Celebrate Five Decades of Dining With These Fifty Favorites

by Gretchen Kurz, Benjamin Epstein and Greg Nagel

In 1967, visions of Twiggy in a Mary Quant shift propelled shoppers to the exciting new retail domain of South Coast Plaza, where fresh fashion shared the landscape with innovative dining possibilities. From fine feasts in candlelit settings to cafe lunches on the run, five decades of dining at South Coast Plaza has always reflected the style of the moment, luring an ever larger universe that includes arts patrons, foodies, fashionistas and world travelers. Join us in celebrating our first 50 years with a sampling of these 50 favorites that taste so 2017.


AnQi by House of An
Pan Roasted Maine Lobster
Red shells with sweet bites of crustacean meat pair perfectly with Mama Helene An’s famous garlic noodles for a signature example of the Ans’ talent for coaxing intricate flavors from both luxurious and humble ingredients.

Antonello Ristorante
Mama Pina Ravioli
These piccolo housemade raviolis are a tribute to family tradition. Made in-house using the most delicate of pasta, the rich short rib filling sets off the authentic Bolognese sauce that gets better with a fresh grating of nutty Parmigiana.

The Capital Grille
Bone-In Kona Crusted Dry Aged NY Strip
It begins with an outsized bone-in Prime New York. The flavor is dramatically intensified by dry aging the hand-cut steak in-house. A coffee rub lends complexity and then the masterpiece of meat is broiled and napped with shallot butter.

Darya Fine Persian Cuisine
Many steps precede hours of simmering walnuts, pomegranate and chicken for a royal Persian stew renowned for layers of earthy, sweet and tangy flavors complemented by a mountain of fluffy basmati rice.

Din Tai Fung
A worldwide culinary dynasty is built on these juicy soup dumplings, filled with savory pork and rich broth, intricately pleated and carefully steamed in bamboo baskets that are delivered by the stack to ardent fans.

Hamamori Restaurant-Sushi Bar
Only sushi wizard James Hamamori could finesse a way to crown luxury with more luxury and keep flavors in balance, allowing pristine pink toro to shine through its topper of tawny, velvety uni, rich with umami.

Leatherby’s Café Rouge
Orange Pepper Seared Hamachi
The pre-theater starter at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall restaurant marries popular avocado toast with a decidedly Asian topping of orange pepper searedhamachi, pickled Fresno chiles and white soy-yuzu pearls for a symphony of flavors.

Mezzet Mediterranean Cuisine
Lamb Tagine
Named for the conical vessel used to braise the famed dish, falling-off-the bone lamb arrives perfumed with Middle Eastern spices and cumin-spiked carrots, earthy chickpeas and blistered grapes—a luscious mélange served with fine-grained couscous.

Morton’s the Steakhouse
Filet Mignon
The center-cut famed bastion of beef is tall—the 12-ounce version akin to a baseball cut. It’s also the highest grade of coveted USDA Prime tenderloin, unbelievably tender and with a picture-perfect char; a nap of garlic-pepper-herb jus adds to the juiciness.

Pizzeria Ortica
D.O.P. Margherita Pizza
The D.O.P. designation assures all ingredients are from Italy, as is the high-heat pizza oven fueled with almond wood that creates a crispy thin crust with hints of char. Toppers of San Marzano tomatoes, creamy imported buffalo mozzarella and sweet basil make for a perfect authentic pizza.

Quattro Caffé
Seafood Pasta
Giant prawns in their shells bookend a tangle of al dente spaghetti tossed with refined marinara sauce that flatters tender mussels, sweet calamari and fresh seasonal fin fish in the timeless dish with a loyal following.

Royal Khyber Indian Cuisine
Khyber’s Nectar
Lamb shank slow-simmered for 14 hours in a secret recipe with exotic spices makes the aristocratic dish an enduring favorite for indulgent feasting. Ultra tender and rumored to be an aphrodisiac.

Nordstrom’s Ruscello
Cilantro-Lime Chicken Salad
Shoppers taking a break at the stylish second-floor dining room frequently order this best seller, with bright flavors of grilled corn, grape tomatoes, crunchy pumpkin seeds and creamy avocado atop grilled chicken and farmers market greens.

Seasons 52
Mini Indulgences
The signature desserts are each a marvel of maxi indulgence amid caloric economy. Standouts are the mocha macchiato with caramel sauce and key lime pie with toasted meringue. Exclusively for South Coast Plaza’s 50th anniversary is a Greek yogurt vanilla mousse-orange marmalade mini.

Paella de Mariscos
Neptune himself can’t craft a more authentic seafood paella than top chef Amar Santana who loads his saffron-rich bomba rice with plump lobster, shrimp, clams, octopus and mussels.

Water Grill
Iced Shellfish Platter
A cornucopia of pedigreed oysters, bay scallops, clams, mussels, shrimp, periwinkles and lobster on ice is a popular starter. The head-turning platters come in three sizes, with the grander versions including marine delicacies such as king crab and a whole sea urchin.


AnQi Noodle Bar
Chicken Pho
Organic chicken, charred aromatics and mindful simmering build a complex broth; dive deep for bites of delicate white chicken, translucent rice noodles and you-decide garnishes like fresh sweet basil, crunchy bean sprouts and hoisin-Sriracha.

New England-Style Clam Chowder
The best seller, served in a freshly baked sourdough bread bowl, was made popular at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. It’s filled with clams and potatoes, a whisper of pepper and sprinkling of parsley.

Champagne French Bakery Cafe
Croque Monsieur
No ordinary grilled ham and cheese sandwich, the French classic consists of crusty, cheese-coated pain de mie filled with melting, béchamel-rich Swiss cheese and Black Forest ham.

Claim Jumper
BBQ Baby Back Pork Ribs
Popular for almost 40 years, the rack or half-rack of tender meat is basted with savory tangy mesquite sauce then flame-broiled until it falls off the bones.

Lawry’s Carvery
Prime Rib Original
Known for its prime rib for nearly 80 years, Lawry’s signature sandwich showcases hand-carved beef to your desired doneness served on artisanal freshly baked ciabatta, with creamy horseradish and port-wine jus for dipping.

Pacific Whey Café
School Boy Breakfast
A hearty tribute to the American breakfast that includes two eggs your way with crusty buttered toast, breakfast taters, and choice of savory ham, bacon or sausage. There’s more—add two feather-light silver dollar pancakes and fresh fruit. Served all day.

Ruby’s Diner
The Cobb Burger
Ruby’s memories are based on burgers and the premium versions are among the best. Each features a half pound of natural USDA Choice beef served atop a toasty bun. The Cobb adds thick-cut bacon, blue cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato and a sun-dried tomato mayo.

Vie De France Bakery/Cafe
French Onion Soup
A comfort food classic that’s rich with slowly sautéed caramelized onions, savory beef stock and a blanket of melted Swiss cheese that hides softened French bread croutons.

Wahoo’s Fish Taco
Fish Tacos
If you order the two-taco entrée, consider the best of two eras with the 1988 original and the citrus slaw taco, a contemporary classic, both made mild or spicy with wild-caught fish.

Tuscan Pizza
Known for its crisp and airy crust, generous array of crimini and shiitake mushrooms, sweet caramelized onions, fresh thyme and a whisper of truffle oil, this handcrafted lightly cheesed pizza can only be described with one word: luxurious.


Antonello Espresso Café
Apple Crisp
The simplicity of this favorite highlights sweet-tart sliced green apple that becomes meltingly soft in the oven, topping flaky buttery pastry and brushed with a sweet glaze.

Chocolate Chip Cookie
The oversized American classic has crispy edges and a chewy middle. The perfect ratio of browned butter blends with rich, semi-sweet chocolate and a hint of vanilla.

Champagne French Bakery Cafe
Layers of flaky, paper-thin dough are topped with an almond crust and a velvety frangipane cream filling and baked till golden. Each bite of the unique French pastry reveals a nutty, subtle sweetness.

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
Original Ice Blended Mocha
The famous Ice Blended drink whirls together pellet ice, potent coffee extract, milk and mocha powder, then crowns it with whipped cream. Rich, satisfying and addictive.

Corner Bakery Cafe
Cinnamon Creme Cake
A crumbly streusel topping and a dusting of powdered sugar coat the cinnamon-swirled Bundt-type cake, lovely for a tea or Sunday brunch at home.

Godiva Chocolatier
Soft Serve
An addition to Godiva’s luxe chocolates is the popular soft serve cone. The stylish silky swirl of dark chocolate and creamy white chocolate vanilla bean twists up from a chocolate praline-crusted Belgian waffle cone.

Mangiamo Gelato Caffe
Caffe Espresso
A rich Italian espresso is blended into daily-made creamy vanilla gelato available in a variety of sizes.

Nékter Juice Bar
The Greenie
A freshly juiced medley of raw parsley, spinach and kale blends with sweet and tart notes from apple juice and a squeeze of lemon to create a signature drink loaded with nutritious veggies.

Pacific Whey Café
Crème Brûlée Bread Pudding
A tribute to two favorites that is simultaneously dense, moist and rich with hints of caramel. A rustic crumble topping and a sprinkle of mini chocolate chips provide a pleasing crunch.

See’s Candies
Nuts & Chews
See’s Candies offers up a selection of best-selling buttery caramels and crunchy nut clusters covered in luscious milk or dark chocolate.

Starbucks Reserve Coffee
Clover Brewed Coffee
The Clover machine freshly brews individual cups of coffee of the highest quality, allowing the depth of flavor and aroma to be fully developed, while minimizing the acidity from traditional brewing systems. The signature Café Verona dark roast is especially delicious using this method, with deep cocoa notes.

Champagne Bears
Infused with vintage Dom Pérignon champagne, these grown-up, not-too-sweet gummy bears are a mix of classic brut and soft rosé flavors.

Youthberry Wild Orange Blossom Tea
A complex aroma releases hints of citrus and berries as the popular tea steeps. The blend of Youthberry White and Wild Orange Blossom herbal teas is sweetened with German rock sugar, complementing subtle notes of mango and red currant.

Vie de France Bakery/Cafe
Cream Puff
Ethereal light pâte à choux is filled with vanilla pastry cream so rich it resembles custard. The golden crown is finished with a liberal dusting of powdered sugar. The ultimate afternoon treat with coffee or tea.