La Vida Roadhouse. At the site where rock and roots bands once mixed freely with leather-clad, bearish Harley riders, there now sits a fenced-in, darkened building and a crumbling, leaf-and-weed-strewn parking lot. Sometimes there'll be a lonely-looking guy there selling firewood, the only function left for the old Roadhouse since the passing earlier this year of its owner, Don Himes. The outdoor stage from which Big Sandy made the crowd bounce and bomp an untold number of times? It looks like a funeral bier: dead palm fronds drape the lighting rig, sadly symbolic of the ravages of time overtaking our memories. Farewell, La Vida. 6105 Carbon Canyon Rd.
The Hat. It's hard to ignore a joint that boasts WORLD FAMOUS PASTRAMI in big block lettering on the sign out front, though the Hat's fame is more likely confined to the San Gabriel Valley, where this mini-chain has been based since 1951. This is the Hat's first OC eatery, and if you're into the sort of cuisine that would make a vegan's head spontaneously combust (like the Hat's specialty—the pastrami dip sandwich, a frightening cacophony of red and brown meat stuffed tightly into a roll), this is Cholesterol Nirvana. Or, if you're not into great wads of meat, you could just pick up a WORLD FAMOUS PASTRAMI T-shirt instead. Imperial Highway and State College Boulevard, (714) 257-9500.Brea's Best Burgers. The perfect non-chain burger, a quarter-pound patty all gussied up with the Thousand Island dressing, the lettuce, the onions, the tomatoes and the sesame-seed bun. Brea's Best also has sandwiches, hot dogs, tacos, burritos and breakfast fare. You could even eat healthy by ordering an ostrich burger—but why would you? They also have weird promotions, like the deal that gets you a burger, fries, a drink and a large bucket of driving-range balls at Brea Golf Course—sweet! A word of warning, though: the place gets mobbed during the weekday lunch rush, so plan accordingly. 707 S. Brea Blvd., (714) 990-2615 or (714) 990-3973.Fatburger. An LA import, to be sure. But really, there's nothing on earth quite like the feel of a juicy, hot Fatburger wedged between cheek and gum while the jukebox pumps out great blues and R&B oldies. 215 W. Birch St., Ste. 1, (714) 255-9997.Shehnai. Brea's best Indian restaurant—okay, Brea's only Indian restaurant—decked out in fancy linen tablecloths and Ganesh water fountains and serving hot plates of tandoori, vindaloo, curry and kebabs at unfancy prices. 705 E. Birch St., (714) 990-8989.McConnell's Creamery. Brea is the only OC locale—so far—of this Santa Barbara ice cream shop, which has been around since 1949. They aren't exactly modest, as you can see by reading the platitudes in huge type that grace the shop's entryway ("Best of the best!"—LA Times; "The best ice cream in the world!"—Time Magazine). Once inside, you'll be possessed by visions of jars filled with jelly beans, lollipops and assorted confections, but the ice cream—and the sundaes, floats, shakes and milk steamers—are pretty damn good, too. But really, is there such a thing as bad ice cream? 215 W. Birch St., Ste. C, (714) 929-4523.Taps Fish House & Brewery. The first of several planned eateries, Taps specializes in two things: oysters and beer. They brew their booze right on the property (that's what those big, shiny vats by the entrance are for), and the 10 different kinds of raw oysters—from places like New Zealand, Washington, British Columbia and Doheny State Beach (kidding! We're kidding!)—arrive at your table shucked and iced. The seafood-heavy menu also has tasty fish, crab and lobster dishes, as well as classic New Orleans fare like po' boys, Cajun shrimp, gumbo and muffulettas, plus some big-ass steaks and chops. There's also a sizable bar on the restaurant's Imperial Highway side, abundant with soft, cushy sofas and big-screen TVs so you can get schnockered in righteous comfort. 101 E. Imperial Hwy., (714) 257-0101.