2021 Best of OC

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Reata Glen BEST RETIREMENT COMMUNITY IN ORANGE COUNTY Orange County has spoken, and Reata Glen is their number one retirement community! We are recognized for our beautiful, maintenance-free homes; dining venues serving chef-prepared meals; on-site amenities, including a movie theater, a performing arts center and a health spa; and residents who look forward to living every day to its fullest. Reata Glen is a Life Plan Community located in South Orange County, just minutes from historic Mission San Juan Capistrano and a short drive to some of California’s best beaches. Along with beautiful homes, Reata Glen offers a comprehensive retirement plan that includes peace of mind with safety services on-site 24/7 and priority access to long-term care right next door, should you ever need it. See for yourself why Reata Glen ranks as the very Best in Orange County.

Call 1-949-649-8118 to receive an exclusive lunch invitation and a peek at the fun we’re having. State of California License #306005546. Certificate of Authority #840. For the well-being of residents, Reata Glen strives to follow CDC guidance and comply with recommendations from state and local health officials. Offerings depicted are subject to change.




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We’re back, now let’s go out and do something


he events of 2020 would have been inconceivable if we hadn’t just lived through them. The gates of Disneyland locked tight for an entire year. The Angels playing to an empty ballpark. The Orange County Fair and virtually all of the other events that define a typical year in our community canceled. This year is very different. While we have not left the pandemic completely behind us, Orange County is open again. Restaurants are welcoming diners, indoors and out. Kids are back in school. We can again take in a movie or attend a concert with family and friends. Consider Best of Orange County to be your reintroduction to the place you live. In its 28th year, this indispensable guide to getting the most out of our county recognizes the best places to go, businesses to patronize and restaurant meals to eat. And all of the recommendations are coming from your neighbors. Readers responded to Best of Orange County in a big way this year, casting more than 50,000 ballots — an increase of nearly 27% from last year and a more than 55% jump from 2019. Over a month of balloting earlier this year, Register readers chose their favorite beach, bank, dental practice, waterfront dining spot, craft brewery and city to live in, among a total of 74 categories. As in past years, categories are sorted by chapters — Places to Go+Do, Shopping & Services, Luxury Lifestyle, Food & Drink and Home & Garden. Voters had new categories in

which to express their preferences. With Orange County’s red hot real estate market, they voted for the best home loan provider. After the scorching weather of this past summer, we asked readers their favorite air conditioning and heating company. And while we can go out to eat again, sometimes you just want to order in — and so we queried voters on their favorite meal delivery service. Perennially popular categories, such as best downtown, grocery store, day spa, burger spot and city to live in, continued to rack up large numbers of votes. We hope you enjoy Best of Orange County 2021 and will keep it to use as a resource to find a new spot to eat or a new place to spend a nice day with your family. Our county is filled with incredible things to experience — and this year we’re better able to go out and enjoy them.






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PLACES TO GO + DO Best Amusement Park Ride............................................................. 8 Best Beach........................................................................................... 9 Best Downtown................................................................................ 10 Best Fair/Festival............................................................................... 11 Best Family Outing........................................................................... 12 Best Farmers Market....................................................................... 14 Best Golf Course............................................................................... 16 Best Live Theater ..............................................................................17 Best Movie Theater.......................................................................... 18 Best Museum................................................................................... 20 Best Music Venue............................................................................. 22 Best Run / Race.................................................................................24 Best SoCal Casino ............................................................................25


SHOPPING & SERVICES Automotive: Best Auto Repair........................................................28 Automotive: Best Car Dealership...................................................29 Education: Best OC College / University .................................... 30 Education: Best Tutoring Service..................................................32 Financial: Best Bank.........................................................................34 Financial: Best Credit Union............................................................36 Financial: Best Home Loan Provider ........................................... 38 Health: Best Dental Practice...........................................................39 Health: Best Fitness Center / Boot Camp...................................40 Health: Best Hospital........................................................................42 Health: Best Medical Group............................................................44 Health: Best Place to Buy CBD Products....................................46 Retail: Best Grocery Store...............................................................48 Retail: Best Place to Get a Grab-and-Go Meal...........................50 Retail: Best Shopping/Dining Destination....................................51 Retail: Best Thrift Store...................................................................52 Retail: Best Wine Selection.............................................................53 Services: Best Meal Delivery...........................................................54 Services: Best Pet Clinic/Veterinary Hospital.............................55


LUXURY LIFESTYLE Best Charitable Organization......................................................... 58 Best Cosmetic Surgeon.................................................................. 60 Best Day Spa......................................................................................62

Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store........................................................... 64 Best OC Resort.................................................................................. 66 Best Waterfront Dining....................................................................67 Best Wealth Adviser........................................................................ 68


FOOD & DRINK Best Bakery..........................................................................................72 Best Bar................................................................................................73 Best Barbecue.....................................................................................74 Best Breakfast....................................................................................75 Best Brunch........................................................................................ 76 Best Burger..........................................................................................77 Best Craft Brewery............................................................................ 78 Best Date Night Restaurant............................................................ 79 Best Doughnut Shop........................................................................80 Best Family Friendly Restaurant.....................................................81 Best Food Hall....................................................................................82 Best Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt.......................................................84 Best Happy Hour................................................................................86 Best Italian Restaurant.................................................................... 87 Best Mexican Restaurant................................................................88 Best Pizza............................................................................................90 Best Seafood Restaurant.................................................................91 Best Steakhouse................................................................................92 Best Sushi...........................................................................................93


HOME & GARDEN Best Air Conditioning and Heating Company..............................96 Best Apartment Community...........................................................98 Best Appliance Store......................................................................100 Best Blind/Shutter Store................................................................101 Best City to Live In..........................................................................102 Best Door/Window Company.......................................................104 Best Furniture Store.......................................................................105 Best Garden Center/Nursery.........................................................106 Best Home Builder.......................................................................... 107 Best Home Improvement Store....................................................108 Best Kitchen/Bath Remodeling Specialist.................................110 Best Mattress Store.........................................................................112 Best New Home Community.........................................................114 Best Place to Buy Carpet/Flooring...............................................116 Best Real Estate Company.............................................................118 Best Senior Living Community.....................................................120


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AMUSEMENT PARK RIDE 2. Soaring Around the World Disney California Adventure; disneyland.disney.go.com

The Soarin’ flight simulator ride in the Grizzly Peak section of Disney California Adventure combines a mechanical lift system with three rows of seats and an 80-foot-tall concave domed movie screen. The five-minute IMAX “Soarin’ Around the World” film visits 13 places around the globe, flying so close you’ll wonder how the filmmakers got permission to capture the footage. The camera flies through towering buttes in Monument Valley and within feet of the Eiffel Tower. The short film makes subtle nods to Disney films and history, including “Cars” (Monument Valley), “Ratatouille” (Paris), “Finding Nemo” (Sydney Harbour), “Moana” (the South Pacific), Disneyland’s castle (based on Neuschwanstein) and the Matterhorn bobsled coaster (Switzerland). The original Soarin’ Over California film, which debuted when Disney California Adventure opened in 2001, occasionally returns for limited runs.


Socially-distanced riders inside Space Mountain at Disneyland on April 30. The resort’s parks were closed for 412 days due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

1. Space Mountain

Disneyland; disneyland.disney.go.com

Disneyland; disneyland.disney.go.com While it’s no surprise that Disney dominates the best amusement park ride category, it is shocking the top three attractions remain unchanged from last year’s lineup. Not even the order has changed. Space Mountain holds on to the top spot once again this year. The 1977 indoor roller coaster takes riders on a high-speed journey through the dark with many twists, turns and dips. After more than four decades of thrills, the popular coaster consistently has one of the longest lines in Disneyland. The past year will go down in Disneyland history as one of the most unusual with the Anaheim park closed for 412 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The attraction typically spends part of the year in Hyperspace Mountain mode, with a Star Wars overlay that was first introduced during the 2015 8

3. Pirates of the Caribbean

Season of the Force event. Scenes of X-Wings, Starfighters and even the Millennium Falcon flash on the interior walls of Space Mountain as riders race through the dark aboard the indoor coaster. In past years during Halloween, a Ghost Galaxy overlay has filled the ride with paranormal activity with the help of projections, lighting and sound effects. Riders walk through a futuristic space station before boarding the coaster train in a mission control center. NASA Mercury and Gemini astronaut Gordon Cooper helped design Space Mountain so the ride would feel like an actual space flight. Through the years, the coaster has introduced onboard audio, added new ride vehicles and undergone a complete retracking.

— Brady MacDonald

It’s no surprise that this ride is one of the top attractions in OC, because it remains a charming boat trip into a pirate’s lair that seems to be timeless after more than 50 years in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square. Its popularity is only enhanced by the fact that visitors get 15 minutes of cool, watery pleasure off their feet that often provides a respite from brutal heat in the park. And the hit movies starring Johnny Depp based on the ride only add to the appeal. Disney replaced the previous “buy-a-bride” scene that some found offensive with a newer scene starring a feisty red-haired female pirate named (what else?) Redd. This is the last ride that Walt Disney himself had a hand in creating, although he died before it opened, so to the most ardent Disney fans, it’s sacred ground. To tired parents everywhere, it’s a chance to cool off and rest their tootsies.


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Beachgoers bask in the sun just north of the Huntington Beach Pier in Huntington Beach.

1. Huntington City Beach Pacific Coast Highway between Beach Boulevard and Seapoint Street, Huntington Beach; huntingtonbeachca.gov Orange County has 42 miles of coastline from Seal Beach to San Clemente, but few stretches evoke Southern California beach culture the way that the 3.5 miles surrounding downtown Huntington Beach do. It’s the town square of Surf City, the place where Duke Kahanamoku first taught mainlanders to

ride waves in 1912. The Huntington Beach Pier is City Beach’s centerpiece. It extends 1,850 feet from the end of Main Street and is a popular place to stroll, peoplewatch, check out surfers shredding waves below or fish. Huntington has a had a pier since 1902, though the current version opened

2. Main Beach

South Coast Highway and Broadway Street, Laguna Beach; visitlagunabeach.com Laguna Beach is busy in the summer, with the Pageant of the Masters attracting patrons nightly and three art festivals in full swing. Main Beach, in the heart of all that action, is a draw year-round. The actual beach itself is fairly slender, particularly at high tide. There’s room enough for several beach volleyball courts, but a different court sport is the one most associated with Main Beach. Two basketball half-courts are typically in use throughout the day, often with another

team waiting for the chance to play the winners. Parking in Laguna is always a challenge; beach-goers can park in less congested areas and take a free shuttle to Main Beach. A wooden walkway provides an easy way to stroll the beach for those who don’t want to get their feet sandy. Main Beach has no fire pits or grills or even a snack bar, but all of the culinary options of downtown Laguna Beach are literally across the street.


in 1992. Most years, the U.S. Open of Surfing draws throngs to the area just south of the pier in late July and early August. Heading up Pacific Coast Highway, City Beach begins at Beach Boulevard, right across from the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa, which has a pedestrian bridge over the road to enable guests to get to the beach without waiting for traffic signals. The neighboring Waterfront Beach Resort and Paséa

Hotel & Spa continue resort row, right across from the lower section of City Beach. North of the pier, the Huntington Pacific Beach House Apartments are the only housing on the ocean side of PCH in Huntington. After that, City Beach literally goes to the dogs. Huntington Dog Beach occupies the mile of sand closest to the boundary with Bolsa Chica State Beach, where dogs and their humans frolic in the surf.

— Jeffrey Miller

3. Corona del Mar State Beach Ocean and Jasmine avenues, Newport Beach; parks.ca.gov Corona del Mar State Beach is bookended by two scenic overlooks along Ocean Avenue. Lookout Point, on the beach’s northwest edge, offers views of adjoining Newport Harbor, while Inspiration Point, less than half a mile away, gives visitors breathtaking ocean vistas. The compact stretch of sand in between manages to squeeze a lot of beach fun into its limited real estate. The jetties that line one side keep the surf relatively tame, which might bum out surfers

and bodyboarders, but is a godsend for families with young children. Pirates Cove Beach, located next to the beach’s western parking lot, offers even more tranquil conditions. The distance between the ample parking lot and the surf is a fraction of what one finds at Huntington State Beach up the road, so visitors don’t have far to lug their coolers and canopies if they want to set up camp by the breakers. The sand boasts nine beach volleyball courts, which receive heavy use daily.


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1. Orange Mile-square area surrouning Glassell Street and Chapman Avenue; Cityoforange.org If downtown Orange looks familiar to you, well, it should. The historic streets of Old Town Orange has served as the backdrop for everything from Oscar Meyer and Snapple commercials to movies such as “Gumball Rally,” “Crimson Tide,” “That Thing You Do” and “Big Mama’s House.” That’s a byproduct of Old Towne Orange containing the largest Nationally Registered Historical District in California. Buildings in the historic district date to the 19th century. That creates a natural habitat for the numerous antique dealers sprinkled throughout downtown Orange, making the area a natural stomping ground for collectors and antique aficionados. The iconic Plaza Park fountain provides downtown Orange’s central landmark, lending more historical street cred with its 19th-century origin. You can go right from that fountain to enjoy


Friends toast with their margaritas and beers at Haven Craft Kitchen + Bar in Orange. Old Towne Orange offers foodies more than 50 restaurants and bars. 21st century creations like sports bars and brew pubs, as the area boasts more than 50 food and drink establishments. It’s easy to imagine the reaction of a 19th century person if he was somehow

transported to today’s downtown Orange. Would he migrate to one of the numerous antique spots? Nearby Chapman College, which gives Old Towne Orange that collegetown feel? Or restaurants

2. Huntington Beach

3. Fullerton

Yes, there’s the ubiquitous beach vibe that dominates the downtown area. That explains the numerous surf shops, bike rental shops and the International Surfing Museum, which houses the legendary Duke Kahanamoku’s surfboard, among other artifacts. What else would you expect from Surf City, USA? Well, how about Tuesday night’s Surf City Nights that turn downtown into a street fair and farmers market? There’s oceanfront-view shopping

Few downtowns in Southern California have enjoyed a Phoenix-esque renaissance like Fullerton’s. The 20-plus year process revitalized what was once a past-its-prime city center. Now, downtown Fullerton combines culture and history with a burgeoning nightlife supplied by a growing number of restaurants across the culinary spectrum, bars and nightclubs. Ample parking throughout the downtown area nurtures that nightlife, providing options

Main Street off Pacific Coast Highway and nearby areas; hbdowntown.com at the Pacific City shopping and dining center, offering everything from brand-names like Urban Outfitters and Tommy Bahama to locally owned boutiques and shops. One of the best ways to see all downtown offers is via a 90-minute historical walking tour that encompasses more than a century of the beach city’s downtown history. The tour begins at the pier and ends at the site of the iconic Golden Bear music venue, which was demolished in 1987.

featuring everything from Italian cuisine to Southern California-based fare? One thing is certain. Visitors from any century would not want for things to do.

–Brian Robin

Area bounded by Chapman Avenue, Highland Avenue, the train tracks and Lemon Street; cityoffullerton.com for every taste and palate. The culture comes from such city touchstones as Fullerton Union High School’s historic auditorium and the Fullerton Museum Center, which provides perspective and information on all things Fullerton, from the extensive Golden Books collection to the Leo Fender Gallery. That exhibit tells the story of a local radio repair shop owner who became an internationally recognized maestro of sound via his guitars and amplifiers.


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1. OC Fair 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa; 714-708-1500; ocfair.com Without a doubt, the OC Fair is the summer’s ultimate event. Dating back to the late 1800s, the fair’s roots predate the county itself by a year. OC Fair & Event Center CEO Michele Richards says that simultaneous growth resulted in a deep bond with local residents, helping to make it unique. Once people round up family and friends for a visit (or two), it’s hard to resist the temptation to go sample some unusual fried concoctions, funnel cakes and all sorts of scrumptious grub. Visitors can try their luck with arcade games, enjoy carnival rides, check out new products, arts and crafts, fair contest winners, livestock, kids activities, tribute bands and cultural entertainment at The Hangar and more. Then there’s nightly concerts at Pacific Amphitheatre, which outshines other county fairs due to its layout and top-notch bookings.


Konga riders get their adrenaline rush at the OC Fair in Costa Mesa. Brantley Gilbert, X, Los Lobos, Cheap Trick, Dwight Yoakam, Cole Swindell, Jo Koy and The Fab Four were among this season’s performers. Richards notes that the 8,000+ seating capacity ensures “every

location is a good one and you feel connected with your favorite performer.” After the 2020 season was canceled due to the pandemic, the down time was used to spruce up the facilities, which also

hosts other events yearround. Officials instituted various safety and sanitary measures, contactless parking payments and improved online ticket sales this year.

– George A. Paul

2. Sawdust Art Festival

3. Garden Grove Strawberry Festival

The Sawdust Art Festival embodies the spirit of the late ’60s, when it began as a free-spirited, gypsy artist camp from Laguna Beach presenting handcrafted creations. Still occupying sawdust-covered paths on a 3-acre eucalyptus grove in the canyon, the summer festival in the intervening years has added a second, holiday-themed event, year-round arts programs, classes and workshops. Franky Duschane, Sawdust Festival director of marketing, says the nonprofit organization

The Garden Grove Strawberry Festival started in 1958 and regularly attracts more than 300,000 people each Memorial Day Weekend. The last event, held in 2019, featured a Strawberry Cake Cutting Ceremony, rides, attractions, various contests, a 5K run, live music and more. Past parade grand marshals have included TV and film personalities Burt Ward, Dawn Wells, Sally Kellerman, Cloris Leachman, Hilary Duff and Pat Boone.

935 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; 949-494-3030; sawdustartfestival.org works hard to create an inspiring and educational show, “a one-of-a-kind” experience in keeping with its legacy. Artists build their own booths, creating “an ever-changing eclectic village of art. The first thing people see when they walk through the gate is a myriad of color.” More than 160 local artisans contribute to the summer show (attended by 200,000+ visitors). The winter event boasts thousands of lights and decorations and spotlights international artists.

Village Green, Euclid and Main streets, Garden Grove; strawberryfestival.org

Andrea Perez, festival president-elect and director of community services, notes that nonprofits “run their own food and game booths and can make money for their organizations.” The festival association “gives back $100,000 to different local charities that apply” and provides high school scholarships. Having gone virtual the past two years because of the pandemic, the festival will return in May 2022. “We are excited to get back,” she says.


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1. Irvine Regional Park 1 Irvine Park Road, Orange; 714-973-6835; ocparks.com/parks-trails Perhaps because Disneyland and other theme parks were closed for much of the past 18 months, voters recognized Irvine Regional Park as a family entertainment destination that punches above its weight. A big reason for that is the variety of activities the park offers. There are pony rides for the kids and a 3-mile equestrian trail for riders that offers postcardquality views of the park and the surrounding hills. The park offers horse rentals, an area for horse-trailer parking and a watering trough and fountain. Should your passion lie more toward the aquatic than the equestrian, there are paddle-boat rentals at a historical boat-house by the signature lake. Santiago Creek meanders through the park and a waterfall with stone-work provides another scenic landmark. Then there is the OC Zoo, bringing mountain lions, black bears, kit foxes,


Paddleboats and fishermen enjoy the day at Irvine Regional Park in Orange. ocelots, beavers, coyotes, hawks, the great horned owl and other animals and birds native to the southwestern United States. The zoo says it takes pride in the fact it houses animals not releasable in the wild for various reasons: injury, orphaned or confiscated from illegal sources. There’s

2. Disneyland

1313 Disneyland Drive, Anaheim; 714-781-4636; disneyland.disney.go com One of the world’s iconic venues began a phased reopening from the pandemic on April 30 that not only encompassed the main park, Disney California Adventure and Downtown Disney, but the resort’s hotels. The county’s flagship resort requires patrons to have a reservation for the theme park they are visiting that day, whether they are buying daily admission or have one of the new Magic Key annual passes. The big new attraction at the resort is Avengers

Campus, which opened at Disney California Adventure in June. Avengers Campus takes you into the inner sanctum of Marvel, featuring activities such as Web Slingers, where you help corral Spider-Bots like Spiderman, and Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout, where you help rescue the Guardians from the Collector’s fortress. The Avengers Headquarters lets guests see Iron Man, Black Panther and Captain Marvel, in their natural habitat.

also a a petting zoo. Tying all this together is the Irvine Park Railroad, which winds through the 491-acre park, offering views of the lake and other attractions. There’s also a paved bicycle trail and walking trail. As you’d expect in most parks, Irvine Regional

provides six playgrounds, four group picnic areas with barbecues, sinks and benches and numerous other picnic areas for smaller parties. But the park also offers four softball fields, volleyball and horseshoe pits and an amphitheater.

— Brian Robin

3. Firestorm Freerunning & Acrobatics Ultra 7220 Hazard Ave., Westminster; 657-400-9023; firestormfreerunning.com Want to understand what it feels like to be a modernday ninja? Here’s the place to learn. At Firestorm, students learn the art of parkour, which combines elements of martial arts with running, climbing, swinging, vaulting, jumping and all manners of movement. Firestorm offers a variety of classes and camps in a myriad of disciplines. There’s parkour, which features a belt-like progression through the ranks. There are

trampoline classes that teach mastery of the body in “extreme situations.” This includes a special wall trampoline that opens up the arsenal of tricks, spins and flips. There are aerial silks, also known as “that Cirque du Soleil thing,” which use silks to climb, wrap and drop. Tumbling classes teach flexibility, power and positioning, allowing the practitioner to perform rolls, cartwheels, handstands, flips and other acrobatics.


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Roman Ramos works the Arnett Farms booth at Irvine Farmers Market in Irvine. The market is is open Saturdays.

1. Irvine Farmers Market Mariners Church, 5001 Newport Coast Drive, Irvine; 949-301-9180, ocfarmbureau.org Yes, Orange County’s biggest farmers market gives you mountains of fresh fruit, including types of peaches, plums and nectarines you’ve probably never heard of. It gives you a variety of vegetables across the spectrum, enough to make basically any vegetarian dish in any cookbook. And of course, there

are all types of nuts and numerous varieties of honey. But this competitive category’s perennial leader, which is open every Saturday — rain or shine — from 8 a.m. to noon doesn’t stop there. Nor does it stop with farm-to-table standouts like Arnett Farms. Its fresh egg vendors produce some of the biggest lines among

the more than 100 vendors that occupy the white tents. Its Asian products include bok choi, Thai basil and other herbs. Representing Mexico are fresh tamales. There’s kombucha, various milk products (almond, soy, coconut). And there are flower vendors that would be the envy of any florist. Along with that comes popular vendors such as Mama Musubi, the Pasadena purveyor of gourmet rice balls. There’s Clayton’s Doughnuts, renowned for

its massive doughnuts and vegan and gluten-free items. What makes the Irvine Farmers Market the first among equals is the sheer variety of vendors and products. It remains one of eight county Certified Farmers Markets, meaning all the vendors must earn certification from the county where they grow and produce their wares. One word of warning: Parking is at a premium and it can get crowded.

— Brian Robin

2. Laguna Hills Certified Farmers Market

3. Laguna Beach Certified Farmers Market

The Laguna Hills Farmers Market isn’t nearly as big as its sister certified farmers markets around the county, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in quality. Open Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., rain or shine, the Laguna Hills Farmers Market is easy to spot in the Laguna Hills Mall parking lot. Just look for the multi-colored nest of pyramid-shaped canopies. When you find it, you’ll find a solid variety of produce: avocados, onions, Asian pears, tomatoes,

Get here early. That’s the key for shoppers at this market, which is open Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon. That way, you not only guarantee yourself a good parking spot where such things come at a premium — especially during the summer months — but start your day with a fresh cup of coffee from the market’s independent coffee shop. The Laguna Beach Farmers Market earns much of its popularity from its location. Beach-

24200 Laguna Hills Mall, Laguna Hills; ocfarmbureau.org


cucumbers, blueberries, strawberries and other berries, kale and all types of citrus, among others. Laguna Hills’s minimalist approach doesn’t mean you won’t find that bread you’re looking for. This market offers a good variety of baked goods. It also means you can find that Daikon radish you’ve sought. Or that hummus and almond spread your next party demands. And the market features a good seafood selection of mussels, clams and numerous types of fresh fish.

521 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach; lagunabeachfarmersmarket.com goers can pop in, stock up on organic fruits and vegetables, naturally grown granolas or baked goods, salsas and dips, then hit the sand well-provisioned. Along with that, this market offers a wide variety of spices and broths, along with essential oils, raw honey, sheep yogurt, free-range organic eggs and farm-to-table meats. One of the market’s must-stop stands is Sergio’s Empanadas. Locals and tourists alike know about this open culinary secret.


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What do the top 3 Best of OC farmers markets have in common?

They’re all Orange County Farm Bureau Certified Farmers’ Markets! Orange County Farm Bureau is a non-profit grass-roots organization dedicated to preserving farming in Orange County since 1917. Visit and see what makes all eight of our Certified Farmers’ Markets so special!

Tuesday: Irvine Regional Park Wednesday: Tustin Old Town Thursday: Costa Mesa @ OC Fairgrounds Friday: Laguna Hills Mall, Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley Saturday: Irvine @ Mariners Church, Laguna Beach Sunday: Laguna Niguel @ Plaza de la Paz




1. Pelican Hill Golf Club 22800 S. Pelican Hill Road, Newport Beach; 844-878-0942; pelicanhill.com/golf Whether you play the 6,949-yard North Course or the 6,580-yard South Course, the hazards and pitfalls of these perennial category champions are numerous — starting with the spectacular scenery that keeps your shutter finger shooting pictures on nearly every hole. That puts your swing at risk of shooting some big numbers, because renowned architect Tom Fazio designed both Pelican Hill courses with the intention of making you think on nearly every hole. The risk/ reward element comes into play, making both Pelican Hill courses not only visual masterpieces, but tactical challenges as well. For example, there’s the South Course’s 13th hole, which features not only a postcard-view of the Pacific, but two greens that give variety to a short par-3. No two times are the same. And there’s the North Course’s 17th, a perfectly designed risk/reward, doglegright par-5 that demands


Pelican Hill was voted the best golf course in the Orange County Register’s Best of Orange County readers’ choice poll. potentially round-making or breaking decisions on every shot. At the same time, what makes Pelican Hill the masterpiece it is is the way Fazio managed to take the canvas he received and

turn it into a seamless golf experience. Not every oceanfront course can make that claim. Along with this, Pelican Hill is a full-service, five-star resort. Its Mediterranean theme offers bungalows

and villas, an Italianthemed pool with 11 million hand-cut glass mosaic tiles lining the bottom and dining choices ranging from Northern Italian cuisine to bar-and-grill fare.

— Brian Robin

2. Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club

3. Black Gold Golf Club

Water comes into play on 10 holes and a natural view of rustic Orange County comes into play on all 18. Just the way architects Casey O’Callaghan and PGA Tour Champions pro and 1996 British Open champion Tom Lehman drew it up. What the pair created was an eminently playable, rustic, 240-acre course set in the Rancho Mission Viejo Reserve that belies its accessible location off Avery Parkway. Five sets of tee boxes give players of all skill levels the run of a

Bring your A-game. Because even though this Yorba Linda course is one of the best values in Orange County golf, it is also one of the most demanding. Black Gold plays every inch of its 6,756 yards from the back, black tees. Even from the shorter blues (6,439), whites (6,045), golds (5,564) or reds (4,936), Black Gold contains plenty of teeth from tee to green. Black Gold is one of yeoman architect Arthur Hills’ five California courses. Hills, who passed

26722 Avery Parkway, Mission Viejo; 949-305-5100; arroyotrabuco.com

course that plays between 5,045 yards and 7,011 yards. The opening 12 holes take players through canyons, featuring several elevation changes. The final six holes play more flat. Aside from the various wildlife frolicking around the course, one of Arroyo Trabuco’s standout features is O’Neill’s Pub, which offers a tasty Sunday brunch, along with lunches and dinners that combine a nice post-round meal with stunning views of the surrounding ridges and cliffs.

One Black Gold Drive, Yorba Linda; 714-961-0060; blackgoldgolf.com

away in May at 91, created a demanding course replete with elevation changes, numerous water features — including the course’s signature waterfall off the 18th hole — and bunkers that always seem to get in the way. And after your round — hit or miss — Derrick’s Grill awaits, providing breakfasts, appetizers and lunches, along with banquet service for up to 250 guests. The fish tacos and grilled Harissa chicken flatbread are culinary keepers.


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1. Segerstrom Center for the Arts 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa; 714-556-2787; scfta.org Segerstrom Center for the Arts opened in 1986 (as Orange County Performing Arts Center) and has since become the crown jewel of local arts and entertainment venues with several exquisite performance spaces. “We bring the best of the best to Orange County,” says Lisa Middleton, the center’s vice president of marketing and communications. “From international dance companies to touring hit Broadway productions to stars of the classical music world, you can find a performance that fits your style, your budget, and your availability. “Our outdoor Julianne & George Argyros Plaza continues to offer free or low-cost programming to our community, including many family-friendly offerings,” she adds. “Whether it’s a movie night under the stars, a dance class or a cultural celebration, there is always something happening.” With COVID-19


Dancers rehearse for the American Ballet Theatre’s production of “Uniting in Movement” at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa earlier this year. restrictions lifted, SCFTA fully reopened this month with live inperson performances. The Broadway Series kicks off with “Jesus Christ Superstar” in November, then continues into 2022

with “My Fair Lady” in January, “Tootsie” in May-June, “Pretty Woman: The Musical” in July and “Hadestown” in August. The Cabaret Series will include Megan Hilty in October, Jane Lynch in

January and Tony Yazbek in March. The Jazz Series includes Dianne Reeves in October and Wynton Marsalis in January, with chamber music, dance and more on tap.

— George A. Paul

2. Laguna Playhouse

3. South Coast Repertory

Laguna Playhouse launched in 1920, making it one of the oldest continuously operating nonprofit theaters on the West Coast. “We take great pride in offering our subscribers and audiences a wide range of entertainment options, ranging from thought-provoking dramas, spectacular musicals, comedies and wholesome family entertainment — literally something for everyone, Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham says. The theatrical

Founded in 1964, South Coast Repertory is Orange County’s only Tony Award-winning theater. “We’re known for our extensive development and production of new plays, which begins with a robust play commissioning program,” says Managing Director Paula Tomei. She describes SCR as its own cottage industry with “artisans who build the sets, costumes, props and other elements for each production in shops done onsite.” After launching new

606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; 949-497-2787; lagunaplayhouse.com offerings resonate among patrons because of “our commitment to production values and our overall entertainment experience keeps our audiences coming back, year after year,” she adds. Besides screen and stage actors on the main stage, a wide variety of performances are also held on the Moulton Stage. An abbreviated 2019-20 season included “Mamma Mia!,” “The Lion in Winter,” holiday shows and special engagements with tribute bands.

655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa; 714-708-5555; scr.org

digital platform SCR commUNITY and a virtual season in the springsummer, South Coast Repertory transitioned into its new Outside SCR series with “American Mariachi” and “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” held at Mission San Juan Capistrano. Tomei says SCR will return soon with live plays on its stages, including the 41st annual production of “A Christmas Carol” in December, with founding member actor Richard Doyle as Ebenezer Scrooge.


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1. The Lot at Fashion Island

999 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach; 949-281-0069; thelotent.com For people who want a luxury moviegoing experience, The Lot has plenty to offer. The seven screen “suites” contain upward of 75 seats each. The movie house opened in 2018 at the former Island Cinema. Forget your average multiplex snack bar with candy and pretzels, The Lot contains a café pouring artisanal coffees, an upscale restaurant serving California-inspired dishes and a spacious bar and lounge area showcasing local craft beers. You can order food directly from reserved reclining leather seats. The menu includes chicken tenders, buffalo wings, salads, flatbreads, sandwiches, signature plates — even a kids’ menu with items like mac and cheese and hot dogs. There is also Champagne, plus all manner of red, rose and white wines. Patrons seem to enjoy The Lot. Trip Advisor reviewer Bill M. called it “an elegant place to relax


Leather recliners are featured in the The Lot at Fashion Island cinema in Newport Beach. and watch the latest release … the food is surprisingly good and not overpriced. The seats are, as promised, truly comfortable.” Another reviewer, ChrisGolfPro, said a visit here is “well worth it.” As befitting of such a

theater, there is state-of-theart projection and sound. Animated, blockbuster, documentary and indie films are among the usual fare. The Newport Beach Film Festival once again partners with The Lot from Oct. 21-28.

“Fashion Island and The Lot is a perfect combination for the reopening of our community and the reimagined festival,” says Gregg Schwenk, CEO and executive director of the annual event.

— George A. Paul

2. Regal Irvine Spectrum Screen X

3. Century Huntington Beach + XD

These days, going to the cinema can be more of a mind-blowing experience than ever. Especially with everything bigger and sharper than even a few years ago. The Regal theater chain has a reputation for cutting edge technology and depending on viewers’ whims, a selection of films can be watched on giant immersive screens, with digital projection and surround sound in 2D or 3D. The Screen X multiprojection experience

Located in the Bella Terra dining, shopping and entertainment center, Century Huntington Beach + XD staff “take great pride in consistently delivering an extraordinary guest experience from the initial ticket purchase to the closing credits,” said a Cinemark spokesperson. The company touts its Luxury Lounger electricpowered reclining seats, which “upgrade the moviegoing experience with oversized, plush comfortable seating that can be reserved in advance

500 Spectrum Center Drive, Irvine; 888-462-7342; regmovies.com

extends the screen to the side auditorium walls resulting in a 270-degree panoramic visual that places the viewer in the center of the action. The luxury wing at Regal Irvine Spectrum has eight upgraded auditoriums with king-size recliners, reserved seating, an enhanced food and drink menu and a lounge. As with most Regal Cinemas, special event showings, such as concerts, musicals, ballets and opera are routinely part of the scheduled lineup.

7777 Edinger Ave., Huntington Beach, 714-373-4573, cinemark.com

for unsurpassed comfort and convenience.” Cinemark XD auditoriums feature the largest wall-to-wall screen in the building. “XD auditoriums utilize stateof-the-art sight and sound technology, including projectors capable of 35 trillion colors and 11.1 multichannel surround sound,” the spokesperson explained. The theater also offers expanded food and beverage options, in addition to fan-favorite movie theater snacks.


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Thank You





1-800-NO-CUFFS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123



METROPOLITAN WINDOWS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .113

ALZHEIMER’S ORANGE COUNTY . . . . . . . . . . 63

MISSION DENTAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63

ASADA CANTINA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89

DR STEPHEN FINK/NEWPORT FACES COSMETIC SURGERY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59

CABINET WHOLESALERS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111 CATALINA ISLAND MUSEUM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

ORANGE COAST MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43

CHATTERTON & ASSOCIATES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69



ORANGE COUNTY FARM BUREAU . . . . . . . . . 15

COLONIAL CARPET. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .117

PECHANGA RESORT CASINO . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124


PHILLY’S BEST . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83

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REATA GLEN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 RODRIGO’S MEXICAN GRILL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89 RUSSIAN SCHOOL OF MATHEMATICS . . . . . . 33


SADDLEBACK MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43

FACIAL AESTHETIC CONCEPTS. . . . . . . . . . . . . 61

SCHOOLSFIRST FCU. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37

FARMACY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47

SOUTH COAST COLLEGE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31

FEIG LAW FIRM. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .117



FIVE POINT COMMUNITIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .115

FREEDOM VILLAGE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .121


GOODWILL OF ORANGE COUNTY . . . . . . . . . 41

THE COVINGTON . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122


THE JEWELER’S TOUCH . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65

HERITAGE BBQ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83

UNITED WAY OF ORANGE COUNTY . . . . . . . . 13

HIGH SEAS TRADING COMPANY . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

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1. Bowers Museum 2002 North Main St., Santa Ana; 714-567-3600; bowers.org A sense of prestige marks the recently opened Bowers exhibition “Artistic Legacy” (running through Dec. 19), which contains paintings and drawings from the collection of actress/watercolor artist Ann Macomber Cullen and her TV game show host husband Bill Cullen. Another current watercolor exhibit, “The Gift of Los Angeles,” runs through Nov. 14. Opened in 1936, the Bowers is a star in its own right, serving as the largest museum in Orange County. Permanent collections, displayed across multiple galleries, spotlight the diverse demographics of Southern California by emphasizing fine arts of indigenous peoples of the Americas and the Pacific. There are approximately 90,000 artifacts and works of art on view. The facility also presents music performances, films, lectures, workshops and family programs. Visitors can browse the gallery


The Spirits and Headhunters exhibit at Bowers Museum. Permanent collections spotlight the diverse demographics of Southern California. store and dine at Tangata Restaurant. Dr. Peter C. Keller, Bowers Museum president and CEO, says the museum’s primary mission is to acquire great collections of the world. Some are part

of national or international tours; many exhibits are unique to the museum. “There’s a standard of excellence we strive to uphold in all we do,” he said. In-person festivals resumed this month

with the free Autumn Moon Festival including artmaking, live music and food. Keller says regular patrons can look forward to a “blockbuster opening” in December.

— George A. Paul

2. Richard Nixon Presidential Library

3. Muzeo Museum & Cultural Center

The Nixon presidency was one of the most documented in U.S. history. As a result, the Nixon Library and Museum, opened in 1990, is a treasure trove of information. The Presidential Materials Collection contains 3,700 hours of recorded presidential conversations (“White House tapes”), millions of documents, thousands of audio and broadcast video recordings, 300,000 still photographs and more than 35,000 gifts. Joe Lopez, Richard

Muzeo focuses on diverse, underrepresented narratives within the Orange County arts scene. Executive Director and CEO Katie Adams Farrell says that approach, as well as being centrally located downtown inside both a “gorgeous historic building” (1908 Carnegie Library) and newly redeveloped building (2007 Main Gallery) are what makes Muzeo special. The former features free exhibitions of local art; the latter encompasses a 5,000-square-foot multipurpose traveling

18001 Yorba Linda Blvd., Yorba Linda; 714-983-9120; nixonlibrary.gov

Nixon Foundation vice president of marketing and communications, says the library “continues to provide new special exhibits and a fascinating year-round lineup of programs. Regardless of one’s political views, (visitors) are guaranteed to learn something new” about Nixon’s life. The facility has the rare distinction of being the only presidential library that contains the president’s birthplace, presidential papers and burial site in one location.

241 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim; 714-765-6450; muzeo.org

exhibition space shared with Anaheim Heritage Center. The museum, which opened in 2006, produces various free and lowcost programs, including literary events, art workshops, cultural festivals, and more. This fall, the “fun and whimsical” annual holiday model train show will bisect the gallery while the front half of the main gallery opens with a show about “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (Through Oct. 31).


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Exhibition on View through February 13, 2021

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Sinead O’Connor performs at The Coach House in February 2020 on her first U.S. tour in seven years.

1. The Coach House

2. The Observatory

33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano; 949-496-8930; thecoachhouse.com

3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana; 714-957-0600; observatoryoc.com

Walking into The Coach House provides an instant sense of nostalgia. The walls are adorned by hundreds of signed black-andwhite glossy promo photos from musicians who have played the legendary venue sometime within the past 41 years. Since the best views are at long wooden tables near the stage reserved for dinner, concertgoers often arrive early to dine. “Being able to come see your favorite band while feeling like you’re practically sitting on the stage with them is incredible,” says box office manager Tiffany Amber, emphasizing “very fair ticket prices” for a place just under 500 capacity. Owner Gary Folgner and his staff book everything from rock, country, jazz and reggae to stand-up comedians and tribute bands. Among the “who’s who” of acts The Coach House has hosted are Rick Springfield, Social Distortion, Cyndi Lauper, Lindsey Buckingham, Ray Charles, Bonnie Raitt and Tom Jones. “The quaint coziness of the venue” and free easy access parking are rare nowadays. Amber notes that “many people have been coming here since we opened in the ’80s.” Earlier this year, when local restaurants were cleared for limited capacity indoor dining, The Coach House held dinner nights with local artists and no cover charge. Now with full capacity shows a reality again, the staff is “optimistic about what the future holds. We’re all just so grateful to be back” in business.

— George A. Paul

Versatility is the name of the game at the Observatory. The main general admission room (plus VIP area upstairs) has a 1,000-person capacity and presents top-name rock, alternative, punk and hip-hop artists while the Constellation Room is geared more toward developing and local acts with room for 300 people. Once known as the Galaxy Theatre and owned by Gary Folgner of The Coach House, the venue underwent a renovation with new owners and was renamed The Observatory in 2011. The booking quality increased, even more so when Goldenvoice and then Live Nation took things over. Festivals have been held in the parking lot — such as 2014’s Make the Music Go Bang! featuring Buzzcocks, Dave & Phil Alvin, X and Wanda Jackson — while musicians you wouldn’t expect to see here (Morrissey, Tom Petty with Mudcrutch) have headlined. Alt-rock legends (Gary Numan, Peter Murphy) make repeat visits because they seem to like the vibe.

3. FivePoint Amphitheatre

14800 Chinon, Irvine; 949-988-6800; livenation.com FivePoint opened at Great Park in 2017 as a temporary 12,000-capacity outdoor venue to fill the void left by Irvine Meadows’ demise. Better sight lines and hassle-free parking resulted in positive reviews from concertgoers. According to Dylan Greer, general manager/concerts at Live Nation, that’s because “all seats are closer to the stage compared to most amps, giving it a more intimate feel for the artists and fans.” He also cites “the large grass plaza area behind the seating, surrounded by concessions and a lot of space to have a picnic, play yard games, and socialize before the event. It gives the venue more of a festival vibe than a typical amphitheater.” Lady A, Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean, Beck, Smashing Pumpkins, Counting Crows and Elvis Costello have all headlined. Greer says the late-starting 2021 season — with Luke Bryan; 311; and Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Music Festival, all slated for October — could run into November.


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Congratulations TO THE 2021 BEST OF ORANGE COUNTY #1 WINNERS 85° Bakery Café A New View Windows & Doors, Anaheim

Greek and Associates Veterinary Hospital, Yorba Linda Happy Jewelers, Fullerton

Reata Glen, Mission Viejo Sailhouse

Anaheim Packing District


Salty Bear Brewing Co., Costa Mesa

Armstrong Garden Centers

Huntington City Beach

SchoolsFirst FCU

Avila’s El Ranchito


Sea Pointe Construction, Irvine

Bockman’s, Anaheim

In-N-Out Burger

Bowers Museum, Santa Ana

Irvine Farmers Market, Mariners Church, Saturdays

Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Britton’s Automotive, Huntington Beach Burke Williams Day Spa, Mission Viejo, Orange Cal State Fullerton California Bank & Trust City of Irvine Compass Custom Comfort Mattress Door Dash Downtown Orange Dr. Stephen H. Fink of Newport Faces Duke’s Huntington Beach Edinger Medical Group

Irvine Regional Park Irvine Spectrum Center Kimmie’s Coffee Cup Lollipop Dental Pediatric Dentristry & Orthodontics, Placentia Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que Mastro’s Steakhouse, Costa Mesa MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center, Fountain Valley Montage Laguna Beach Morgan Stanley Financial Advisers

Service Champions Plumbing, Heating & AC, Brea Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza Store, Aliso Viejo, Newport Beach Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee, Costa Mesa Space Mountain Strive to Learn, Costa Mesa Summit House Restaurant, Fullerton Surf City Marathon, Huntington Beach Sushi Shunka, Costa Mesa The Black Marlin, Tustin The Coach House, San Juan Capistrano The Country Club, Costa Mesa

El Torito

Newport Bluffs, Newport Beach

The Home Depot

Firestorm Freerunning & Acrobatics, Westminster

OC Fair

THE LOT, Fashion Island

Fletcher Jones Motorcars

Pechanga Resort Casino

Total Wine & More

Fratellino Italian Restaurant

Pelican Hill Golf Club, Newport Beach

Trader Joe’s

Goodwill of Orange County


People’s OC, Santa Ana Rancho Mission Viejo





Women rejoice at the finish of the Surf City Half Marathon in Huntington Beach on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020.

1. Surf City Marathon Huntington Beach; runsurfcity.com Normally a Super Bowl Sunday tradition, this year’s Surf City Marathon took place Sept. 11. At the same time, it combined with the Surf City 10, a cousin of the perennially popular marathon. The Surf City 10 offers runners the choice of a 10-mile run, 10-kilometer or 5-kilometer run. Combining the two events on Sept. 11 was a COVID-related byproduct of logistics. Putting on the landmark race requires a complete closure of Pacific Coast Highway and coordination with CalTrans, the City of Huntington Beach, local businesses and residents. Race organizers felt closing PCH on two separate weekends “would place too heavy of a burden on those stakeholders,” according to the race’s web site. A Boston Marathon qualifying race, the Surf City Marathon offers runners a fast, flat, picturesque course that takes them along the city’s signature coastline. The marathon opens at the juncture of the Huntington Beach Pier and Main Street, before turning inland just past Mile 2. From there, you spend the next 7 miles en route to Huntington Central Park, taking the race’s only incline along the way. Just past Mile 9, the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and its numerous wildlife and birds keep you company for the next 6 miles. At Mile 16, you leave PCH and spend the next 9 miles running along a beachfront running path back toward the pier. Once you hit the pier, the last mile gives you a spectator-lined path to the finish line.

— Brian Robin


2. Komen O.C. More than Pink Walk

3. Dana Point Turkey Trot

This year’s Komen Orange County More Than Pink Walk is virtual, but it kept its traditional date of the fourth Saturday of September. After a virtual opening ceremony, walkers were asked to #WalkWhereYouAre. The goal for each walker was at least 6,000 steps. As always, walkers were asked to raise funds for breast cancer health care, education, awareness and research. Individuals often form teams that solicit donations from family members and/ or businesses. From there, they pile up the miles, raising money with every step and every mile. The More Than Pink Walk is one of the Komen Foundation’s biggest Orange County fundraisers. The Komen website has plenty of information on fundraising tips and tools, as well as background information on the event and its mission. That mission goes beyond mere research into ending the disease. It helps provide quality and vital access to breast health care and research.

How can you not like an event that proudly carries the motto “Run the race before you stuff your face”? Then again, how can you not take to a 44-year Thanksgiving tradition that comes with a built-in, guilt-free license to stuff your face? After a one-year, COVIDmandated hiatus, the Turkey Trot returns live to the picturesque Dana Point Harbor at a 5k, 10k, combo 10k and 5k or 1 mile kids “Gobble Wobble.” Registration continues through Nov. 13. The event’s roots are as quaint as the current event’s status is impressive. The Turkey Trot went from a 300-participant event to becoming the sixth largest turkey trot event in the country. Upward of 17,000 participants hit the harbor and nearby Doheny State Beach Thanksgiving morning before hitting the table that afternoon. Fodor’s Travel named the Turkey Trot one of the top three Thanksgiving Day destinations in the world.

Fashion Island, Newport Beach; komen.org

Dana Point; turkeytrot.com


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1. Pechanga Resort Casino 45000 Pechanga Parkway, Temecula; 877-711-2946; pechanga.com This Temecula-area resort boasts two hotel towers with 1,100 hotel rooms, an RV Resort and an expansive gaming floor that encompasses 200,000 square feet and has thousands of slot machines and dozens of table games. Pechanga has rooms in a variety of sizes ranging from 400 to more than 800 square feet. Each room at Pechanga features flat screen LCD televisions, floor to ceiling windows, an alarm clock radio with MP3 connectivity, a safe and 24-hour room service. It boasts two entertainment venues: The more than 3,000-seat Pechanga Summit and the 1,200-seat Pechanga Theater. In May, Pechanga reopened its 4.5-acre pool complex The Cove, which has four pools, three whirlpools, two waterslides, a restaurant, a swim-up bar with 18 underwater seats and 27 cabanas. Some of the resort’s restaurants include fine


Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula was voted the best casino in the Orange County Register’s Best of Orange County readers’ choice poll. dining spot The Great Oak Steakhouse, Italian restaurant Paisano’s and Asian seafood spot Umi Sushi & Oyster Bar. Andrew Masiel Sr., president of the Pechanga Development Corp., said it

was an honor to be chosen as a top casino in the region. “It all starts with our great team members who are incredibly dedicated,” Masiel said in part of an emailed statement.

“When you have great team members, it reflects in every other part of the resort/casino. That really matters for our guests. We see it in our comments from them consistently.”

— Alex Groves

2. Pala Casino, Spa & Resort

3. San Manuel Casino

The northern San Diego County casino has a 507room hotel, an RV resort and a gaming floor with nearly 2,000 slots and more than 70 table games. Pala’s restaurants include fine dining restaurant The Oak Room and full service restaurants Bar Meets Grill and the Pala Café. The casino offers daily free entertainment as well as ticketed concerts each weekend. Spokesman Coley McAvoy said that guests have told casino officials

San Manuel Casino in Highland unveiled the first phase of its $550 million expansion over the summer and that included a larger gaming floor, a new high limit room, a new restaurant and three new shops. The casino’s gaming floor has 6,500 slot machines and dozens of table games. The casino also has multiple high limit rooms including Asian-themed Lotus 8, Steampunkthemed The Vault and the more traditional High

11154 Highway 76, Pala; 877-946-7252; palacasino.com

that they like its location near Palomar Mountain because it feels like a getaway and the gaming floor doesn’t feel chaotic. “We’re big enough to offer everything that you’re looking for in a casino — slot machines, table games, dining, entertainment,” McAvoy said. “As a boutique property we’re also able to manage the space well. We’re able to provide multiple touch points with the guests and provide them great service.”

777 San Manuel Boulevard, Highland. 909-864-5050, sanmanuel.com.

Limit Slots and High Limit Tables rooms. Restaurants on the property include Chinese restaurant Hong Bao Kitchen, 24-hour restaurant Serrano Vista Café, George Lopez’s Chingon Kitchen and Rock & Brews. Additional features that will soon come to the casino as part of the expansion include a 17-story hotel with a pool area and spa (set to open before the end of the year) and a 2,800-seat events center (set to open in 2022).


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Every Sunday, our Books+Authors pages offer a curated collection of facts and features on everything from fiction and nonfiction to kids’ books and cookbooks.

COVERAGE INCLUDES: n Timely new releases n Insightful reviews n Lively Q&A interviews n Favorite titles from local booksellers n Plus, coverage of top-selling ebooks, audiobooks and more

Look for Books & Authors every Sunday in the Playlist section.







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» AUTOMOTIVE | BEST AUTO REPAIR 1. Britton’s Automotive 17242 Gothard St., Suite C, Huntington Beach; 714-841-5701; brittonsautomotive.com Bruce Britton learned to build and work on cars, courtesy of his older brother, before he even attended high school. What began as a boyhood hobby has evolved into a lifelong successful career with the founding of his own auto repair shop, Britton’s Automotive, in 1985. Britton is still the driving force behind the business he founded in Huntington Beach 36 years ago. When asked why he started his business, he said, “I just enjoy working on cars. I’ve always enjoyed it.” Britton has built up a loyal following for his local business during his shop’s 36 years, with most business coming by word of mouth. “We are very honest and we do it right the first time,” said Britton, who also likes to share his knowledge with the driving public on the shop’s Facebook page by posting useful vehicle maintenance tips.


Bruce Britton is the owner of Britton’s Automotive in Huntington Beach. Britton’s Automotive handles virtually all standard vehicle repairs, from engine and air conditioning repairs, to replacing hoses and belts, to servicing brakes and electrical work. This family-

run-and-operated business works on all vehicle makes and models, foreign and domestic, including vans, trucks, SUVs and luxury cars – even Hummers. Britton’s offers customers a diagnostic check while they

wait so customers know right away what’s going on with their vehicle. And if a customer doesn’t want their vehicle, Britton will consider buying the used car, too.

– Amy Bentley

2. Hiro’s Auto Repair

3. ExperTec Automotive

Dai Kajiwara became an expert in repairing Japanese vehicles, particularly Toyotas and the automaker’s Lexus brand, with oldfashioned on-the-job training from experienced auto technicians trained by Toyota in Japan. Kajiwara began working as an auto mechanic at Hiro’s Auto Repair in 2000, and when the prior owner retired four years ago, Kajiwara bought the business. Hiro’s Auto Repair was founded in 1983, and Kajiwara is the second owner. “I started my career here,” said Kajiwara, who lives in Santa Ana.

A Best of OC top finisher for the past five years, ExperTec Automotive owner Roy Daneshavske is grateful for the public’s support. “Roy appreciates the public recognizing that we do our best to make everybody happy. It’s an honor to be recognized by the people,” said General Manager Gary Frahm. “Everybody here has always been told to treat the customer like you’d want to be treated when you walk in.” ExperTec has been in Huntington Beach for 27 years and opened a second location in Costa Mesa

3042 Enterprise St., Unit D, Costa Mesa; 714-545-5090; hiros-auto.com The mechanics at Hiro’s are experts at repairing all makes of Japanese cars, and they have many loyal customers. “We are a local, word-of-mouth business,” said Kajiwara, who currently employs two other mechanics and said he has enough business these days to bring on a third mechanic, which he is considering. Hiro’s enjoys many positive reviews on Yelp. Customer Peter C. from Irvine summed them up by writing, “I rarely post reviews, but Hiro’s Auto Repair is probably the best auto shop I’ve been to.”

Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa; 714-848-9222, 949-645-7722; Expertecautomotive.com four years ago. Technicians work on all models of cars, fleet vehicles, classic cars, hot rods and hybrids. ExperTec also supports local charities, groups and sports teams, including the Newport Beach Police Department’s Shop with a Cop program and the Southern California Special Olympics. ExperTec recently began working with Huntington Beach Police to reduce the theft of catalytic converters from vehicles — a growing local concern — by etching license plate numbers onto the catalytic converters of customers’ vehicles.


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28 Auto Center Drive, Tustin; 714-832-6222; tustinmazda.com Tustin Mazda has earned many awards in addition to being voted in Best of OC as one of the best car dealerships this year and in previous years. New models like the CX-30 and top seller CX-5 are attracting new customers to the Mazda brand. “We have been in business for 17 years and are grateful to our employees and customers which make the difference,” said owner John Patterson. Among Tustin Mazda’s core missions is to “treat our customers as if they are a guest in our home and make certain it’s a place they want to be,” said Patterson. The dealership consistently receives Mazda’s President’s Awards and Gold Cup Awards, which underscore its sales and service success and are indicators of training, performance and community support. Tustin Mazda maintains relationships with community nonprofits, including the Orange County Rescue Mission, Second Harvest Food Bank, and Blind Children’s Learning Center, among others. JOSHUA SUDOCK, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Fletcher Jones Motorcars has been the nation’s No. 1 Mercedes-Benz dealership for 22 consecutive years.

3. South County Lexus

1. Fletcher Jones Motorcars

28242 Marguerite Parkway, Mission Viejo; 833-667-9634; southcountylexus.com

3300 Jamboree Road, Newport Beach; 949-718-3000; fjmercedes.com In 1991, Fletcher “Ted” Jones realized his dream when he unveiled his innovative luxury automotive business. It quickly became one of the most successful dealerships nationwide and continues to break sales records year after year. Fletcher Jones Motorcars has been the nation’s No. 1 Mercedes-Benz dealership for 22 consecutive years, a position earned by the dealership’s long-standing dedication to provide the best luxury car buying experience available anywhere. Fletcher Jones’ “Field of Dreams” provides one of the largest inventories of Mercedes-Benz vehicles in the country, featuring hundreds of models, color palettes and option packages as well an extensive selection of pristine, low mileage preowned Mercedes-Benz cars, refreshed to the highest level. In upcoming months, customers will be introduced to the latest

flagship S-Class model, the MercedesMaybach S 680 4MATIC Sedan, the new-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan and the first electric vehicle in the luxury class, the 2022 Mercedes-EQS. In 2020, Fletcher Jones upgraded many of its processes. Customers now have the option to shop at the dealership or totally online, the convenience of servicing with complimentary pickup and delivery and the ability to sell or trade a car remotely. These changes add to the list of preferred-owner benefits which have become legendary in the industry. Other benefits include monthly service and parts specials, airport parking and shuttle service, complimentary multipoint inspections, car washes, MercedesBenz loaner cars, and a night drop, among other benefits.

– Amy Bentley

South County Lexus welcomes all car buyers and is offering special $1,000 reward incentives for two specific groups that the dealership says deserve to be celebrated when buying a Lexus: United States military families and recent college graduates. Lexus Financial Services is offering all eligible U.S. military personnel and their families a $1,000 reward for their service. Any active duty or household member of an eligible U.S. service member, Gold Star families, military retirees and veterans may be eligible for the reward, which can be used toward any new Lexus that’s financed or leased through the dealer and Lexus. College or vocational school graduates can reward themselves and use their $1,000 reward to buy or lease a new or used Lexus if they’ve graduated within the past two years or will graduate in the next six months. The graduate needs to have a job and be able to afford any car payments. SEPTEMBER 2021 THE BEST OF ORANGE COUNTY

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» EDUCATION | BEST OC COLLEGE / UNIVERSITY 1. Cal State Fullerton 800 N State College Blvd, Fullerton; 657-278-2011; fullerton.edu California State University Fullerton (or Cal State Fullerton) has an enrollment of more than 41,000 and a diverse student population, with 44% of students identifying as Hispanic/Latino, 21% as Asian, 19% as white and 7% as two or more ethnicities. Cal State Fullerton offers 109 degree programs — 55 for undergraduate degrees and 54 post-graduate, including three doctorates. A fun fact is the school’s mascot, Tuffy the Titan, dates back to 1962 when the campus hosted “The First Intercollegiate Elephant Race in Human History.” In addition, the campus itself used to be the site of citrus groves, and you can see citrus plants around the business school, which is the crown jewel of the university, paying homage to the school’s humble beginnings. The main campus boasts a wide range of activities, top-ranked classes and


Dylan Pease celebrates during Cal State Fullerton’s stage walk for 2021 graduates at Intramural Field in Fullerton on June 14. gourmet eats. The school supports Greek life and has two dozen fraternities and sororities on campus. Sports are also a big deal, especially the famous baseball program, which has yielded many famous

2. UC Irvine

Cal State Fullerton pride. Finally, don’t forget to visit the arboretum; it’s a beautiful place for every Orange County resident to take a leisurely stroll.

– Jessie Dax-Setkus

3. Orange Coast College

Irvine; 949-824-5011; uci.edu Located in the heart of Orange County, UC Irvine has something to offer pretty much everyone with 222 degree programs for its 37,000-strong student population. More than 133,000 students — a record — applied for admission for fall 2021. The campus, founded in 1965, is the newest member school in the Association of American Universities. It also ranks among the nation’s top 10 public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report, was chosen America’s Best Value Public University by Forbes in 2019 and named the best college in the

athlete alumni, including current Angels catcher Kurt Suzuki. For all those looking to get some Fullerton swag, the campus bookstore has everything you could be looking for to sport your

nation by Money magazine in 2019. Three researchers from UCI — two in chemistry, one in physics — have been awarded Nobel prizes. Three alumni have won Pulitzer Prizes. UC Irvine is also noted for its diversity; 88 languages are spoken and 79 countries are represented among the student body. As for sports, the Anteaters have won 28 national titles in 9 sports and 64 athletes have won individual national titles. A massive bonus to this campus is that it sits in Irvine, which is rated one of the safest cities in the U.S.

2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa; 714-432-5072; prod.orangecoastcollege.edu Orange Coast College is one of 116 community colleges in California, but it definitely stands out from the pack. In 2020 it became the first two-year college in Southern Calfifornia to offer on-campus housing, to help students afford their educations amid skyrocketing rents. The college says it also ranks first among OC’s community colleges for transfers into the University of California and California State University systems. “It’s cooler at the coast,” OCC says on its website. “Orange Coast

College provides a 4-year university education, without the crushing debt.” Saving money getting a four-year degree is a big draw for students, but OCC also offers A.A. degrees and professional certification in a variety of fields. The campus sits on 164 acres near the OC Fair & Event Center. Founded in 1947, OCC now has a student body of about 25,000 and offers more than 135 academic and career programs, including a professional mariner program for students seeking certification to work in the maritime industry.


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Multiple locations, 1-800-ABC-MATH; Kumon.com The Kumon Method was developed in Japan in 1954 by Toru Kumon, a Japanese high school math teacher who taught the concept of self-learning to his then-second-grade son. Kumon today is a global math and reading enrichment program for children from preschool through high school. During his 33-year teaching career, Toru Kumon, who died in 1995, taught high school math in various schools. In 1958, he established the Osaka Institute of Mathematics, which later became the Kumon Institute of Education Co., Ltd., in 1983. He spent his career improving the Kumon Method and spreading it to students around the world. Children move at their own pace each day through individualized instruction with worksheets and constant feedback. Kumon says its math and reading programs are designed to build on previous levels, so that by expanding foundational knowledge, kids can continue to apply new skills.


3. Eye Level

Strive to Learn, in Costa Mesa, was voted the top tutoring service in the Orange County Register’s Best of Orange County readers’ choice poll.

Multiple locations; 888-835-1212; myeyelevel.com

1. Strive to Learn

Eye Level is an international leader in supplemental math and language education. More than 2 million students in 20 countries have studied with Eye Level at franchised learning centers, including the four in Orange County: in Anaheim Hills, Fullerton, Irvine and Yorba Linda. Eye Level currently has about 235 students in Orange County. Eye Level Learning Centers focus on building students’ foundation in math and English, while also helping students develop critical thinking and analytical skills, self-confidence, and the motivation to learn. Eye Level also hosts international learning contests such as the Eye Level Math Olympiad, an annual math contest where thousands of students from different countries are challenged in their math skills in areas like numbers and operations, algebra, geometry, measurement, data analysis, reasoning, and problem solving. The Olympiad is open to all students and seeks to promote math skills.

Multiple locations; 949-873-6807​; Strivetolearn.com Strive to Learn, a previous Best Tutoring Service winner, offers Orange County students educational guidance in three main areas: test preparation, subject tutoring, and college counseling. This is a winning formula for owner Josefine Borrmann, a Costa Mesa resident who put herself through college working as a tutor. “I love giving students the ‘aha’ moment,” she said. Strive to Learn offers support for the SAT, ACT, GED, GRE and other tests, with practice tests and evaluations from an expert. One-onone tutoring helps students master any subject and can be done online or in-person at the student’s home or another local place like a park, with a customized tutoring plan. Students seeking college counseling get help throughout the admissions

process with mentoring, a list of colleges that will fit their interests, customized application strategies, help selecting a major, and time management. Other services include career assessment, college visit planning, and help with essays and financial aid applications. Strive to Learn closed its Costa Mesa office in August 2020 due to the pandemic, Borrmann said. “We feel like this accelerated us to do a business model we wanted to go to because we can serve our community better this way,” she said regarding home and online tutoring. “We engage personally with every single family that we work with,” she said. “Our tutors really get to know their students on an individual basis.” added.

– Amy Bentley


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Math Classes Now Enrolling RSM-Woodbury Opening this September!

The Russian School of Mathematics is an award-winning, afterschool math enrichment program. We use the rigorous study of mathematics as a vehicle to develop our students’ math fluency, intellect, and character, empowering them for life. Hybrid and in-person classes may be available, please inquire with our office for more information.

RSM is “among the top 10 schools in the world.” -Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth NEW

RSM-South OC (949) 864-6592

RSM-Irvine (949) 551-1777

RSM-Woodbury (949) 593-0080

www.RussianSchool.com THE BEST OF ORANGE COUNTY SEPTEMBER 2021 33



California Bank & Trust was voted the top bank in the Orange County Register’s Best of Orange County readers’ choice poll.

1. California Bank & Trust

and Tustin, with 225 employees. Multiple locations; Calbanktrust.com “We are incredibly For nearly 70 years, and customized options not humbled to win ‘Best Bank’ California Bank & Trust has found at other banks. for the eighth year in a been helping generations The bank has $13 billion row,” said Ben Alvarado, the of Californians and in loans, $15 billion in bank’s executive director California businesses to deposits, and nearly 90 of Core Banking. “This grow and prosper, helping branches located throughout recognition represents the to lead them to brighter California. There are 10 commitment our associates and financially sound branches in Orange County: have to our clients, futures. Today, California in Brea, Huntington Beach, and we look forward to Bank & Trust is among Irvine Center, La Palma, continuing to serve Orange California’s most dynamic Laguna Hills, Monarch County by building lasting and admired banks, offering Beach, Orange, San Juan relationships with awardguidance, collaboration, Capistrano, San Clemente winning customer service

each and every day.” California Bank & Trust is headquartered in San Diego and offers a range of financial services. Register readers have voted the bank as the county’s “Best Bank” seven times consecutively in previous years for Best of OC; this year is their eighth win. Bank leaders attributed their winning streak to the bank’s dedicated employees who maintain high standards of service.

2. JPMorgan Chase Bank

3. Bank of America

A major name in banking since 1799 with 97 branches and 1,600 employees in Orange County, JPMorgan Chase is committing $30 billion to advance racial equity. The bank is investing in affordable housing in underserved communities and lower mortgage payments in Black and Latino households, small business loans, and financial literacy nationwide as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion within the bank. The bank last year also assisted thousands of small businesses during

Bank of America maintains a large presence in Orange County, in terms of numbers, dollars and impact, with more than 5,000 employees, 89 financial centers, 390 ATMs, six Merrill offices, and one private bank office in the county. In Orange County, Bank of America has $27.1 billion in local consumer deposits, increasing deposits by $3 billion last year in part by equipping clients with industry-leading digital and mobile capabilities to conveniently perform common bank transactions at home or by smartphone.

Multiple locations; Jpmorganchase.com

the pandemic. More than 280,000 loans were funded, 80 percent of which were for less than $100,000 and half of which went to businesses with fewer than five employees. In addition, through March 2021, Chase provided over $40 billion to more than 400,000 small businesses through the PPP program. Since March 13, 2020, Chase has delayed payments and refunded fees for customers on over two million accounts, and the bank committed $250 million in global business and philanthropic initiatives.

– Amy Bentley

Multiple locations; Bankofamerica.com Bank of America has also made $580 million in small business loans and $7.4 billion in commercial loans. Since last year, Bank of America provided more than $3 million to Orange County nonprofits for COVID-19 relief, economic mobility and advancing racial equality as well as donating over 745,000 PPE masks, gloves and sanitizer bottles to local organizations and employees delivering 263 free Better Money Habits financial education modules to nonprofits, schools and businesses.


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THANK YOU ORANGE COUNTY for voting us a top credit union eight years in a row!

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Open a checking account by 11/30/21 and get $100. Use promo code BEST100. Terms, conditions, and eligibility requirements apply. See website for complete details. www.orangecountyscu.org/BestofOC Membership in Orange County’s Credit Union is available to anyone who lives or works in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, or San Bernardino Counties. You may also qualify through your employer or if your immediate family member banks with us. Ask for details. Membership fee is $5. Federally insured by NCUA. Orange County’s Credit Union is an Equal Opportunity Lender.


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SchoolsFirst FCU has 66 branches — 20 in Orange County — and more than 1.1 million members.

1. SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union

2. Wescom Credit Union

Multiple locations; schoolsfirstfcu.com

Multiple locations, Wescom.org

3. Orange County’s Credit Union

A previous Best Credit Union winner, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union serves the education community with a wide range of services including checking and savings accounts, auto and home loans, credit cards, insurance, retirement accounts, mobile banking, webinars and workshops, and more. SchoolsFirst FCU also offers financial plans for the unique needs of educators, like the Summer Saver or Paycheck Planner programs to help members set aside money for summer months when they don’t receive a paycheck. SchoolsFirst FCU has 66 branches — 20 in Orange County — and more than 1.1 million members. “We are truly grateful to our members for all they do to help build a stronger future for our communities. Thank you for recognizing us as one of the best credit unions in Orange County,” said Bill Cheney, the credit union’s president and CEO. The COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters created financial hardships for many members. Staying true to the credit union philosophy of “people helping people,” SchoolsFirst FCU provided emergency assistance on loan balances totaling over $1.28 billion and reversed more than $4 million in fees. SchoolsFirst FCU began during the Depression, in 1934, as the Orange County Teachers Credit Union. Back then, 126 school employees pooled $1,200 and established their own financial institution based in Santa Ana. By 1983, it was the largest teachers’ credit union nationwide and the fifth biggest in California. It was renamed SchoolsFirst FCU in 2008.

Wescom Credit Union currently has seven branches in Orange County: in Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Irvine, Laguna Niguel, La Habra, Orange and Tustin. About 22 percent of Wescom’s 200,000 members, or 44,000 people, are served by the Orange County branches. Anyone can be a member of Wescom and enjoy lower loan rates, higher savings yields, reduced fees on products and services, online and mobile banking, access to over 30,000 fee-free ATMs, and more. Wescom has a long tradition of supporting the communities it serves under its #WescomKindness program. Past kindness events in Orange County have included food and beverage giveaways at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf locations on the Sunday morning that Daylight Saving Time begins, and surprising local families with free Christmas trees around the holidays. Last year’s efforts focused on supporting those impacted by COVID-19, by donating meals to health care workers, providing funds to Southern California area food banks, supporting teachers, students and their families.

Orange County’s Credit Union was established in 1938 and today serves more than 120,000 members, with more than $2 billion in assets. As a not-for-profit financial services provider, Orange County’s Credit Union is owned by members, not shareholders, which means its profits are returned to members in the form of fewer fees, lower loan rates, and enhanced products and services. Orange County’s Credit Union offers services including checking and savings, mobile banking, and retirement accounts, as well as auto, small business, and home loans. Membership is open to anyone who lives or works in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. There are 10 branches located throughout Orange County. “We thank the community for recognizing our rich history of providing ethical and secure banking services for our members through all their life stages, from youth accounts to mortgage lending and investment services,” said the credit union’s CEO, Shruti Miyashiro. “We are with you all the way.”

– Amy Bentley

Multiple locations; orangecountyscu.org


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DENISE K. Elementary School Teacher Member since 2000

for voting us

one of the best credit unions in Orange County! IT’S OUR PRIVILEGE TO SERVE SCHOOL EMPLOYEES AND THEIR FAMILIES

Your dedication to making a difference by helping build the future for others inspires us to do the same.


Insured by NCUA




1. California Bank & Trust Multiple locations; Calbanktrust.com California Bank & Trust has helped Californians open the door to homeownership for nearly 70 years and offers a full range of mortgage products. First-time homebuyers, those just looking for a fresh start, people ready to refinance, downsize, or build a dream house are all encouraged to work with California Bank & Trust for their home loan needs. “We are incredibly humbled to win ‘Best Bank’ for the eighth year in a row and ‘Best Home Loan Provider’ for the first time in the OC Register,” said Ben Alvarado, California Bank & Trust’s executive director of Core Banking. Orange County residents recognized California Bank & Trust in two categories this year for Best of OC for its positive customer service. California Bank & Trust provides a variety of financial help — in addition to home loans — for businesses and individuals, including commercial


California Bank and Trust was voted the top home loan provider in the Orange County Register’s Best of Orange County readers’ choice poll. banking, business banking, small business lending, treasury management, international banking and wealth management. California Bank & Trust is the result of merging three institutions acquired separately by Zions Bancorporation:

Sumitomo Bank of California, San Diegobased Grossmont Bank and First Pacific National Bank. Today, California Bank & Trust, a division of Zions Bankcorporation, N.A., operates in almost 500 local financial centers throughout 11 Western

states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, and Utah. California Bank & Trust combines the personal attention of a local bank with the resources of a major institution.

2. SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union

3. Bank of America

SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union tailors home loans to meet members’ specific financing needs, putting homeownership within reach for all of its members. SchoolsFirst FCU offers highly competitive rates on both fixed and adjustable rate products. For school employee members, SchoolsFirst FCU offers a home loan with highly competitive rates and low down payment options, with no private mortgage insurance. First-time buyers are able to get a home loan with a low down payment to make qualifying

Bank of America offers up to $17,500 in grants for down payment and closing costs to low- and moderateincome homebuyers as part of its Community Homeownership Commitment, in addition to low down payment mortgages. Combined with Bank of America’s Digital Mortgage Experience capabilities designed to improve the home loan process by increasing accuracy, expediting approvals and creating a client-driven experience, the bank says owning a home in Orange County is within reach.

Multiple locations; schoolsfirstfcu.com

easier, lower fees and fewer closing costs, along with lower private mortgage insurance as compared to FHA government loans. SchoolsFirst FCU also offers members the option to refinance their current loan as well as two types of home equity lines of credit, with some of the lowest rates in the nation. SchoolsFirst FCU serves California’s education community with 66 branches — 20 in Orange County — and more than 1.1 million members following the 2020 merger with Schools Financial Credit Union.

– Amy Bentley

Multiple locations; Bankofamerica.com Bank of America is a major player for home loans locally, with $2.7 billion in home loans in Orange County. Bank of America offers fixed-rate and adjustable mortgages as well as jumbo home loans for borrowers needing higher loan amounts. The bank does FHA and VA loans — government loans from the Federal Housing Administration and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. If you’re looking to refinance your existing home loan while rates are low, Bank of America can help with a refinance, too.


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1. Lollipop Dental Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics 1041 E. Yorba Linda Blvd #206, Placentia; 714-528-8252; lollipopdental.com/placentia At Lollipop Dental, safety is the No. 1 priority of everyone on the staff. Children in need of dental services will be assured to have 100 percent safe water used on every dental visit, preventing them from being exposed to microbacteria. In addition, all water used at Lolipop Dental meets EPA regulatory standards. Every child, regardless of age, is welcome at Lollipop Dental — even infants. The practice encourages children to come in as early as their first birthday or when their first tooth comes in to ensure everything is developing properly. Lollipop Dental helps children to learn healthy dental care at an early age to prevent problems in the future. Every visit is complete with a fluoride treatment to help strengthen and protect your child’s teeth, and dental sealants that will last for quite a few years can also be applied to back molars. The dentists at Lollipop Dental also teach children how to


Drs. Hideki Ikeda and Mary Pham, the husband and wife owners of Lollipop Dental in Yorba Linda. brush and floss properly and stress the importance of brushing twice daily so kids can take their oral health care into their own hands. Believe it or not, kids don’t dread coming into

Lollipop Dental. The staff prides itself on helping kids overcome their fears of visiting the dentist. “As with most little ones, my child isn’t very fond of dental visits,” wrote a Yelp reviewer who identified

2. OC Dental Specialists

3. Smile Moderne

OC Dental Specialists make going to the dentist feel quick, convenient, and easy. Most importantly, OC Dental Specials believe that everyone should be able to afford braces. This dental practice offers affordable braces with a down payment of $99 and only $99 monthly. Those with incomes less than $40,000 annually or have Denti-Cal or Medi-Cal, might even qualify for free braces. OC Dental Specialists focus on four general areas of consideration that create a custom plan of treatment for every patient. The first philosophy starts with

What makes Smile Moderne in Laguna Niguel different from other dental practices is “The Moderne Difference.” This mantra has five pillars that make the practice sought out throughout Orange County. First, Smile Moderne believes that every patient has a special and unique smile. Instead of a one-sizefits-all type of dentistry, it creates solutions as unique as every smile that walks in their front door. Second, Smile Moderne believes in creating a remarkable experience with every visit. The staff will remember

Tustin and Stanton; 714-665-4200; affordablebraces.info the face; every treatment option is carefully evaluated to see how it will affect the patient’s facial aesthetics from all angles. Second, the final corrected positions of the teeth are a huge part of their plan, and making a natural smile is of the utmost importance. Third, the practice focuses on the stability of the occlusion or the longterm health and stability of the gums, bones, joint, jaw, and teeth. Finally, OC Dental Specialists believe keeping the patient’s preferences top of mind creates the most successful plan.

herself as Jeolle A. “Her last experience elsewhere didn’t go so well, but the minute we walked into Lollipop Dental, I could feel the excitement from my child! No more tears for this girl!”

– Jessie Dax-Setkus

25500 Rancho Niguel Road, Suite 200, Laguna Niguel; 949-554-1563; smilemoderne.com what television shows you like to watch during your visit and how you like your coffee and tea. Instead of feeling like you are seeing the dentist, it is like visiting a friend instead. Third, the dentistry is all modernized. The staff constantly seeks out cutting-edge techniques, technology, and treatment options. Fourth, comfort is important, as the atmosphere is warm, inviting, and relaxing for every patient. Finally, patients matter most and Smile Moderne always has their best interests in mind.


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Campers wait their turn for the trampoline during American Ninja Warrior camp at Firestorm Freerunning and Acrobatics.

1. Firestorm Freerunning & Acrobatics Ultra 7220 Hazard Ave., Westminster; 657-400-9023; firestormultra.com If you think you are in for a normal runof-the-mill workout, think again when you go to Firestorm Freerunning & Acrobatics. This gym is designed to test your skills in extreme workouts like parkour, trampoline, aerial skills, tumbling, and tricking. There aren’t intense weights involved at this gym, but rather mastering your body weight and managing coordination between mind and body. This can seem pretty overwhelming, but Firestorm prides itself on creating a culture of inclusion as it accepts all ages, sizes, and body types into its program. The staff says, “If you come with a passion for improving yourself, learning new skills, and having fun, you will fit right in.” The coaches come from various backgrounds, including gymnastics, ninja warrior, parkour, martial arts, acrobatics, and much more. Each coach encourages their students to have fun and make the world their playground. If you have a child that rallies around the program, there are summer and winter camps and day camps available for ages 4 and up. Kids can also sign up for birthday parties to be hosted at the gym. In addition, there are Parents Night Out events every second Friday of the month at which parents can drop their kids off for an evening of fun and pizza.

– Jessie Dax-Setkus

2. Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County 1 Federation Way, Irvine; 949-435-3400; jccoc.org

Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County isn’t just a place to get fit but also where friends and memories are made. Kids of all ages are welcome to sign up for the various programs Merage offers, even those as young as preschool age. As we emerge from the pandemic, Merage is again offering on-site classes, but there is also an option to take some Zoom classes if you aren’t ready to be among a class full of people yet. The center’s 220,000-square-foot facility, part of the Samueli Jewish Campus in Irvine, features a health and fitness complex, a junior Olympic swimming pool as well as a licensed preschool and toddler care area. Summer camps are available to kids who can’t get enough of the fun activities Merage has to offer. Camp Haverim is for the older kids, and Camp Yeladim is for the younger children. On weekends this past summer, the center offered Summer Vacay at the J, four hours each Saturday and Sunday when kids can hang out, play games, do arts and crafts projects and enjoy the pool. Programs at the Merage Jewish Community are open to community members of all faiths.

3. L.A. Fitness Multiple locations; lafitness.com

It seems like you can’t cross the street without seeing an L.A. Fitness these days. The chain is not just all over Orange County, but the entire country, as there are more than 600 clubs across the United States and Canada that all boast state-of-theart exercise equipment and are open seven days a week. This gym offers a little something for everyone, and all ages are welcome to join. L.A. Fitness offers more than 20 group classes to sign up for, including Cycle Zone, yoga, and Zumba, heated pools, racquetball, basketball, and personal training to keep yourself healthy and fit. For parents that like to work out after the workday ends, L.A. Fitness offers a Kids Klub that does not require an extra cost. Need a snack? Many of the clubs have a store on-site so that you can pick up a cool beverage or a little nosh before or after your workout.


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Who’s Ready to Flock? In-person racing returns for the 44th Annual Dana Point Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day,

Thursday, November 25, 2021 Run a 10K, 5K, Combo 15K or Kids 1-Mile Gobble Wobble in the beautiful Dana Point Harbor A Family Tradition for 44 Years and Voted Best Run/Race in Orange County!

Run the Race Before You Stuff Your Face! Register Now: TurkeyTrot.com





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714-500-7194 949-433-7989

Dr. Mark Kramer


» HEALTH | BEST HOSPITAL 1. MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center 18111 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley; 714-378-7000; memorialcare.org MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center, a nonprofit hospital in Fountain Valley, has been voted an OC Top Workplace and the No. 1 in the Best of Orange County best hospital category multiple times. It also sits in a peaceful spot that makes patients feel comfortable when receiving their care. Services available at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center include specialty programs in cancer, heart and vascular care, Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders and a host of other fields, making this a one-stop shop for medical care. Whether you are looking for anything ranging from cancer care, diabetes care to emergency care, MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center has everything you need. The hospital’s easy-to-navigate website clearly defines all the services it provides so patients can make all their medical trips to one


MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley was voted the best hospital in the Orange County Register’s Best of Orange County readers’ choice poll. establishment with ease. MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center has about 4,000 registered nurses on staff, and more than 50 percent of them

2. MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center

24451 Health Center Dr., Laguna Hills; 949-837-4500; memorialcare.org MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center has been serving Orange County for more than 50 years and has been rated one of the best maternity hospitals of 2021 by Newsweek. Its Women’s Hospital was the first in California to offer labor-delivery-recoverypostpartum suites. Its website even has articles available specifically for maternity care for expectant mothers if they have questions about their upcoming birth. Saddleback is renowned

for its prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer, stroke, heart disease, pulmonary disease, and orthopedics. It’s also known for its leadership in emergency medicine, agefriendly care, breast health and surgery, including robotic-assisted procedures, neurosurgery, advanced imaging, and women’s health. The hospital is also known for its Neuroscience Institute, which specializes in the treatment of strokes and other neurological conditions.

have earned their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees. In addition, many have achieved board specialty certifications in more than three-dozen

areas of specialty care. The staff is also experienced, with the average length of employment at the hospital spanning over a decade.

– Jessie Dax-Setkus

3. Hoag Hospital

Newport Beach, Irvine; hoag.org The history of this hospital spans to 1944, when the Rev. Raymond Brahams, seven Presbyterian church members and one doctor became the founders of the Presbyterian Hospital of Laguna Beach. After selecting a location on the bluffs above Coast Highway in Newport Beach, the planned facility was renamed the Presbyterian Hospital of Orange County. The Hoag Family Foundation provided the necessary construction funds and Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian opened Sept. 15, 1952, with 75 beds, 68 physicians

on staff and 60 other employees. The facility has grown to include two acute-care hospitals, 13 urgent-care centers and nine health centers with a total of 1,700 physicians and 65,000 employees. It treats more than 30,000 inpatients and 450,000 outpatients each year. Hoag is known for its care in cancer treatment, heart and vascular care, women’s health, orthopedics, and neurosciences. Hoag was named one of the Best Regional Hospitals for 2019-20 by U.S. News and World Report.


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Make the simply better choice that takes care of Orange County. MemorialCare has once again been recognized as the “Best of Orange County” in 2021. This honor has not only brought recognition to our health centers and hospitals, but also to our physicians and staff members whose unwavering dedication to our community shines brighter than ever. This past year has proved that now, more than ever, your health is of utmost importance. Thank you for choosing MemorialCare to provide Orange County with simply better care.

Best Hospitals

Best Charitable Organizations

Orange Coast Medical Center

Saddleback Medical Center Foundation

Saddleback Medical Center

Best Medical Groups MemorialCare Medical Group

Learn more about our services. memorialcare.org




Edinger Medical Group was voted best medical group in the Best of Orange County readers’ choice poll.

1. Edinger Medical Group Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach; edingermedicalgroup.com Edinger Medical Group has offices in Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach and has cared for its patients in Orange County for more than 60 years. You can make same-day appointments, walk in, or use the group’s 24hour physician on call for emergencies. If you are looking to become a new patient, it is easy to join this group as its website

walks patients through what they need to do to be set up. At the same time, Edinger Medical Group urges patients to see if the medical group is the right fit and that their health insurance is a match. From there, you can call to make an appointment or walk right in. The group’s care providers include 10

physicians in internal and family medicine plus three nurse practitioners. Besides caring for routine health issues such as ear infections, rashes and colds, Edinger Medical Group also has the expertise on staff to treat conditions such as hearth attacks, strokes and diabetes. Edinger Medical Group has a few core values in providing health care. First, everything it does is with the patient’s best interest in mind. Second, the group’s employees are its greatest asset as

it thrives on having a friendly and knowledgeable staff. Third, it commits to excellence with every visit and encourages leadership through teamwork. Lastly, it promotes growth and community stewardship and achieves mission-driven goals to determine success. Finally, its attention to exceptional care, compassionate customer service, a great work environment, and interest in innovation makes it the best spot to receive your health care needs.

– Jessie Dax-Setkus

2. Xpress Urgent Care

3. MemorialCare Medical Group

If you are looking for a clinic that is open for long hours, then Xpress Urgent Care is the place for you. It also offers same-day appointments and walk-ins. Beyond urgent care, the medical group also offers school and sports physicals, vaccinations, on-site X-rays, STD testing, and much more. Xpress Urgent Care treats ailments such as colds and flu, lacerations, burns, sprains and fractures. The group has locations in Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Stanton and Tustin. Xpress Urgent Care also has telehealth visits available for those with symptoms of being sick, questions about their illness or injury, discussions for those who wanted clarification on test results, and answers regarding confusion on the next steps of health care.

MemorialCare Medical Group subscribes to the mantra, “We’re here to help you feel better … fast.” The group offers health care to patients when, where, and how they want it. The group operates acute-care hospitals, clinics and imaging centers throughout Orange County. Patients who don’t want to wait for their visit can reserve their spot in line online. MemorialCare Medical Group is open seven days a week, so there is no issue with accessing care on holidays or

Multiple locations; xurgentcare.com


Multiple locations; memorialcare.org

weekends. MemorialCare Medical Group offers a wide variety of services, including X-rays, EKGs, flu shots, travel immunizations, sports physicals, COVID-19 testing, an on-site lab as well as a pharmacy. MemorialCare Medical Group also treats all ages from newborns on up, so it is convenient for everyone. In addition, if you call after hours, a registered nurse will still take your call and answer all of your health care questions.


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714-965-2500 SCAN ME





1. People’s OC 2721 S. Grand Ave., Santa Ana; 714-582-3446; peoplescali.com People’s OC advertises itself as one of the largest cannabis dispensaries in the United States, with something for everyone, from curious customers to experienced connoisseurs. The store advertises its helpful and friendly staff that is knowledgeable in every product and will help customers create a personalized and unique experience. Besides its selection of cannabis products, People’s offers an array of CBD items, including tinctures, tablets, gummies and vape cartridges. Many products contain both CBD and the psychoactive compound THC in ratios ranging from 1:1 to 18 parts CBD to 1 part THC. The facility is fully compliant and licensed, and every product has been tested for quality in a statelicensed laboratory. For convenience, People’s OC offers online ordering for express pick-up or delivery. People’s OC thrives on five values, the first being


People’s OC, located in Santa Ana, was voted the best place to buy CBD products in the Orange County Register’s Best of Orange County readers’ choice poll. to keep things simple; everything in the shop is easy to understand, from their communications to their products and everything in between. Second, People’s OC takes its purpose seriously but still makes room to create

2. Medmen

2141 S. Wright St., Santa Ana; 714-786-6888; medmen.com Medmen in Santa Ana has many resources available to help customers figure out the best products for them. Those looking for CBD have a wide variety of formats to choose from, including Papa & Barkley Releaf Balm, which has a 1:3 CBD-to-THC ratio, and a tincture from the same brand that is 30 parts CBD to 1 part THC. Thirsty patrons can also get their CBD in liquid form, as the shop carries Lagunitas brews with equal amounts of CBD and THC or a version with an 18:1 CBDto-THC ratio. Medmen also carries 46

a range of accessories, apparel, beverages, concentrates, edibles, flowers, pre-rolls, topicals, vaporizers, and more. The store is centered on convenience as well, as patients can order for pickup or delivery with ease. Medmen even has a rewards program called Buds, so patients can earn points with every purchase getting them exclusive access to deals and more. Want to read more about cannabis? Medmen has an extremely informative blog that answers many of the questions you might have.

a fun environment for the staff and customers. Third, the team is always accountable for everything they do; they are competent, consistent, and committed to their jobs. Fourth, People’s OC continually develops, tests,

learns and improves its processes to deliver the best experience. Finally, People’s OC prides itself on making a difference in its community as it thrives on adding more value and giving more than it takes.

– Jessie Dax-Setkus

3. Medterra

9805 Research Drive, Irvine; 800-971-1288; medterracbd.com While the other two top vote recipients in this category are cannabis dispensaries, Medterra specializes exclusively in CBD products. The company was started by a group of people who are passionate about CBD and the company believes in making it available to all those in need. Medterra says its products contain undetectable amounts of THC. The hemp from which its products are made is grown under the guidelines of the Kentucky Department of

Agricultural Industrial Hemp Pilot Program, which allows Medterra to sell its products in all 50 states and internationally. All of Medterra’s products are tested by a third party to ensure quality and consistency. Besides human CBD treatments for issues such as insomnia, muscle pain and stress, Medterra also sells products for fourlegged friends. For example, if your dog has anxiety about things like fireworks, Medterra has CBD chews and drops that are safe to give to your dog to ease anxiety.


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• Earn 1 point on every $1 spent • Redeem for discounts and swag

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Formerly Bud & Bloom Open 9am-9pm Daily


SCNG VIRTUAL EVENTS ARE HERE! With a variety of topics - there is something for all. Check out upcoming and past events at SCNG.com/VirtualEvents

Featuring conversations with authors, thinkers and performers, hosted by writer, performer and NPR radio commentator, Sandra Tsing Loh.

Informational and entertaining sessions with topics including Medicare and medical updates, tips for healthy living, exercise and fitness demonstrations, and performances.

NEWSMAKER SERIES Tips, tricks and insights into getting the most joy and productivity out of the gardening experience.

Get Frumpy Happy Hour, featuring Marla Jo Fisher — author, columnist and all around funny person.

Join SCNG journalists in conversation

with prominent newsmakers across southern California.

Questions or comments — we would like to hear from you: events@scng.com Los Angeles Daily News n The Orange County Register n The Press-Enterprise n Press-Telegram (Long Beach) n Daily Breeze (Torrance) n Pasadena Star-News San Gabriel Valley Tribune n Whittier Daily News n Inland Valley Daily Bulletin n The Sun (San Bernardino) n The Facts (Redlands) THE BEST OF ORANGE COUNTY SEPTEMBER 2021 47


» RETAIL | BEST 1. Trader Joe’s Multiple locations; traderjoes.com When the late Joe Coulombe developed the idea of adding a South Seas, tiki vibe to his grocery store chain in 1967, who knew it would become such a hit? More than 50 years and more than 500 stores later, Trader Joe’s is much more than a quirky idea. The market, which initially thrived on a cult following, has become an industry leader with $13.7 billion in net sales, according to retail insights company Edge by Ascential. As a comparison, Whole Foods has $16.5 billion U.S. sales. And TJ’s remains a hit with patrons, including readers of the OC Register, who again voted it as their top grocery destination. Straw hats and Hawaiian shirts notwithstanding, the chain, now owned by the parent company of Aldi supermarkets, maintains a unique selection of foodstuffs that sets it apart from the major grocery chains.


Trader Joe’s has become an industry leader with $13.7 billion in net sales, according to retail insights company Edge by Ascential. Whether it’s “Two-Buck Chuck,” from the wine section or a limited-run specialty item, shoppers are always making surprising “finds” at the store. According to CNBC’s “Make It,” Trader Joe’s

2. Ralphs


and that has become yet another defining aspect of the store. Trader Joe’s offers a wide selection of organic products that compare favorably to those at organic chains.

– Greg Mellen

3. Stater Bros.

Multiple locations, ralphs.com With 37 stores in Orange County and 185 locations throughout Southern California, Ralphs is an ubiquitous presence in the region’s grocery landscape. Its parent, The Kroger Company, ranks atop the largest supermarket category annually. This year, Ralphs claimed the No. 2 slot among Register readers, who last year favored the more targeted Whole Foods and Sprouts chains. Asked what he thinks defines Ralphs, John Votava, director of corporate affairs for the Ralphs division of Kroger, responded, “We pride

carries about one-tenth as many items as traditional grocery stores, making it seem more like a boutique shop. In 1972, Trader Joe’s introduced its first private label product — granola,

Multiple locations; staterbros.com ourselves on being fully stocked with the freshest merchandise and the friendliest associates to deliver a memorable shopping experience.” According to Votava, Kroger invested more than $2.5 billion during the COVID-19 pandemic in added pay for employees and to implement safety measures going forward. “We quickly expanded our pickup services by more than 200% to reach all 185 Ralphs locations throughout Southern California and the Central Coast during the early onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Votava said.

Stater Bros. has been a uniquely Southern California institution since twin brothers and Dust Bowl refugees Cleo and Leo Stater put down $600 to buy their original market, which opened in 1936 in Yucaipa. Stater Bros. now boasts more than 170 stores, employing 18,000 with annual sales of more than $4 billion. The chain is particularly renowned for its hand- and custom-cut meats, produce and, believe it or not, handmade sushi. According to the company’s website, Stater has also been rated as the “best place to shop

for groceries” among full service supermarket chains in Southern California, according to a leading national consumer magazine. A 2017 survey by Indeed.com ranked Stater Bros. No. 20 nationally in job security. Giving back remains a core value, with the company partnering with local charities across an array of areas. In January, Stater Bros. Charities announced it had raised more than $435,000 to address food insecurity in the communities that the company serves. Funds will provide up to 3.9 million meals to needy individuals.


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» RETAIL | BEST PLACE TO GET A GRAB-AND-GO MEAL 1. In-N-Out Burger Multiple locations; 800-786-1000; in-n-out.com Last year, the Orange County Register debuted the Place to Get a Grab-and-Go Meal category. At the time, readers took that to mean higher-end food halls. This year, readers’ tastes turned more toward speed and convenience, bringing in a new list of winners. No matter the category, In-N-Out remains in a class of its own. Ever since Harry and Esther Snyder debuted their burger joint in 1948 in Baldwin Park, the precept has been the same: Make a few menu items and make them the best. It is a concept their daughter, Lynsi Snyder, has stuck to since inheriting the company and becoming president. Denny Warnick, executive vice president and chief operating officer, says the chain’s consistency atop the Best of Orange County surveys, regardless of category heading, is “especially meaningful to us because they come directly from our customers.”


A In-N-Out Burger employee walks past the signage and the new In-N-Out on North Bristol Street in Santa Ana on April 1. Customers don’t have to spend time pondering the menu. There are single and double burgers, with or without cheese and onions raw or grilled. There are fries, shakes and drinks. That’s it. Well, except for the

2. Chick-fil-A

Multiple locations, chick-fil-a.com People may not all agree with the founder’s political beliefs and they may wish it was open on Sundays, but when it comes to chicken sandwiches no one matches this national chain. With more than 2,600 stores nationwide, this chicken joint, rebranded in 1967 as Chick-fil-A, was founded in 1946 as the Dwarf Grill in a suburb of Atlanta. While serving a breaded, boneless chicken breast between two buns is a simple idea nowadays, it was a novelty in the 1940s, according to the company. Although the chain’s

signature is the chicken sandwich, fried or grilled, there is a large and eclectic array of sides, like the Lemon Kale Caesar Salad and the popular waffle fries. It also features a varied breakfast menu. In some restaurants, you can even get — eek! — steaks and hamburgers. Unlike other national chains where every restaurant serves all the same dishes, at some Chickfil-A locations you may find Southern and soul-inspired choices such as fried okra, collard greens, macaroni and cheese and sweet potato souffle.

“secret menu.” Since opening to a cultlike following, and still considered somewhat exotic on the East Coast with no locations east of Houston, In-N-Out has grown to 28 locations in Orange County

and more than 250 in California. According to Warnick, the chain will continue to expand with “measured growth in the seven states where we do business.”

– Greg Mellen

3. Miguel’s Jr.

Multiple locations, miguelsjr.com Mary Vasquez grew up cooking at the knees of her mother and grandmother in central Mexico. When she moved to the United States, she brought her love of cooking (not to mention family recipes) along. Her burritos quickly became the best in the neighborhood. In 1973, Mary, who remains “chief recipe officer,” and her husband Mike opened their first restaurant in Corona and named it in honor of Mike’s grandfather. Two years later, they moved into faster food with Miguel’s Jr., and a tradition was born. There are now

Miguel’s Jr. restaurants in Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Orange and Tustin, as well as two Miguel’s California Mexican Cocina Restaurants, for the full dining experience. The menu contains all the standards. There are six varieties of burritos, including the Famous Garbage Burrito, and the “Original” dating back to 1975. Also on the menu is a full complement of tacos, nachos, quesadillas, combination plates, salads and tostadas. A breakfast menu contains 10 items from breakfast burritos to combinations.


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» RETAIL | BEST SHOPPING/DINING DESTINATION 1. Irvine Spectrum Center 670 Spectrum Center Drive, Irvine; 949-790-4871; irvinespectrumcenter.com The Irvine Company is preparing for a big bounceback year at its two premier open-air shopping and entertainment properties, the Irvine Spectrum Center and Fashion Island, according to Butch Knerr, president of Irvine Retail Properties. “The number of visitors at our centers is approaching 2019 levels and is increasing each month,” Knerr said. “Our guests are elated to be back, and our merchants are thrilled to welcome them.” With its giant 108-foot, 52,000-light adorned Ferris wheel and more than 220 retailers, restaurants and entertainment options beckoning visitors, the Irvine Spectrum Center annually tops the list with our readers and the 18 million that visit annually. “We have curated a special collection of merchants, including 81 new stores that have opened across our centers during the past 12 months — with additional major


With its 108-foot, Ferris wheel and more than 220 retailers, restaurants and entertainment options, the Irvine Spectrum Center annually tops the list with readers. retailers lined up to announce in Q3 and Q4,” Knerr said in a statement. Retailers range from Nordstrom to Target to boutique shops. Food choices span the globe from fine dining to street treats. For those who may

not want to go 108 feet high, closer to the ground there is the Carousel and the Spectrum Climber, a structure with 75 platforms for kids to scamper across. Among the changes has been an expansion and upgrade of the outdoor

2. South Coast Plaza

3. Fashion Island

Billing itself as “the leading international shopping and dining destination on the West Coast,” South Coast Plaza features more than 250 stores and boutiques and 30 restaurants. And, unlike outdoor venues on the list, you don’t have to duck and cover when the weather turns. Opened in 1967 in one of the lima bean fields owned by the Segerstrom family, the plaza grew into the largest shopping center on the West Coast with sales of more than $1.5 billion annually before the

With offerings including Orange County’s only Neiman Marcus, among more than 150 retailers, and more than 20 restaurants and five entertainment options, there is a lot that keeps the crowds flocking to the popular Newport Beach outdoor mall. Add in free outdoor entertainment and the large Koi pond and there is plenty for everyone. Recently the mall unveiled a Personal Shopping Style Suite, where customers can make appointments with

3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa; 800-782-8888; southcoastplaza.com pandemic. The mall is anchored by Nordstrom, Bloomingdale and Saks Fifth Avenue. But there is also a vast collection of high-end and specialty boutiques. In 2019, Italian luxury designer Furla opened its first store in California, moving into an 1,151-square foot space where it sells women’s and men’s bags, shoes and leather goods. Located a few blocks away from the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, South Coast Plaza is a popular destination for pre-show dining.

patio at Javier’s Cantina Grill, a remodel of the Regal Cinema and The Escape Room, where groups work collectively to uncover clues, crack codes and solve puzzles to escape devilish locked rooms.

– Greg Mellen

401 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach; 949-721-2000; fashionisland.com personal shoppers who select curated items from more than 100 boutiques and coveted brands all in one place. According to Fashion Island literature, “our savvy shoppers are always up to date on the season’s hottest trends and musthave items, making them a fabulous resource for your styling service and gift buying needs.” Dining selections range from items you can choose at the mall’s Whole Foods Market, to a food court with choices from gelato to burgers, to fine dining.


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The Goodwill Store & Donation Center was voted the best thrift store in the Orange County Register’s Best of Orange County readers’ choice poll.

1. Goodwill of Orange County

2. Savers

Multiple locations; ocgoodwill.org There has never been a better time to shop at Goodwill: that’s the opinion of Corinne Allen, chief operating officer of the OC Goodwill. “The beauty is while everyone was cleaning their closets (during the pandemic) our donations are at an all time high,” she said. “Since we reopened, it was the floodgates.” There is a double bonus at the thrift stores during the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. As many families are still struggling financially and prices are spiking, shoppers are finding not only good selection, but the low prices Goodwill is known for. “It’s been a challenging year, but customers are really excited,” Allen said. With 25 retail stores in Orange County and 1 million donations annually, Goodwill often has great items in stock. But Allen said good deals and ample selection are only a part of the Goodwill mission. “We’re much more than that. Everyone knows about the thrift stores when they hear Goodwill,” she said, “but what we’re most proud of, our mission, is putting people to work. Especially those that face obstacles.” And then there is the whole sustainability factor. According to Allen, donations to Goodwill either for reuse or repurposing divert 12 million pounds from landfills each year.

– Greg Mellen

Fountain Valley, Yorba Linda; savers.com

3. Salvation Army Family Stores

Savers opened in San Francisco in a former movie theater and it has been “repurposing” ever since. Buying stock from more than 100 nonprofits for its more than 300 stores and accepting donations, the company brands itself as a “global reuse leader” specializing in gently used clothing, accessories and household goods. According to the company’s 2020 annual report, 33% of its customers describe themselves as “financially squeezed,” and 60% are spending less. And that’s where Savers fills the gap. The company also claims to reuse about 95 percent of its donations and saves landfills from 700 million pounds of refuse globally through the recycling of more than 375 million items of clothing, as well as shoes, accessories and kitchen ware. In its attempts to make thrift hip, Savers provides shopping tips on its website for those looking to create clothing ensembles and find their unique looks. It is also a sponsor of Eco Fashion Week in Canada.

The Salvation Army instantly conjures the image of holiday bell ringers. But that is just a small part of the Christian ministry that provides aid and assistance to more than 23 million Americans annually and is found in more than 130 countries. With 10 stores and donation centers in Orange County, the Salvation Army is well equipped to provide needed clothing and household items to local families, as the organization has done since its founding in 1865. The charity’s mission according to its literature is “to holistically aid low-income families and individuals by meeting basic needs, providing financial, emotional and spiritual support and case management services.” However, regardless of need, all are encouraged to shop the organization’s stores for bargains and rare items. Proceeds benefit the Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers, to help people overcome drugs and alcohol with sobriety, job training and other services. The Salvation Army also serves communities in homeless outreach and shelter programs, anti-trafficking services and disaster relief.

Multiple locations; orangecounty.salvationarmy.org


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» RETAIL | BEST WINE SELECTION 2. Hi-Time Wine Cellars 250 Ogle St, Costa Mesa, 949-650-8463, hitimewine.net

This family-owned store in Costa Mesa, founded in 1957 and moved to its current location in 1984, remains a go-to location for local wine connoisseurs. Don’t be misled by the mom-andpop, three-generations-work-here legacy of Hi-Time Wine Cellars. There is nothing small-time here. The store boasts a 3,000-square foot temperature-controlled cellar with 10,000 wines from around the world. “We do our best to fill it with great wines,” said Toby Sharp, creative director for the store, “whether it’s a $12,000 DRC (Domaine de la Romanee-Conti) from Burgundy or a $5 bottle. Admittedly we do a lot more in the $5 range.” Sharp says the staff, many of whom have long tenures and sommelier training, loves helping customers find the right beverages. The store caters to more than wine aficionados. In recent years, the store added a walk-in beer refrigerator with massive beer and keg selections.


Total Wine & More was voted the best Wine selection in the Orange County Register’s Best of Orange County readers’ choice poll.

1. Total Wine & More Multiple locations; 855-328-9463; totalwine.com With more than 8,000 wines, 3,000 spirits and 2,500 beer labels, Total Wine & More pretty much backs up the claim in its name. With more than 210 large-footprint stores in 23 states, including five in Orange County, Total Wine & More is a major player in the beverage industry. In addition to its large selection, the store is also known for its low prices. In a number of East Coast states, the chain was cited for selling spirits below state-mandated minimum prices. Governmental regulations aside, Total Wine has earned honors through the years from industry magazines, including being twice named as Retailer of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine in 2014 and 2004. It has also earned awards for

corporate philanthropy, claiming to have made $100 million in in-kind and monetary donations to various charities. The stores also offer regular tastings, classes and events featuring winemakers, brew masters and industry professionals. Total Wine also provides customers with publications including guides to wine, beer and spirits, and offers locationspecific loyalty programs. Adam Strum, chairman of Wine Enthusiast told the Washington Business Journal, “They’re very focused on educating the consumer. … They really invest a lot of time in their employees, their training. That’s one of the reasons they have been so fabulously successful.”

– Greg Mellen

Multiple locations; 877-772-3866; bevmo.com The days of the nickel beer may be long gone, but the 5-cent wine deal is alive and well at BevMo. The bargain for which the 160-store chain is best known offers buyers of specially marked bottles of wine a second bottle for only five cents. There are also times when the store offers case sales, with half the bottles at regular price and half for a nickel each plus an additional 10 percent off the case’s price. BevMo also features weekly wine tastings. And for five cents — there’s that number again — shoppers can taste a variety of pre-selected wines, beer and soda and stay as long as they like. If you have a particular varietal or wine characteristic in mind, the store has wine experts to recommend vintages and share tips. BevMo says it lives by the philosophy that “shopping for beverages should be as much fun as drinking them.” Customers can also become members and save on purchases and learn about deals. SEPTEMBER 2021 THE BEST OF ORANGE COUNTY

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» SERVICES | BEST MEAL DELIVERY 1. DoorDash doordash.com In 2019, The Atlantic declared that “eating in is the new dining out.” And that became even more true with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. And no one in the eat-in delivery space has had a more meteoric rise than DoorDash, the online food ordering and delivery platform based in San Francisco and founded by a group of Stanford students. DoorDash owns a 56 percent market share in the food-delivery sector, according to Bloomberg’s “Second Measure.” Unlike services such as GrubHub, which create demand for restaurants that already manage and operate their own delivery, DoorDash staked its position as a logistics and technology-driven company that provides and manages a delivery service for restaurants. What this means is that restaurants that didn’t deliver can now do so and restaurants that offered delivery are able to outsource the service. “We’re really focused


DoorDash owns a 56 percent market share in the burgeoning food-delivery sector, according to Bloomberg’s “Second Measure.” on selection and getting whatever you want,” said Abby Homer, spokesperson for DoorDash. As of Dec. 31, 2020, the Door Dash platform served 450,000 merchants, including 54,000 in California, had 20 million regular monthly consumers and 1 million monthly

delivery drivers, or dashers as the company calls them. A popular feature of the company is a $9.99 per month Dash Pass that provides free delivery for orders of more than $12 and has 5 million members, the most in the industry. The company is also expanding to deliver items other than

2. Postmates

– Greg Mellen

3. Uber Eats

Multiple locations; postmates.com Although a main player in food delivery, Postmates likes to say it will deliver “anything from anywhere.” And it is this diversity that has made the platform particularly strong in the Southern California market and with Register readers. In addition to meals, Postmates regularly delivers groceries, alcohol and flowers. Postmates had deals with more than 600,000 restaurants, more than any other platform, and that was before it was purchased by Uber in a deal finalized in 2020.

meals, including alcohol and groceries. In December 2018, Door Dash eclipsed Uber Eats as the No. 2 meal delivery company in the U.S. and three months later it overtook GrubHub for the top spot.

Multiple locations; ubereats.com Already a strong presence in Southern California, Postmates pairs with Uber Eats’ more than 500,000 restaurant partners. Both delivery apps continue to run separately but are “supported by a more efficient, combined merchant and delivery network,” the company said in a statement. Like other popular delivery providers, Postmates has a monthly Unlimited program at $9.99 per month and $99.99 per year with free delivery on orders over $12 and no added fees during “blitz hours.”

The company best known for its highly successful ride-hailing services had been a late arrival in meal delivery. However, it is making up for lost ground. Although it services fewer cities than its competition, Uber Eats is gaining market share. An informal study by Marketwatch found the service had slightly lower delivery costs than its competitors. The company’s acquisition of Postmates is expected to strengthen Uber’s toehold in Southern California, although for now the companies will continue with different platforms. In the future, Uber hopes to flip the field by using drones to assist in deliveries, which is pending FAA approval. The company also announced it plans to launch a national “listening tour” to learn more about merchant needs across North America.


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» SERVICES | BEST PET CLINIC/VETERINARY HOSPITAL 2. Back Bay Veterinary Hospital 4263 Birch St, Newport Beach; 949-756-0554; bbvh.com


Greek and Associates Veterinary Hospital in Yorba Linda was voted the top pet clinic/veterinary hospital.

1. Greek and Associates Veterinary Hospital 23687 Via Del Rio, Yorba Linda; 714-463-1190; gavh.net Not sure where to take your cuddly camel for veterinary treatment? At Greek and Associates, the motto is “If you can get it through the door, we’ll see it.” And that’s “everything from goldfish to camels,” according to Desiree Greek, wife of Dr. Tom Greek. And, yes, he has treated a camel. Desiree Greek said about 50 percent of the practice is devoted to dogs and cats, with full surgical and pharmaceutical services. But the rest are so-called “exotics,” which are Tom Greek’s passion. Ever since Tom, as a 5-year-old, caught a gopher snake that he named Hercules, he has known what he has wanted to do. The family still has a crayon picture Tom drew in kindergarten with a giraffe, tiger and lion behind an entrance that read “zoo,” with a

backwards “z,” Desiree Greek said. One of the things that sets Greek and Associates apart, according to Desiree Greek, is its laid-back atmosphere, from the docs to the decor. “A lot of places you’ll see are very clinical,” she said. “We try to make things warm and homey.” Even the interior design is off-beat and decorated in a midcentury modern “Googie” style. Dr. Greek graduated from the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine in 1993 and opened his practice in 2008. He has also published stories in a number of national magazines from Reptiles, to Veterinary Product News, lectures at national regional conferences and is a regular on KTLA’s “Off the Clock” streaming show.

– Greg Mellen

With a full suite of services, ranging from emergency treatment to surgery to dental and boarding and daycare, Back Bay Veterinary Hospital in Newport Beach is a one-stop shop for all things veterinary. The business has been a fixture in Newport Beach since the 1960s. Dr. George Katcherian bought it from the previous owners in 1978 and fellow vet Dr. Nabil Fanous has been on board for more than 15 years. An Armenian immigrant from Cairo, Egypt, Katcherian has built a reputation as a noted canine orthopedic surgeon, who is often called up for difficult hip, knee and leg repairs. According to the hospital’s literature, Katcherian was the first veterinarian in Southern California to be licensed to perform advanced surgery on dog knees. The hospital also offers an array of surgeries ranging from amputations to spaying and neutering. Fanous has a special interest in internal medicine and stem cell treatment for animals, especially those suffering from arthritis.

3. Banfield Pet Hospital Multiple locations, banfield.com A practice consisting of more than 3,600 veterinarians worldwide, Banfield has become a force in Orange County with more than 20 locations. Founded in Portland, Oregon, in 1955, Banfield has grown to become the largest general veterinary practice in the U.S. with more than 1,000 hospitals Banfield offers Optimum Wellness Plans which provide year-long personalized packages of preventive veterinary care to monitor a pet’s unique health conditions and catch or stave off small issues before they become big problems. As a company, Banfield is involved in numerous partnerships with nonprofit and community groups and is committed to corporate responsibility initiatives. The company also offers free first visits to its clinics. During the pandemic, the huge boom in U.S. pet ownership led to Banfield treating 9.2 percent more juvenile dogs and 12.4 percent more juvenile cats in 2020 compared to 2019. It was the first increase in the percentage of juvenile pets seen at the practice in 10 years. SEPTEMBER 2021 THE BEST OF ORANGE COUNTY

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Raymond E. Lee, M.D. Double Board Certified Facial Plastic Surgeon



Facelift • Neck Lift • FACEology® Lift • Mini Lift • Brow Lift • Upper Eyelid Lift • Lower Eye Bag Removal • Chin Liposuction • Chin Implant • Profound RF • Buccal (Cheek) Fat Reduction • Lasers • FACEology® Fresh (PRP Micro-injections) • PRP Hair • Botox • Earlobe Repair • Fillers • HydraFacial • FACEOLOGY ® Skincare UPPER EYELID LIFT





Newport Beach | 949-706-2277 www.faceologymd.com | hello@faceologymd.com Covid-19 Notice: Strict protocols are implemented for the safety of our patients and staff by following the Covid-19 safety guidelines set forth by the AesCert Guidance focusing on aesthetic medical and surgical practices. 56 THE BEST OF ORANGE COUNTY SEPTEMBER 2021





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The Goodwill Store & Donation Center on North Tustin Avenue in Orange. Goodwill was named the best thrift store in OC.

1. Goodwill of Orange County Multiple locations; 714-795-3130; ocgoodwill.org Last year, Goodwill Orange County held more than 345,000 hours of virtual service, ranging from check-ins with program participants to job training. “I would have never imagined we would have done something that quickly, but we made it happen,” says Nicole Suydam, President and CEO of Goodwill Orange County. Of course, what helped the organization pivot to online services during the pandemic was the generous help of Orange County residents. When donation centers were allowed to reopen, locals came loaded with items that could be resold through Goodwill’s secondhand shops. “The community was so generous,” says Suydam, who estimates that there was a 30% increase in donations last year. “People were donating wonderful, good quality items. We’re able to turn around, sell those items and have it benefit the mission.” Right now, Goodwill of Orange County is looking to how it can expand in the not-toodistant future, including possible new stores, and relaunching shopgoodwill.com. Back in 1999, Goodwill Orange County launched the website, which branches of the organization across the United States now use for online sales. As of last February, it has generated $1 billion in total sales and Suydam notes that half of that was earned in just the past three years. “It was definitely ahead of its time when it started,” she says, “and we’re just trying to keep it innovative and forward-thinking.” Goodwill is also looking to help local people with disabilities and veterans, particularly with re-entering the workforce postpandemic.

— Liz Ohanesian

2. Saddleback Medical Center Foundation

24451 Health Center Drive, Laguna Hills; memorialcare.org “This organization is deeply rooted in philanthropy,” says Christy Ward, president of Memorial Care Saddleback Medical Center Foundation. That tradition goes back to the door-to-door fundraising that helped launch the hospital in 1974 and continued when the foundation launched in 1979. Last year, as Saddleback shifted to COVID-19 emergency response, the community helped out. “Our community really rose to the occasion,” says Ward. “We were able to raise funds to support the response that we needed to care for the community during COVID.” Locals have also pitched in for initiatives like the nursing education program and catheterization lab. Saddleback is looking to build a new, expanded, Breast Center that will be about 16,000 square feet on the Laguna Hills campus and will incorporate “all the healing properties of nature,” to create a calming space for those seeking both preventative care and cancer treatment.

3. OC Ronald McDonald House

Orange, Mission Viejo; 714-6393600; rmhcsc.org/orangecounty In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ronald McDonald House of Orange County needed to retool its services and limit the amount of families it could intake, but they never had to shut their doors. Thanks to donations from community members, the charity was able to acquire necessary PPE, provide meals for families and even keep a wish list of items for its clients. Since 1989, Orange County Ronald McDonald House has provided temporary residences for the families of children staying in local hospitals. Right now, the agency is looking forward to a major expansion of its facilities to meet demand that has increased as Children’s Hospital of Orange County has grown. According to Katie Russell, operations director of Orange County Ronald McDonald House, local support for the charity’s work can be partially attributed to its transparency. “We are amazing stewards of our dollar,” she says, “so much of your dollar goes to the needs of the operation, versus to the operating cost of staff.”


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Best Cosmetic Surgeon THANK YOU ORANGE COUNTY!

Specializing in Face and Neck Lifts with Local Anesthesia • Face Lift • Neck Lift • Mini Lift • Upper Eyelid Lift • Lower Eyelid Lift • Brow Lift • Chin Liposuction

• Chin Implants • Buccal (Cheek) Fat Removal • Earlobe Repair • Laser Resurfacing • Fillers • Dysport • Botox

180 Newport Center Drive, Suite 160. Newport Beach, California www.newportfaces.com Dr. Stephen H. Fink Board Certified Facial Plastic Surgeon

(949) 566-1032



COSMETIC SURGEON 2. Dr. Jeffrey Joseph 5010 Campus Drive, Suite 100, Newport Beach; 949-424-3524; ococuloplastic.com

“It’s our office’s belief, and my personal belief, that our identity, our appearance, really stems from what our eyes are giving off to the world,” says Dr. Jeffrey Joseph. An ophthalmic plastic surgeon, Joseph is trained in both ophthalmology and plastic surgery, the latter focusing on the eyes and face. “It’s a unique take and a unique specialty where we take an eyecentered approach to facial surgery, facial rejuvenation,” he says. That’s made his Newport Beach practice, which Dr. Joseph established in 2015, particularly popular with locals for both cosmetic and reconstructive procedures. His services range from Botox to brow lifts to reconstructive surgery for skin cancer patients. The most popular procedure, though, is blepharoplasty, otherwise known as an eyelid lift. Since moving into a new and remodeled space last February, Joseph is able to perform many procedures in his office, using local anesthesia.


3. Dr. Wenjing Liu

Dr. Stephen Fink was voted best cosmetic surgeon in the Orange County Register’s Best of Orange County readers’ choice poll.

360 San Miguel Drive, Suite 410, Newport Beach; 949-200-6838; wliumd.com

1. Dr. Stephen Fink

“I think, mostly, what I hear is that a lot of patients frequently say that they wish they knew about our specialty,” says Dr. Wenjing Liu. With an office in Newport Beach, Liu is one of few physicians in the United States who is both a board certified ophthalmologist and a plastic surgeon. Her practice focuses on the eyes, with upper and lower blepharoplasty, brow lifts and Asian eyelid surgery among her most requested procedures. She’s also one of few doctors in the country who can perform intense pulsed light treatment, an FDA-approved procedure for dry eyes. Liu’s specialized practice has made her in demand for procedures around a very delicate area of the face. “We are very good at what we do around a very limited area,” she says. “I think people are beginning to appreciate the fact that are certain super-specialists, rather than going to somebody who works on everywhere on the body.”

180 Newport Center Drive, Suite 160; Newport Beach; 949-566-1032; newportfaces.com “We have a number of patients that I think they come in partly for the experience of touching base with us, in addition to getting treatments,” says Dr. Stephen Fink of the folks who stop by Newport Faces. After spending the past 15 of his 25 years in practice specializing in cosmetic face surgery, Fink has built up a loyal base of patients who come to him for multiple procedures. In the process, he’s also become Orange County’s top pick for cosmetic surgery. At Newport Faces, Fink offers a range of procedures, from chin implants to sun damage removal, but patients frequently come to him for face-lifts and eyelid surgeries, like upper and lower blepharoplasty. 60

He also provides non-invasive procedures, including Botox, fillers and laser treatments. “We give very personalized care,” Fink says. “We’re focused on trying to give very natural results and good follow-up care.” Last October, Dr. Fink’s office moved into a new location, which allows the staff to do more procedures in-house, in addition to the surgical center. Most procedures are performed under local anesthesia with local sedation, although the practice also offers other options. Those looking for a consultation should expect to schedule an appointment about two to three weeks in advance.

— Liz Ohanesian


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Trusted by Orange County for13 Times Over 40 Years Voted Best of Orange County

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DAY SPA 2. Spa Gregorie’s

Newport Beach, Rancho Santa Margarita; 949-644-6672, 949-858-9455; spagregories.com Since 1998, Spa Gregorie’s has been helping Orange County residents rest and rejuvenate and it’s a go-to place for massage. “Clients love massage,” says founder and owner Angela Cortright. Both locations in Newport Beach and Rancho Santa Margarita offer a full menu of massage styles, including options for people who are pregnant or undergoing cancer treatment. The Fassage, a 90-minute session that includes both a full body massage and a facial, is one popular option. The spa’s extensive facial menu includes options for a variety of skin types and issues, including techniques to help alleviate maskne. During summer, folks head here for spray-tans and body exfoliation as well. Be sure to book an appointment in advance and know that there might be a longer wait to get in on the weekends. If you’re over 50 years old, ask about the 50 & Up Club, which offers discounts on select days.


The Burke Williams Day Spa in Mission Viejo was named the top day spa in the Orange County Register’s Best of Orange County readers’ choice poll.

1. Burke Williams Day Spa Mission Viejo, Orange; 866-239-6635; burkewilliams.com With locations in Mission Viejo and Orange, Burke Williams is a favorite for Orange County residents in need of some rest and relaxation. The European-inspired, California-based chain of spas offers services that range from massages to wet room treatments. Massages are in demand right now, according to Lee Gollnick, general manager of Burke Williams’ location in Orange, as are detoxes. In fact, the day spa offers a detox enhancement, which includes aromatherapy and a Himalayan salt scrub with the massage, that’s a hit with customers. After more than a year of wearing masks, facials are also heavily requested. The Rescue facial, which incorporates benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid in the treatment and is offered for either a 50-minute or

80-minute service, is typically what’s used for people looking to clear up a case of “maskne,” or breakouts resulting from wearing masks. If you’re looking for a quick retreat during your lunch break, Burke Williams does offer 25-minute facials or massages that are targeted to your specific needs. For longer visits, spa amenities, include the eucalyptus steam room, jacuzzi, dry sauna and a quiet room. At Burke Williams, Gollnick says, guests can disconnect from the outside world. “It’s your hotel resort spa, but it’s in the city,” he says. Burke Williams has a membership program available at different price points for those who plan to make massages and/or facials part of their regular routine.

— Liz Ohanesian

2721 East Coast Highway, Suite 110, Corona del Mar; 949-723-0406, lavitasalonspa.com Mariella Boniadi, known simply as Mariella to her clients, describes herself as an “intuitive hair artist.” The owner of 7-year-old La Vita Salon and Spa, Mariella trained in London and Paris, and with naturally curly hair herself, she has devised cutting and blow-drying techniques to create straight styles without harsh chemicals. La Vita offers manicures with Dazzle Dry products, which are nontoxic, hypoallergenic and custom, organic facials, in addition to services like microblading and the popular hot jade stone massage. The salon and spa also hosts small groups for events like guided meditations. La Vita Salon and Spa is appointment only. “Each of us see one client at a time so we can give them our full attention and the highest quality services,” explains Mariella in an email. “We are all about connecting with our guests and listening to their needs.”


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Compassionate and Comprehensive Dental Care


WHAT MAKES US UNIQUE? • Patient-centered environment • Honest communication • Latest Technology

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THE HANGAR AT THE OC FAIRGROUNDS 1011 ARLINGTON DRIVE, COSTA MESA All proceeds will fund the critically needed programs and services for the 84,000 local Orange County residents affected by Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

EVENT Co-CHAIRS: ANALISA ALBERT & CHRISTINA JENKINS AlzOC welcomes our 2021 Soiree Co-Chairs, Christina Jenkins and Analisa Albert, who are planning a truly unique night full of entertainment, fabulous food, and fun. Both Christina and Analisa have been touched by Alzheimer’s disease personally and are committed to ensuring that OC’s families and residents struggling with memory loss have access to free or low-cost, quality care, support, and resources. These ladies are determined that no one will have to endure the journey of dementia alone.

NEW PATIENT SPECIALS: • $100 Off Dental Implants • Receive FREE custom teeth whitening trays ($400+ value)* *after completion of a comprehensive exam and any necessary treatment.

CHRISTINA (left) and ANALISA (Right)

Dr. Justin W. Nichols, D.D.S.

17300 Yorba Linda Boulevard • Suite E Yorba Linda 92886 PHONE: 714-996-1212 EMAIL: info@mymissiondental.com www.mymissiondental.com


CONTACT US Phone: 949-955-9000 Helpline: 844-373-4400 Email: Events@alzoc.org






1. Happy Jewelers 1565 S Harbor Blvd, Fullerton; 714-992-0454; happyjewelers.com Gabe Arik grew up at Happy Jewelers. “I used to go to work with my dad,” he says. By the time he was in his early teens, Arik was actually working in the business that his father launched after moving from Istanbul to the United States. Today, he’s a second-generation owner of the Fullerton shop best known for its selection of engagement rings and luxury watches. With seven jewelers on staff at its 2,000-squarefoot Orange County location, plus a factory in Los Angeles’ Jewelry District where another nine jewelers work, Happy Jewelers is known for its custom work. You pick the stone, or stones, and work with the store to come up with a design. Right now, engagement ring customers are frequently looking for round diamond solitaires, “simple settings” and halo designs. In addition to engagement rings, shoppers head to Happy Jewelers


Happy Jewelers in Fullerton was named one of the top jewelry stores in the Orange County Register’s Best of Orange County readers’ choice poll. for other custom pieces as well. “We can customize anything you can think of,” Arik says. Turnaround time for custom pieces typically ranges from four to six weeks. Watches are another big

2. Jeweler’s Touch

2535 E. Imperial Highway, Brea; 714-579-1616; jewelerstouch.com For close to 30 years, Jeweler’s Touch has been building a reputation as bridal jewelry specialists. In fact, a Ruben Rojas painting with the word “love” painted in a rainbow array of colors, has become an in-store destination for couples to reveal an engagement ring. Recently, there’s been an increased interest in custom pieces at Jeweler’s Touch and, with an inhouse 3D printer, clients can be part of the design process. “They get to see the whole process from 64

start to finish right here in the store,” says sales manager Corey Wilkinson. Beyond bridal jewelry, Jeweler’s Touch shoppers are looking for pieces they can layer, like stackable rings, and are keen on Detroit-made Shinola watches. With a new and remodeled space inside Brea Union Plaza, Jeweler’s Touch now boasts upgraded features, like a room in the front of the shop where customers can enjoy complimentary jewelry cleaning services.

seller at Happy Jewelers, with Rolex, Cartier and other luxe timepieces bringing customers into the shop. With more than 150,000 followers on Instagram, Happy Jewelers has a

reach that extends beyond Southern California. Arik estimates that the company is shipping out 100 to 150 orders a day to customers everywhere from Florida to Singapore.

— Liz Ohanesian

3. Mimi’s Jewelry

18591 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley; 714-964-7851, mimisjewelryinc.com A stash of diamonds helped David Truong’s family flee Vietnam during the Fall of Saigon and settle in the United States when the Orange County jeweler was just a small child. Today, Truong and his mother co-own Mimi’s Jewelry, the 26-year-old Fountain Valley shop known for its custom work. Engagement rings are the shop’s specialty. “Each one is so special and so unique and I just want my clients to leave knowing that we’re going to design something with them

that no one else will ever have,” says Truong, who has incorporated elements that represented the city of London and Marvel comics into his work for clients. Truong says to come with “an open mind” in addition to all of your inspiration images. “The design process is very organic for me,” he says. Truong and his team provide multiple rough drafts before reaching a final design. This small shop does get busy, so it’s recommended that potential customers schedule an appointment.


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OC RESORT 2. The Resort at Pelican Hill

22701 S. Pelican Hill Road, Newport Coast; 855-315-8214, pelicanhill.com The 504-acre Resort at Pelican Hill is a golfer’s haven, with two Tom Fazio-designed courses overlooking the Pacific. But it’s not just tee time that brings Orange County to this Newport Beach destination. Its 136foot diameter Coliseum Pool, adorned with more than a million hand-laid glass tiles, is a hot spot with indoor, terrace, cabana and poolside dining. Pelican Hill’s location above Crystal Cove State Park makes it an ideal getaway for people who want a bit of luxury and a good dose of nature. “There are miles and miles of trails that our guests have access to,” says Gerard Widder, managing director of The Resort at Pelican Hill. Resort experiences include bike and kayak tours, surf lessons and boat rentals. Pelican Hill’s golf courses, Coliseum Pool & Grill and Pelican Bar & Grill are open to the public. Pelican Hill also recently reopened its spa, which boasts 22 treatment rooms.


Montage Resort in Laguna Beach Beach was named the top OC resort in the Orange County Register’s Best of Orange County readers’ choice poll.

1. Montage Laguna Beach 30801 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach; 866-271-6953, montagehotels.com With a 20,000-square foot spa, three restaurants and an ocean view, Montage Laguna Beach is Orange County’s top pick for a resort getaway. Whether you plan to take off for the weekend, or just for a few hours, this beachside retreat might have something for you. “Wellness is becoming even more of a priority for families and couples,” says Anne Marie Doyle, director of sales and marketing for Montage Laguna Beach. That might be why Spa Montage is the resort’s most popular feature. The California Wildflower massage, a full body massage inspired by nature, is a hit with guests. Montage Laguna Beach also offers wellness programming with complimentary fitness classes, including yoga, for guests and personal training

packages. Meanwhile, the Spa Boutique, open to guests regardless of whether or not they have booked spa services, offers Montage’s own line of products, as well as items from cult-y brands like Lola’s Apothecary and Antica Farmacista. Montage’s Lobby Lounge hosts nightly entertainment alongside its elevated cocktail menu, where drinks are topped by flowers picked from the resort’s own garden. The pear brandy fizz, which brings together pear brandy with vodka, as well as lemon and honey, is particularly popular. In addition to the dessert menu at Montage’s restaurants, which is also favored by guests, the resort also makes custom cakes for birthdays. If you’re planning to dine here or enjoy spa day, be sure to make reservations.

— Liz Ohanesian

1221 West Coast Highway, Newport Beach; 949-645-5000, balboabayresort.com Located on the waterfront in Newport Beach, Balboa Bay Resort is a destination for locals as well as travelers. The Sunday brunch at A+O Restaurant is a local favorite. “It really caters to the local guests in town,” says Front Office Manager Lauren Ragan, noting that locals stop by for their cocktails and Sunday brunch seafood bar. The cocktail menu here is ever-evolving. “Every two months, we change up our list,” says General Manager Marina Dutton. A recent top-seller was The Vaccine, which includes Herradura Ultra Tequila, Blue Caracao, pineapple juice, lime juice and coconut syrup served in a beaker. The resort also serves smoke cart cocktails, in which whisky is smoked in a flavor of your choosing. During the pandemic, Balboa Bay Resort expanded its outdoor lawn space by 40%, allowing it to now hold more than 200 people. That’s good news for locals who have had their eye on this popular wedding spot.


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1. Duke’s Huntington Beach 317 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach; 714-374-6446, dukeshuntington.com It was a red light on a drive up PCH that brought Duke’s to Huntington Beach and the luck couldn’t have been better. “We thought it would be a great place to open a restaurant where we can surf and play,” says Managing Partner Brett Barnes. While the concept for the restaurant named in honor of Olympic champion swimmer and surf icon Duke Kahanamoku originated in Hawaii, it’s been at home in Huntington Beach for 23 years. “Having Duke’s in Huntington Beach is a privilege, actually, because the community understands the importance of surf history and, especially, Duke Kahanamoku, who was the ambassador of aloha,” says Barnes. “We try to spread that aloha spirit throughout our crew that works at Duke’s and the community. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that.” Duke’s is known for making mai tais with “PPOG,” or fresh pineapple,


Duke’s in Huntington Beach on Friday was voted the top waterfront dining area in Orange County in the Orange County Register’s Best of Orange County readers’ choice poll. passion fruit, orange and guava juices and serving fresh fish that’s delivered to the restaurant daily. Fresh fish is part of the Taco Tuesday menu as well, but for those who aren’t craving a fish taco, there are

2. Las Brisas

361 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach; 949-497-5434, lasbrisaslagunabeach.com “We’ve been an icon here for over 40 years,” says Howard Gardner, general manager of Las Brisas. There’s a good reason for that. The Laguna Beach restaurant with Pacific views is in an ideal location. “It’s a bit of a destination restaurant,” he says, particularly when the weather brings throngs of people to Laguna Beach. Describing its menu as “coastal California,” Las Brisas offers an ample selection of seafood dishes. Shrimp tampiqueños are popular here, as are scallops, halibut and

salmon. But, the favorite might be the whole lobster dinner for two. Margaritas are the go-to drink, with the house, Cadillac and spicy varieties drawing customers to the bar, but Las Brisas also has an extensive wine list. The restaurant also pours original cocktails like the Dante, named for a server who has been with the restaurant for 26 years, which includes Casa Noble Crystal organic tequila, pomegranate and lime. Las Brisas offers brunch on Saturdays and Sundays between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.

carne asada, kalua pork and fried avocado ones available as well. For those in the mood for steak and lobster, or steak and crab, Duke’s has Surf & Turf Thursdays. Whether you’re heading out for a

weekend brunch or tacos and drinks on a Tuesday, you should call in advance for reservations. Activity at Duke’s has been high since California fully reopened.

— Liz Ohanesian

3. Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar 611 Avenida Victoria, San Clemente; 949-498-6390, thefishermansrestaurantsanclemente.com It’s all about the seafood at The Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar in San Clemente. The restaurant works with multiple vendors, sometimes sourcing from local fishermen, other times driving up to Los Angeles for the catch, but there is fresh fish at the restaurant. “We go wherever we need to go to get the freshest fish that we can,” says Manager Valarie Daugherty. Ahi dishes — like cajun ahi, ahi dinners, ahi sandwich and poke — are

big sellers here. Cottons, a concoction of Myers rum, triple sec, pineapple and orange juice with 151 rum on top, is the most popular cocktail here, but customers also clamor for The Fisherman’s Bloody Marys, which you can have made with your choice of vodka or tequila. The Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar opens at 8 a.m. and, on weekends, you can expect to see crowds all days. Happy Hour is Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m.


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1. Morgan Stanley Irvine, Santa Ana, Laguna Niguel; morganstanley.com Morgan Stanley is Orange County’s top pick for wealth advice and management. Formed on Wall Street in the midst of the Great Depression, this global firm handles investment banking, as well as management, for both individuals and groups. In recent years, the firm has launched programs such as the Institute for Sustainable Investing and an inclusive access and opportunity initiative. Online, Morgan Stanley offers a bevy of resources that could be useful for either seasoned investors or people who are just curious. Its online content includes insight on personal finance and market trends, as well as technology, sustainability and diversity. The “Thoughts on the Market” podcast, available through both Apple and Spotify, looks at subjects such as housing, recent shifts in food and retail and the price of U.S. infrastructure. Morgan


Voted best wealth adviser in the Orange County Register’s 2021 Best of Orange County readers’ choice poll, Morgan Stanley has offices in Irvine, Santa Ana and Laguna Niguel. Stanley’s experts also share their research in areas that can impact the market. On the podcast “Now, What’s Next?” host Sonari Glinton looks at how the pandemic might change our life and

2. Charles Schwab

for life events like college and retirement. It also offers services to help with long-term health care, home loans and cash management.

— Liz Ohanesian

3. Fidelity Investment

Multiple locations; schwab.coms At Charles Schwab, the focus is on services for individuals. Recently, folks in Orange County have been turning to the venerable firm to ask more questions about wealth management plans that go beyond investments and look at areas like college savings, home ownership and retirement plans. “We spend a lot of time trying to understand clients’ families and occupational goals, relationships that are important to them, so that we can thoughtfully prepare recommendations,

economy. Locally, Morgan Stanley has branch offices in Irvine, Santa Ana and Laguna Niguel. Here you can find a financial adviser to help you and your family plan

Multiple locations; fidelity.com ideas and strategies that might work for them,” says Casey Mervine, senior financial consultant at Schwab’s Torrance office, which serves clients in both Los Angeles and Orange counties. If you’re planning to make a first appointment with Charles Schwab, Mervine says you should be prepared for a longer conversation. “We want to hear what their concerns are, what their goals are,” Mervine says. “We want to help them with the road map, instead of presenting ideas right out of the gate.”

“We try to determine where a client is right now,” says Jamar Burton, vice president, wealth planner for Fidelity. “We want to get to know clients on a personal level. I think that the pandemic helped us to deepen relationships because a lot of people were at home and really engaged in the planning conversation.” In 2020, Fidelity’s financial advisers helped clients navigate a time of uncertainty. “Last year was pretty much geared around market volatility,” says Burton of the questions they fielded from clients.

This year, he notes that some clients are surprised by a quick recovery, but, still, there are plenty of people asking, “Where do we go from here?” That’s what Fidelity’s experts try to figure out for clients. If you’re planning a first meeting with a Fidelity financial adviser, be prepared to get personal and candid. The adviser will want to know not just how you will be affected by a financial decision, but how it will affect your family, as well as where your finances are right now and how that might shape your goals.


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Your quality of life is important to us. With taxes likely going up in the future, having a clear plan is important. We want to hear your story, so we can understand your hopes and dreams and can help you choose the right investments options for you. Getting clearer together means creating a proactive plan so we know what to do if we experience higher inflation and interest rates in the future. Learn about our philosophy, and why connecting with us might be the integrated care you’ve been looking for to give you the confidence to live a bit more freely. Beproactivewithus.com

Chatterton & Associates | 3061 E. La Palma Ave. Anaheim, CA 92806 | Office: (714) 572-2050 | www.chattertoninc.com Advisory and financial planning services offered through Chatterton & Associates, a registered investment adviser. The Investment Advisor Representatives of Chatterton & Associates also offer securities through Royal Alliance Associates, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. Planning You Can Trust is a marketing and communications name for financial and tax planning services offered through Chatterton & Associates and estate planning services offered through The Law Office of James F. Roberts. Listed entities are not affiliated with Royal Alliance Associates, Inc. Neither Royal Alliance Associates, Inc nor its representatives provide tax or legal advice.


Saluting the Best in Local Journalism

Congratulations to all the Southern California News Group journalists who were honored in the Orange County Press Club’s 2021 Excellence in Journalism Awards. SCNG won a total of 47 awards including 18 first-place honors. Whether it’s breaking news or a detailed special report, our experienced journalists provide readers with accurate, in-depth coverage they won’t receive from any other source. Below is a list of Southern California News Group’s first-place honorees. For a complete roster of winners, go to: bit.ly/3lWlgbK



Scott Schwebke “Even in the #MeToo age, this woman got nowhere fighting back against harassment“

Jonah Valdez and Ruby Gonzales “First robbed of freedom by enslavement, then robbed of life by coronavirus”

BEST INVESTIGATIVE STORY Scott Schwebke and Joe Nelson “Embattled Rialto Water District awards contracts to friends of new president”

BEST ROUND-UP OR BEST OF Brad A. Johnson “Where to eat in Orange County in 2020: A map of the best places”

BEST SERIES Keith Sharon “Loud in the Silence” series

BEST BEAT REPORTING Jeff Collins Housing and Real Estate

BEST PUBLIC AFFAIRS STORY Beau Yarbrough “Is a minimum of 664 training hours enough to become a California police officer?”

BEST BUSINESS STORY Jeff Collins “Untethered from the office, urban tenants are flocking to the Inland Empire”

BEST SPORTS STORY Kyle Goon “For Lakers support staff, the bubble has been a frantic, collaborative effort”

BEST MUSIC/ ENTERTAINMENT STORY Peter Larsen “Jimmy Angel’s an 85-yearold teen idol with tales to tell of Pat Boone and the mob”



Peter Larsen “Patti Smith brings passion and poetry to the LA Phil’s Power To The People! festival”

Susan Christian Goulding “Chad and JT’s excellent adventure: Comics make viral video about Surf City’s mask shortage”



Susan Christian Goulding “COVID survivors already fight stigma and worry Trump’s diagnosis will make it worse”

BEST FOOD/ RESTAURANT REVIEWS Brad A. Johnson “OC’s Best Places to Eat 2020: And the Restaurant of the Year is...”

BEST TRAVEL STORY Jessica Kwong “Travel: Downtown Miami comes alive for Super Bowl LIV”

BEST USE OF DATA Brooke Staggs, Ian Wheeler and Alicia Robinson “How Did Your Neighbor Vote?”

DESIGN/ GRAPHICS Best COVID-19 Graphics Jeff Goertzen, Kurt Snibbe and Nikie Johnson Evolution of a Pandemic

BEST PROFILE Deepa Bharath “Pastor builds huge TikTok following by sharing passion for chai and spiritual conversation”

Los Angeles Daily News n The Orange County Register n The Press-Enterprise n Press-Telegram (Long Beach) Daily Breeze (Torrance) n Pasadena Star-News n San Gabriel Valley Tribune n Whittier Daily News Inland Valley Daily Bulletin n The Sun (San Bernardino) n The Facts (Redlands) 70 THE BEST OF ORANGE COUNTY SEPTEMBER 2021





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1. 85ºC Bakery Café Multiple locations; 85cbakerycafe.com Orange County holds a special place amid this international company’s history: Irvine is where the first U.S. location opened in 2008. Five years earlier, 85˚C — the name refers to a perfectly brewed espresso temperature — was started by Cheng-Hsueh Wu in Taiwan, focusing on gourmet pastries, cakes and coffee brewed with Guatemalan beans. Now there are more than 1,000 stores worldwide. Patrons can order Yudane chocolate chip filled minibuns, milk toast, sweet blueberry bread, cinnamon twists, cream puffs, egg tarts, sponge cakes, cheese dogs as well as espressos, teas, slushes and smoothies. 85˚C Bakery Café Marketing Director Dave Lazaro says walking past the displays to hand-pick from 50 different freshly baked breads or opting for the signature sea salt cream coffee makes for a totally unique experience. The annual Asian Moon Festival, which marks


85°C Bakery Café has more than 1,000 stores worldwide. the arrival of autumn, also heralds the return of 85˚C’s popular mooncakes. Over the summer, the company introduced the Impossible BBQ Bun, which Lazaro says provides their vegetarian guests with “a

great savory alternative to our Hawaiian Chicken Bun.” Another recent item was inspired by elote (or Mexican street corn) found at downtown Santa Ana food carts. “Starting with soft sweet

bread, we bake in a special blend of corn, Pico de Gallo seasoning and butter, then sprinkle on Cotija cheese and parsley on top. It has been a fan favorite from Day One.”

— George A. Paul

2. French’s Pastry Bakery

3. Porto’s Bakery and Café

This family-owned business was launched more than 50 years ago by Frank French in Costa Mesa. The Mission Viejo outlet arrived in 1996; Orange followed in 2005. Expediency is common practice here where a wedding cake can often be created in a week’s time (a rarity in the industry). French’s prides itself on making real whipped cream in-house too. Customers can find premade cakes ready for that last-minute party or order one in delectable flavors like banana

Porto’s provides an authentic taste of Havana. The popular bakery originated in Cuba, where Rosa Porto baked cakes and pastries for quinceañeras, weddings and birthday parties. When her family fled the communist country in the early 1970s and landed in Southern California, Porto’s was born. The family-run chain revolves around home cooking from Mama’s classic recipes. The Bake at Home service ships unbaked frozen pastries nationwide for people

Costa Mesa, Mission Viejo, Orange; @frenchsbakery (Instagram) nut, carrot, cinnamon spice, red velvet and lemon poppyseed. Some customers stop by just to order the famous Wagon Wheel — a large coffee cake with cream cheese available in chocolate chip, blueberry, raspberry, peach, boysenberry and more. Other delectable goodies on offer include Bundt cakes, cupcakes, pies, cookies, fresh fruit pastries, chocolate custard eclairs, rum balls and bread pudding. The breads are baked daily and cookie trays are available for large events.

7640 Beach Blvd., Buena Park; portosbakery.com to cook items like Arroz con Pollo Frito, guava pie and ham croquette. Then there’s spinach feta empanadas, potato balls, pork tamales and more. Yelp reviewer Kylie N. of Orange wrote that the “pricing is very reasonable for each item, especially baked goods. It’s also a bit overwhelming with the amount of items to choose from, which is most likely why you can’t leave Porto’s with just one box.” There is usually a long line at the entrance, so budget time accordingly.


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1. The Country Club 330 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa; 949-281-2582; countryclubcm.com No, you don’t have to know the secret password to enter this Costa Mesa landmark. It only seems like that once you step inside the A-frame building set amid this city’s restaurant and bar strand. The moment you walk into this nearly 3-yearold establishment, you’ve gone back in time to the 1920s. There’s the 80foot long marble bar, the rows of light bulbs, the classic tchotchkes lining the walls and the dark woods throughout that immediately put you on the lookout for Jay Gatsby, Al Capone or Lucky Luciano. Owners Mario Marovic and Andrew Gabriel designed The Country Club as a time-machine establishment. They wanted to create a luxurious restaurant and bar that gave customers the feeling of being in a private club or speakeasy. “It’s the only country club where everyone’s a member,” Gabriel told The Register not long after The


Customers sit at the bar at the Country Club in Costa Mesa. The Country Club features several old-fashioneds, martinis and Manhattans. Country Club opened in December 2018. Marovic and Gabriel opened The Country Club on Dec. 5, 2018: 85 years to the day after Prohibition was officially repealed. What they created is a dinner club/social club establishment. The Country

2. La Vida Cantina

1870 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa; 949-612-2349; lavidacantina.com Before we describe the various drinks at this Costa Mesa restaurant/bar in the heart of The Triangle, it bears mention how serious La Vida Cantina takes its cuisine. On the menu is a list of five sauces you pick from for your various dishes. Yes, La Vida Cantina serves dinner and brunches, with entrees ranging from $12 to $27. But it’s the lively atmosphere and extensive drink menu that put La Vida Cantina in this company.

There is a spacious outdoor bar, complete with five fire pits for the chilly winter and early spring nights, and two palapas that dominate the scenery. The drink menu features 11 different margaritas: seven blended fruit, four fresh fruit. That includes Tamarindo and Cactus Fruit Margaritas. If you prefer your tequila outside of a margarita, La Vida Cantina puts a variety of tequilas, mezcals and cocktails at your disposal, as well as a wide selection of Mexican beers

Club serves a dinner menu with the requisite steaks and salads. But there’s also roasted jidori chicken, Scotttish seared salmon, crab pappardelle and gourmet sandwiches. Libation-wise, The Country Club features several old-fashioneds,

martinis and Manhattans. The Smoking Jacket is particularly intriguing: bacon-washed bourbon, pecan tincture, maple syrup, chocolate bitters and smoked Applewood. Jay Gatsby may not have enjoyed one, but you will.

— Brian Robin

3. The Cellar

305 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton; 714-525-5682; cellardining.com No, that’s not Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford in the next booth. But you can sit in the same booth where Richard Burton proposed to Elizabeth Taylor. Located in the former basement of the Villa del Sol, The Cellar spent its first life as the California Hotel, which served as a hangout for various celebrities attending events and the Fox Theater, across the street. In 1969, the restaurant opened with its red velvet booths, cavernous walls and L.A.

Roaring ’20s ambiance provided by Gene White, better known as one of the craftsman who created Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride. There is an extensive dinner menu, one rich with fancy appetizers like escargot, fried sweetbread and steak tartare, and entrees like steaks, Chateaubriand, maple leaf duck, venison and pheasant. The drink menu also plays for keeps. There is a $100 Manhattan named “The Boss”, and a $70 XO Sazerac.


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1. Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que Multiple locations; lucillesbbq.com What makes this Southern California chain the category dynasty it is is simple: Lucille’s manages to please every picky palate there is. There’s no other way to explain how the chain topped this category for a 19th consecutive year. Ribs? Three types: baby backs, St. Louis-style and beef ribs. Chicken? There’s a smoked barbecue halfchicken and the Alabama half chicken, featuring apple cider marinade and a creamy, white barbecue sauce. Brisket and tri-tip? Lucille’s brings you Angus beef cuts in both. It also brings you Louisiana hot links that complement any other meat you choose. Lucille’s covers it all. And it does so via a hand-rubbed, marinading process that takes upward of 12 hours. From there, the meats spend another day in a smoker before they end up in the kitchen. True to many restaurants, you get a view of the process. Each restaurant displays a rack of brisket, tri-tip or ribs


Lucille’s rubs and marinates its meats for more than 12 hours then cooks them in a smoker for as long as 24 hours. being cooked in a dining room smoker. Where things get tricky is when you look at the numerous sandwiches on the menu: There are 11, ranging from the Nashville Hot Chicken to a Hatch Green Chile pulled pork melt. Deciding on which

one of those to go with is far more difficult than deciding on a barbecue sauce you prefer. And Lucille’s offers several, including a Memphis-style, hot-and-spicy, original and apple butter. A plethora of salads, appetizers and other

Southern dishes are available, including a New Orleans gumbo. One thing Lucille’s makes clear is it’s in no hurry to make their barbecue. The same goes for its restaurants, where long waits are the norm.

— Brian Robin

2. Bad To The Bone BBQ

3. Heritage Barbecue

You could say that barbecue is in the blood of owners Marty and Mary Wells. Marty is a former professional rodeo cowboy and Mary used to train show-jumping horses. Together, they’ve jumped into creating one of the fastest-growing barbecue restaurants in the county. The leap began in 2005, when the Wells’ turned their popular catering business into Bad To The Bone. Their foundation came from cooking their meats in all wood-burning pits, with Pecan wood as

Get here early. Oh, and bring a chair and reading material. You could be here awhile, because the only way to get this authentic Texas barbecue is to line up. When owner/chef Daniel Castillo sells out of his succulent brisket or Fred Flintstone-sized beef ribs (available weekends), he closes up shop. As it is, Heritage is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, runs on a cash-free basis, doesn’t take reservations or delivery app orders and funnels both dine-in and take-out orders into that

31738 Rancho Viejo Road, San Juan Capistrano; 949-218-0227; badtothebone-bbq.com


the fuel. They smoke their meats upward of 16 hours with this “real pit” style. Bad To The Bone offers the usual barbecue suspects: ribs (St. Louis and baby back), brisket, tri-tip, chicken, pulled pork and pulled smoked chicken and sausages. But the restaurant stands out with an array of side dishes so imposing they could serve as a meal. That starts with a baked potato topped with butter, sour cream, green onions and cheese — then stuffed with either pulled pork or pulled chicken.

31721 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano; 949-218-0227; heritagecraftbbq.com same line. What they line up for is Castillo’s Central Texas (think Austin) barbecue, featuring melt-in-yourmouth, peppery brisket, in-house-created sausages, spare ribs, smoked chicken and turkey breasts and pulled pork. Sides like brisket borracho beans and brisket sun-dried tomato mac-and-cheese. Castillo creates his masterpieces in 1,000 gallon smokers. He changes his specials and sides daily, so it’s best to check ahead.


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Kimmie’s Coffee Cup serves breakfast and then some, from eggs and omelettes to breakfast burritos and eggs Benedict.

1. Kimmie’s Coffee Cup Multiple locations; kimmiescoffeecup.com Started in 2001 as a fledgling eatery in Fullerton by a single mother battling congenital heart disease, Kimmie’s Coffee Cup has become an Orange County institution with five locations in Fullerton, Brea, Orange, Cypress and Anaheim Hills. “It’s typically very busy,” said Nicole Sipe, a manager and waitress at the Cypress restaurant. “There are waits on the weekends and sometimes during the week. We’re all tired at the end of the day.” Kimmie’s serves all the standard breakfast fare and then some, from eggs with choices of meats, to omelettes, to breakfast burritos, to four kinds of eggs Benedict. There is also a full lunch menu. Sipe says some of the favorites on the menu are Kimmie and Mike’s homemade sausage patties and the cinnamon roll pancakes with a homemade cream cheese glaze. And there’s always a happy, busy vibe that customers and staff enjoy. “It’s a great place to work; all the girls love it,” Sipe said. Co-owners Kimmie and her husband Mike Vinson made news during the pandemic, when they joined a protest by local restaurant owners against state orders to close. It could be said that resilience, if not resistance, is built into the company’s DNA. As a 15-day-old baby, Kimmie was rushed to the hospital for surgery for a heart defect and has battled it since. However, she still makes it out to the restaurants and is not above grabbing an order pad, a pot of coffee and serving tables.

— Greg Mellen

2. Stacks Pancake House

3. The Original Pancake House

The true Stacks Pancake House experience comes when you dig into the signature banana macadamia nut pancakes with “famous” coconut syrup. Or maybe the Hawaiian Loco Moco, a hamburger, egg and gravy on steamed rice, Korean Kalbi ribs or Japanese fried rice omelettes. “We pride ourselves to be a Hawaiian-inspired restaurant which serves a variety of authentic local dishes,” says cofounder Nixon Tanuwidjaja. Tanuwidjaja, born and raised in Malaysia, was a successful director of operations for Japanese restaurants in Los Angeles. However, it was in Hawaii, where he and his wife, Ovita, were introduced to island flavors. The couple launched Stacks in 2010. The restaurants have taken off since and the couple are launching a number of related eateries, including three in the next year. “We are seeing very positive feedback from our customers and enjoying stronger sales at all our restaurants compared to prepandemic,” he said.

With five OC locations in Aliso Viejo, Anaheim, Huntington Beach, Orange and Placentia, residents are never too far from an Original Pancake House and old-timey comfort food. Les Highet and Erma Hueneke of Oregon founded the first restaurant in Portland in 1953, after embarking on a world tour to collect recipes. And it shows in the far-flung variety and influences. Among the signature dishes are its Apple Pancake, oven baked with fresh Granny Smith apples and Sinkiang cinnamon glaze, and the Dutch baby, also oven baked, with whipped butter, lemon and powdered sugar. There are also kosher corned beef hash and Tahitian and Danish crepes. In all, 14 varieties of pancakes are on the menu, not to mention waffles and crepes. And for those interested in other breakfast fare there is a wide selection of omelettes. The eatery in Anaheim, opened in 1958 by the founding family, is nearly an original Original Pancake House.

Multiple locations; stackspancakehouse.com

Multiple locations; orginalpancakehouse.com


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1. El Torito Multiple locations; eltorito.com Although El Torito touts itself as the “authority of great Mexican Food,” it’s the all-you-can-eat and bottomless Mimosa and champagne-infused Sunday brunches with which our voters really connect. So popular have the brunch offerings become, they account for 20 percent of the company’s overall business. With seven stations serving limitless portions, bring your appetite. There are build-to-order omelette stations with onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes, spinach, cheese, ham, chorizo, bacon and jalapeños. There are also stations for fajitas, tacos, salads and soups. Also available are a wide array of classic entrees, including cheese enchiladas, machaca and eggs, huevos rancheros, tamales, chile Colorado and chicken adobo. While many restaurants closed down buffet-style offerings in the pandemic, El Torito took it as an


El Torito offers a wide array of classic entrees, including cheese enchiladas, machaca and eggs, huevos rancheros, tamales and chicken adobo during their brunch service. opportunity. Chefs and sous chefs came out to the front of the restaurant and prepared meals individually and to order for patrons, creating mini chefs tables.

“We have these amazing stations that meet or exceed what we’ve had in the past,” El Torito CEO Randy Sharpe told the Register in 2020. “You actually have a chef on the

other side of the plexiglass helping you along the way.” El Torito has locations throughout Orange County and brunch is served from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

— Greg Mellen

2.Taps Fish House & Brewery 2.

3. Old Vine Kitchen & Bar

The popular Taps brunch is back, after the pandemic shutdown, although it clearly never left the hearts or taste buds of Best of Orange County voters. “We’re happy to have it back,” said Sunny Reed, director of service for Taps, which reopened its brunch service in Brea ahead of Father’s Day. As of presstime, preparations were underway to reopen in Irvine. One thing that sets Taps apart is its chilled seafood on ice selection, featuring shrimp, scallops, freshly

In 2019, the Old Vine Cafe kicked its way into a larger space and rebranded itself the Old Vine Kitchen & Bar. Now it has made its way up to being one of the top three brunch choices among diners in the Best of Orange County survey. Unlike the typical buffetstyle brunches favored by many eateries, Old Vine goes in a different direction. Diners are given a choice of six different two-course selections. The first courses are typically salads or mixed vegetable combinations. For the

Brea, Irvine;, tapsfishhouse.com


shucked oysters and a seafood sushi roll. There are also cooked-toorder omelettes, a carving station and a hot buffet with all the breakfast standards plus rotating fish entrees. Of course a place named Taps wouldn’t be complete without a massive selection of handcrafted, awardwinning ales and lagers. A couple of drafts come with the brunch or a “freeflowing” champagne. Oh, and be sure to check out the balloon artist and photo booth.

2937 Bristol St. Suite A-103, Costa Mesa, 714-545-1411, oldvinekitchenbar.com second course, things diverge with choices of sweet or savory omelettes, waffles, crepes or quiches, with choices of fruits and meats. Beverages include high-end coffees, lattes and espresso. As the eatery’s name indicates, there is also an extensive and exceptional wine list, not to mention craft cocktails such as the Old Vine Bloody Mary, with homemade Bloody Mary mix and house-picked vegetables, and mimosas in mini-carafes.


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1. In-N-Out Burger Multiple locations; in-n-out.com Entire websites are devoted to breaking down the secret menu of this iconic franchise. When this 72-year-old company opens a restaurant in a new state, it’s considered front-page news. And when people come to California from the East, it’s not uncommon for those familiar with the burgers, fresh-cut fries and pure milkshakes to go directly from the airport into the drive-thru line. In-N-Out boasts 252 California locations, and 32 Orange County locales, each one a shrine to the simplicity of a perfectly cooked burger, prepared to order, fries straight off the potato and drinks. That’s straight from the playbook Harry and Esther Snyder drew up when they founded In-N-Out in 1948. Of course, there’s the “secret menu” items that, over the years, became an ingrained part of the restaurant’s lore. There’s the 3X3 (triple cheeseburger), 4X4, Animal Style (mustard-cooked


In-N-Out boasts 252 California locations including this one on North Bristol Street in Santa Ana which reopened in 2021. beef patty, pickles, extra spread, lettuce tomato and grilled onions), Protein Style (burger wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun), and for vegetarians, the Grilled Cheese (substitute two slices of cheese for the burger patties).

In-N-Out’s simple, but delicious food has become such a part of California culture that the company opened a memorabilia and souvenir store near the first restaurant in Baldwin Park. Further sealing the deal is the usual impeccable

2. The Habit Burger Grill

3. Farmer Boys

Founded in 1969, The Habit is yet another pillar of California fast-food culture. This one, brought to you by two Santa Barbara brothers — Brent and Bruce Reichard — who borrowed money from their mother to buy a small Goleta restaurant. In came daily-baked buns imported from a local bakery, lettuce and tomatoes from California’s Central Valley, and the piece de resistance: a stainless steel broiler with cast-iron grill. And thus came the Charburger — The Habit’s flagship item.

Again, brothers and burgers. It started with the McDonalds, segued to the Reichards with The Habit and, in 1981, the Havadjias brothers from Cyprus joined the parade. That year, they turned McCoy’s Restaurant in Perris into the first Farmer Boys. The goal: create a pure, farmto-table burger produced with locally sourced ingredients. That explains the Galassos-baked buns and ground-fresh beef that form the foundation of eight different Farmers Boy burgers. There’s the

Multiple locations; habitburger.com

And thus created this fast-growing chain, which was acquired by fast-food monolith Yum Brands in 2020. Over the years, the Charburger remained a steady presence, even as other items, such as teriyaki sauce, Portobello mushrooms, barbecue sauce and bacon joined the Charburger menu. Along the way, so did quintessential California items, such as a grilled ahi sandwich, chicken and avocado sandwiches and numerous salads, including — of course — a Santa Barbara Cobb salad.

customer service. It’s a byproduct of the aboveaverage pay, benefits and treatment In-N-Out employees enjoy from the moment they put on the chain’s paper hat for the first time. That’s no secret.

— Brian Robin

Multiple locations; farmerboys.com signature Farmers Burger: a half-pound beef patty with bacon, American cheese, smashed avocado, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion and homemade Thousand Island dressing. There’s the Farmers Boy cheeseburger, a Bacon Boy, a veggie burger and The Natural. Not into burgers? Farmers Boy brings its farm-to-table mantra across the dining spectrum. That means breakfast fare that includes four types of breakfast burritos, freshsqueezed orange juice and coffee ground daily on-site.


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3191 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim; brewery-x.com “X” truly marks the spot of this independent craft brewery located on the La Palma Beer Trail. According to the website, the X “represents and is about crossing paths, coming to a juncture and ending up where you want to be.” That helps explain the brewery’s commitment to community service and the more than a dozen nonprofits it supports. At Brewery X, you’ll find an expansive beer list, one putting the 37 beers into categories for easy reference. Want a triple IPA? The TIPA and its 9.5% alcohol content await you. A rice lager, the Panda Pool Party? Check. There’s also such eclectic choices as the S’Mores King John, an imperial coffee porter with marshmallows, the You’re Turning Violet, Violet, a Bavarian Hefeweizen with blueberries, and The Tour Time with Serrano Peppers, a dry-hopped German kolsch. Its seltzer menu runs five deep, including a “hardest seltzer,” the 10% Jungle Juice.


Friends gather in the outdoor area at the Salty Bear Brewing Co. in Costa Mesa to enjoy a cold beer after work. The Salty Bear Brewing Co. has been voted the Best Craft Brewery in the Orange County Register’s Best of Orange County.

1. Salty Bear Brewing Company 2948 Randolph Ave., Unit C, Costa Mesa; 714-486-2165; saltybearbrewing.com This 4-year-old establishment prides itself on its California roots, while — at the same time — taking a Midwestern weather approach to its beer selections. That is, if you don’t like a certain day’s brew fare, wait a day and it will change. A sample day’s offering included standards such as a milk stout, lager, a porter, a blonde ale and five IPAs. It also includes a guava Kolsch, toasted coconut pale ale, a red ale and a strawberry wheat beer. Riding shotgun with those in these times was a cherry lime hard seltzer. A wild bear white ale just joined the list. Beer prices are reasonable for craft breweries: $4.50 for a half-pour, $7 for a full pour. Salty Bear also sells 32-ounce “crowlers” of your favorite 78

beer: ranging from $11 to $13. The Salty Bear offers outdoor seating and is pet-friendly. But seats fill up fast, especially on the weekends. The place can get crowded and hard to navigate at times, so picking and choosing your spots goes handin-hand with picking and choosing the days your favorite beers are available. As for the food half of the equation, Salty Bear doesn’t have a kitchen. But the brewery has an agreement with The Camp and five nearby local restaurants offering everything from pizza to pastries to Vietnamese food. Order food while enjoying your beer and it will be delivered to your table.

— Brian Robin

3. BJ’s Restaurant Brewhouse Multiple locations; bjsrestaurants.com It started with pizza. In 1996, this pizza joint branched into brewing. Fast forward 25 years and this national chain has pulled in more than 220 awards for its various beers. And when we say BJ’s branched into brewing, we mean the entire company. Led by Senior Vice President of Brewing Operations Alex Puchner, brewing is a separate and distinct department at BJ’s. It operates its own R&D facility in Boulder, Colorado, that experiments with more than 60 beers every year. Only a few make the cut into national release. Those come from one of seven brewing facilities located in five states spread around the country. The breweries produce BJ’s 11 signature beers, along with seasonal selections. Each BJ’s restaurant is staffed with what the company calls “a BJ’s Brew Genius.” That staffer is trained in all matters beer: from the brewing process of each BJ’s offering to what beers go with what food.


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1. Summit House Restaurant 2000 E. Bastanchury Road, Fullerton, 714-671 3092; summithouse.com The decor and vibe are all English manor and gentry, the menu is Chicago steakhouse, the grounds are immaculate, the view is impressive. And the combination is irresistible, as Summit House takes the top spot for a date-night restaurant. Not surprisingly, the romantic site also doubles as a much-sought wedding venue. Proprietor Gary Parkinson had the English Inn concept in mind in creating the restaurant when he wrote “In front of a crackling fire one can partake of good hearty fare — the tankard is always full — the spit hung with roasting beefs — and a table heaped with sweets and such.” It is the image Summit House seeks to engender in guests. Maybe that’s why the bottom of the menu reads “Your special occasion place.” The menu is straightforward, centering on beef: prime rib, rib eye


The Summit House, established in 1989, has been voted the Best Date-Night Restaurant” in the Orange County Register’s “Best of Orange County” readers poll. and filet mignon. There is also chicken, fish and a mushroom dish. A Michelin Guide review reads, “Prime rib — cut into a choice of three sizes — is the go-to entrée here. Their rendition is homey, well-

executed and comforting with sides of creamed spinach, Yorkshire pudding and jus poured tableside.” The bar features a variety of specialty cocktails, wines, draft beers, whiskey and scotch selections.

The dining room is bright and open with floor to ceiling windows. Grab a window table if you can to take in the panoramic views of the grounds, parklands and mountains.

— Greg Mellen

2. The Cellar Restaurant

3. Hibachi Steakhouse

Descending beneath the historic Villa del Sol building into a restaurant that is equal parts Disney and legit old-style, the effect can be either a little much or just right. However, there is much more to the popular restaurant than the dim lighting and decor from the designers of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disneyland. “A two-hour dinner is not uncommon for a party of two,” the owners write. The menu is often described as on the light

If you want a testimonial for a date-night restaurant, how about this one from Rob W., who wrote: “Before we were married, I took my wife here on one of our first dates and have been going here regularly since. We are celebrating 24 years of marriage this year.” The Hibachi Steakhouse, tucked between a Mediterranean kitchen and bank, may lack some of the exterior accoutrements of other “date” restaurants. But once inside when you begin to enjoy the service and at-the-table

305 N. Harbor Blvd.; Fullerton; 714-525-5682; cellardining.com side of classical French. The chateaubriand is a signature dish: 18 ounces and carved tableside. There are also other steaks, fish, duck, venison, pork and pheasant dishes to choose from. Or stuffed leek on the vegan side. The Cellar has an impressive wine list and mixologists known to create new cocktails daily. For those who want the full intimate experience, request the Grotto, where it’s said Richard Burton proposed to Elizabeth Taylor — well, at least once.

108 S Fairmont Blvd, Anaheim; 714-998-4110; thehibachisteakhouse.com Japanese hibachi cooking, it’s easy enough to get into the mood. The menu features chicken, steak and seafood such as shrimp, scallops and calamari in an array of combinations or as single entrees. The chefs perform an array of teppanyaki skills, tricks and showmanship from the fried egg heart to the volcano onion. So sit back, enjoy and engage. There is also an extensive menu of beverages, including hot and cold sake.


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Assorted donuts from Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee in Costa Mesa.

1. Sidecar Doughnuts and Coffee 270 E. 17th St. #18, Costa Mesa; 949-873-5424; sidecardoughnuts.com Sidecar Doughnuts and Coffee started with a warehouse-turned-test kitchen and a renovated bakery truck, which shared doughnuts with neighbors in OC The flagship Costa Mesa location opened in 2013. Adorned with antique fixtures, vintage wallpaper and hand-painted tile, it looks like an old city

building. Patrons can watch glazes, compotes, creams and crumbles being made for the doughnuts via an open kitchen and front facing prep spaces. Small fresh batches are made hourly all day to ensure warmth and freshness — none of that sitting on the shelf getting stale here. The focus is on nostalgic flavors


with a twist. The Cooking Channel’s “Unique Sweets” and Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate” programs have spotlighted scrumptious Sidecar gourmet concoctions like huckleberry, salted malted chocolate chip cookie dough, basil eggs benedict, dulce de leche churro, Saigon cinnamon crumb, maple bacon and rainbow berry Pop-Tart (a seasonal variety). Cinnamon rolls and apple fritters are available on selected

days; there are also weekly gluten-free flavors and a few vegan options. Earlier this year, Food & Wine magazine proclaimed Sidecar to be the best doughnut shop in California. Drinks encompass pineapple mint spritzer, Vietnamese iced coffee, black onyx mocha and beyond. The signature Sidecar blend espresso and rotating single origin roasts are available for purchase by the bag.

— George A. Paul

2. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

3. Mag’s Donuts & Bakery

This North Carolinabred company has been synonymous with warm glazed doughnuts for nearly 85 years. It began in grocery stores before segueing to freestanding locations. Last spring, Krispy Kreme created a media frenzy by offering a free original glazed doughnut daily to customers with proof of COVID-19 vaccination. More than a million have been given away so far. According to Mike Thompson, Krispy Kreme brand manager of retail marketing, the company

Back in 1980, Yean and Ning Yen, who fled the Cambodian civil war and moved to America the year before, bought a shop from a Chicagoan named Mags and opened Mag’s Donuts & Bakery. The family owned and operated business, which has locations in University Park and Quail Hill, touts its doughnuts are “handcrafted to perfection.” “We make the freshest donuts and bakery possible with excellent service,” says Peter Yen. “Whether it’s customer

Orange, Mission Viejo; 949-348-8900, krispykreme.com continues to serve guests “delicious, melt-in-yourmouth doughnuts” and remains relevant by “sharing joy with our fans in fun, innovative ways.” Among those ways, he says, are through the introduction of minidoughnuts, popular Chocolate Glaze Fridays, “brand partnerships like our OREO cookie glazed doughnuts earlier this year that featured our first co-branded glaze” and “numerous doughnuts made specifically for holidays and other occasions.”

Irvine (two locations); magsdonuts.com

support or bringing quality ingredients to the table, we strive to be the best bakery in town.” Offerings include specialty croissant donuts with whipped cream, strawberries and cream or Nutella, French crullers and traditional favorites, plus bagels, muffins, hot biscuit, English muffin and bagel sandwiches with sausage, turkey or bacon. Yen says “we are always looking to add new items and expand our menu. The Quail Hill location offers breakfast burritos that are a customer favorite.”


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1. Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza Store Aliso Viejo, Irvine, Newport Beach; 949-852-9500; sgtpepps.com With a motto like “Peace. Love. Pizza,” it’s easy to understand this spot’s enduring popularity. Oh, yeah, that and top-shelf pizza, prepared entirely on-site down to the hand-shredded cheese. Although centered on New York-style thin crust pizza, Sgt. Pepperoni’s has a menu for pizza lovers of all stripes. Customers can check out the margherita, meatball with ricotta cheese, buffalo chicken, The Works, Hawaiian pie, or build your own pizzas among the choices. And, of course, the namesake pizza with its secret, cups-when-you-cookit pepperoni. There are also appetizers such as garlic knots and Great Balls of Fire, which is pizza dough stuffed with cream cheese, bacon and tomato. After it opened in Newport Beach in 1976, Sgt. Pepperoni’s became a popular local hangout. But it wasn’t until 2013, when it was purchased by Jeff Roberts, Stan Frazier, Rob


Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza Store has restaurants in Aliso Viejo, Irvine and Newport Beach. Dodman and Andy Hong — who remembered the spot as a favorite childhood haunt — that Pepp’s turned the corner and earned widespread acclaim. Since then, the business added a pizza truck in 2019 and

expanded to Aliso Viejo. The restaurant remains a popular postgame destination for sports teams young and old, with ballgames on the TV, craft beers for the adults and video games for the kids.

The restaurant is also involved in numerous community causes and in October 2020 helped raise more than $15,000 for Julian’s Lego Corner at CHOC Children’s in Orange.

— Greg Mellen

2. Pita Hot Mediterranean Grill

3. Mountain Mike’s Pizza

Holding a modest corner spot in a pod mall and surrounded by dining choices, Pita Hot Mediterranean Grill has risen above the competition among Orange County readers. Judging from the lines of eaters waiting for food, the word is out. The interior, like the exterior, is bare bones. Here it’s the food and value that stand out. On combo plates, diners are able to choose from five kinds of kebabs: beef, lamb, chicken, shrimp and

Since 2020, Mountain Mike’s has opened in three new locations in OC, in Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley and Rancho Santa Margarita. There’s a possibility that another 15-20 Mountain Mike’s stores will open locally in the next three to five years, according to Carol DeNembo, vice president of marketing. “We’ve targeted OC as a growth area,” she said. “We’ve got a lot more coming.” Starting as a lone pizza place in Palo Alto,

1343 E Chapman Ave, Fullerton; 714-449-0100, pita-hot.com kofta. Multiple skewers can be mixed and matched to one’s liking. Combos are served with pita, fries, rice or salad, and two sides from 10 choices, including hummus, baba ganoush, tzatziki and other dips. The restaurant also features cooked-to-order whole or half-chicken combos and a variety of kebab and shawarma sandwiches . Being family friendly, for children not accustomed to more exotic food, the kids plate features three pieces of chicken, rice or fries, a side and juice.

Multiple locations; mountainmikespizza.com Mountain Mike’s has taken off in part because of its “legendary” “Crispy, Curly Pepperoni” pizza. Add the “Mount Everest,” an “everything in the kitchen sink,” creation, according to DeNembo, and the “Pikes Peak,” for meat lovers and Mike’s is everything for pizza people. In addition to the pizza, the family dinein atmosphere helps lift Mountain Mike’s. “It’s really the experience you grew up with as a kid,” DeNembo said. “Pizza is a gathering food.”


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Adya Fresh Indian Flavors is just one of the more than 40 eateries at the Anaheim Packing District.

1. Anaheim Packing House 440 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim; 714-533-7225; anaheimpackingdistrict.com The Anaheim Packing District scores on two fronts. It is a destination in its own right, with a collection of historic buildings arrayed around the 1919 Spanish-style Packing House that harks back to the area’s agricultural roots. “We honor this tradition by hand selecting food and beverage purveyors to repurpose this grand hall into a community gathering place with live music and seasonal celebrations,” said Devon Reeves of the district’s community and tenant relations. “We were inspired by Anaheim’s rich history and culture and the photos of Anaheim’s early immigrant farmers, who settled on these very streets. And then there is the food. Don’t forget the food. This is no mall food court, but a magnet for diners of all tastes looking for something unique, trendy and delicious. The district encompasses more than 40 eclectic eateries that cater to almost any palette, from spicy ethnic to comfort food, from the savory to the very sweet. In the Packing House check out White Elephant, modern Thai, the award-winning Le Parfait Paris, bakery and cafe, or the Sacred Junk Bar, for “conscious cocktails” in an outdoor Tibetan resort-feel setting of all things. Or wander over to the Farmer’s Park greenhouse for “chef-driven farm-to-fork” meals.

— Greg Mellen

2. Mess Hall Market

3. The Hall Global Eatery

The 12,000-square-foot Mess Hall Market made big waves when it splash-landed in Tustin in 2019. Packed with 10 very different food concepts, the Mess Hall continues to tickle the taste buds. Food choices include the popular and always crowded Vaka burger, which food critic Brad A. Johson said “doesn’t make burgers for amateurs” that are “exactly what’s missing from modern food courts.“ You can also grab sandwiches, Greek street food, lobster rolls, chicken, Mexican and pizza. Or relax with a handmade cocktail from an “avant garde” mixologist at The Bar @ Flight or an organic latte from the Lost Bean. There’s plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, including patios, shaded areas with umbrellas and a fireplace for cool nights. The Mess Hall Market is next to the Tustin Legacy Park. For your postmeal constitutional, the back door opens out to 26 acres of trails and open walking space.

With multiple dining options under one roof, The Hall Global Eatery, at South Coast Plaza, was another highly anticipated culinary venture for Orange County diners. “Top Chef” finalist Amar Santana and restaurateur Ahmed Labbate joined forces to create the eclectic eatery inside a 7,845-square-foot space with a 1,500-square-foot patio. The hall is home to a Mediterranean grill with foods such as shawarma wraps, kabobs and combos with hand-carved lamb, chicken, beef or falafel. Available side dishes include hummus or spicy hummus, beet salad, babaganoush, taboule and tzatziki. Kids not ready to get their Greek on can have grilled cheese with fries. The Patisserie features coffees, pastries and croissants, coffee, salads and sandwiches. There is a raw bar with 15 choices of seasonal crudo, plus oysters on the half-shell, shellfish and caviar and a cheese and charcuterie bar.

1705 Flight Way, Tustin; 949333-2114; messhalltustin.com

3333 Bristol Street, Ste. 1876, Costa Mesa, 714-515-5544, thehallge.com


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818-840-8700 909-464-9911 562-803-1314















951-279-5400 510-227-6574 909-484-7433

714-937-2990 714-996-3278


SAN CLEMENTE 949-489-3888







714-543-3311 310-325-1200





1. Yogurtland Multiple locations; yogurt-land.com The self-service aspect is one of the best things about going to Yogurtland. Finding your favorite flavor, putting a cup under the spout and pulling down the big metal lever to get just the right amount (and sometimes mixing varieties) is fun. Then there’s the matter of deciding on whether to get the candy, granola or fruit toppings. “We are honored to be named in the Top 3 as we celebrate our 15th anniversary year,” says Brittany Knollmiller, Yogurtland senior marketing manager. “Yogurtland was founded in Orange County and it is wonderful that our home county continues to see us as a go-to place to celebrate, catch up and connect with loved ones over a frozen treat.” Many flavors are seasonal and tailored to specific regions. The website allows customers to plug in a zip code or location and discover what’s available. This past spring,


Yogurtland was founded in Orange County and many of their flavors are seasonal and tailored to specific regions. Yogurtland unveiled a plant-based cinnamon oatmeal cookie flavor, its first made with oat milk. Knollmiller says “guests interested in trying a vegan-friendly flavor as the

weather began to warm up” really liked having that option. Cookie dough was also a hit, she says. Over the summer, Yogurtland introduced a fruit-inspired lineup with

fresh fruit bowl fusions and acai bowls. “This fall, we are excited to introduce a new twist on our cold brew flavor and a new holiday inspired tart flavor.”

— George A. Paul

2. Handel’s Homeade Ice Cream

3. Golden Spoon Frozen Yogurt

The Handel tradition dates back to the 1940s, when Alice Handel sold ice cream from her husband’s gas station in Youngstown, Ohio, using fresh fruit from her backyard. Since then, the company has expanded beyond its Midwestern base to include California and a few other states. Handel’s COO Jim Brown says the staff are “cognizant of regional flavors,” while keeping the flavor profiles exciting and consistent with the calendar to “keep people coming back.” Ice cream and yogurt are crafted fresh daily in-house

Nutrition has always been key to Golden Spoon’s appeal. Founder Jeff Barnes started the company in 1983 as an offshoot of Tustin health food store Yogurt and Things with a goal of being the oldfashioned ice cream enthusiast’s premium frozen yogurt. Golden Spoon has a proprietary nonfat recipe and healthy profile offering what it calls more than 50 unique, light and refreshing tastes with a clean finish. Pomegranate raspberry sorbet, sweet coconut, pistachio gelato, chocolate

Multiple locations, handelsicecream.com


using Handel’s exclusive methods and recipes. Each batch is made in freezers specifically designed to create a smooth texture. Quarts and pints are also available for purchase. Yelp reviewer Vicki L. of Irvine had the Orange Dream Cream and wrote “it was absolutely delightful — the right blend of fruity, creamy and the portion was surprisingly big.” Says Brown, “We’ve been doing it for 76 years and we’re an especially niche company. We only do one thing, so we better do it well.”

Multiple locations, @goldenspoonmissionviejo (Instagram) malt, blackberry and toasted marshmallow were some of the flavors available at the Mission Viejo location in recent months. There are also gluten-free and dairy-free offerings. Yelp reviewer Fred K. of Lake Forest said Golden Spoon is his “family’s favorite go-to dessert place. How can you go wrong with flavors like pineapple tart, cookie butter, salted caramel, and black cherry tart? My wife especially loves the firm texture of most of their flavors and my kids love their toppings.”


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Voted Best Italian Restaurant Winner 12 Years in a row!

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Ravioli, Chicken/Veal/Eggplant Parmigiana, Shrimp Scampi, Chicken Cacciatore, Scallops, Fettuccine Alfredo, Lasagna, Pizza, Chicken Meatballs and Chicken or Veal Piccata


For location information, visit In-N-Out.com


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1. El Torito Multiple locations; eltorito.com Get off work, get into a nearby El Torito and get into one off the most versatile Happy Hour menus in the county. El Torito’s Happy Hour menu offers items at three different price points, each of which offers a minismorgasbord of food and drink specials designed for every palate and pocketbook. The lowest price point features street corn off the cob, pork-chorizo queso dip and street fries on the culinary front. Drink options include a 16-ounce draft beer, El Jimador tequila shot or all well drinks. At the middle price tier, your options include steak and chorizo street tacos, pork chorizo tostadas and grilled chicken sopes. Wash those down with draft beer schooners, El Torito’s signature Margarita or all call drinks. The high-end menu offers salmon tacos, chicken flautas or barbecue carnitas


El Torito’s Happy Hour begins at 3 p.m. at the eight Orange County locations. sliders. Those go with the Paloma tequila cocktail, mojitos or a spicy jalapeño cucumber Margarita. Hit El Torito’s Happy Hour on Tuesdays and the

2. La Vida Cantina

1870 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa; 949-612-2349; lavidacantina.com In short order, this establishment burst onto the dining and drinking landscape with a lively Happy Hour scene and key Costa Mesa location: right in the heart of the entertainment Triangle. It’s not hard to figure out why. La Vida Cantina’s in-the-middle-of-everything location and expansive drink/appetizer offerings provide the perfect postwork unwinding oasis. Happy Hour runs from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. But the restaurant and its roomy outdoor bar area cater to night owls as well, offering

a Late Night Happy Hour from 10 p.m. to midnight Sundays through Thursdays. Naturally, La Vida Cantina offers standout margaritas with 11 varieties on the menu, but what pushes the bar to the next level is the creativity of the non-Margarita tequila drinks. Options include the La Paloma (1800 Silver tequila, elderflower liqueur, red grapefruit juice, agave nectar and lime juice) or the Guavarita (Casamigos silver tequila, guava puree, jalapeños, sweet and sour, agave nectar and lime juice).

ubiquitous Taco Tuesday specials await: discounted steak, chicken, carnitas or al pastor tacos from 3 p.m. to closing. Happy Hour begins at 3

p.m. at the eight Orange County locations, all of which run daily, except Dana Point. That location does not offer weekend Happy Hours. — Brian Robin

3. Newport Landing Restaurant

503 East Edgewater, Newport Beach; 949-675-2373, Newport Beach; newport-landing.com When it comes to Happy Hour dining offerings, this restaurant overlooking the Balboa Ferry takes no prisoners. It’s as easy to get lost in the plethora of options as it is to get lost in the view of Newport Harbor, Balboa Island and the Saddleback peaks. Running every day from noon to 6 p.m., the self-described “Longest Happy Hour in Town” resembles a buffet in terms of its variety. It offers four different price points and from the garlic bread and sweet potato fries on the lowest-price menu to the char-grilled oysters, blue

point oysters, shrimp cocktail or wedge salad among the high-end items, creates a meal in itself. In between are options such as New England clam chowder, a warm artichoke, bacon and spinach dip, seafood ceviche, an onion ring tower, sautéed Chilean mussels and calamari tempura, among others. On the drink front, Newport Landing presents several specials, starting with two types draft beer, six different wines or the house margarita or mai tai, premium wines or the Bahama Mama or Cadillac Margarita


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1. Fratellino’s by Cesar Lomeli 600 S. Brea Blvd., Brea, 714-255-9100, fratellinos.com Established in 2000, Fratellino’s has placed among the Top 3 on this list for 11 years straight. Owner Cesar Lomeli doesn’t take the voters’ choice lightly. “It is a big responsibility, as a restaurateur, to be able to offer consistently what a customer is looking for — quality of food, good service, cleanliness, coziness, ambiance, etc. – at a great value. We’re always working hard on keeping all the variables a top priority with the highest standards. We recognize we have many great restaurants in OC and for us to stay on the top favorites year after year” is a challenge. Walk into the family restaurant and an Old World Italian atmosphere is evident. The menu consists of hearty food portions such as beef lasagna with meat sauce, eggplant or veal parmigiana, shrimp scampi and chicken cacciatore. Then there are traditional pasta, chicken, seafood and meat dishes; pizzas (Margherita, vegetarian),


Cesar and Gabriela Lomeli own Fratellino’s by Cesar Lomeli in Brea. They were voted the best Italian restaurant in the OC Register’s Best of Orange County readers poll. sandwiches (meatball, hot turkey-Francisco style), salads (antipasto, caprese) and wines (sparkling, whites, reds, Italian). Fratellino’s has daily lunch specials and relatively reasonable prices too.

2. Roma D’Italia

611 El Camino Real, Tustin, 714-544-0273, romaditalia.com Celebrating its 60th anniversary, Roma D’Italia specializes in pasta classics in a casual rustic space with red checkered tablecloths and a stone patio. A total family operation, second and third generations of the Roma family operate the restaurant. Alfio Rossetti, part of that clan, says they “regularly welcome guests celebrating family milestones and events of all types.” Among the lunch fare are grilled salmon salads,

homemade soups and sandwiches. Signature pastas, specialty breads, veal, raviolis, seafood, calzone pockets and more comprise the dinner menu. Rossetti stresses that the restaurant has a “strong desire” to serve fresh quality ingredients — something customers “have come to enjoy … the calamari fritti is, hands down, the best around. Our delicious, homemade cannoli, cheesecake, tiramisu, and rum cake desserts continue to be crowd pleasers.”

When it comes to the menu, Lomeli believes his customers “want to see the same items every time” they arrive. “That’s what make them come back in the first place,” he said. “Our

business is more than 40% takeout. Party trays are a big portion because the quality of the food we sell at a reasonable price of about $5 per person with a hot meal, salad and bread.”

— George A. Paul

3. Roman Cucina

211 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, 714-680-6000, romancucinafullerton.com From the Italian flag that adorns the outdoor canopy to comfort food passed down from the Roman brothers’ grandmother, a sense of family and authenticity have been the hallmarks of this restaurant since it opened in 2001. “We strive to provide the best dining experience by treating every guest that walks through our door like family,” says owner Mike Flynn. Open at 5 p.m. daily, Roman Cucina’s specialty entree is the Pasta Gianni

— shrimp and langostino lobster sauteed with mushrooms in its Bianco Diavolo sauce. Specialty desserts include tiramisu and cannoli. Recently, lobster ravioli and shrimp carbonara were introduced to the menu (with ample pasta choices) and proved instantly popular with customers. Yelp reviewer Vicki L. of Irvine said she “got the calamari and pesto with penne. Both were super delicious, and the portion was big enough to be split into a second meal.”


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Avila’s El Ranchito has 13 locations throughout Orange County and has roots from Guanajuato, Mexico.

1. Avila’s El Ranchito

Multiple locations; avilaselranchito.com Salvador Avila, who came to the U.S. from Mexico, started his first restaurant 55 years ago in Huntington Park with five picnic tables. Now it has evolved into 13 restaurants throughout Orange and Los Angeles counties run by the Avila children. Maribel Avila Ley, co-owner of three locations, says consistency in food is guaranteed across all of them. “Customers come back time and time again because they know our staff and they are treated like family. “My grandmother taught her kids, who have taught us … to stick to the simplicity of great food and genuinely good service. Never cut corners; treat people with respect. Mama Avila (my grandma) had it figured out.” The matriarch’s recipes from Mexico dating back generations populate the menu items ranging from soups and carnitas to fajitas, enchiladas and more. Of course there are Happy Hour and Taco Tuesday specials as well. Since last year, the restaurants upgraded their takeout business and outdoor dining. “We had a great time getting creative with margaritas to go,” says Avila Ley. “Our very popular party and family packs are always a hit, but now you can add margaritas.” New specials are posted to the locations’ Instagram pages regularly. The Mercado Margarita in Huntington Beach available on Tuesday nights is “made from ingredients from the Surf City Farmers Market right out front. It’s a great way to support locals.”

— George A. Paul

2. El Farolito

3. El Torito

Another family-run business, El Farolito was established in 1974 by the Sandoval Family and serves good old fashioned Mexican food, like combination plates, at reasonable prices. Register food critic Brad A. Johnson has raved about the restaurant’s steak tampiqueño with grilled jalapeños and caramelized onions and the carne asada nachos in the past. All sorts of egg items are on the breakfast menu. There are lunch specials, large burritos, tostada salads and more. Yelp reviewer Sandra L. from Orange County said the food is “so flavorful here. I don’t even like refried beans, but El Farolito makes them so good that I am a believer of refried beans now. Portions here are generous. “My hubby and I shared a Jr’s Plate and chose chile relleno (additional $0.75) as our one-item and it comes with rice and beans. We also ordered a cup of Menudo (available weekends only). We loved everything. Every item was freshly made, wellseasoned, and priced well.”

Larry J. Cano founded this Mexican restaurant in 1954 as an outgrowth of an Encino Tiki bar. The first O.C. location opened in Newport Beach in 1973. Randy Sharpe, El Torito CEO & president says “it is a celebration of family, food and community and is why so many guests feel at home when they dine at El Torito. The fresh, made-from-scratch kitchen and warm hospitality from the staff makes your dining occasion something to enjoy and come back to.” Regular patrons tend to rave about the tableside preparations, made-to-order guacamole, flame-grilled fajitas, Taco Tuesdays, the Saturday Breakfast menu with bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys. Then there’s the extremely popular Happy Hour drink and food specials for $4, $6 and $8. “El Torito continues to innovate and present seasonal specials throughout the year,” notes Sharpe. “Our most recent Tacos Vampiros with cheese and jalapeños, grilled right onto the tortilla before being filled” with carne asada or chicken.

201 S. Bradford Ave., Placentia; 714-993-7880; elfarolitomex.com

Multiple locations; eltorito.com


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PIZZA 2. Tony’s Little Italy

1808 N. Placentia Ave., Placentia, 714-528-2159; tonyslittleitaly.com Tony Manzella, who founded his namesake pizza joint specializing in Chicago deep dish and thin crust pizza in 1978, passed away last year, but his family is continuing his legacy. The pies are made fresh to order and have homemade crusts (thin, extra thin, Sicilian style). The deep dish comes stuffed or pan style with hamburger, artichokes, anchovies, mushrooms, sausage and jalapeño. “Tony’s Special” contains sausage, mushrooms, green peppers and onions and is very popular, said his daughter Jennifer Oltman. All manner of sports memorabilia adorn the inside walls. Daily lunch specials include lasagna, ravioli, spaghetti and meat sauce, manicotti, eggplant parmigiana and mostaccioli meat sauce. There’s also a full range of sandwiches, along with Buffalo hot wings and more pasta. Said Yelp reviewer Alex C. of Placentia “My boyfriend has been missing deep dish pizza, so we gave it a try and it’s safe to say we’ll be back.”


Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza Store has restaurants in Irvine, Newport Beach and Aliso Viejo.

1. Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza Store Aliso Viejo, Irvine, Newport Beach; sgtpepps.com New York-style pizza and the Beatles collide at this family friendly pizzeria which has Fab Four photos adorning the walls, their music piped in overhead, arcade games and a TV. Before the Newport Beach location opened in 1976, the original owner came across an LP copy of Sgt. Pepper’s and was inspired to incorporate their images, a bright, psychedelic color scheme and submarine logo into the business. Current co-owner Jeff Roberts says that sense of nostalgia extends to the same tables and dough rolling station still in place as when Newport opened. The Bronx Bomber (pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, jalapeño), Hawaii-Five-O (pepperoni, pineapple, ricotta, jalapeño), Grandma’s Pie, BBQ Chicken and Meatball Ricotta are among the

top pizza options, with sandwiches, salads and Oreo cheesecake also on the menu. “Our story is pretty unique,” says Roberts. “It’s about childhood friends that came together (nine years ago) to buy their childhood restaurant. There’s not a lot of spots left where you can have the same experience you remember as a child.” Aliso Viejo opened in 2020 and Irvine came on board a few months ago. A food truck is available for catering and events. Roberts points out that the pizzas are sourced from fresh dough, sauce and produce — all high quality. “It’s all made with love and passion,” he says. “You can taste it in our food and you can feel it in the experience.”

— George A. Paul

3. Mountain Mike’s Pizza Multiple locations; mountainmikespizza.com Mountain Mike’s Pizza started in 1978 and Carol DeNembo, VP of marketing for the chain, says its trademarks are crispy, curly pepperoni, 20-inch mountain-sized pizzas, toppings to the edge, dough made fresh daily and they use 100 percent whole milk mozzarella cheese. The Everest contains pepperoni, Italian sausage, salami, linguica, beef, mushrooms and olives; Pike’s Peak is an all-meat combo; Mt. Veggiemore is topped by bell peppers, mushrooms, artichoke hearts; Snowy Alps is a garlic combo. Sandwiches and salads round out the offerings. “Our locations feature big screen TVs throughout as well as a kids’ activity area with arcade games, making it the ideal location for sports teams, family gatherings, group fundraisers and celebrations alike,” DeNembo says. There are plans to open a fourth OC location in Brea this year.


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Huntington Beach, Laguna Hills, Orange; kingsfishhouse.com King’s FIsh House bills itself as “the house that seafood built.” The foundation of that reputation relies on being able to ensure freshness and quality. And that comes in part from King’s owning its own distributor: King’s Seafood Delivery. “KSD works directly with fisheries around the globe and it’s located right here in Orange County — right up the street from our Costa Mesa Home Office,” said Heath Bumgardner, vice president of operations. King’s purchases more than four million oysters per year, 10 varieties of which can be found at the raw bar, along with other chilled shellfish. It also assures King’s can serve seasonal dishes such as Alaskan halibut, Columbia River king salmon and Chilean sea bass from the Ross Sea. King’s offers a happy hour weekdays with fish tacos, oyster shooters and spicy tuna rolls. The bar features handmade cocktails and “bartender’s choice” drinks.

3. Water Grill 3300 Bristol St, Costa Mesa; 949-208-7060; watergrill.com PAUL BERSEBACH, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Halibut Fish & Chips are served at The Black Marlin in Tustin.

1. The Black Marlin 560 El Camino Real, Tustin; 714-929-7427; blackmarlinrestaurant.com Located in the historic Tustin Garage, The Black Marlin strives to provide guests with good oldfashioned, full-service treatment. It also prides itself on being part of the neighborhood. “We’re not big. We’re not a chain. We focus more on the community,” said Matt Luckey, general manager. The restaurant features full dinner, lunch and Sunday brunch menus. Dinners feature signature seafood dishes prepared by executive chef Alfonso Gonzales. An example is the seared scallops on a bed of roasted brussel sprouts, potato hash, dried cherries and bacon with a Cajun beurre blanc sauce. Luckey said you can get seared scallops at a lot of restaurants, but

you won’t find one with Gonzales’ flavor profile. Recipes and preparations for dishes such as halibut and sea bass can change every two to three days, Luckey added. There are also seafood salads, soups and chowders. Also chicken, prime and short rib entrees, although that’s missing the point. The bar features a wide array of handcrafted cocktails. The whiskey selection is impressive, and gaining a reputation among aficionados, with limited release tastes and flights. You can even score a rare taste of Pappy Van Winkle usually. The restaurant also stages live music on Sunday afternoons.

— Greg Mellen

Prominent among the upper-tier eateries in Costa Mesa’s theater district is the Water Grill, part of the King’s Seafood Company. Prominent, in part, because it sits right on the corner of Anton Boulevard and Bristol Street. An institution among Los Angeles foodies, the Water Grill was an eagerly awaited addition to the dining scene when it opened in the OC in 2016. It has been a hit ever since With access to the parent company’s distributor, Water Grill offers a raw bar that features 16 kinds of freshly shucked oysters from the East and West coasts, with the opportunity to mix and match favorites. There are also six varieties of chilled shellfish, from clams to lobster and urchin. Or try any of 10 shellfish platters. The dinner menu ranges from varieties of whole fish dinners, to seasonal fish, such as halibut done five ways, a variety of fish entrees and even steak for the red-blooded eater. SEPTEMBER 2021 THE BEST OF ORANGE COUNTY

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STEAKHOUSE 2. Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Anaheim, Irvine; ruthschris.com By now, every steak aficionado knows the story behind this now56-year-old franchise. In 1965, single mom Ruth Fertel mortgaged her house to buy a small New Orleans steak house named Chris Steak House. After a fire destroyed the original location, Fertel’s contract did not allow her to take the Chris Steak House name to a new location. And Ruth’s Chris was born. Now, more than a half-century later, Ruth’s Chris is a publicly traded company, with restaurants in 21 countries. The formula is the same: USDA Prime cuts across the size spectrum, served on a 500-degree plate. Ruth’s Chris offers two sizes of filet mignon, a 16-ounce New York strip, 22-ounce rib-eye, 24-ounce T-bone and specialty cuts, led by the 40-ounce Tomahawk rib-eye. The restaurants also offer a limited non-beef menu, featuring a stuffed chicken breast, garlic-crusted sea bass and a crab cakes entrée.


The porterhouse steak with shoestring potatoes at Mastro’s Steakhouse in Costa Mesa.

1. Mastro’s Steakhouse 633 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa; 714-546-7405; mastrosrestaurants.com The definition of “special occasion destination” once again seizes the day as Orange County’s top steakhouse. And given the competition in this category, Mastro’s presence here bears testament to its mastery over not only the steak, but the sizzle. Make no mistake. A dinner at Mastro’s is not an inexpensive experience. Everything is à la carte, from the expansive selection of side dishes that include delicacies like lobster mac & cheese, garlic mashed potatoes, rosemary sautéed mushrooms and Alaskan king crab black truffle gnocchi, to bread service. But it is a culinary experience. Mastro’s offers a myriad of cuts and sizes designed to satisfy even the most demanding steak Sherpa. Each cut is a 28-day, wet-aged USDA Prime order, prepared in a 1,500-degree broiler and served on a sizzling plate

coming with the requisite “don’t touch” warning. Carnivores have their pick of sizes and cuts ranging from the 6-ounce petit filet to the 33-ounce “Chef’s Cut” rib-eye chop. Mastro’s offers one of the harder-to-find cuts: the 12-ounce bone-in filet. There are two strip cuts: the New York and the Kansas City, along with rib-eyes and Porterhouses. It also offers four cuts of the Japanese Wagyu. Two of those are the 32-ounce and 40-ounce Tomahawk chops, good for two appetites. For non-beef eaters, Mastro’s offers a 24-ounce, herb-roasted chicken, a 22-ounce rack of lamb and a hearty, 16-ounce, double-cut pork chop. Mastro’s also serves such aquatic delicacies as blackened swordfish, Chilean sea bass, twin lobster tails and a New Zealand salmon fillet.

— Brian Robin

3. La Cave 1695 Irvine Ave., Costa Mesa; 949-646-7944; lacaverestaurant.com How can you not take to a restaurant with $10 Sinatra Martini Mondays? Or a locally owned restaurant simply saying it offers “retro underground dining?” Founded on Valentine’s Day 1962, La Cave comes to you straight out of “Mad Men” 1960s flair. You may not see Don Draper or Roger Sterling holding court, but La Cave did serve the likes of John Wayne and other celebrities. It’s not hard to understand why. La Cave’s minimalist menu doesn’t overwhelm you with numerous cuts. But it does overwhelm you with the quality of those cuts. La Cave’s beef offerings include a 9-ounce filet, 11-ounce New York, 16-ounce boneless rib-eye, 24-ounce Porterhouse or medallions of beef. Unlike its high-end steakhouse brethren, La Cave stays to its retro roots by including cheesy garlic bread, soup or salad, rice or baked potato and a choice from three vegetables: steamed broccoli, sautéed mushrooms or grilled asparagus with entrees.


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SUSHI 2. Matsu Japanese Restaurant

18035 Beach Blvd S, Huntington Beach; 714-848-4404; matsusogood.com Since 1978, Matsu Japanese Restaurant has been a fixture in the Japanese and Huntington Beach dining scene. While the bar is lively and the teppan chefs at the grills put on a show with their dicing and grilling skills, it was the sushi that scored this year with Best of Orange County voters. The restaurant’s trained sushi chefs delight in offering up their specialties, engaging with and educating patrons on the various selections, the experience unique and, above all, tasty. Patrons can choose from a dizzying array of more than 25 sushi and sashimi selections and more than 20 individually crafted rolls. The restaurant makes its own soy sauce in-house as well as homemade pickled wasabi. Matsu is often crowded and hopping, but the service is first-rate. There is also a bar with mixed drinks and a variety of hot and cold sakes.

3. Yama Sushi 27782 Vista Del Lago C-22, Mission Viejo; 949-716-9262; yamasushionthelake.com


Sashimi lines the sushi bar at Shunka Sushi. Much of the fish purchased at Shunka Sushi is specially selected and not widely available.

1. Shunka Sushi & Japanese Cuisine 369 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa; 949-631-9854; shunkasushi.com Shunka Sushi says it is dedicated to giving diners “an experience you will never forget.” Its veteran sushi chefs each has at at least 10 years of experience. In addition to the fresh sushi, the Costa Mesa eatery caters its offerings to the time of year. According to the restaurant’s literature, “Shunka” means “Flavor of the Season,” and the restaurant selects fish imported from Japan and fruits to match the season. You can start off with your go-to favorites, though it is also a good idea to let the expert staff guide

you on a unique and personal taste journey. Shunka Sushi says its fish is so flavorful that no wasabi or sauces are necessary. Much of the fish purchased at Shunka Sushi is specially selected and not widely available. Choose between everything from a California cut roll, to a salmon avocado roll, or a spice tuna hand roll. Shunka also serves fresh salads and sashimi, including big eye tuna, fresh water eel, and albacore. The restaurant also has a wide array of sake to pair with meals.

— Greg Mellen

Yama Sushi prides itself on fresh, high-quality ingredients and its staff of trained Japanese chefs. Customers have the ability to choose a variety of ways to eat their food. Try the Omakase style, where chefs prepare items of their choosing in front of customers. According to the restaurant, “Our chefs will present a series of plates, beginning with the lightest fare and proceeding to the heaviest.” Or you can always go with a wide selection of meals, which include up to 30 pieces nigiri or jewel fish. There is also a five-course fixed-price dinner with soup and salad. Along with the extensive sushi choices, there are also entrees available such as udon or rice bowls. The lunch menu offers a wide selection as well, including box lunches. There is also a kids menu. Diners not only come to Yama Sushi for the terrific sushi and entrees, but also for the elegant environment and views across Lake Mission Viejo. SEPTEMBER 2021 THE BEST OF ORANGE COUNTY

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Our News Isn’t Just Local.

It’s Personal.

February 12, 2020, The Orange County Register. Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG.

November 11, 2020, The Orange County Register. Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG.

January 12, 2021, The Orange County Register. Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG.

From natural disasters to sports triumphs, birth announcements to obituaries, local news has always been a matter of life and death, joy and tragedy. We’ll keep reporting the news that affects you in a personal way — accurately and objectively. Because if it’s happening in your backyard, it’s a big story to us.







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1. Service Champions Plumbing, Heating & AC 3150 E. Birch St., Brea; 714-777-7777; servicechampions.com When looking for a heating and air conditioning company, finding technicians who are tested, trained and knowledgeable about the latest equipment and technology is pretty high on the priority list. At Service Champions Plumbing, Heating & AC, that’s just the start, according to founder and CEO Leland Smith. “We have the world’s friendliest technicians (who) look for small ways to give our customers and the community a helping hand through ‘Good Deeds for Free,’” Smith said. “We’ve swept floors, found dogs, repaired bikes, started stalled cars, delivered birthday cakes, cleaned up broken mirrors, fixed doorbells, carried lots and lots of heavy things, and have brought in or taken out tens of thousands of garbage cans.” Going that extra mile helped to land Service Champions at the top of the category this year.


Omar Estrada is a regional trainer with Service Champions Plumbing, Heating & AC in Brea, winner of Best Air Conditioning/Heating Company. Building long-term relationships with customers has been a key component of Service Champions’ mission since its founding in 2000. With that comes the knowledge that air conditioning and

heating involves more than just installation and repairs — maintenance is also essential. “Our CHAMP-Rewards club membership is our most popular amenity,” Smith said. It includes two

2. ALPS Heating & Air Conditioning

3. Veteran Air

With experience in Orange County for more than three decades, ALPS Heating & Air Conditioning has earned its reputation for helping homeowners when things go wrong and sticking with a job to its completion. Whether it’s installation, repairs or routine maintenance, ALPS bills itself as a one-stop shop for any heating or cooling system needs. ALPS’ certified “Comfort Techs” are trained to educate and inform customers along with providing service,

Veteran Air prides itself on not only offering quality air conditioning and heating services but also serving the community. President and owner Mike Andersen, an Army veteran, said his service to his country extends to the business’s service to the community, and “Our customers enjoy being a part of a company that helps others in need.” Andersen went on to list some of the other things his customers like: “Our customer service, dedication to doing right

1895 S. Santa Cruz St., Anaheim; 800-994-2577 or 714-633-8892; alpscomfortair.com

including about such issues as energy efficiency, ways to make the home more comfortable and when an upgrade is necessary. Three generations have now worked at the family-owned business, a testament to how much ALPS’ customers trust the company’s services. Beyond heating and air conditioning, ALPS also provides air duct and attic insulation services and replacement, water heater replacement and ductless AC and indoor air quality systems.

tune-ups a year, one for air conditioning and one for heating, which come with professional cleanings and safety inspections, along with priority service and discounts.

— Kathie Bozanich

2925 E. Ricker Way, Anaheim; 714-206-3493; veteranairusa.net by our customers, the quality of our work and being honest at all times.” Among the most popular items customers seek are high-efficiency air conditioners/heaters, clean ducting, products for cleaner air, quiet whole house fans and remotecontrolled thermostats. “Our industry is constantly inventing newer and better products,” Andersen said. “Currently, indoor air quality has become more important to many customers due to COVID-19.”


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Thank You for Voting Us BEST

Ai C diti i g & H ati g C pa y in Orange County!

“Proudly Serving You, Then & Now”

• AC & Heating Repair • AC & Heating Maintenance • AC & Heating Installation

• Duct Fogging & Installation • Air Purifiers


Free In Home eStImAte

“Included with full system installation. Includes two maintenances and standard filter changes. Must be presented prior to scheduling installation.”

“Considering an air conditioning and/or furnace REPLACEMENT? Give us a call for your free in-home estimate.”

(714) 206-3493 • www.V a Ai USA. THE BEST OF ORANGE COUNTY SEPTEMBER 2021 97



1. Newport Bluffs 100 Vilaggio, Newport Beach; 844-277-3455; irvinecompanyapartments.com Newport Bluffs again lands at the top of this category, drawing praise for its quiet environs, exceptionally maintained grounds, host of amenities and central location. Built around the concept of a Tuscan retreat, the gated community is made up of three separate “villages” of townhomes and single-level units with private garages and sunshine-filled layouts. With 30 floor plans to choose from, residents can find such features as private balconies or patios with canyon, mountain or courtyard views and their own washers and dryers. Select units come with gas fireplaces, hardwoodlike flooring and quartz or granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances. The lush landscaping throughout the community makes for standout common areas. These include three resort-style pools, with tiered sundeck and private cabanas available, and outdoor fireplace and barbecue areas. Residents also have


Newport Bluffs Apartment Homes in Newport Beach was named the best apartment community by The Register readers as part of the Best of Orange County readers poll. access to a clubhouse with a catering kitchen, a wine room, lighted tennis courts, and fitness center with movement studio. All of this is a short drive from Pacific Coast Highway, Fashion Island, John Wayne Airport and other key destinations. The Bonita Canyon Trail

is right outside the property for those who want to retreat into nature. “I’ve never had such a prompt and professional maintenance experience in all my time renting,” said one resident on Yelp. “It is so stress-free.” There was also this review from another Newport Bluffs

apartment resident: “We have no real complaints, which we all know is like impossible when renting.” Residents were especially grateful for the ultra-highspeed internet services available in the community, as many worked from home over the past year.

— Kathie Bozanich

2. Corte Bella Apartments

3. Beachwood Village Apartments

If “centrally located” is the priority, put Corte Bella high up on the list. The convenience of its Fountain Valley location, in the center of Orange County, takes on added meaning to the ease at which residents can quickly reach I-405 to get where they are going. And it’s a short drive to get down to the sand at Huntington Beach. Key features of the apartments are high ceilings and nice skylights to brighten the surroundings. They also feature granite countertops in the kitchens,

The gated Beachwood Village Apartments is a well-landscaped community that’s about halfway between the beach in Huntington and the 405 freeway. There are a total of 120 well-sized one- and two-bedroom units, each with a patio and balcony, with amenities that include a pool, spa, some private garages, a recreation room and fitness area. “Beachwood Village is just that — a village — of friendly residents with a great vibe,” manager Charlene Thorne said.

9580 El Rey Ave., Fountain Valley; 833-894-8528; livecortebella.com washer and dryer units, contemporary flooring and more, and private garages are available. Shared amenities include well-maintained, landscaped grounds, multiple pools, outdoor grilling and fireplace areas with seating areas and an indoor fitness center with modern equipment. The apartment complex offers one- to two-bedroom units with one to two bathrooms. The smallest unit is 760 square feet, and the largest is 1,056 square feet.

19132 Magnolia St., Huntington Beach; 714-964-5567; beachwoodvillage.com

“A village with waterfalls and lovely flowers and landscape making a nice walkabout for our residents who just want to enjoy the environment.” Resident Emma Clark cited Beachwood’s attention to safety and overall livability. “I like that the property is gated, with the main gate only open during business hours,” she said. “The property is consistently well-kept and nicely landscaped. The rooms are large with large windows for plenty of light.”


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Howard’s Appliance, TV & Mattress Storewas was chosen the top appliance store by Register readers.

1. Howard’s Multiple locations; Howards.com In its 75 years of existence, Southern California-based and employee-owned Howard’s has served more than three-quarters of a million homes in the region. With stores in Huntington Beach, Irvine, La Habra and Laguna Hills, this local institution is also Orange County’s top pick for appliances. Over the course of the past year, shoppers have turned to Howard’s for major appliance upgrades. “A lot of people were focused on how they could improve their living conditions at home,” says president, CEO and Chairman of the Board, John Riddle, by phone. He notes that time spent at home over the course of the pandemic may have led to the overuse of appliances, shortening their lifespans. Plus, with people spending less on travel and entertainment, they may have had more of a budget for home necessities. That’s where Howard’s was able to help. The chain had already begun implementing connected capabilities at their stores to demonstrate the types of appliances that are gaining interest with consumers. “What we saw was consumers looking for new, innovative major appliances, particularly those that were smart and connected,” says Riddle. This includes appliances that connect to mobile or tablet devices, allowing people to conveniently plan meals or even check the fridge while on grocery store runs. In the midst of last year’s wildfires, customers also turned to Howard’s for air purifiers, but the demand didn’t stop once the skies cleared, and that’s something Riddle suspects will continue as people become more conscious of air quality.

— Liz Ohanesian

2. Pacific Sales Kitchen and Home

3. The Home Depot

Although Best Buy has owned Pacific Sales Kitchen and Home for well over a decade, the luxury appliance retailer has strong roots in Southern California. It was founded in 1960 and boasted 14 showrooms in Los Angeles and Orange County before its 2006 sale. Pacific Sales remains a popular spot for Orange County residents in the market for appliances from family-owned Sub-Zero, Wolf and Cove, techsavvy brands like Monogram or Dacor or customizable pieces from JennAir. The retailer offers a wide variety of high-tech home options, from app-controlled washers to refrigerators that help preserve produce by absorbing ethylene gas. In addition to locations inside Best Buy, there are Pacific Sales standalone shops in Brea, Huntington Beach, Irvine and San Juan Capistrano. The Southern California standalone shops also carry kitchen and bathroom fixtures, which includes brands like Kohler and TOTO. Shoppers can connect with sales consultants in-store, online or by video.

One-stop shop The Home Depot keeps Orange County residents up-to-date for their appliance needs. “In the kitchen, we see customers interested in refrigerators that bring design and innovation together with features like more food storage, fingerprint resistant surfaces and dual ice makers,” says Jabarr Bean, regional vice president, Pacific South for The Home Depot, by email. In Bean’s region, which includes Orange County, customers are also looking for washing machines with WiFi and antimicrobial technology and oven ranges with air-fryers. “Customers are also enjoying more flexibility in their appliances, like larger capacity ovens to prepare multiple meals or dishwashers that feature a third rack to fit more,” says Bean. Before heading to The Home Depot, check out the DIY Projects & Ideas section of the store’s website, which includes articles that might help you assess your appliance needs. The Home Depot also offers a variety of appliance installation and repair services.

Multiple locations; bestbuy.com

Multiple locations; homedepot.com


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1. A New View Windows & Doors 3445 E. La Palma Avenue, Anaheim; 714-953-7663; anewviewwindows.com A New View Windows & Doors is this year’s pick for Orange County’s favorite supplier of blinds and shutters, but the Anaheimbased company does more than that. Jamie and Cash Cockerill’s services include a full range of window and door sales and installation, as well as siding. From the black interior and exterior doors that have been growing in popularity to bi-fold doors to on-trend windows with as little frame as possible, they offer a bevy of options to improve both the view from your home and the view of your home. Potential customers are encouraged to stop by the 5,000-square foot showroom in person to see what styles they might want, although Jamie Cockerill says A New View can work with people via email as well. Cash Cockerill, who is also a licensed contractor, handles all the home visits, taking the measurements before the company submits a bid.


A New View Windows and Doors in Anaheim was voted the best blind/shutter store for the Register’s Best of Orange Countyreaders poll. “He’s the only person that goes out and takes measurements and looks at the jobs before we get them to make sure that everything can work,” says

2. Bockman’s

1008 N. Tustin Ave., Anaheim; 714-630-4455; bockmaninteriors.com

For more than 50 years, Bockman’s has been helping Orange County residents spruce up their homes. The family business is a local favorite for its selection of American-made custom blinds, shades and shutters, samples of which you can check out at its Anaheim showroom, which is open Monday through Saturday. Bockman’s team handles measurements and installations. Additionally, Bockman’s also offers custom drapery services with a selection of fabrics that ranges from Ralph Lauren to Waverly.

Bockman’s keeps plenty of fabrics in stock, but more are also available by special order. For unique drapes and valances, schedule a consultation or drop by the showroom. Note, too, that Bockman’s offers a lot more than window coverings. The store also offers custom bedding, including headboards, as well as upholstery and furniture. Bockman’s is also this year’s pick for Orange County’s favorite place to buy carpet. It has a wide selection of carpeting and they also make custom rugs.

Jamie Cockerill. A New View uses in-house installers for its projects. As for blinds and shutters, A New View’s selection includes Honeycomb

Portrait and Centerpiece Roman shades from Norman, as well as plantation shutters and hardwood blinds.

— Liz Ohanesian

3. Orange County Shutters

7649 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove; 714-891-0090, orangecountyshutters.com You might be trying to decide between shutters or shades for your home, but Orange County Shutters proprietor Rebecca Gloudeman has noticed that more customers are looking at a combination of the two. Perhaps shutters for your windows and motorized shades for French or sliding doors? She adds that, now that motorized shades have become more affordable, their popularity is rising. Right now, people are looking for shutters in grays, cream and bright white, but Gloudeman is

also seeing colors such as teal and orange rising in popularity. Gloudeman’s own background is in interior design and she says that, as well as being a licensed contractor, has been helpful in maintaining her longtime customer base. “It’s very helpful to know that they’re in good hands with someone who has schooling in it and is professional,” she says. Plus, she’s passing down that knowledge to her children, both of whom work at Orange County Shutters.


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CITY TO LIVE IN 2. Huntington Beach huntingtonbeachca.gov

Huntington Beach gets its fair share of attention (and media coverage) as a destination and gathering spot. What many people don’t see are the quiet streets, sidewalks and yards full of kids playing and folks winding down from their workdays with a stroll. As is to be expected in a town of 32 square miles, there are several distinct neighborhoods. These include Sunset Beach, home to oceanfront mansions, a wide swath of greenbelt and quirky shops. There is Huntington Harbor, which includes homes with their own boat slips that offer great views of the annual holiday boat parade. The Central Park area features the largest city-owned park in Orange County, with its more than 350 acres full of lakes, meadows, walking trails, kids’ play areas, equestrian center, sports complex and dog park. Then there’s downtown, with homes that range from the original craftsman cottages to modern coastal masterpieces. It’s a city that appeals to a variety of tastes and lifestyles, even out of the spotlight.


A soccer team practices on one of the artificial turf fields at the Orange County Great Park’s Sports Complex in Irvine.

1. Irvine cityofirvine.org For the sixth consecutive year, Irvine ranks as the top choice in this category, which it has won 8 of the past 10 years. Another reason to celebrate? Irvine is marking a milestone anniversary: It was incorporated as a city 50 years ago this December. “As we reflect on our past, we recognize that what makes Irvine so special isn’t how we have changed, but how we have remained committed to the principles of Irvine’s master plan,” Mayor Farrah N. Khan said. “The vision established 50 years ago has ensured Irvine is a safe city with outstanding schools and higher education institutions, beautiful parks and a wealth of jobs, shopping and dining.” Irvine is a perennial presence on various national and state rankings

of cities and their attributes. For example, it ranked No. 1 on 24/7 Wall Street’s listing of best-run cities in America, which is based on the economy, job market, crime level and welfare of the population. It also ranked as the No. 1 place to start a business in California and as the third best city to raise a family in surveys by the personal finance outlet WalletHub.com. Khan also points to the city’s diversity as something that draws people to it. “Irvine is recognized as one of the most ethnically diverse and fully integrated cities in the country,” she said. “We celebrate our diversity each year through events, such as the Irvine Global Village Festival being held in October.”

— Kathie Bozanich

newportbeachca.gov One of the best ways to appreciate Newport Beach is to find a scenic viewpoint on one of the many waterclose hillsides. From there, you can take in the boats and homes that dot the harbor, the largest recreational one on the West Coast, or cast your eyes directly out to sea. A drive down Balboa Peninsula’s 3-mile stretch is one way to go, or a bike will get you even closer to the action. With the harbor on one side and the ocean on the other, the path takes you by the Balboa Fun Zone, plenty of restaurants and shops, and then through a residential area, ending at the world-famous Wedge surfing beach. Corona del Mar has its own distinct vibe, with new construction going on all over just next door to small, vintage homes. The beaches in this area are kid-friendly, as are the tidepools. Newport Coast has lived up to the vision of working to preserve the area’s natural beauty among its (relatively) new contemporary neighborhoods.


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The City of Irvine congratulates our Best of OC winners and finalists. Ace Hardware Great Park Neighborhoods Armstrong Garden Centers Hoag Hospital 85°C Bakery Café In-N-Out Burger Banfield Pet Hospital Irvine Regional Park Bank of America Irvine Farmers Market, Mariners Church BevMo! Irvine Spectrum Center BJ’s Restaurant Brewhouse Komen Orange County More Than Pink Walk California Bank & Trust Kumon Charles Schwab Chase Bank LA Fitness Chick-fil-A Living Spaces Compass Mag’s Donuts & Bakery El Torito Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County Eye Level Learning Center MemorialCare Medical Group Farmer Boys Medterra Fidelity Investments Morgan Stanley First Team Real Estate Financial Advisers FivePoint Amphitheatre Pacific Sales French’s Pastry Bakery Kitchen & Home Goodwill of Ralphs Orange County

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DOOR / WINDOW COMPANY 2. Metropolitan High Performance Windows 940 E. Orangethorpe Ave., Suite G, Anaheim; 800-995-8878; mhiwindows.com Consistency and personalized service are what sets small, family-owned Metropolitan High Performance Windows apart, the company’s Amanda Richart said. “When (customers) call us, they know what to expect, from who answers the phone to who makes the sale and performs the window installation — there are no surprises, just high-quality, reliable service,” Richart said. As for industry trends showing up locally, Richart cited one in particular — colored windows. “The most popular choice among California homeowners are black vinyl windows. The rising sales of colored windows — specifically black window frames — is indicative of homeowners’ preference for dark-colored windows, which provide a stark contrast to lighter-colored walls or siding materials,” she said.


A New View Windows and Doors in Anaheim was voted the Best Door and Window company in the Best of Orange County readers poll.

1. A New View Windows & Doors 3445 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim; 714-953-7663; anewviewwindows.com Windows and doors aren’t just a matter of aesthetics: There’s a lot of value in replacing and upgrading them to drive down heating and cooling costs and upgrade your home’s value. A New View Windows & Doors, which opened in 2001, knows this well. The company works with the biggest name-brand manufacturers while ensuring its customers get quality materials for a fair price. It also makes sure the products are right for the environment and fit clients’ tastes and goals. It’s not just better energy efficiency that homeowners want today: They want bigger, vinyl windows with more glass, “disappearing” sliders to create real indoor-outdoor spaces, eye-catching, statement entry doors and more. Many homes throughout Orange County were built during the post-

World War II housing boom with a different aesthetic, so this turns window and door replacement into a bigger project. At A New View’s 5,000-square-foot showroom, there are hundreds of displays of entry, French and sliding patio doors and all types of new windows, from horizontal sliding to awning, fixed and bay. A New View can also do custom and specialty doors and windows. Another popular offering at A New View is siding services featuring James Hardie Siding, made of fiber cement. It’s durable and paintable and some of the products come with a 30-year guarantee. The company also serves as a one-stop-shop for such items as plantation shutters, window shades, crown molding and more.

— Kathie Bozanich

3. Hardy Windows 1639 E. Miraloma Ave., Placentia; 714-996-1807; orangecountywindowanddoor.com Hardy Windows, which started in a garage almost 30 years ago, has grown into a company with more than 150 employees, a 30,000-squarefoot showroom and a reputation for treating customers well — the last factor being part of why it is a BBB Torch Awards for Ethics finalist. “Customers like that we are here to help our community make a decision, not shove a sale in your face for the sake of profit,” said Freddy Arvizu, Hardy Windows’ marketing and advertising coordinator. This past year, Arvizu said Hardy Windows noticed an uptick in customers seeking more comfort as they spent more time in their homes. “So many people are working from home and are starting to realize how hot their homes are getting,” Arvizu said. “Getting new double-pane, argonfilled windows will help to reduce heat and energy costs as well as improve the value of your home.”


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1. Ikea 1475 South Coast Drive, Costa Mesa; 888-888-4532; ikea.com With its mix of modern staples and on-trend pieces at budget-friendly prices, Ikea is Orange County’s top destination for furniture. The Swedish brand’s emphasis on clean lines and space-saving designs make its pieces suitable for both tiny and ample spaces, as well as a variety of aesthetic tastes. Over the years, Ikea has unleashed items that have gone on to be cult hits, such as its Kallax line of shelving units, which are a favorite among DJs in need of storage for their record collections. Still, there’s a steady influx of new designs at Ikea, as well as reissues of now-retro pieces, like the Trubbante pendant lampshade. The company has also made steps towards more sustainable products. According to Ikea’s website, the company intends to rely solely on renewable or recycled materials by 2030. Right now, 60% of Ikea


Ikea was named the best furniture store as part to the Register’s Best of Orange County readers poll. products are made with renewable materials. Ikea began phasing out singleuse plastics in 2020. Last year, it also introduced a new plant-based version of its incredibly popular meatballs.

2. Living Spaces

Huntington Beach, Irvine; livingspaces.com “Consumers are still working from home,” says Cynthia Diaz, product manager for Living Spaces. That’s reflected in what shoppers are buying at the home goods store. The special order upholstery department at Living Spaces, where customers can have the sofas they purchase reupholstered to their tastes at no extra cost, has been rising in popularity over the past year. The bedroom department, which Diaz manages, is the store’s second biggest department, bringing in

“record number” sales over the past year. While neutral hues are trending in upholstery, accessories like pillows are selling in colors like melon, as well as prints and textures like tweed and Mongolian lamb. Living Spaces’ collaborations with designers Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent on the Nate + Jeremiah line, as well as Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Home collection, do particularly well at Orange County stores. Nate + Jeremiah is the top selling designer collection in Irvine.

If you find a trip to Ikea overwhelming, make sure to check out the store’s website first for decorating and organizing inspiration. Ikea also offers delivery and in-store pickup options and partners with TaskRabbit

for assembly services. If you’re looking to upgrade your kitchen with Ikea products, the store offers measurement, planning and installation services.

— Liz Ohanesian

3. Jerome’s Furniture Multiple locations; jeromes.com In Orange County, shoppers are heading to Jerome’s for sofas and seating, as well as home office and outdoor furniture. “We’re seeing a lot more demand this year for outdoor furniture than we have in the past,” says Jim Navarra, executive vice president of marketing at Jerome’s. One relatively new feature to the 67-year-old family business is the store’s Urban Outlet collection of budget-friendly, fashionable pieces geared toward smaller living spaces. With

pieces like ottomans that double as storage units and beds with drawers underneath, it’s attracting customers who tend to be first-time renters and firsttime homeowners. Jerome’s has also expanded its offerings for children’s furniture and carry whimsical items like bunk beds that resemble ships and houses. Going forward, the store is increasing the amount of products that are available online. Navarra says that this will help cater to “more particular tastes,” and offer more creative items.


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1. Armstrong Garden Centers Multiple locations; armstronggarden.com Orange County’s pick for favorite garden center has a deep history in Southern California. In fact, Armstrong Garden Centers goes all the way back to 1889, when John Armstrong began growing eucalyptus and olive trees in Ontario. Despite its origins, Armstrong developed a reputation for roses. Over 130 years, the company has been an innovator, cultivating hybrids of roses and other plants. Today, Armstrong Garden Centers, which has been employee-owned since 2014, has nine locations in Orange County. Armstrong’s plant selection is ample and includes plants that are grown within the company’s own Armstrong Growers division. Armstrong offers landscaping services that include home consultations, design and installation, as well as an in-store personal shopping program. Armstrong was the first garden center to offer a rose catalog, which may


An employee with Armstrong Garden Centers waters vegetables and fruits that can be grown in containers. explain why its online shop is so easy to navigate. Scroll through everything from roses to strawberries and you’ll find descriptions that are clear, concise and incredibly useful. You’ll have a good idea of how to

care for your new plants and what to expect from them before you buy. Curbside pickup is available for online orders; you should receive notification of when your purchase is available within

48 hours of placing an order. After planting your garden, keep an eye out for Armstrong’s online guides, which offer growing advice and even recipes for your harvests.

2. Green Thumb Nursery

3. Roger’s Gardens

“We’re probably the most complete nursery that you’ll find in Orange County,” says Karen Sandell, manager of Green Thumb Nursery in Lake Forest. One of five Southern California locations in a family-owned chain of nurseries, Orange County’s Green Thumb has everything from house plants to fruit trees to barbecues. It’s also a butterfly magnet. “I almost get hit with them daily and that’s amazing,” says Sandell. If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, check out Green Thumb’s water plant selection in their display pond. If you have questions, the store does have experts who can help you navigate these waters. That’s the case throughout the nursery. “We stress that anyone coming in has to have some type of knowledge, as well as they are constantly learning while they’re here,” says Sandell of the staff.

Roger’s Gardens is steeped in Orange County nature. This past summer, the 56-year-old nursery partnered with the local Audubon Society to help educate customers on what hummingbirds they can find in the area and how to make gardens more hospitable to them. Ron Vanderhoff, general manager and vice president at Roger’s Gardens, has a personal passion for butterflies and milkweed that has also become a bigger topic

23782 Bridger Road, Lake Forest; 949-837-3040, greenthumb.com

— Liz Ohanesian

2301 San Joaquin Hills Road, Corona del Mar; 949-640-5800, rogersgardens.com among Southern California gardeners in recent years. The nursery has helped fuel that movement by implementing a milkweed exchange program. Customers can bring in a non-native milkweed plant and exchange it for a native one at no cost. Roger’s Gardens is also a go-to spot for unusual roses. This year, customers were clamoring for the Disneyland rose, which had fallen off the market years ago, but was reintroduced at Roger’s. It sold out in three weeks.


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1. Sailhouse 170 Newport Center Drive, Suite 220, Newport Beach; 949-281-6044; sailhouse.com Sailhouse is a full-service real estate and development firm that builds new custom homes and remodels existing homes, mostly in the Newport Beach area. Its homes are known for their eye-catching yet timeless architecture and energy-efficient design. Its most popular offerings are Sailhouse Signature Homes and the Design Build program. Sailhouse Signature Homes are development projects with exclusive designs and luxury-level details. The Sailhouse team oversees the projects from start to finish, through the concept phase to selecting the location, design and construction, including ensuring the landscaping outside is on par with the inside. The Sailhouse Design Build program streamlines the process of custom home construction, the company said, saving clients time and money. It added, “Whether seeking a brandnew, completely customized home,


Sailhouse was voted the best homebuilder by Register readers as part of the Best of Orange County readers poll. or remodeling an existing home, Sailhouse provides a single point of contact and daily communication from start to finish.” Open floor plans, La Cantina sliding doors with indoor-outdoor entertaining spaces, rooftop decks, generous primary suites and large kitchens with professional appliances are staples in nearly every Sailhouse build, the company said.

2. Toll Brothers

3. (tie) Lennar

725 Town and Country Road, Suite 200, Orange; 714-347-1300; tollbrothers.com

15131 Alton Parkway, Suite 345, Irvine; 949-349-8000; lennar.com

“Home is more important than ever before, and the Toll Brothers build-to-order model is particularly well-suited to this moment,” says Seth Ring, Toll Brothers’ Pacific regional president. “Choice is our biggest differentiator; no one does it better and it has never been more important to our home buyers,” he said. “We offer tremendous opportunities for our customers to personalize their homes at our Toll Brothers Design Studio, whether it is the interior design finishes, or structural changes such as flex rooms for home offices, extra bedrooms and even adding additional garage space.” Toll Brothers’ upcoming new home communities locally include The Meadows, a luxury master plan community in Lake Forest opening for sale this fall, Ring said. The Meadows will feature more than 500 residences across six neighborhoods. Toll Brothers is also is selling properties at 100 West in Anaheim, a gated community of homes with nine openconcept designs — some with rooftop decks and attached garages.

Lennar is responding to the hot real estate market by giving customers what they want, said Jeremy Parness, Lennar division president for coastal California. “Our Everything’s Included program continues to set us apart from other new homebuilders. By including all of today’s popular features in the price of our homes, homebuyers can enjoy a simplified homebuying process,” he said. Lennar, one of the nation’s leading homebuilders and founded in 1954, is busy on the local scene, with 15 new communities “in some of Orange County’s most popular locations,” Parness said. These Lennar locations include The Farm in San Juan Capistrano, the Great Park Neighborhoods in Irvine and Rancho Mission Viejo’s new The Villages of Rienda.

The latest Sailhouse Signature Home is coming soon to the gated Bayshores community in Newport Beach this fall. The home boasts a California coastal vibe with contemporary touches over its five bedrooms and six and a half baths in about 4,000 square feet. Among the amenities are a wet bar, elevator, his and her walk-in closets and rooftop deck.

— Kathie Bozanich

3. (tie) Taylor Morrison

4695 MacArthur Court, 8th Floor, Newport Beach; 949-833-3600; taylormorrison.com Taylor Morrison is the nation’s fifth-largest homebuilder; the Arizona-based company is known for its 100-year legacy and trustworthiness. All of the homes it builds come with TM LiveWell as a standard feature, a suite of products that bring cleaner air and water, as well as fewer chemicals through materials used. The builder is now working on four new home communities in Orange County, all in Irvine. Palermo at Orchard Hills is a new community of 49 singlefamily homes with lots of space — ranging in size from 2,748 to 3,315 square feet. New home sites built by Taylor Morrison are coming soon in the Fringe and Revo development, both in the Novel Park community. SEPTEMBER 2021 THE BEST OF ORANGE COUNTY 107

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1. The Home Depot Multiple locations; homedepot.com The Home Depot is Orange County’s preferred spot for home improvement needs. Based on what the company is seeing inside its stores, you might have made at least one Home Depot trip in the past year. “Given the housing backdrop of housing appreciation and low interest rates, customers continue to invest in their homes,” says Jabarr Bean, regional vice president, Pacific South of The Home Depot, via email. “This includes major projects in their kitchens and bathrooms that improve both look and functionality, like countertops and appliances.” Long-term work-fromhome situations have also played a role in home improvement needs, perhaps a continuation of trends from 2020. “As people have moved to a more hybrid work life, they are still interested in improving their outdoor spaces with projects like gardening and expanding the uses of outdoor sheds


The Home Depot is the world’s largest home improvement retailer. Register readers voted it the best improvement store as part of the Best of Orange County readers poll. to be used as offices or play spaces,” Bean explains. Inside The Home Depot, customers are picking up power tools and equipment from makers like RYOBI, Milwaukee and Makita. They’re also looking for storage and organization

2. Lowe’s

everything from installing a toilet to building a picnic table, are marked by level of difficulty and estimated time. The Project Calculator can help you figure out how much material you’ll need to do the job.

— Liz Ohanesian

3. Ace Hardware

Multiple locations; lowes.com Lowe’s is celebrating its centennial this year and the home improvement behemoth shows no signs of slowing down. In the first quarter of 2021, Lowe’s saw above average performance in areas like kitchens and bathrooms, as well as outdoor living. With six locations throughout Orange County, Lowe’s is certainly an essential spot for everything from paint to power tools. However, you don’t have to be a DIY-er to visit.

ideas. Flooring projects are another trend that The Home Depot is seeing among customers. Before you head to The Home Depot, make sure to check out its online guides and tools. The Project Guides, which cover

Multiple locations; acehardware.com The company also offers installation services for many of the items it sells, including countertops, siding and smart home devices. In recent years, Lowe’s has also been aiming to provide more sustainable options for upgrading your home. In 2020, the chain partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to work to improve its wood sourcing practices and increased the selection of batteryoperated outdoor power equipment.

Ace Hardware can help with anything from plumbing to landscaping to storage needs, but where this chain of independently owned home improvement stores really shines is its Paint Studio. Online, its ample collection of paints from brands such as Benjamin Moore, Magnolia Home and Clark + Kensington are sorted by palettes. Browse “2021 Color Trends” for earthy shades like Potters Clay or Amazon Soil, or peruse “Historical Collection” for

a swath of classic greens, blues and grays. Use the visualizer tool on Ace’s website to see how different colors will look on your walls. Once you get to the store, check in with the experts to make sure you have everything you need for your home improvement project. Ace has an “Extra Mile Promise” program, where if you didn’t get all your tools on your trip to your local store, you can get what you need delivered for free.


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1. Sea Pointe Construction 576 Wald, Irvine; 949-861-3400; seapointe.com Sea Pointe Construction is making its mark as a goto full-service design-build firm, bringing together designers, engineers and construction teams to oversee kitchen and bath projects from start to finish. “We do the heavy lifting, making the design and build process fun for clients and rewarding once the remodel is complete,” said Lauren Mills, Sea Pointe’s director of design and client relations. “We really want our clients to enjoy their home transformation that will also bring their families closer together.” Mills pointed out that 52% of Sea Pointe’s clients are repeat customers or referrals, “and that is a huge part of our business. We are so honored that our clients not only refer us to their family members and neighbors but that they come back to us for another project because the first one went beyond what they expected. Clients say that they appreciate our professionalism,


Sea Pointe Construction uses technology to facilitate the remodeling process and help keep it on schedule. responsiveness and quality of work.” That quality also extends to the materials and services offered, she said. “We partner with the best manufacturers in the industry to bring you

stunning tile, countertop and flooring options along with custom and semicustom cabinetry,” Mills said. “Our designers keep up with the latest trends as well as keeping timeless design in mind.”

Sea Pointe offers wholehome remodels, room additions and outdoor space renovations, including California rooms (fresh-air entertainment spaces).

— Kathie Bozanich

2. Mr. Cabinet Care

3. Cabinet Wholesalers

Despite its name, Mr. Cabinet Care isn’t just one guy but is owned and operated by the Jaridly family. It is one of the largest and most popular kitchen remodeling companies in Orange County and throughout the Southland. What began as a small shop in Santa Ana is now a 24,000-square-foot factory and showroom in Anaheim. Its staff of design consultants, certified installers and engineers work closely with customers and any

Cabinet Wholesalers is a family-owned and operated remodeling company with deep roots in the community, sales manager Katelyn Cragg said. With the remodeling market surging, Cragg said certain trends have developed among the company’s kitchen and bath projects but that personalization is still the most important thing. “While white shaker cabinets continue to be the most popular selection, we offer diverse product lines designed to provide

4375 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim; 714-961-1900; mrcabinetcare.com governing agencies to ensure dream kitchens or bathrooms become realities. Mr. Cabinet Care boasts a 96% client referral rate, which it says is one of the highest in the industry. That’s an impressive feat with more than 21,000 clients to date. “We love to give our clients options,” the company website states. “From wine refrigerators and coolers to convenient power outlets and secret toe-kick steps, we’ll give you the idea and then we’ll let you decide.”

4510 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim; 714-693-1111; 1800CabinetWholesalers.com something each and every one of our customers will like,” she said. “A kitchen or bathroom remodel is a personal reflection of taste and style, and no two of our projects are the same. New cabinetry styles and trending countertop designs can be found at the company’s 2,500-squarefoot showroom. “We carry a wide variety of modern and European style cabinets, and our designers continuously strive to stay up to date on the latest trends,” Cragg said.


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MATTRESS STORE 2. Sit ’n Sleep

Multiple locations; sitnsleep.com Sure, the commercials that spawned catchphrases like “You’re killing me, Larry” have helped drive customers into Sit ’n Sleep, but there’s more that makes the chain of mattress shops a Southern California institution. That’s particularly true now that sleep science and the related technology has gained popularity. “They’re better educated than ever before,” says Sit ’n Sleep founder Larry Miller of mattress customers. “It’s really a good thing. A great thing.” With multiple locations across Orange County, Sit ’n Sleep carries a wide variety of popular mattress brands, such as Sealy, Tempur-Pedic and Hybrid Infinity. Plus, the chain has implemented tech-forward customer service with the bedMatch diagnostic program that helps identify the perfect mattress for your body type and sleeping style. For today’s savvy mattress shoppers, that’s a plus. It’s little advancements like these that help Sit ’n Sleep maintain multiple generations of customers. Says Miller, “Our real goal is to attract customers for life.”


Roland Trudell works at Custom Comfort Mattress in Brea. Of the Southern California company’s seven locations, four are located in OC.

1. Custom Comfort Mattress Multiple locations; customcomfortmattress.com It’s easy to see why Custom Comfort Mattress is Orange County’s favorite mattress store. Of the Southern California company’s seven locations, four are located in Orange County, and the company’s factory is located in Orange. The family-owned business focuses on traditional craftsmanship — its mattresses are truly doublesided — and uses fibers like natural cotton, organic wool and natural latex. Customers are fitted for their mattresses at the showrooms and the final product is delivered to their homes. Custom Comfort uses its own delivery staff with sameday or next-day arrival for Southern California residents. The company will remove your old mattress and help set up your new one. The service is complimentary.

While this all may sound like bigbudget service, Custom Comfort offers multiple lines at various price points. The Refresh mattresses cater to customers on a tighter budget, while the Lush collection is quite high-end. For those who want a truly custom mattress, you can get that here too. Custom Comfort does handle projects like extra-long beds and mattresses for couples with very different sleeping needs. You can even get mattresses made for pets or to fit inside the bed of your RV or boat. In addition to mattresses, Custom Comfort also sells adjustable beds, pillow, linens and other bedrelated items. To be fitted for your mattress, you can either schedule an appointment or walk into your nearest Custom Comfort showroom.

— Liz Ohanesian

3. Sleep Number Multiple locations; sleepnumber.com Sleep Number’s focus on bringing customers the latest tech to help them rest has earned the company its share of ardent fans. While best known for its mattresses, Sleep Number offers a lot more than that. The TrueTemp line of bedding and pillows uses volcanic sand particles to prevent you from getting either too hot or two cold. The Somnox Sleep Robot is a pillow-like device that you cuddle as it helps lull you to sleep with music and breathing patterns, while blue light-blocking glasses prepare you for a good night by cutting out the rays of your devices. When it comes to mattresses, Sleep Number keeps pushing toward the future with its 360 Smart Beds and SleepIQ app, which lets you see just how well you’re sleeping night after night. Its Innovation Series of Smart Beds has features like a temperature balancing surface and comfort layers to relieve pressure as you sleep.


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Ranch Mission Viejo was voted the best new home community as part of the Best of Orange County readers poll.

1. Rancho Mission Viejo 1 Salubre St., Rancho Mission Viejo; 949-768-1882; ranchomissionviejo.com The surrounding open space, with its rolling hills, creeks, canyons and farmland, is a major selling point at the new communities at Rancho Mission Viejo. The 21,000-acre Nature Reserve at Rancho Mission Viejo grounds the place and its residents, Stephanie Walker, Rancho Mission Viejo’s director of marketing, said. “From wildflower walks to breathtaking hikes and opportunities to volunteer, our land is what makes us who we are,” she said. The first built community at Rancho Mission Viejo was the Sendero development in 2013, followed by the village of Esencia. “With the village of Esencia now sold out, the next opportunity for new homebuyers to purchase at Rancho Mission Viejo will occur with the grand opening of the village of Rienda, scheduled for spring 2022,” she said. The first phase of Rienda is expected to include 671 homes in seven neighborhoods by four builders — Lennar, Meritage Homes, PulteGroup and TRI Pointe Homes. “Our interest list is growing every day, and we look forward to updating everyone as models are built,” Walker said. She added that beyond the surroundings and amenities, it’s about the residences at Rancho Mission Viejo. “Homebuyers appreciate thoughtfully designed homes that meet the needs of families at every stage, including Gavilán 55+ neighborhoods,” Walker said. “Our goal is to create a sense of belonging for all residents.”

— Kathie Bozanich

2. Great Park Neighborhoods

238 Merit, Irvine; 949-523-2001; greatparkneighborhoods.com FivePoint has come up with something in its Great Park Neighborhoods. All of them surround and are linked by trails to the Orange County Great Park, but each has its own aesthetic and vibe. The latest neighborhood is Rise, which mixes traditional and contemporary attached and single-family homes over nine collections. Like other Great Park Neighborhoods, Rise emphasizes outdoor spaces and gathering places. This includes gardens for quiet reflections, playgrounds and an Olympic-sized pool for activity and an overlook party deck for socializing. Other neighborhoods include Novel Park, which emphasizes an urban, walkable space that includes a neighborhood coffee shop and hanging pod garden. Then there is Cadence Park, featuring a colorful mix of eclectic homes featuring dual masters, private-entry suites and front porches. The Parasol Park, Beacon Park and Pavilion Park neighborhoods round out the development to date.

3. Baker Ranch

101 Mariposa, Lake Forest; 949-581-6709; bakerranch.nabrnetwork.com The master-planned community of Baker Ranch near the foothills in Lake Forest features about 20 neighborhoods over nearly 700 acres. Conceived in 2012 and built by Toll Brothers and Shea Homes, the first homes in Baker Ranch went up for sale in 2014. It was among the nation’s 20 fastest-selling new home master-planned communities a few years in a row before becoming completely built out. The community includes about 1,750 single-family homes, townhomes and condominiums. These range from two- to three-bedroom townhomes in the Brookland neighborhood that start at 1,273 square feet to fivebedroom single-family homes that top 4,000 square feet. There are seven parks, three private pool facilities, two tennis courts and a recreation program. The community also is home to the Barker Ranch Dog Park, a half-acre playground where pups can run off-leash, with separate large and small dog areas.


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G R E AT PAR K N E I G H B O R H O O D S At Great Park Neighborhoods, we know there is something special about this place. So do the people who come to live here. But when others notice, that’s the cherry on top of our sundae. We’re deeply thankful that Rise Park has been recognized as the top community amenity at the 2021 Gold Nugget Awards. New home collections in Irvine from the $800,000s to over $1,000,000. Visit our website to schedule an appointment or chat with one of our Neighborhood Information Specialists. GreatParkNeighborhoods.com | 949.523.1758 ©2021 Heritage Fields El Toro, LLC. All rights reserved. Great Park Neighborhoods, the bicycle logo, and “Life Will Be Different Here” are registered trademarks of Heritage Fields El Toro, LLC (“Heritage Fields”) dba Great Park Neighborhoods used for the marketing of new home neighborhoods in Irvine, California. FivePoint Communities Management, Inc. (“FivePoint”) is the development manager of Great Park Neighborhoods. Neither Heritage Fields nor FivePoint is designing, constructing or offering homes for sale in Great Park Neighborhoods. All proposed amenities are subject to change without notice. Lifestyle photography does not reflect any ethnic or racial preference. (9/21) THE BEST OF ORANGE COUNTY SEPTEMBER 2021 115



Bockman’s in Anaheim was voted the best place to buy carpet and flooring.

1. Bockman’s 1008 N. Tustin Ave., Anaheim; 714-630-4455; bockmaninteriors.com Family owned and operated since 1967, Bockman’s Interiors in Anaheim is a one-stop shop for any decorating need, but one area where it stands out is carpet. This year, it’s readers pick for the best in Orange County. Bockman’s carries a

hefty selection of carpets, including styles from Mohawk, whose own advancements, like odorreducing technology and sustainable practices, have made it a leader in the industry. Bockman’s also offers a variety of area rugs at its showroom. For those


in search of a unique floor covering, ask about their popular custom rug services. But, Bockman’s is more than a carpet. In fact, the breadth of services offered here can help you redecorate multiple rooms. The store is also revered for its selection of custom blinds, shutters and shades (it placed second in that category for this year’s Best of Orange County) and offers custom drapery and valances as well. With

its expansive selection of fabrics, Bockman’s does custom bedding and headboards, as well as upholstery. You can inquire about custom furniture too. Located in the Tustin La Palma Center, Bockman’s showroom is open Monday through Saturday. If you want to consult with the store’s experts, call to schedule an appointment.

— Liz Ohanesian

2. Marathon Triad Carpet Mill Outlet

3. Colonial Carpet Co.

Marathon Triad has a reputation as the largest flooring warehouse in Orange County. The Santa Ana-based, family-owned business, founded more than 30 years ago, boasts a selection that runs the gamut from plush wall-towall carpeting to carpet remnants. When it comes to flooring, the store stocks a variety, from luxury vinyl plank to laminate to tile. For property and business owners, the store also sells rental and commercial carpets and flooring. Marathon Triad

“One of the biggest things now is waterproof flooring,” says Rick Tessier, owner of Colonial Carpet. Customers are coming to this Orange County staple wanting to know more about laminate flooring, LVTs and vinyl planks and, specifically, which ones are waterproof. When it comes to carpet, people are looking for styles that work well when there are pets at home and there are a lot of options available. Colonial Carpet’s experts take all these questions

1348 N. Santiago St., Santa Ana; 800-540-1859; marathontriad.com

offers next day installation by certified professionals. Customers have offered testimonials to the business on social media. “After getting quotes from three other carpet providers I settled on Marathon mainly because of the price,” said one on Yelp. “The installation was fast and clean. And they sent a thank you note and gift card after the job was over!” For those who like to get an early start, Marathon Triad opens at 7:30 a.m. on Monday through Saturday.

7331-B Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove; 714-892-4495; colonialcarpetco.com into consideration when helping customers. “We try to suggest the best products for their lifestyles and for their homes,” says Tessier. Since 1955, familyowned Colonial Carpet has been serving customers in Orange County. It has long been a favorite for locals, thanks in part to its healthy selection of flooring options and inhouse installation team. Check out Colonial Carpet’s website for information about specials and financing options.


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2021 2015











Laminate & Vinyl Plank Sale

THANK YOU FOR VOTING US BEST! (FREE Pad upgrade for mentioning this ad)

66 Years of Reliable Service & Great Pricing • We Will Beat Home Depot & Lowe’s Carpet Pricing and Service • Large Warehouse With 100’s of Rolls of Carpet and Remnants • Open 7 Days • Family Owned & Operated Since 1955 • No Interest Financing O.A.C. • Contractors Welcome


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714-892-4495 www.colonialcarpetco.com

Lic# 537143

7331 Garden Grove Blvd. #B, Garden Grove, CA 92841








1. Compass Multiple locations; compass.com Founded in New York City in 2012, Compass has grown rapidly with a business model that emphasizes the use of technology to make the homebuying and selling processes easier and more affordable. The approach is obviously working: In less than a decade, Compass has grown into the country’s largest independent real estate brokerage, with more than 18,000 agents in more than 165 U.S. cities. Orange County represents a key market for Compass, a spokesperson said. “Compass delivers the ability to collaborate with a high-performance network of top-tier agents nationwide, while at the same time recognizing that the heartbeat of real estate in Orange County will always be communitydriven,” the spokesperson said. Its presence in the market is obvious: Compass real estate signs dot the landscape in more than


Compass was voted the top real estate company in the 2021 Orange County Register’s Best of Orange County readers poll. two dozen specific areas of Orange County. There are between hundreds to a few thousand homes at any given time on offer through Compass real estate agents. Compass Concierge is one of the firm’s most popular

programs and exclusive to its agents, the spokesperson said. It allows sellers to easily prepare their homes to go on the market by fronting the cost of home improvement services such as staging, painting and more.

Compass also offers sellers the choice of private exclusive listings, keeping their home off the public real estate sites while tapping into the vast network of Compass agents and buyers.

— Kathie Bozanich

2. Times Real Estate California

3. First Team Real Estate

As George Charles Hanold V, the CEO and co-founder of Times Real Estate California, put it, “The (real estate) market has gone parabolic and there is a sense of desperation from the buyer pool.” He adds that his company knows “how to help our buyers navigate these rough seas and how to help our sellers best capitalize.” “We are bringing more value to our clients now than ever before,” he said. The Concierge service, in

If First Team Real Estate sounds familiar, it’s because it’s been No. 1 in total unit sales in Southern California for 19 years and has been in the market since 1976. In that time, more than 250,000 homebuyers and sellers have turned to the largest family-owned company in the area. It has 16 offices total in Orange County, including a home office and another satellite office in Irvine, plus two offices in each of three other cities: Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Dana Point.

2901 W. Coast Highway, #200, Newport Beach; 949-335-7437; timesrealestateca.com

which Times Real Estate conceives, designs and implements a remodel before a house is put up for sale, helps “capture the highest level of hidden equity with the most effective investment,” according to Hanold. Other programs include zero-loss guarantee, a trade-up program to help contingent buyers who need to sell their home first, and Sell 360, in which the brokerage buys a home, remodels it and flips it, with a profit share incentive.

Multiple locations; firstteam.com

First Team Real Estate now offers on its website monthly local market reports, which provide up-to-date data insights. This includes city-by-city information on the number of units for sale and sold, days active on the market and median sales prices. Among its programs is the First Impressions Concierge service. Potential sellers who might be reluctant to put their home on the market because of its condition can get First Team’s help and expertise with projects or repairs with no upfront costs.


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A tai chi class at the senior living community Reata Glen in Rancho Mission Viejo, voted Best Senior Living Community.

1. Reata Glen

2. Freedom Village

2 Las Estrellas Loop, Rancho Mission Viejo; 949-397-2379; expectmore.reataglen.com/retire Reata Glen is a 60-acre community set among South Orange County’s rolling hills, with resort-like amenities and services, programs and events to keep residents as active or relaxed as they choose to be. The community’s apartments, townhomes and villas range from approximately 650 to 2,800 square feet, “some with sweeping views of the valley,” said Stephanie Riggs, Reata Glen’s director of sales and marketing. “Along with a beautiful space to call home, we take care of all the burdens of home and yard maintenance so residents can enjoy the myriad of activities and events offered both onsite and offsite,” Riggs said. “We offer an active lifestyle with opportunities to create new friendships and reengage with hobbies and activities.” Reata Glen considers residents’ present needs along with what they might need in the future. They “have priority access to long-term care, included at the adjacent health care center with assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing, if ever needed,” Riggs said. The campus’ amenities include a fitness center and indoor pool, tennis and pickleball courts, billiards and card rooms, an art studio and wood workshop. “Residents have access to a full calendar of events and activities that include fitness classes, group-led bike rides and hikes, movies and live performances in the on-site performing arts center, art classes, educational engagements, and three on-site dining venues with chef-prepared menus,” Riggs said.

— Kathie Bozanich

23442 El Toro Road, Lake Forest; 949-472-4700; freedomvillageorangecounty.org The struggles in the last months have given new meaning to the importance of social bonds and support at Freedom Village, according to its director of marketing Stephanie Chappell. “Some of our most popular amenities are live entertainment, dancing, water exercise classes in our year-round heated pool, putting green, little theater, billiards room, art room, four dining venues, walking path and new Zen garden,” Chappell said. Freedom Village is also a “life plan community,” and as such offers independent living apartments, assisted living, skilled nursing and rehabilitation all at one site. Its entrance deposit, as well as monthly fees, is an investment that buys peace of mind with the Freedom Village “Guarantee of Services and Care for Life.” This means that even if residents’ health or finances unexpectedly change through no fault of their own and they run out of assets, they will be able to stay in the community.

3. Laguna Woods Village

24351 El Toro Road, Laguna Woods; 949-597-4600; lagunawoodsvillage.com The gated community of Laguna Woods Village, open to those ages 55 and over, features more than 12,500 residences and is considered to be one of the largest of its type on the West Coast. Its 3.8 square miles make up about 90% of the incorporated city of Laguna Woods. The first 10 homeowners moved into what was then known as Leisure World, Laguna Hills, on Sept. 10, 1964. The community changed its name to Laguna Woods Village in 2005. Laguna Woods Village’s three housing corporations offer distinct types of living, from the condominiums in the highrise Towers community to the co-op condos in United Mutual and single-family homes and multi-family dwellings in Third Mutual. The 94 floor plans range from 675-squarefoot condo units to about 2,600-square-foot single-family homes. Laguna Woods Village offers an extensive list of social and recreational activities.


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Leisure Living

Where Meets Peace of Mind

Live in the moment, making the most of every day, confident that tomorrow is taken care of. Because it is! At Freedom Village, an Active Life Plan Community, you can live carefree and confident – knowing if your health needs ever change, care is available right here.









(949) 274-4946



Schedule your visit today!




All at some of the most affordable rates in Orange County.



FreedomVillage.org | 23442 El Toro Road | Lake Forest, CA 92630

Lic. #300606831 COA 143 THE BEST OF ORANGE COUNTY SEPTEMBER 2021 121

Luxury Senior Living in Orange County Set on 12 acres of walking paths and lush gardens, The Covington offers the best of independent, memory, skilled and assisted living in Orange County. Perhaps you’re looking for a private cottage with an attached one car garage? We are one of the only retirement communities in our area with this option.

Schedule Your Visit 949-284-7316 | thecovington.org 3 Pursuit Aliso Viejo, CA 92656 Now open & vaccinated. 122 THE BEST OF ORANGE COUNTY SEPTEMBER 2021

The Covington, Aliso Viejo RCFE 306-002255, SNF 060000937, COA 224

REDISCOVER YOUR PERFECT COMBINATION Pechanga Resort Casino would like to thank the readers of the Orange County Register for voting us Best Southern California Casino. Your perfect combination is back, so whenever you’re ready for a little rest, a little relaxation, and a lot of fun, we’ll be here.



Articles inside

Best Amusement Park Ride article cover image
Best Amusement Park Ride
page 8
Best Beach article cover image
Best Beach
page 9
Best Downtown article cover image
Best Downtown
page 10
Best Fair/Festival article cover image
Best Fair/Festival
page 11
Best Family Outing article cover image
Best Family Outing
pages 12-13
Best Farmers Market article cover image
Best Farmers Market
pages 14-15
Best Golf Course article cover image
Best Golf Course
page 16
Best Live Theater article cover image
Best Live Theater
page 17
Best Museum article cover image
Best Museum
pages 20-21
Best Run / Race article cover image
Best Run / Race
page 24
Best SoCal Casino article cover image
Best SoCal Casino
pages 25-27
Automotive: Best Auto Repair article cover image
Automotive: Best Auto Repair
page 28
Automotive: Best Car Dealership article cover image
Automotive: Best Car Dealership
page 29
Education: Best OC College / University article cover image
Education: Best OC College / University
pages 30-31
Education: Best Tutoring Service article cover image
Education: Best Tutoring Service
pages 32-33
Financial: Best Bank article cover image
Financial: Best Bank
pages 34-35
Financial: Best Credit Union article cover image
Financial: Best Credit Union
pages 36-37
Financial: Best Home Loan Provider article cover image
Financial: Best Home Loan Provider
page 38
Health: Best Dental Practice article cover image
Health: Best Dental Practice
page 39
Health: Best Fitness Center / Boot Camp article cover image
Health: Best Fitness Center / Boot Camp
pages 40-41
Health: Best Hospital article cover image
Health: Best Hospital
pages 42-43
Health: Best Medical Group article cover image
Health: Best Medical Group
pages 44-45
Health: Best Place to Buy CBD Products article cover image
Health: Best Place to Buy CBD Products
pages 46-47
Retail: Best Grocery Store article cover image
Retail: Best Grocery Store
pages 48-49
Retail: Best Place to Get a Grab-and-Go Meal article cover image
Retail: Best Place to Get a Grab-and-Go Meal
page 50
Retail: Best Shopping/Dining Destination article cover image
Retail: Best Shopping/Dining Destination
page 51
Retail: Best Thrift Store article cover image
Retail: Best Thrift Store
page 52
Retail: Best Wine Selection article cover image
Retail: Best Wine Selection
page 53
Services: Best Meal Delivery article cover image
Services: Best Meal Delivery
page 54
Services: Best Pet Clinic/Veterinary Hospital article cover image
Services: Best Pet Clinic/Veterinary Hospital
pages 55-57
Best Charitable Organization article cover image
Best Charitable Organization
pages 58-59
Best Cosmetic Surgeon article cover image
Best Cosmetic Surgeon
pages 60-61
Best Day Spa article cover image
Best Day Spa
pages 62-63
Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store article cover image
Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store
pages 64-65
Best OC Resort article cover image
Best OC Resort
page 66
Best Waterfront Dining article cover image
Best Waterfront Dining
page 67
Best Bakery article cover image
Best Bakery
page 72
Best Bar article cover image
Best Bar
page 73
Best Barbecue article cover image
Best Barbecue
page 74
Best Breakfast article cover image
Best Breakfast
page 75
Best Brunch article cover image
Best Brunch
page 76
Best Burger article cover image
Best Burger
page 77
Best Craft Brewery article cover image
Best Craft Brewery
page 78
Best Date Night Restaurant article cover image
Best Date Night Restaurant
page 79
Best Doughnut Shop article cover image
Best Doughnut Shop
page 80
Best Family Friendly Restaurant article cover image
Best Family Friendly Restaurant
page 81
Best Food Hall article cover image
Best Food Hall
pages 82-83
Best Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt article cover image
Best Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt
pages 84-85
Best Happy Hour article cover image
Best Happy Hour
page 86
Best Italian Restaurant article cover image
Best Italian Restaurant
page 87
Best Mexican Restaurant article cover image
Best Mexican Restaurant
pages 88-89
Best Pizza article cover image
Best Pizza
page 90
Best Seafood Restaurant article cover image
Best Seafood Restaurant
page 91
Best Steakhouse article cover image
Best Steakhouse
page 92
Best Sushi article cover image
Best Sushi
pages 93-95
Best Air Conditioning and Heating Company article cover image
Best Air Conditioning and Heating Company
pages 96-97
Best Apartment Community article cover image
Best Apartment Community
pages 98-99
Best Appliance Store article cover image
Best Appliance Store
page 100
Best Blind/Shutter Store article cover image
Best Blind/Shutter Store
page 101
Best City to Live In article cover image
Best City to Live In
pages 102-103
Best Door/Window Company article cover image
Best Door/Window Company
page 104
Best Furniture Store article cover image
Best Furniture Store
page 105
Best Garden Center/Nursery article cover image
Best Garden Center/Nursery
page 106
Best Home Builder article cover image
Best Home Builder
page 107
Best Home Improvement Store article cover image
Best Home Improvement Store
pages 108-109
Best Kitchen/Bath Remodeling Specialist article cover image
Best Kitchen/Bath Remodeling Specialist
pages 110-111
Best Mattress Store article cover image
Best Mattress Store
pages 112-113
Best New Home Community article cover image
Best New Home Community
pages 114-115
Best Place to Buy Carpet/Flooring article cover image
Best Place to Buy Carpet/Flooring
pages 116-117
Best Real Estate Company article cover image
Best Real Estate Company
pages 118-119
Best Senior Living Community article cover image
Best Senior Living Community
pages 120-124