Anne Marie Panoringan

Voice of OC’s food columnist — reporting on industry news, current events and trends. Panoringan’s prior work includes writing about food for 8 years at the OC Weekly in which she interviewed more than 330 chefs, restauranteurs and industry professionals for her weekly On the Line column. She has been recognized by the Orange County Press Club and she also is a recurring guest on AM 830’s SoCal Restaurant Show.

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Why brunch? The better question might be why not?

When I asked chefs, their answers reflected each restaurant’s particular attributes. One establishment noticed an uptick in weekend reservations, and jumped on the opportunity. Another simply never had the option to create a dedicated morning menu.

Regardless of the reasoning, I’ve seen four brunches (five, if you include breakfast) launch around the county in the last couple of months. And with the patios many of them have, it made so much sense. This collection of leisurely brunches spans entire weekends and then some. From creative waffle flavors to shaved truffles, I’m confident one will be to your liking.


1200 South Coast Highway, Ste. 101, Laguna Beach

Unless you’re a Laguna resident, you might not have heard about February’s changeover at Sapphire from chef Azmin Ghahreman to the restaurant group featuring chef Jared Cook (his last name isn’t a typo.)

Sapphire’s no-reservations brunch, which launched in early July, is served from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays. They benefit from a location that has a people-watching patio, a dedicated parking structure, and the “town Greeter” at their disposal. Chef Cook was excited to finally create a brunch menu at his new gig: “Brunch food to me is one thing I have always loved to go out for.”

Their modest spread embodies all your basic brunch needs, including nap-inducing, sharp cheddar biscuits with sage-garlic sausage, and a Kurobuta pork belly riff on the Benedict plating perfectly poached huevos. Cook’s ode to chicken fried steak is his infamous schnitzel dish served with eggs. During a recent visit, meyer lemon crème fraîche waffles delighted us without weighing us down. Cook also makes note of his salty/nutty/sweet Nutella version: “I’m from Oregon, so hazelnuts are mandatory.”

Prior to ordering their signature cocktail, be sure to pick up a token at the host stand to use when exiting the parking structure. You’ll be too busy extolling the virtues of a Patio Pounder (vodka, champagne, sweet basil, lemon, tangerine ice cube) to remember later. Note: There have already been updates to brunch since it debuted, such as the pancake dishes now being waffled.

Nểp Cafe & Brunch

10836 Warner Ave.,Unit 7, Fountain Valley