COSTA MESA — Thanks to local restaurateurs' bountiful plates and diverse menu options, Costa Mesa is on the road to becoming a nationally recognized food destination.

The city was named a finalist in the Rand McNally/USA Today Best of the Road competition for "Best in Food" category, said Kim Glen, spokeswoman for the Costa Mesa Conference and Visitor Bureau.

"We submitted Costa Mesa because we think it's an incredible opportunity for the city," Glen said.

It consists of five different categories: "Best Food," "Most Beautiful," Most Patriotic," "Most Fun" and "Friendliest."

"There's a lot of diversity here," Glen said. "For a small town, we have amazing restaurants and options, so that's why we think we're best in food."

Costa Mesa is up against other cities in California, West Virginia, Minnesota, Florida and Louisiana.

Mayor Gary Monahan was to proclaim Wednesday "Best of the Road Day" in recognition of the competition highlighting the city's food scene, according to a city news release issued Tuesday morning.

The contest winner will be announced July 22 after a three-week intensive "road rally" in which Florida couple Bonnie and Jim Parr, also known as team "Fun Finders," travel coast to coast to sample the best the competing towns have to offer in American and international cuisines.

The duo were to visit Costa Mesa on Tuesday and Wednesday — their last stop on their culinary adventure — and sample from the Golden Truffle, Eat Chow, Pizzeria Ortica, Anne's Boutique Wines, Old Vine Café, Taco Asylum, Zipangu, Habana and Mastro's Steakhouse.

"We've truly had a great experience in every town," Bonnie Parr said in an interview Tuesday. "Every town is different. The food we've tasted, it's unbelievable. There are so many different foods and flavors."

The pair taste food from as many as 10 or 12 different restaurants a day and spend two days per city. In their judging process, Parr said she and Jim consider a city's variety of cuisines, use of local produce and resources, and other factors.

In addition, the duo also spend time talking to residents about why they think their town has some of the nation's best fare.

"People are what makes the food," Parr said. "What would food be without the people?"