Food Critic Brad A. Johnson’s annual guide to the 75 Best Places to Eat in Orange County. These three Dana Point restaurants make the list.

12. Bourbon Steak 1 Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point, 949-234-3900

I wouldn’t normally order chicken in a steakhouse but consider this: the whole bird, deep-fried in duck fat, wheeled out of the kitchen on a bed of nails to be carved at the table. Then again, you could also have a three-pound, mesquite-grilled ribeye carved at the table. Celebrity Chef Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak makes a very strong case for why not to be poor. Oh, and sunset views. Must order: Butter-soaked, mesquite-grilled bone-in New York strip. 

31. Maison  34320 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point

Chef Danielle Kuhn’s open-air cafe feels like the sort of restaurant you might stumble upon while driving the backroads of wine country in France or Italy. Her casual, European-inspired cooking brings to mind the seemingly effortless style of Ina Garten or Martha Stewart, which always looks easier than it really is. At breakfast, you’ll fall in love with toasts. At lunch, you’ll have a new appreciation for salad and beet-cured salmon. Must order: Cavatelli with housemade sausage or chicken salad with peas. 

48. Craft House 34094 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point

Given the choice between a nice steak or a slice of meatloaf, hmm, that’s normally an easy decision. But not at chef Blake Mellgren’s casual California bistro. His grilled meatloaf is as good as a steak. So, too, the fried chicken, which if you’re lucky will come with fried green tomatoes. Must order: If you see peaches on the menu, jackpot. Also, french fries. 34094 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point