My Journey by Donna Karan

Heather, Kelly, Meghan, Shannon, Tamra and Vicki. A partial sorority membership list, you ask? One might think, but I’m afraid you’d be wrong. No, those are the names of the cast members of the 11th season of “The Real Housewives of Orange County.”

I’m not one to personally watch the show myself, but certain members of my household do, and I’d be less than sociable if I didn’t sit down every once in awhile and check in on the wives. During one such check-in, I noticed it was being filmed at a restaurant. I started wondering what restaurants they’ve filmed at during the show’s run? And not only that, but where have they filmed multiple times?

A little research and I was able to come up with six restaurants that have appeared on the show numerous times – all of which I am familiar with, having dined at each of them on at least one occasion. All are excellent choices and if they’re good enough for the Real Housewives how can you go wrong?

Salt Creek Grille

Appearing in Season 8 (Episode 10) and Season 9 (Episode 4), when Tamra sprung her baby desires on Eddie, Salt Creek Grille is located right on Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point.

The top three favorite dishes of locals, and possibly the Housewives, are the mesquite grilled cheeseburger, which has ground chuck topped with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, mustard, mayo and asiago garlic, all on a King’s Hawaiian sweet bun; the Chilean sea bass, a gluten-free option, which is shallot crusted and pan-seared with a lemon beurre blanc and served with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and whatever the freshest vegetable of the season is at the time; and of course their famous coffee-encrusted New York steak, also a gluten-free option, topped with Point Reyes blue cheese, a bourbon caramel and served with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes.

Not only is the food here incredible, but the staff at Salt Creek Grille has created a warm and comforting environment where you’ll want to linger long after your meal is done. The Real Housewives knew what they were doing when they chose this establishment.

A beautiful new york steak served by Salt Creek Grille in Dana Point, California.

Courtesy of Salt Creek Grille

32802 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point
(949) 661-7799 | www.saltcreekgrille.com

Hours
Bar: Daily, 4 p.m.
Dinner: Daily, 5 p.m.
Lunch: Saturday, 11:30 a.m.; Sunday, 10:30 a.m.
Happy Hour: Sunday–Friday, 4–6:30 p.m.
Brunch: Saturday, 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m. and Sunday, 10:30 a.m.–2 p.m.

Bayside Restaurant

Appearing in Season 8 (Episode 10; the Housewives ate out a lot in this episode), and Season 10 (Episode 11), Bayside Restaurant has been the scene of a couple of intense story lines. In Season 8, Tamra and Alexis made up there, while Brooks’ cancer, or lack thereof, took center stage in Season 10. Located in Newport Beach with an exquisite location overlooking the harbor, Bayside Restaurant is not just a place for dramatic reality television episodes to play out, but an excellent place to have a meal.

One of the more popular dishes is the oven-roasted rack of lamb, served with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables, and accompanied with a grain mustard Port wine sauce. Another fan favorite – and you can include me on that list – is the 14-ounce ribeye steak served with a Béarnaise reduction sauce, perfectly prepared broccolini and roasted Yukon Gold potatoes. Not into meat and would rather go with seafood? Try their wild mushroom crusted Chilean sea bass, served with a Yukon Gold potato puree and fresh asparagus, with a riesling sauce that perfectly balances all the flavors.

Looking for a place to have brunch? Bayside has an enormously popular Sunday Champagne Brunch that you’ve got to put on your bucket list. The Bayside Salmon “Benedict” with Scottish smoked salmon, house brioche, citrus hollandaise, poached egg and asparagus is a dish that is not duplicated anywhere else. Would Vicki, Tamra, Shannon and Alexis steer you wrong?

The ribeye entree served at Bayside Restaurant in Newport Beach, California.

Courtesy of Bayside Restaurant.

900 Bayside Drive, Newport Beach
(949) 721-1222 | baysiderestaurant.com

Hours
Lunch: Monday–Friday, 11:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
Dinner: Sunday–Wednesday, 5–10 p.m.; Thursday, 5–10:30 p.m.; Friday–Saturday, 5–11 p.m.
Happy Hour: Daily, 4:30 p.m. to closing (bar and lounge only)
Brunch: Sunday, 11 a.m.–3 p.m.

Fig & Olive

Appearing in Season 9 (Episode 9) and Season 11 (Episode 8). After Tamra and Heather figured out all of their girl problems in Season 9, and Vicki and Kelly pretended they were happy they didn’t get invited to the surprise party this season, it’s a good possibility they ate well at this Newport Beach mainstay.

One of the most popular dishes on the menu, and a must to start any meal with, is their Signature Crostini. Made with eight different available combinations – such as manchego with fig and marcona almond, octopus with hummus and pimento, shrimp with avocado, cilantro and tomato, or goat cheese with caramelized onion and chive – you should order several for the table. They come in order sizes of three or six, but go with six. You can thank me later. Or who doesn’t love a good lamb chop? Fig & Olive’s rosemary lamb chops are on point. Perfectly seasoned and served with a delightful Ricotta gnocchi and braised honey eggplant, have the chef prepare them to his level of doneness and you won’t be disappointed. And of course no restaurant worth its salt based in a California coastal town could stay in business without some killer seafood and the Mediterranean Branzino fills the bill. Glazed with an 18-year aged balsamic, fig, snow pea and mashed potato, one bite of this and you’ll see why it’s a favorite of regular diners.

A complete dinner available at Fig & Olive in Newport Beach, California.

Courtesy of Fig & Olive

151 Newport Center Drive (Fashion Island), Newport Beach
(949) 877-3005 | www.figandolive.com

Hours
Lunch: Monday–Friday, 11 a.m.–3:45 p.m.
Dinner: Sunday–Tuesday, 4–9:30 p.m.; Wednesday, 4–10 p.m.; Thursday, 4–10:30 p.m.; Friday–Saturday, 4 p.m.–midnight
Brunch: Saturday–Sunday, 11 a.m.–3:45 p.m.

Mastro’s Ocean Club Fish House

The Real Housewives love this place. Appearing in Season 9 (Episode 12) and twice in Season 10 (Episodes 12 and 15), I think it’s the Dubrows who really like this place as one, or both, have made appearances in the three episodes. And why wouldn’t they? The appetizer list alone is enough to make you want to dine there, with Alaskan Red King Crab Claws, the vanilla battered shrimp and Mastro’s Signature Seafood Tower among numerous offerings.

A long list of seafood dishes is available, which includes sea bass, sole, lobster, crab legs, char and Pacific swordfish. I recommend going with the Pacific swordfish, but be sure to ask for a side sauce, such as the caper sauce, or get it blackened as swordfish can be a little dry if not cooked perfectly.

Came to a fish house but are more into beef? No worries. They have seven different sizes of meat, including a 22-ounce ribeye that you’ll need to bring an appetite for. All dishes are served ala carte so the tab can run up rather quickly here, but with the ambiance and the view you’ll be glad you splurged. And you just might see one of the Housewives while you’re there!

An exterior photograph of Mastro's Ocean Club in Newport Beach, California.

Courtesy of Lee Walters Photography

8112 East Coast Highway, Newport Beach
(949) 376-6990 | www.mastrosrestaurants.com

Hours
Dinner only: Sunday–Thursday, 5–10 p.m.; Friday–Saturday, 5–11 p.m.
Bar: Daily, 4 p.m.–1 a.m.

Splashes

Located overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the Surf and Sand Resort is Splashes. And if you thought the Housewives loved Mastro’s, I’m here to tell you they love Splashes even more! Appearing in Season 8 (Episode 9), Season 10 (Episodes 3 and 15), and Season 11 (Episode 11), I wouldn’t be surprised if a camera or two is stored on location on the good chance one of the wives drops by. Especially Heather! She makes appearances in each episode that has been featured here, calling Meghan out in one, listening to Meghan whine about Shannon in another, or eating out yet another meal with the good doctor. And why wouldn’t they eat here, with the sumptuous food and even more sumptuous views of the Pacific?

I recommend starting with the tableside lobster bisque that’s creamy and seasoned to perfection. For your entrée, a to-die for roasted duck breast – why don’t more restaurants feature this dish? – graces the menu served with a quince purée, a fennel and orange compote, Brussels and a delicious red wine duck sauce. Or the seared scallops, with carrot and kaffir lime purée, kale, baby beets and pickled Fresno chilis, finished with a honeydew-jalapeño vinaigrette, this is a preparation of scallops you won’t have seen before.

You won’t easily find Splashes, but look for the Surf and Sand Resort tower on the west side of PCH and you’ll know you’ve found it. And tell Heather “Hi” while you’re there, as I’m sure she’ll be there.

An interior view of Splashes Restaurant in Laguna Beach, California.

Courtesy of Splashes Restaurant

1555 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach
(888) 281-3502 | surfandsandresort.com/splashes/

Hours
Breakfast: Monday–Sunday, 7–11 a.m.
Lunch: Monday–Friday, 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.
Dinner: Sunday–Thursday, 5–10 p.m.; Friday–Saturday, 5–11 p.m.
Brunch: Saturday–Sunday, 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.

SOL Cocina

Another three-peat in the Real Housewives sweepstakes is SOL Cocina in Newport Beach. Appearing in Season 1 (Episode 2), Season 8 (Episode 4) and Season 9 (Episode 7). And wouldn’t you know it, Heather is in two of the three episodes. I think she wins the award for the Housewife who eats out the most – and more power to her. I think I’m a little jealous.

SOL Cocina’s Baja Corn Chowder with crab, with roasted poblanos, lobster broth and wine, and finished with buttered Baja stone crab meat, has my mouth watering as I write this just thinking about it. The Mexican Shrimp Al Mojo de Ajo, featuring giant white shrimp butterflied and grilled in the shell, and served with intensely garlicky white wine-lemon butter sauce on red rice, is a dish I’m particularly fond of, but can be a little messy – probably too messy for any of the Housewives – and you should steer clear if you’re not into garlic. The short ribs barbacoa is also an excellent choice. Boneless beef short ribs slow-cooked with chiles and spices, served in a cazuela with avocado, onion and cotija cheese, with a side of deep-fried sweet potato chunks, is a dish you can’t go wrong with if you’ve got a taste for short ribs.

And save room for the Pastel Tres Leches, also known as “Wet Cake,” it’s a house-made cake soaked with cream and 1921 liqueur, cinnamon and vanilla, and topped with whipped cream and sugared meringue. It’s one of the best desserts in Orange County.

An interior view of SOL Cucina Restaurant in Newport Beach, California.

Courtesy of SOL Cucina

251 Pacific Coast Highway, Newport Beach
(949) 675-9800 | www.solcocina.com

Hours
Lunch: Daily, 11:30 a.m.–4 p.m.
Dinner: Sunday–Monday and Wednesday–Thursday, 4–10 p.m.; Friday–Saturday, 4–11 p.m.
Live music: Saturday, 8–11 p.m.; Sunday, noon–3 p.m.; Tuesday, 6:30–10:30 p.m.
Weekend Brunch: Saturday–Sunday, 10 a.m.–3 p.m.
Happy Hour: Monday and Wednesday–Friday, 3–6 p.m.
Tequila & Taco Tuesday: 4–10 p.m.
Bar: Monday–Friday, 11:30 a.m.–midnight or later; Saturday–Sunday, 10 a.m.–midnight or later

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