Giving Expo belly a break: New Hope’s Orange County dining guide

From fabulous LA tacos to adobo, falafel, Burmese fermented tea salad and much more, lean into New Hope’s curated list of culinary excellence in Orange County.

February 14, 2024

4 Min Read

Food commands much of center stage at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim every year. Wander the brand-packed aisles and witness a spectacle of culinary innovation, from plant-based nuggets to wellness tonics to organic dairy cheese, pizzas with cauliflower crust and salsas based on heritage founders’ family recipes. We walk and taste, stop and sample. For hours. 

But exit the Anaheim Convention Center for a proper meal somewhere, and winning options often prove elusive. A scattering of simple pizzerias. Spots for a no-frills burger. Fast food, and fast-casual chains. 

Outstanding dining options thrive throughout Orange County, however—including near the Convention Center.

Hungry for new Expo restaurants, spots no more than a 30-minute drive (traffic-depending!) from the Convention Center? We’ve got you covered.

Luscious Dumplings

1800 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim
Distance from Convention Center: 1 mile

Winner of a Michelin Bib Gourmand award in 2021, this restaurant has been slinging outstanding dumplings, soup noodle dishes and more since 2001. Although the icon got its start in San Gabriel, it now serves up an array of dishes, many rooted in northern Chinese cuisines, in Anaheim as well as Monrovia. If you need a dumpling fix, this is the place.

Anaheim Packing District

440 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim
Distance from Convention Center: 3 miles

Just three miles from the Convention Center, this amalgam of four historic landmarks, including one of the last remaining citrus packing warehouses in the county, supports a wide range of fun dining options in a wonderful food hall. Cajun food? Check. Indian cuisine? Absolutely. Craft cocktails, soul food, vegan comfort food, French pastries, hot pot, a brewery and tacos? Yep—plus lots more.

Kareem’s Falafel

1208 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim
Distance from Convention Center: 3 miles

Craving a Middle Eastern fix? Then head to one of the oldest restaurants in Orange County’s Little Arabia district—Kareem’s Falafel. The tidy space, which opened in 1996 in a strip mall, gets widely celebrated by food media and online reviewers for its falafel dishes, its hummus, its chicken bowls, fattoush and plenty more.

Lola’s by MFK

2410 Katella Ave., Anaheim
Distance from Convention Center: 3 miles

Coconut chicken adobo. Filipino egg rolls. Lechon kawali—deep-fried pork belly with ginger, lemongrass and garlic, served with spicy soy and vinegar sauces. Yep, just down the road from the Convention Center find this traditional Filipino restaurant. Dinner is encouraged, and so is its celebrated brunch.

Tacos Los Cholos

821 S. State College, Anaheim
Distance from Convention Center: 4 miles

The Orange County Register gushed. Bloggers swoon. Yelp ratings establish it as the best taco spot in Anaheim. Vegetarians might give this festive and no-frills joint a pass, however. But if you love straightforward old-school tacos, you too might gush, and swoon, after downing a ribeye taco charred on mesquite, among other options.

Irrawaddy Taste of Burma

7076 Katella Ave., Stanton
Distance from Convention Center: 5 miles

Ever tried the classic Burmese dish made from fermented tea leaves, called La Phat Thote? If you have, then you’ll know to swing by this place. If not, now is your chance. The salad is beloved by most who give it a go. But this spot also serves noodle and rice dishes, stir fries, soups—all done Burmese style.

Haven Craft Kitchen + Bar

190 S. Glassell St., Orange
Distance from Convention Center: 6 miles

If you’re on the lookout for a joint supporting an expansive beer, wine and cocktail list and old-school dishes like hangar steak, duck confit, dry-aged ribeye, chicken liver toast and heirloom tomato salad, then this is your joint. Haven, located in the Old Towne Orange neighborhood, is a popular locals hangout. 

Taco Mesita

765 El Camino Real, Tustin
Distance from Convention Center: 8 miles

Here’s a capital Expo idea: Pick up chef-driven tacos from a colorful drive-thru window. You can dine in this celebrated spot, too. Consider wood-fired steak burritos, or tacos with rotisserie chicken or pork shoulder tacos, or vegetarian taquitos and elote, among loads of other options. All tortillas are made from organic blue corn and freshly pressed. The chefs behind Taco Mesita are renowned for two other taco spots before opening this one in old town Tustin.

The Plot

2981 Bristol St., Costa Mesa
Distance from Convention Center: 13 miles

This vegan gem is a bit further than the other spots in this guide—13 miles, and a 27-minute drive based on traffic (always a huge factor). But for people who thrill to creative takes on vegan cuisine, it’s worth a visit. The restaurant works closely with regenerative farms in Southern California, nurtures its own garden for its restaurants, and fully embraces a no-waste ethos—it works hard to incorporate what might count as scraps in other restaurants into its ambitious menu.

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