Costa Mesa: Insider Secret Local Hot Spots

There are many great restaurants and places to visit in Costa Mesa.  However, due to Orange County being a popular tourist destination many great restaurants in tourist locations are not frequented as much by locals who tend to visit less crowded spots.  Here is a list of a few local places that are locally known great hang out spots, restaurants, or alternative things to do in Costa Mesa.

  1.  Memphis Cafe & Lounge

This is a great spot to hear live music and indulge in some soul food that would typically be served in Memphis, Tennessee.  Food items served include; seafood jambalaya, buttermilk fried chicken, pulled pork sliders, and more.  They have had great ratings by the L.A. Times for their food and often have live jazz music, small local musicians, or a DJ on the patio area.  This venue and restaurant have grown so popular that they opened another location in Santa Ana.

  1.  The Social – Restaurant and Lounge – Costa Mesa

The Social is a newer spot to meet friends for cocktails or dine out and enjoy the atmosphere and live music on weekends.  The chef-inspired food has amazing choices from Candied Walnuts and Compressed Kumquat Ravioli, to Smoked Bone Marrow or fun regional classics like Chicken and Waffles.  Every other Sunday during brunch they have live music ranging from a one-man band to other small local groups.  It is a fun place to hang out, enjoy good food and have a bit of entertainment.

  1.  La Cave – Steak, Seafood, and Lounge – Costa Mesa    

This steak and seafood house is hidden downstairs in a small mall area even though there is a sign outside.  If you have never been there before, the location is literally underground.  Known as one of the local hangouts, half of it is a fine dining restaurant and the other half a small concert venue or lounge with dancing depending on the night of the week.  The food and service are excellent, however, a reservation is advised since the restaurant area is small.  Small tables with red vinyl booths and white linen tablecloths fill the dining area and you can also see the chef prepare all the food upon entering.  There are no windows due to the location so be aware of the underground dive restaurant experience.

  1.  Mesa – The Lab – Costa Mesa

A popular “secret” restaurant with locals since there is no signage and they do not advertise. It is purposely kept with no visible street signs to avoid the restaurant from getting overly popular as the food and ambiance are one-of-a-kinds.  With a retractable roof that opens to the sky, it creates a very memorable dining experience.  There is a large bar centrally located in the restaurant and on one side raised cabana-style booths with large parties are visible upon entering.  A few fireplaces are located throughout with lounge seating directly in front of them and smaller tables surrounding the heated area under the roof that opens for an outdoor experience while remaining indoors.  The food and drinks are high-quality with menu items ranging from; Pan seared scallops with butternut puree and bacon braised collard greens, to Wagyu Beef with Shrimp and fried arugula.  It is definitely a dining experience you won’t want to miss.