ShermansTravel Blog
Teresa Bitler

Orange County has a thriving food scene that gives its neighbor to the north, Los Angeles, a run for its money. Tourists who flock to the restaurants along the coast or in or around the area's two theme parks (Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm) are rarely disappointed - but where do the locals go to eat? The list could go on and on, but we've narrowed it down to the five we think you should absolutely know about. In no particular order:

1. Taco Maria
Even though Carlos Saldago was recently named a Food & Wine 2015 Best New Chef, his restaurant, Taco Maria, still flies largely under the radar of most Orange County tourists. But most locals prefer it that way - it's already hard enough to get a seat in the tiny space at The OC Mix, a collection of boutique shops and specialty food purveyors. Lunch is limited to upscale tacos, like pork cheek and peaches or shitake mushroom chorizo with crispy potato, served on handmade tortillas. At dinner, Salgado serves a prix fixe menu featuring creative Mexican cuisine.

 2. Andrei's Conscious Cuisine & Cocktails
This Irvine establishment is popular for its Mediterranean-inspired menu featuring the likes of a lamb burger, Moroccan wrap, and masala chicken flatbread. Don't worry, there's more traditional fare as well, including scallops, filet mignon, and roasted chicken. Locals appreciate that ingredients are locally sourced, organically grown, and sustainably raised - but dining here has an added bonus: One hundred percent of the restaurant's profits benefit the Andrei Foundation, established to honor the brother of owner Natalia Olenicoff, who was afflicted with an eye disease. The foundation funds research to find a cure for retinal degenerative diseases and supports related programs like as Guide Dogs for the Blind.

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