Costa Mesa feels like the center of Orange County. Of course, that’s not true geographically, but it seems to have a uniquely magnetic pull because it has a little bit of everything. It could also be because it is home to the local Ikea (admit it, like listening to John Mayer in the car, it’s a guilty but somewhat necessary pleasure). On a Saturday night you have an equal chance of finding yourself eating a surf and turf dinner at La Cave as you do enjoying some street tacos at Taco Mesa. And that’s really the magic of Costa Mesa, it’s the “just right” for a lot of things. It largely avoids the formalities of Newport Beach and Corona del Mar to the South, but likewise feels a bit more sophisticated than Surf City, USA — Huntington Beach to the North. But even if you’re in the mood for either of those — they’re just a short drive away. Adding up more in Costa Mesa’s favor is its easy access to airport-area and Irvine jobs. Costa Mesa is not only fun, but convenient. It’s also home to one of OC’s best commercial districts: the 17th Street corridor. Many of our favorite spots are 3along this road, from champagne-fueled brunches at Plums Cafe to the absolutely amazing carne asada tacos at the ironically-named Baja Fish Tacos (the fish tacos are just okay — go for the carne asada or shrimp). While big chains exist here, they’ve largely been relegated to the outskirts of town. Costa Mesa is fiercely independent and full of cool little restaurants, bars, and casual eateries.
Housing in Costa Mesa runs the gamut from old railway freightmaster houses (no joke, sold last year) to custom modern homes on the East side — and everything in between. This might seem overwhelming, but it’s really quite inspiring and empowering. No matter your price range, there is something cool for you in Costa Mesa. Our favorite neighborhoods are East side near the commercial corridor and the Princeton tract, both of which have some cool mid-century modern and modern ranch homes. There’s a unique bustle and heartbeat to Costa Mesa neighborhoods — there’s always something going. And that’s actually quite unusual for a coastal city.