partially shut down Nov. 23 and Dec. 12, respectively.

Now that some of these issues have been resolved, Mac expects prices to fall.

An ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance has been down since last February. When the refinery re-opens, Mac expects motorists to find more relief at the pump. It is unknown at this time when the refinery will reopen.

Low crude oil prices have also added to low gas prices.

But Mac said in mid-February prices may increase as gas stations begin to switch to summer blend of gas from the winter blend.

The summer blend is roughly 12 cents a gallon more expensive to make than the winter blend. It is less likely to evaporate in hot weather than the winter blend, which means less air pollution.

Gas stations must switch to the winter blend by April 1.

As refineries switch from the winter to the summer blend, maintenance issues can arise, which can increase gas prices.

Contact the writer: hmadans@ocregister.com or Twitter: @HannahMadans

Arrest warrant issued for man accused in deaths of 3 bodies found burned in SUV in Orange

ORANGE– An arrest warrant was issued Tuesday for a 23-year-old male on uncertainty of 4 counts of murder in link with 3 melted bodies in a vehicle in Orange as well as a murder in Fontana in November, baseding on Orange authorities.

Alejandro Guerrero Ruiz commonly faces special scenario claims of a number of murders and murder during the compensation of a robbery, making him qualified for the death sentence.

Edgar Berrelleza-Soto, 26, of Orange, and also 2 various other guys from Arizona– 19-year-old Antonio Medina and Fernando Meza, 20– were determined as the bodies burned in an SUV in Orange.

That was the very same day, at around 2:20 p.m., witnesses detected a car on fire in the driveway of a home in a silent area in the 500 block of East Oakmont near Chapman University.

After some people attempted to produce the fire with hoses and fire extinguishers, firemans showed up and produced the blaze. Exactly what they discovered inside opened a mysterious case.

Berrelleza-Soto was in the traveler’s seat of the automobile, and Medina as well as Meza were in the back seat, however nobody was in the vehicle driver’s seat, authorities said.

A 56-year-old artist that stays in your home where the automobile was discovered melting obtained a firsthand take a look at the morbid scene. He stated he saw the black SUV inching towards his boy’s 2010 grey Chrysler parked on the road in front of his home.

The 4th man was found Nov. 15 in the back seat of a vehicle on Orange Method Fontana, baseding on the Fontana Authorities Department.

The San Bernardino Region Coroner’s Workplace recognized him as Joel Berrelleza, 35, of Orange, the sibling of Edgar Berrelleza-Soto.

City Information Service added to this report.