By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
NIGHTLIFEAlerto's. The best 24-hour place in Westminster to eat greasy Mexican food. The portions are ridiculously huge, and nothing costs more than $6. Order the carne asada if you can handle a two-pound plate of savory seasoned beef with all the fixings. We usually stick with the breakfast burrito—nothing settles the stomach after a hard night of clubbing like a Frisbee-sized flour tortilla stuffed with eggs, chorizo, potatoes and cheese. 15681 Brookhurst St., (714) 775-9550.Uyen Thy Quan. This may be the best restaurant in Little Saigon at four in the morning. If you get lost in the menu, ask your server for help. This place is very accommodating. 9600 Bolsa, Ste. M, (714) 839-1166.
EATSMi La Cay. Mi (yellow rice noodles) are actually Chinese, but many Vietnamese places have incorporated them on the menu. Funny how 1,000 years of colonization can do that. Mi La Cay is continuously one of the most popular restaurants in the genre of mi cookery. Bring your appetite, and order a heaping bowl of Mi La Cay dac biet (the house special). This noodle soup is served with roasted chicken, fried shrimp and pork. 8924 Bolsa Ave., (714) 891-8775.Kim Su. The coolest place to eat lunch—traditional Chinese, great dim sum (similar to hors d'oeuvres and usually consisting of a variety of dumplings, steamed dishes and desserts), but we usually go for the lunch specials like sweet and sour pork, broccoli beef, and kung pao chicken. We like this place for two reasons: (1) you can mix and share food so easily, and (2) we are cheap bastards, usually paying no more than $6 per person. But avoid this place at dinner, when the same plate will triple in cost but not size. 10526 Bolsa Ave., (714) 554-6261. 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?
SWEETSGala 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 cafť au lait, and try to remember a time when love was not so cruel. 14570 Brookhurst St., (714) 775-7327.
BOOKING 'EMLittle 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!"
PEEPSThe 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 WESTMINSTERIce 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 LANDMARKSThe 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?
READER'S CHOICEDVD PLANET. For film buffs, DVD geeks and Criterion collectors, this is the best place to find what you're looking for. Even those cuts of all cuts, otherwise known as the Criterion collections—are in abundance here. So if you like movies like The Bicycle Thief, or you're one of those cult-movie lovers, or you get off on Kurosawa, or if you can't find the movies you like even in archaic VHS—this is your place! 15251 Beach Blvd., (714) 892-9147. (N. Amorsolo, Long Beach)