Tustin

Not full of hot air

Thanh My. A longtime favorite of both locals and visitors, this blindingly bright, informal restaurant offers a huge selection of Vietnamese pho (pronounced ph-ah) as well as rice and noodle dishes. It is consistently busy, especially late at night. 9553 Bolsa, (714) 531-9540.

Coffeehouses. These are where the business gets done: over cups of blacker-than-black coffee or heady tea. Mind you, we're talking about the real business—not the stuff that appears in the Orange County Business Journal. Business, if you take our meaning. A few years ago, the Westminster PD (which takes our meaning) tried to push through new coffeehouse regulations—brighter interior lighting, no tinted windows, shorter operating hours. The regulations went down in flames. Nobody interferes with the business of Little Saigon's coffeehouses. Address? Are you kidding?

SWEETS

Gala Bakery. Was the last time you had a decent baguette when you met that special someone in Paris, walked through the streets of the Left Bank hand in hand, and professed your undying love? What happened? Did you lose touch? Did she cheat on you with a dirty Spaniard? Did he cheat on you with a slutty Canadian? Things happen. Go to Gala Bakery, and order a few fresh loaves of baguettes and some iced café au lait, and try to remember a time when love was not so cruel. 14570 Brookhurst St., (714) 775-7327.

BOOKING 'EM

Little Saigon. Orange County's own Boswell, T. Jefferson Parker—the author of such best-sellers as Laguna Heat—wrote this suspense thriller that apparently didn't thrill everyone. About the "renegade son of a powerful land baron who kidnaps his brother's Vietnamese wife and is plunged into a wealthy family's web of tragic secrets," the book now ranks 1,323,682 on Amazon.com, owing somewhat to reader reviews such as this: "Really, really bad, jingoist, myopic, unthrilling thriller. I usually like T. Jefferson, but I hated this one. Blech!"

PEEPS

The Spy Shop. The CIA helped get us into the Vietnam War, so it's only appropriate that Westminster should have a place to buy assorted weapons and spy gadgets. 14032 Beach Blvd., (714) 899-1155.

SNOWBOUND WESTMINSTER

Ice Palace. When the Kmart on Springdale went the way of family farms, the Ice Palace people gutted it and installed a rink, boards and glass. Where once a voice beckoned shoppers to the blue light special, Canucks and kids with names like Smith, Nguyen and Rosales work to light the lamp red. Coming out of a nearby bar one night—it had to be 2 a.m.—we found a group of aging adult-leaguers gliding across the pond, working the corners, and generally playing as if Dave Taylor were watching. 13071 Springdale St., (714) 899-7900.

AIRBORNE LANDMARKS

The Flying Whale. One can only imagine the comfort this airborne cetacean overlooking the 405 has given the huddled masses fleeing the filth and degradation of Lakewood, Westchester and points north. Floating above a car dealership, the whale is Orange County's Lady Liberty, promising a new life to those fleeing communities less, um, planned . . . capiche? You think it's a coincidence the whale is white? Grow up! The whale signals that you are entering a new life or, sadly, leaving a happy one. Either way, one thing is certain: we have absolutely no idea what the flying whale is supposed to be selling us. Cars? Other floating whales? Floating whales the size of cars? Floating cars the size of whales? Flan?

YORBALINDA

Richard Nixon was bored here

Let's not kid ourselves: the only reason anyone has heard of this colorless, 18.6-square-mile collection of strip malls and white-bread housing tracts that bills itself as "The Land of Gracious Living" is because a lying, conniving, manipulating, scheming, malcontent ex-president named Richard Milhous Nixon was born there.

More than 60,000 people dwell in Yorba Linda, which translates as "Beautiful Yorba," referring to the Spanish explorer Jose Yorba, who took possession of the city in 1809 as part of a 62,000-acre land grant from the Spanish king. For most of its life, the city was nothing but a bunch of small farms. Nowadays, it's not much more than a bunch of half-million-dollar tract homes.

There aren't that many places in Yorba Linda to get a good meal, and as far as anyone knows, the city has just one bar. Its old-timey historic district is nice and quiet, but its also small and not particularly tourist-friendly. For years, the city has been trying to bill itself as "Spectrum North," a kind of Irvine-like home to high-tech companies, but that idea is pretty much dead—the concept of vast technology parks overtaken by vastly more profitable retail giants like Home Depot.

YORBA EATS

Original Pancake House. Located in what was once a Koo Koo Roo chicken place, the House sells, well, pancakes. And they do so with all the homey innocence of a Little House on the Prairieepisode. Where else can you get something called Cottage Cheese Pancakes? How about Coconut Waffles? And since this is a breakfast place, it closes at 2 in the afternoon, so eat fast. 18639 Yorba Linda Blvd., (714) 693-1390.

Fitness Pizza & Pasta. Sure, the interior resembles an ugly LA industrial-dance bar, but the food is great. The oval-shaped thin-crust pizzas have sporty names like Triathlete, Iron Man and Soccer Player. I've always preferred that chicken sandwich thing—you know, the one with the chicken? The salads have all the exotic-looking plants that yuppies and healthy types like to graze on. 18246 Imperial Hwy., (714) 993-5421.

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