Pre-theater dining foreshadows the excitement of the show itself — curtain-raisers for the night, as it were. The best is on the lighter side in anticipation of the evening that awaits. These restaurants are minutes from the theaters; savvy diners valet park and take a quick stroll to their venue destination.


Water Grill

Showgoers cozy up to the county’s best oyster bar — and to clam chowder and wild Alaskan halibut collar — at gorgeous seafood destination Water Grill. Any night at the live soft-shell crab and first-of-season-salmon mecca feels like a special occasion; elaborate iced shellfish platters make it even more so. French-press coffee is the preshow reboot.



One could order three different tapas at Vaca before each of Segerstrom Hall’s nine Broadway shows and never repeat; celebrity chef Amar Santana’s shareable small plates are sophisticated, bold and as diverse as albacore tataki, chicken cannelloni and pork spareribs. The Vaca Tonic, an icy gimlet, is the perfect prelude to Disney’s Frozen.


Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge

Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge opens exclusively for pre-theater dining; it’s inside the magnificent Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall and looks out onto the new Orange County Museum of Art. Composed dishes such as the ahi tartare and Liberty Farm duck breast make the evening a celebration. Rosé champagne sets the mood for Moulin Rouge! The Musical.


Costa Contemporary Kitchen

For meat and potatoes grazing, you can enjoy top-notch handmade empanadas or potato croquettes at Peruvian destination Costa Contemporary Kitchen and still have plenty of room for the superb seafood ceviche or lomo mar y tierra, a surf and turf of dramatically flambéed filet mignon and shrimp. The sangria and the crema volteada flan both earn ovations.


Outpost Kitchen

Off to a weekend matinée? Outpost Kitchen, a stylish update of Aussie beach cafés, specializes in weekend brunch, serving exuberant but often simply named dishes such as real avocado toast and gluten-free blueberry pancakes. Salute Hamilton, defender of the Constitution, with a Defender, cold-pressed juices with or without tequila.


Enjoy the latest issue of South Coast Plaza’s TASTE Magazine