Meat Me in Hell

A guide to great food

When you're done—and no matter how little confidence you have in your appetite, you will finish the bò bay món; once you start, stopping is verboten—vegetable and animal detritus will litter your table. Don't feel bad. After plowing through this, you've earned the right to do whatever the hell you want for the next week. 10195 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 537-5230.

LIKE A MEAT-FLAVORED LISTERINE MOUTHSTRIP

There are two kinds of carpaccio: chunky and shaved (these are the technical terms). Shaved is like a meat-flavored Listerine mouthstrip; chunky is more of a hamburgery thing, covered with an eggy glaze that brings to mind Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's peppy lyrics about war: "When they come face to face with a different breed of fellow/Whose skins are black or yellow/They quick as winking chop him into beefsteak tartar!" At Romeo Cucina in Laguna Beach, the carpaccio appetizer—a large platter caked with carpaccio—is preposterously delightful and, at $11.95, a steal of a meal. Both shaved and chunky, the soft morsels are complemented with zingy lemon and capers, fresh-shaved Parmesan, artichoke hearts and salad bits. Per Brecht and Weill: mankind is kept alive with bestial acts! 249 Broadway, Laguna Beach, (949) 497-6627.

STEERBUTT

Ever wonder how yummy steer butt is? How about the muscle behind a young calf's eye? Purchase these and other meaty mysteries at El Gaucho Meat Market No. 2, the Anaheim butcher shop and deli that's yet to come across a cow part it can't package and vend to beef-obsessed Argentines. In addition to butt and eye muscle (known respectively as nalga and pecetto), El Gaucho does a brisk innards business, neatly placing kidneys, livers, hearts, sweetbreads, intestines, blood sausages, brains, and other offal along its long, frigid counter in stacks that rapidly disappear. There are meats more palatable to Americans here, as well—delicious rib-eye, breaded chicken that seems smuggled (but with great haste) from a Dixie diner, lamb chops, and Ruthian clubs of prosciutto, cut up into tissue-thin slices by request. And the Italian-influenced sandwiches El Gaucho slaps together in its adjoining deli would throw Jared the Subway Guy off the wagon and back to the hell of morbid obesity. 847 S. State College Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 776-6400.

CURRIEDGOAT

You should eat goat. Light, chewy, sinewy, and low on the cholesterol, goat is the other other white meat, an apt alternative for carnivores too freaked out about mad cow this and trichinosis that to eat beef and pork but not so much that they're willing to forsake all sins of the flesh. While the county offers a surprisingly vast number of joints where you can smack on goat—visit any Mexican restaurant for the dense stew known as birria or Pakistani dive for palak gosht—the best goat by far is Irie Jamaican Restaurant's curried goat. Cooks here simmer the goat until it's as jiggly as jelly, then pour a pale green curry over it that accentuates the ruminant's natural buttery zest by zinging (more than torching) in the tradition of Caribbean curries. It's accompanied by potatoes so crispy in their freshness they approach the consistency of watercress, and a side of black beans and pink rice soaked in coconut milk. 9062 Valley View St., Cypress, (714) 484-0661.

LOAF

It's hard to get worked up over anything loaf-related—Wonderbread, sloth, Oscar Mayer olive loaf—but The Lodge serves the best damn meat loaf you'll ever eat, the filet mignon of meat loaf-dom. Not that it's much to look at: the lava-hot platter upon which noted county gourmands Tim and Liza Goodell serve their meat loaf appears much too big for the two Lilliputian strips of breaded meat, the small pile of mixed vegetables and the dollop of naked mashed potatoes. But the meat is so tender, so juicy and so perfectly prepared that you'll forever swear off the dried-out burnt crust your grandma slaved over—despite the $16 price. The Lodge drenches its meat loaf in a wonderful, caramel-colored beef gravy with just a hint of red wine. Use your fork to push loaf and gravy residue into the white, creamy tater paste, which brings to mind the comfort of twice-baked potatoes. Sure, the meat loaf is pricey, but those of you who can't stomach paying anything for meat loaf no matter how sublime it is—you're fools. 2937 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 751-1700

HAIL, SNAIL

Mmmm . . . basil-fed escargot at Chat Noir. 655 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa, (714) 557-6647.

SELF-MADE CHICAGO DOG

Having grown up terrified of all things frankfurter—blame my infatuation on Mr. Wizard's ridiculous, begging-to-be-tried-at-home experiment involving a hot dog and a bucket of liquid nitrogen—it wasn't until I tasted my very first Chicago-style hot dog that I became a devout doggie lover. Most frequently served inside a daunting, poppy-seeded vessel and topped with tomato, peppers, onion, relish, mustard and celery salt, Chicago dogs are a must-gorge for anyone who, like me, insists upon chasing otherwise bland foodstuffs with a deluge of tasty condiments. While Lake Forest's Haute Links doesn't offer poppy seed buns, the wiener wonderland does feature a loaded condiment bar with everything else needed to concoct your own Midwestern delight—not to mention an array of not-too-fattening sausages, seven flavors of mustard (including the deliciously spicy "German"), cayenne and curry powder, and cucumbers. And by all means, feel free to experiment with these dogs at home, too. 24531 Trabuco Rd., Ste. 3, Lake Forest, (949) 472-8008.

COW'S FOOT SOUP
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