The depressing part of eating out in Orange County is all the chains. I refuse to go anymore. I have lived in the area for over 20 years and their are only a few restaurants that are original and good. Here's a few of my favorites
Barelo Cafe on Newport Avenue - small Italian restaurant - chef cooks in the same room. Always good crisp bread and meals come with a salad- although lately the balsamic dressing is too heavy. Specific light coating of dressing. His wife owns another restaurant off Nohl Ranch Road called Trattoria ?? I like the service better and they have pizza on the menu.
Another favorite would be Brochard's in Garden Grove - near the 22 and Brookhurst. Excellent food but dress decently as it's an insult to come in with shorts and flipflops on. Great looking bar in the front. Vietnamise food is outstanding.
Sage Restaurant in Newport Beach is always good. I like to go eat outside in their backyard terrace. The other one at Newport Coast - is too full of the "beautiful phoney crowd"
Santa Monica Seafood Company - 17th street and Newport in Costa Mesa. Very fresh fish sandwiches, meals and oysters on the half shell (but they aren't on the menu) They service a great halibut chop
My absolute favorite bakery is Pan Cream on Camino Royale in Tustin. He's expanding and going to have a cafe next door The baggetts are excellent along with everything in his case. Sort of a French/Japanese bakery. The best in OC!
Other favorites...Memphis in Costa Mesa - and a great Indian takeout restaurant in Tustin at the corner if Redhill and the 5 freeway in the stripmall on the right as you exit.....all the way at the end. Their eggplant dishes are incredible.
No decent pizza places on OC - have to go to LA to get good thin crusted pizza.