Costa Mesa, CA, USA
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Travel Costa Mesa Blog

DIY: Costa Mesa “Top Chef” Dining Tour

Posted on March 7, 2019 | 4:21pm | Travel Costa Mesa

Ever find yourself sitting on the couch watching the latest episode of your favorite cooking show, wondering what exactly those judges get to taste? If you find yourself anywhere between reality cooking show junky and certified foodie, an Eatcation™ may be the perfect kind of weekend for you.

And what better place to start than the Orange County city with not one, or two, but three restaurants launched by former “Top Chef” contestants?

(Costa Mesa is also home to the best restaurant in Los Angeles as chosen by The Los Angeles Times’ most prolific food critic, but we digress…)

Create Your Own “Top Chef” Tour:

If you have it in your sights to experience the creativity of Costa Mesa’s Top Chefs, we suggest that you plan to stay overnight for the full dining experience. While The Crack Shack is ideal for breakfast, lunch or dinner, we really recommend dinner at both Vaca and Tackle Box.

Tackle Box by Brian Huskey

On your first night, plan for dinner at Tackle Box at SOCO and The OC Mix. As the name implies, the menu is full of stellar seafood dishes but also sprinkled with wild cards like truffle mac’n cheese and Korean BBQ or pork katsu burgers.

Prior to opening Tackle Box in 2018, Huskey helped open Fig & Olive in West Hollywood, Mark Gold’s Eva and Costa Mesa’s own Leatherby’s Café, among other accomplishments. After finding himself in the top five of “Top Chef” season 11, he and his brother came together to launch their own “local grub shack” with a focus on quality and freshness and a come-as-you-are, no-ego attitude.

Suggested: poached shrimp roll, salmon “poke,” katsu burger, truffle mac’n cheese

The Crack Shack by Richard Blais

For lunch, stop in at The Crack Shack, the brain child of season four contestant and “Top Chef All-Stars” 2010 winner Richard Blais. Blais is known for his work as not just chef but also restauranteur, author, and now, television personality. In addition to “Top Chef,” he has competed on “Iron Chef America” and “Chopped All-Stars,” and served as a judge on shows like “Master Chef” and “Hell’s Kitchen.”

The Crack Shack doesn’t claim to be fried chicken for the purist, but you’re likely to love the California flare Blais brings to menu items like the Coop Deville, a fried chicken sandwich with pickled Fresno chiles, lime mayo and napa cabbage on brioche.

Suggested: the Firebird or Double Clucker sandwiches, the 5-piece fried chicken meal or chicken oysters

Vaca by Amar Santana

Finally, make a reservation for dinner at Vaca by Season 13 runner up Amar Santana. Santana’s restaurant and menu offer an authentic Spanish experience, with irresistible tapas and paella, freshly cut steaks and wild caught seafood flown directly in from Spain. The dining room offers an intimate ambiance with a peek at the kitchen and mouthwatering butcher counter. Wine enthusiasts will also enjoy an extensive selection of Spanish wines while cocktail fiends will find it hard to choose between the bar’s carefully crafted cocktail menu.

Santana’s culinary career has provided a global inspiration for his cuisine and restaurant projects. After moving to the United States from the Dominican Republic at 13 years old, he began his career at 16 with an internship in one of New York’s favorite restaurants, Chanterelle.

Suggested: paella de mariscos, bikini sandwich, erizos con huevo, beef rib steak

See more Costa Mesa foodie accolades here

Start planning your Eatcation here

Download a copy of our visitor guide here