1. CRAFT HOUSE'S BLAKE MELLGREN Mangia Bene gave him his start, but he found a mentor in Chez Melange’s Robert Bell, then moved to The Modern in NYC. Now he dishes out his own brand of upscale comfort food in Dana Point. His blue crab a la plancha is drizzled with Meyer lemon vinaigrette and teamed with a cured egg yolk. The seafood? It arrives from local anglers, often within three hours of getting hooked.
2. OAK GRILL'S PETER LAI He stepped in to head the kitchen at the Island Hotel’s resto in January and is taking the menu to the next level with from-scratch sauces and condiments (more bacon marmalade, please!), and interesting offerings such as watermelon radishes on ahi poke. Hungry?
3. SOCIAL COSTA MESA'S ANDREW DORSEY Here, diners nosh on creations like wood-fired oysters with guanciale, bone marrow butter and salmoriglio while sipping craft cocktails. This summer, Dorsey’s launching an adjacent coffee bar with drinks concocted by Social’s mixologists, and Tower 48 in Newport, where gourmet sandwiches will be built.
4. TEMPO URBAN KITCHEN'S JORGE CUEVA He launched three years ago in Brea, expanded to Anaheim Hills and is developing outposts in Buena Park, Downey and Mexico, all while evolving a menu that unites flavors from around the globe with south-of-the-border flare. Take the bone marrow, with its kimchee slaw, crispy shrimp, chimichurri, honey Sriracha and flour tortillas—a world of flavors.
5. THE WINERY'S WILLIAM LEWIS, JC CLOW AND YVON GOETZ JC Clow and William Lewis met during their days at Morton’s, and chef Yvon Goetz ruled the kitchen at The Ritz-Carlton’s former Dining Room. They joined forces 10 years ago, dishing out award-winning, globally inspired wine country cuisine in Tustin. Their instant success paved the way for a second spot on Newport’s Mariner’s Mile. Now they’re crossing the county line to San Diego’s La Jolla, where their third restaurant will bow in the fall.