Meat Me in Hell

A guide to great food

Photo by James BunoanBy Gustavo Arellano, Joan Chyun, Matt Coker, Theo Douglas, Ellen Griley, Rich Kane, Steve Lowery, Tim Meltreger, Vuonganh Ngo, Rebecca Schoenkopf, Will Swaim, Jim Washburn and Chris Ziegler. Edited by Gustavo Arellano.

Congratulations, savvy reader, on having the good taste to pick up OC Weekly's first restaurant issue of the new year. This one is devoted to red meat, nothing but meat…that's right, meat. Why, you may ask, are we pushing meat given recent events and a certain phrase that rhymes with Bad Chow? We're giving you a food issue packed with meat because meat is who we are; it's what makes us human. No other creature on earth eats beef, probably because no other creature has the intelligence to recognize that by consuming beef we not only gain that animal's strength but its spirit and a considerable cunning limited only by its inability to avoid having a bolt shot into its brain with a frequency that is, well, mind numbing. So here you go, meat; everything from soup (pho—beef soup—at Pho Quan Thanh) to booty (nalga—cow ass—at El Gaucho Meat Market No. 2). All of it meat. Well, not all. Besides the more than 7,000 words about meat, we provided nearly 400 words to the vegetarian opposition, you know, just to be fair. So, like we said, meat. Because we believe in meat…plus, we couldn't pull together our alternative theme—carrion—in time.


First impressions are often durable beyond reason. Consider my first impression of Chris & Pitts. Purveyors of ribs and more, the Chris & Pitts in Anaheim has been famous for about half a century because of its stomach-staple-popping portions. On my maiden venture there a few years ago, I expected to see a herd of bovine tourists like the ones who swarm the troughs at Las Vegas's venerable Circus Circus breakfast buffet, neon lights ablaze and aflash above their woolly heads. You know, outsized summer dresses for the ladies, belts cinched up to the mannary glands for the gents. And in this, I was pretty much satisfied.

Photo by Jeanne Rice

I don't recall blazing neon, and there was no buffet. But the first thing I saw upon opening the door to Chris & Pitts was a woman (I think it was a woman; almost two yards high and nearly that wide in the saddle) in terry bedroom slippers, pushing an oxygen tank on a two-wheeled cart. My first impression—which came so quickly that it was no mere impression but more like a vision—was, "All these people are going to die." And not in the long-term, actuarial or ontological sense (as in "no one gets out of here alive"), but in the near-term: like right after the Fred Flintstone-size rib and just before the pie, right there in the Vegas-style booth. (Is it just memory, or were the seats really oxblood Naugahyde?). Everybody in this whole place was going to eat him- or herself through the first, indistinct, sparrow-like clawings of hunger, right past absolute satiation and into appendicitis-like agony.

Despite contrary evidence (the thin vixens who dine there with muscle men, and the slimmish elderly), that initial impression has lasted through countless visitations. So too has the sense that the barbecued meats—delivered here by waitresses who look (I can't shake it) like hospital nurses from a Spencer Tracy film—are, in their own way, monumental. Ribs the size of the jawbone of an ass; chicken and steaks awash in a tangy sweet and sour sauce that borders just this side of an insult—it's so hellishly hot and obviously not designed with the Anglo peritoneum in mind. Chops—those come not singly or doubly or even triply, but quadruply on the plate. The potato is fine; the salad is an afterthought—but what are you, a vegetarian? Given the incendiary qualities of the barbecue sauce, the garlic toast is almost a medical necessity.

An entire dinner—say, the brilliant beef and pork rib combo with all the sides and a Budweiser—will set you back about $10. Chris & Pitts is not the Claim Jumper—and most especially not the upscale South Coast Plaza Claim Jumper of hewn rock, high glass windows and upland timber—but more like the ur-Claim Jumper, a place that grew up when Orange County was still mostly blue collar or that Kansas-Nebraska hybrid of middle-class Korea War-vet aerospace engineer: sensible, thrifty, Calvinistically ashamed of opulence. It is sturdy. And first impressions notwithstanding, it is the kind of place that can become a habit without killing body, soul or finances. 601 N. Euclid St., Anaheim, (714) 635-2601; also at 15975 Harbor Blvd., Fountain Valley, (714) 775-7311.


El Toro Meat Market in Santa Ana is the place to purchase an entire freakin' goat's head: the brain and tongue left intact for taco pulling, the flesh dripping off the jowls, the eyes staring into the permanent Void, teeth exposed in a terrified bleat. It brings to mind Apu's classic quote in The Simpsons,after Bart found a moldy bear's head in a bag of ice—it's chock-full of heady goodness. And after you pluck the cabeza clean, you have a cool skull to place on your desk! 1340 W. First St., Santa Ana, (714) 836-1393.

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