Best Seafood Restaurant
1. King's Fish House
Huntington Beach; Laguna Hills (949-586-1515), Orange
- The menu changes daily, and the fish can be wild or farm-raised, said Sarah Lipnik, King's marketing adviser.
- Easy Hour is much like Happy Hour; it is offered weekdays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
- King's website offers some of its recipes to the public, including a couple of signature sauces.
Why they're No. 1: "There are regular guests many times a month. I think they believe we're the only seafood restaurant in Orange County," operating partner Ron Leuang said. King's warm and comfortable atmosphere attracts business people and families to the restaurant. Leuang adds, "I'm very proud of our crew who really take care of our guests."
Claim to fame: King's Fish House has been in Orange County for more than 12 years. Cousins Sam and Jeff King opened their first O.C. location in Laguna Hills and followed it with Huntington Beach and Orange. The Kings dreamed of creating the best seafood restaurant and visited lots of other restaurants to pick their best ideas, ending up with a New Orleans influence in their own restaurants. The most popular item on the menu is the Macadamia Nut Crusted Wild Alaskan Halibut, which is served with orange ginger butter sauce.
Fan favorite: "Fabulous shrimp, clam chowder, great for family or date night, wonderful service." – Jane Andrews, Santa Ana
Fun fact: King's Fish House has its own seafood plant in Santa Ana to keep products fresh. Leuang says having its own seafood plant enables the restaurant to have "plenty of diversity" in its menu.
– Raquel Rubio
23704 El Toro Road, Lake Forest; 949-581-FISH (3474)
- South African piri piri seasoning gives sauces a unique taste. The hot sauce, which comes in several heat levels, is made from African birdseye piri piri peppers.
- Boneheads has an expedition kitchen; customers can watch dishes being prepared while waiting in line or in some seating areas.
Claim to fame: Boneheads is successful at selling gourmet seafood at a low price, owner Morgan Smith said. "Only a bonehead would create a restaurant that serves healthy grilled fish and chicken entrees with gourmet sides for under $10," Smith said. Boneheads has been in Orange County for more than three years. The meal starts with fresh, fire-grilled seafood seasoned with South African-inspired spices, then the customers can choose toppings (from pineapple salsa to sautéed piri piri mushrooms) to customize their meals and heat levels. "Many of our customers have said that our Boneheads shrimp is more addicting than nicotine," Smith said.
Fan favorite: "The seafood at Boneheads is freshly grilled and incredibly flavorful. The piri piri sauces are to die for, giving one the opportunity to go from mild to hot with just a shake of the bottle. The prices at Boneheads are the best value for an incredibly healthy seafood meal!" – LeAnne Daringer, Ladera Ranch
Fun fact: Smith said Boneheads serves 3,800 to 4,000 people each week.
– Raquel Rubio
3. The Crab Cooker
17260 E. 17th St, Tustin, 714-573-1077
2200 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, 949-673-0100
- The Crab Cooker is extremely casual. "We have people with business suits sitting next to someone with shorts and a T-shirt," Newport Beach General Manager Steve Bolton said.
Claim to fame: When World War II veteran Bob Roubian started his first seafood restaurant in 1951, it was named Seafood Variety. Roubian decided to change the name because customers kept referring to it as the "restaurant with the crab cooker in front." The most requested dish on the menu is the combination plate, featuring fish, shrimp and scallops on a skewer served with vegetables. Roubian said, "If the food is delightful and well-accepted they'll come back and give you another chance. Making people happy is the most rewarding thing this business can offer." No seafood restaurant would be complete without killer clam chowder. "Our clam chowder is a military secret," Roubian said.
Fan favorite: "The selection of fresh ingredients (especially fresh seafood) makes this place the best seafood restaurant! Their food is delicious, and it is a friendly hangout" – Joanna Chang, Yorba Linda
Fun fact: President Nixon once wanted to reserve the restaurant for himself; however, the Crab Cooker wasn't able to accommodate him because they don't take reservations, Roubian said.
– Raquel Rubio