Summer Eats

Part Two

 

SANTA ANA

[BREAKFAST] Mexican bakeries aren't usually known for delicate pastries, but I love the sugar-dusted, cream-filled cones at El Metate Plaza with coffee for breakfast. Apple-laden empanadas are my next favorite, but I'm even a sucker for the dyed and sprinkled galletas and pan dulce. If you can't decide, grab some tongs and load up a tray; the sweets are a measly 35 cents to 65 cents apiece. For [LUNCH], hit El Toro Tortilleriajust down the street. Mexican food connoisseurs should tour the adjoining supermarket first. The loud music and looming Teletubby piñatas make shopping a weird leap into the global economy. You'll find the best hot sauce/salsa/dried and fresh chile-pepper selection around. But back to the tortilleria. The whole NO LARD thing so popular in South County Mexican joints would be a death knell for this place. A sign proudly proclaims MANTECA 100% DE PUERCO—that's pure pork lard, my friends, and you can buy it here by the bucket for cooking at home or taste it in the creamy, flavorful beans and tamales that melt on your tongue. Forty-pound bags of Mississippi Lime line the place, and steaming tortillas for your tacos are lifted right off the conveyer belt. The carne asada combo comes with a huge mound of marinated steak, beans, rice, tortillas, salsa and a delicious premises-made chicharron (fried pork skin) on top—all for $4.95. If you're still thinking of [DINNER] after eating all this, Taquerias Guadalajara has inaugurated their Chiva Mobiljust around the corner at Bristol and Chestnut. A combination homage to Guadalajaran soccer team Las Chivas and the birria tacos they serve, the gleaming quilted metal food truck with the smiling goat on the side parked in the pitted asphalt lot of Dora's Liquor stands out like a purple and orange beacon. The truck opens at 5 p.m., with ranchera music blasting on the custom indoor/outdoor speakers, but the crowds come between 8 and 11 p.m. You can find the truck there on Friday and Saturday nights and at Centennial Park on Sundays for soccer games. Try some of the delicious tacos al pastor or a juicy chicken burrito. (KM) El Metate Plaza, 838 E. First St., (714) 542-3913; El Toro Tortilleria, 1340 W. First St., (714) 836-1393; Taquerias Guadalajara's Chiva Mobil, parked at Bristol and Chestnut, no phone.

SEAL BEACH

[BREAKFAST] With a hard day of antiquing ahead of them, locals don't have a lot of time for breakfast. The tourists might like walking down the pier to Ruby's, but the Seal Beach Pier is longer than the Corona del Mar Freeway, and we have things to do. The answer is simple and delicious: Nick's, the kind of place where selections are written on oversized note cards placed overhead. There are a lot of choices, but only one in the morning: the breakfast burrito. Filled with eggs, chorizo, bacon, potatoes, cheese and salsa (there's also a veggie burrito), it's wicked good. Soon you're on your way—sated, happy and ready to face a full day of milling about the kite store and siccing parking-enforcement officials on the rubes who misjudged how long it takes to walk a real pier. Us? We're on to [LUNCH]. Seal Beach is a lot like New York, except that it's a lot smaller, has virtually no effect on global markets, and, save for the Lifeguard Games, you rarely see Al Sharpton around town. But, like Gotham, you can walk just about anywhere in this compact little burg. After Nick's, it's just a jaunt across PCH to Coach's. If Nick's is unassuming, Coach's doesn't give a rat's ass what you think. The décor amounts to table, chairs, some pictures of Babe Ruth and a few TVs. But the place is beloved by local sportsmen and -women, who hang there at all hours. What do they eat? Well, the fish and chips is to die for, which, not to get heavy on you, some fish did. And, may I say, well done, my bug-eyed brethren. How delicious you are fried hot, slathered in tartar and chased down with a cold beer. You left an exquisite corpse. With dinner a few hours away, we can stick around Coach's, lie about past athletic accomplishments and watch a replay of the 1997 NCAA Lacrosse Championships. Life is good. [DINNER] Things get even better at Restaurant Koi, the town's best sushi joint. Seal Beach is a great fish town, with the likes of Walt's Wharf and Bayou St. Jean. Koi offers the opportunity to order a little lighter. We partake of terrific spicy tuna and albacore and something called a crunchy roll, which is shrimp and I don't want to know what else. I try sea urchin. Koi is a small place, and you're advised to get there early. It's very popular, and you might have to wait, especially if you want to sit at the small bar. Of course, you can always have a beer or three while you wait. We had a few as we ate, which led to these notes: "Sushi good!" "Mmmm beer." "Sea urchin = Play Doh." (SL) Nick's, 223 Main St., (562) 598-5072; Coach's, 1025 Pacific Coast Hwy., (562) 431-5266; Restaurant Koi, 600 Pacific Coast Hwy., (562) 431-1186.

STANTON
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