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Home / Life! / Wellness / Cuisine, comfort and culture in Costa Mesa

Cuisine, comfort and culture in Costa Mesa

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There is something special about Avenue of the Arts Hotel in Costa Mesa. The moment I walked through its colorful, luxurious lobby I felt a calm come over me, like I was suddenly on a carefree vacation. This feeling magnified as I walked past a flowing stream and serene garden courtyard. And when I strolled off the elevator to my fifth floor King Suite, I knew it was time to shift into relaxation mode. 

The 340-square-foot Deluxe King suite features a plush king-size bed, hardwood flooring, granite bathrooms, flat-screen television, fully stocked mini-bar, and a coffee maker. The room also comes with a comfy sleeper sofa, office desk with free hi-speed WiFi and beautiful, music-inspired artwork that is a nod to the hotel’s location across the street from Costa Mesa’s Theater and Arts District.

The highlight of the suite is a giant sliding glass door and balcony, overlooking the hotel pool and a large community park and lake full of tall trees and walking paths and flocks of ducks, geese and other local birds. The vantage point also offers incredible views of planes heading to and from John Wayne Airport about 4 miles away. 

When not relaxing in the room, the family and I lounged poolside or explored the eclectic Theater District. The pool is situated on the ground floor beside the lake. It is a shady haven with umbrellas, chairs, a Jacuzzi and crystal clear water. It is a peaceful and playful spot where one can relax poolside while watching ducks and geese play in the lake. 

Beyond the hotel, we found exciting and delectable food choices within walking distance or a very short car ride. One of my favorite spots was Habana, a Cuban-inspired restaurant with a large outdoor patio and fire pits. Named one of the best outdoor dining spots in the U.S by Open Table and most romantic restaurants in the U.S. on Yelp, Habana serves up tasty Cuban dishes such as ropa vieja with shredded beef, sofrito black beans, white rice and sweet plantains; and el churrasco grilled skirt steak. 

Habana in Costa Mesa
Habana serves-up incredible Cuban-inspired food, with tons of atmosphere | Photo by Greg Aragon

For our lunch we devoured salmon a la parrilla, a memorable piece of succulent salmon in a spicy tomato cream sauce, with sofrito black beans, buttered white rice, and sweet plantains; and a half roasted chicken with garlic mojo, pickled white onions, sofrito black beans, buttered white rice and sweet plantains.

Habana is located in an eclectic enclave called The LAB. The name stands for “Little American Business” and is a celebration of small and unique businesses and restaurants. Besides Habana Restaurant, The LAB features old, silver Airstream trailers selling clothes and jewelry, an organic coffee shop, a few small hidden bars, and more. 

After lunch we headed back to Avenue of the Arts Hotel to relax by the pool and walk around the lake to watch geese, ducks, fish and turtles frolic in the water. We then explored the 238-room, AAA four-diamond hotel. Located in the heart of Costa Mesa’s Theater and Arts District, Avenue of the Arts is an eclectic art-filled property with boutique charm and a flair for luxury. The modern rooms and suites are stylish, with plush furnishings and beds, and a resort-style feel.

Next to the hotel is the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, a world-class performing arts campus and Orange County’s largest nonprofit arts organization. An architectural gem, the center boasts six performance venues – the main two being Segerstrom Hall and Renee & Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. The place is also home to the American Ballet Theatre William J. Gillespie School. The campus is getting a new addition later this year when the new 53,000-square-foot, Orange County Museum of Art opens. 

Across the street from Segerstrom Center for the Arts is South Coast Plaza, a renowned international destination for shopping and dining that is home to more than 250 prominent boutiques and acclaimed restaurants. 

After touring the area we had drinks and appetizers at the hotel’s signature dining spot, Silver Trumpet Restaurant & Bar. The restaurant offers an artisanal culinary experience to match the creative arts district. The contemporary California cuisine is served under the direction of expert Chef Hector Zamora in a sophisticated dining space surrounded by tranquil lake views. 

Our next stop was an outdoor dance class at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Every Tuesday night a professional dancer leads participants in different types of dance, from Broadway shows to Salsa. 

From here we headed to Spain, via Costa Mesa. In other words we had an exciting and delicious, authentic Spanish dinner at Vaca. Located next to Segerstrom Center, Vaca is operated by Chef Amar Santana (runner up on Bravo’s “Top Chef” season 13). Vaca is known for specialty imported meats and cheeses, and assorted tapas from the diverse regions of Spain. At Vaca dishes are tapas and family style and are “meant to share over great conversation, atmosphere and with an amazing crafted drink or aromatic wine in hand.” 

Vaca in Costa Mesa
Vaca transports diners to Spain with eclectic and tantalizing tapas | Photo by Greg Aragon

Our meal was highlighted by various tapa plates such as pulpo a la gallega, warm spanish octopus, fingerling potatoes, pimentón, spanish olive oil; gambas al ajillo, sautéed shrimp , olive oil, garlic, chili flakes, grilled bread; albacore tataki, albacore tataki, strawberry, yuzu-ginger-soy, toasted sesame seeds, crispy quinoa, cilantro; and piquillos rellenos, beer battered, cheese stuffed piquillo peppers, pickled grapes, peanut romesco. For dessert we had decadent and delicious fresh-made churros with chocolate dipping sauce. 

Other tasty food places to try in Costa Mesa include Outpost Kitchen, a gourmet coffee and organic food eatery; Marugame Udon, homemade noodles; Pie Society, a local speakeasy / pizzeria with hand-crafted cocktails and pitfire pizza; and Sidecar Doughnuts, which was recognized by Food & Wine as California’s Best Doughnut.  For more information on staying at Avenue of the Arts Hotel, visit: www.avenueoftheartshotel.com. For more info on Costa Mesa, check out @TravelCostaMesa.

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