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.

STOMACH-STAPLE POPPING

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.

Photo by James Bunoan AN ENTIRE FREAKIN' GOAT'S HEAD

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.

KING KONG SUICIDE

Gordo Mellony's has normal burgers, cheeseburgers, chili cheeseburgers and bacon cheeseburgers. Then there are the "special" burgers—stacks of meat so gravity-defying that eating one would qualify as a winning stunt on Fear Factor. Their King Kong Suicide burger comes with three kinds of cheese and four patties and rises to a height of 12 inches, held vertically aloft by a skewer (for a quicker snack, try the Empire State, which tops off at about half that size). They also serve chicken sandwiches, hot dogs and real New Yawk pastrami, but, really, what's the point when the burgers tower over everything else? 430 W. Whittier Blvd., La Habra, (562) 694-4456.

PORCINE FUNK

Jok bal—a deboned pig's foot stuffed with its own meat and fat, sliced and served in the original foot shape—is the star at Seoul Soondae, a longstanding Garden Grove Korean dive where the only English you'll encounter will be on the soda bottles behind the counter. The disturbing thought screaming within your brain—I'm about to nibble on a hog's hoof!—promptly disappears after a bite into the round, skin-ringed slice of sweet pork and fat bonded together with chile-flecked brined shrimp sauce. Jok bal is enjoyed best slightly warm, the better for the fat to melt a little on your tongue. But maybe jok bal's porcine funk isn't your cup of piggy paradise? Then try the namesake soondae (pork blood sausage), preferably via the soondae guk (Korean blood sausage soup). Geyser-hot, transmission-fluid thick, this broth is bobbing with soondae, oinker tongue, intestine bits and strings of acrid green onion. Tradition once maintained that no virtuous Korean lady would ever request it because of its alleged libidinous powers. But times have changed, and many of the patrons slurping up soondae guk here are proper Korean ladies in their Sunday best. 8757 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 636-0686.

MEAT-ON-MEAT ACTION

We don't know what happens at the Shore House Café—probably some sort of primal reaction to its Brobdingnagian portions—but whenever we eat one of their gargantuan and delicious multi-meat sandwiches we actually find ourselves becoming hungrier with every bite. And this is what sets the Shore House apart from other sub joints. It's not just the huge sandwiches—one is rightly dubbed "The Deli," as in absolutely everything available in the delicatessen—but a melding of meats, spices and dressings working together for the greater good: pastrami joining with turkey unified by ham; and a united front of roast beef and salami. People, if the meat world can do it, why can't we? And why not with a side of curly fries? 941 Pacific Coast Hwy., Seal Beach, (562) 430-0116; 520 Main St., Huntington Beach, (714) 960-8091; 801 E. Balboa Blvd., Newport Beach, (949) 673-7726; 201 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente, (949) 498-3936; 5271 E. Second St., Long Beach, (562) 433-2266.

THE DRUMMER'S BARBECUE

There was a time when former Stax drummer Fred Burrell had a barbecue empire going, with four county locations. Now he's back to just his original Burrell's Rib Cage, a shack on a Santa Ana residential street where you dine in the yard the way barbecue is meant to be eaten. Since 1981, Fred has been wood-grilling beef brisket, tri-tip, baby back ribs, pork ribs, hot links, ham, pork tips 'n' ends and such at this über-funky barbecue mecca. Fred hacks off cuts the animals don't even know they have. Meat's in just about everything but the sweet potato pie, which, when fresh out of the oven, can just about make you sob with contentment. But back to the meat: it's slow-cooked and melts in your mouth and mind. This isn't dry-style barbecue, either. Fred's a slatherer, swamping your banquet in a sweet dusky sauce of his own devising. It is the stuff of legend, and legends eat the stuff: the walls are crowded with photos of celebrities eating Burrell's 'cue. 305 N. Hesperian, Santa Ana, (714) 547-7441.

DEFINITELY CRICKET

Do you ever wish that there were alternate, even profitable methods of eliminating the crickets plaguing your abode besides the heel of a shoe or a napkin that serves as a condom on your index finger? If so, call the folks at El Fortín in Fullerton; they'll suggest you catch the chapulines and feast on the insects for breakfast. Really. El Fortín specializes in the rich cuisine of Oaxaca, where the cricket is to Oaxacans what the longhorn is to Texans. El Fortín preps chapulines by soaking them overnight in chili powder and lime juice, then sun-drying them until the critters are snappier than a cracker. Whether served as an appetizer (a good 50 pinky-nail-size crickets per order) or studded by the dozens in a creamy quesadilla, chapulines impress—a bit sour and spicy, the thorax particularly juicy. After popping the chapulines with your molars, you'll never waste money on Raid again. 700 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 773-4290.

HIGH-CLASS STEAK

Southern Californians don't foxhunt—those silly red jackets and cries of "tally ho!" are nothing but a musty laugh-riot for us Yanks. But you'll want to grab a hound and a bugle when entering Chanteclair in Irvine, which fires up steaks that would please any blueblood. The filet mignon is bloody red just the way the queen mother liked it, while the steak Diane (named after the goddess of the hunt and not the late Lady Di, alas) is a baroque response to overdone steak, a heady burst of bovine flavor emanating through every bite and accentuating the sauce's cognac, wine, mustard and chicken broth. With Sinatra humming over the sound system, you'll soon find yourself mocking the joyless parade of harsh-looking cars and SUVs speeding along MacArthur Boulevard. Fine beef has that effect, and it's the closest we'll get to upper-class twitdom. 18912 MacArthur Blvd., Irvine, (949) 752-8001.

LOW-CLASS STEAK

Two of OC's most venerated steakhouses observe a strict "no tie" policy, which means that not only is there the promise of a great cut of meat, but you also might catch someone running with scissors. Just keeping things informal, hoss; these be steak joints, not a fashion show. Oldest is Pinnacle Peak. The Garden Grove institution has been searing up the carne for a couple of generations now, and, surveying the dining room's yard-sale-at-the-honky-tonk vibe, it must be the sirloins that keep folks coming back, because it shore ain't the décor. The restaurant's signature steak is a mesquite-grilled affair prepared with passion and a barbecue sauce that can actually activate the salivaries from across the room. The portions are generous, big enough for you and the horse you rode in on. Toss in a tossed salad, baked potato and Pinnacle's tasty corn and you've got a dinner that's both rootin' and tootin'. If Pinnacle Peak is a fun place you might take someone on a first date, the Trabuco Oaks Steak House is where you take your new special someone after the second divorce. Dark and cozy with a great wine list and two trees growing in the middle of the building, Trabuco has been a favorite of everyone from the Cook's Corner crowd to former president Nixon—say what you will about him, but Dick knew meat. The Panhandle-size "cowboy steak" is almost as thick as it is wide, flame-broiled and fork-tender, an unforgettable filet especially when chased with a side of Trabuco's hand-cut fries. Order up and settle in—considering you'll lose your tie, you might not feel so bad loosening your belt. Pinnacle Peak, 9100 Trask Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 892-7311; Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse, 20782 Trabuco Oaks Rd., Trabuco Canyon, (949) 586-0722.

POOR DEFENSELESS LAMB

If you really must eat poor defenseless lamb that never done you no wrong, you'd at least better ensure that the flavor's worth the karmic burden. Whenever I'm so overcome with wrath at a lamb that I could grind on its bones, I go to Orchid, a Persian palace in a Costa Mesa strip mall. If your own brother tasted as good as the lamb kebabs there, you wouldn't have a brother anymore. They're marinated in something or other, and then grilled to perfection or sometimes a little beyond. I wish I could describe them better, but the restaurant was out of them the last time I was there. Yet the memory of the lamb kebabs persists over a year after I had them. The chops are only $8.99 at lunchtime. When ordering those, pony up an extra $2 and the Orchid owners will substitute the marveliffic adas polo rice (lightly fried with dates, lentils and currants) for the standard rice. 3033 S. Bristol, Costa Mesa, (714) 557-8070.

LINKED & UNPRONOUNCEABLE

The irony of an authentic European wursthaus sharing a parking lot with a Wienerschnitzel hot dog hut boggles the mind, but for 26 years Mattern Sausage & Meats has done just that. The Mattern family sells and pack meat the way they like it in the Fatherland: ground, spiced, cured, cased, linked and labeled with names you couldn't pronounce even if you donned lederhosen. That said, in case you don't know the difference between a jagdwurst and a leberkäse or a Nuernberger bratwurst and a frankfurter, remember that it's all just meat—usually beef or pork ground coarse like salami or fine like pâté, then blended with scads of spices. Most of Mattern's nearly 75 offerings are available daily, in addition to an impressive selection of breads, cheeses and packaged cold cuts. If you're not feeling particularly Teutonic, you can even take home a spicy Italian sausage, a Polish kielbasa or even a Hungarian hurka. 4327 E. Chapman Ave., Orange. (714) 639-3550.

THEY INVENTED BÒ BAY MÓN

There are porterhouse steaks whose weight in ounces approaches triple digits, sandwiches featuring cold cuts the size of Frisbees, pizzas with about half a cow crammed between the melted cheese. But the ultimate paean to red meat remains the bò bay món, the celebrated Vietnamese dinner involving seven courses of beef each more decadent than the previous. Ánh Hong Restaurant in Garden Grove claims to have invented bò bay món at its original Saigon location in 1954 by combining the various beef appetizers native to South Vietnam and presenting it with French refinement. Whether that's historical fact or American-style hoo-ha is uncertain, but the classy restaurant does such a superb version of bò bay món and is so boastful of its star serving ("7 Courses of Beef," screams a massive billboard looming over Westminster Boulevard) that we'll take their word for it.

The seven courses are presented in the following order, each brought seconds after you finish the previous:

A salad of sautéed beef mixed with pickled carrots, daikon and peanuts. It's sour, it's wet, and could easily obstruct the upper half of your digestive tract. Eight slices of bloody raw beef served with a pot of boiling vinegar, assorted vegetables and stacks of rice paper. Plunge the beef into the fondue until it achieves an ashy color, then wrap it in the rice paper along with bean sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, a splash of fish sauce and a good amount of chili sauce. Dunk it into a canister of peanut sauce. Pay no attention to the drippings that ensue. A cold, fist-size meatball comprising not just meat but noodles, nuts, mushrooms and other goodies, as smooth as pâté but without the bitter aftertaste. Greasy-good minced-beef sausages. Greasy-good minced-beef sausages wrapped with some type of Hawaiian leaf that's more aromatic than tasty. Greasy-good tenderloin bits laced with lemongrass and peanuts. The greatest soup in Orange County—ground beef bits hiding in a rice lagoon that's spiked with enough ginger and pepper to cure any malady that may afflict you, whether physical or emotional.

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

Menudo has nothing on the rejuvenating miracle of sopa de pata, El Salvador's national dish. It ain't pupusas, contrary to what almost all restaurant critics assert. It's a cow's foot, various veggies, and broth. Surrounded by starch (Salvadorans love potato and yucca the way Mexicans venerate the tortilla), injected with lime juice, and boiled so that the feet meat drops off the bone like John Kerry's presidential ambitions, sopa de pata, with its pungent, detoxifying essence, could convert José Cuervo into Carrie Nation on scent alone. After you've sopped the bowl dry with Pupusería San Sivar's discus-thick tortillas, the only thing left will be the cow's strange, knuckle-shaped foot bone—if you're lucky, there'll be some marrow inside the bone that's begging for some scooping. 1940 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 650-2952.

NOT AT ALL CHILLY

Red Rock Chili in Fashion Island boils six types of chilis daily, but its signature Hot Rock variety must originate from the fiery crater of Mount Etna. Stewed with the infamously hellish habanero pepper and vanilla-by-comparison jalapeños and chipotles, the ground meat included in the Hot Rock chili somehow retains its juiciness—you'd logically expect it to develop into obsidian pebbles. The beans, meanwhile, are what chili beans should be: firm, a cooling counterpart to the magma they accompany. Nevertheless, gobble a spoonful of the chili, and visions of your intestines exploding into mushroom clouds and emergency tongue amputations will shortly dominate your waking hours. 401 Newport Center Dr., Ste. A106, Newport Beach, (949) 760-0752.

UPSIDE-DOWN HINDUISM

Argentina is infamous for its worship of cow—a kind of upside-down Hinduism—but the cult of parrillada at Regina's Restaurant warrants a takeover by federal storm troopers. Housed in a steel tray as long and deep as a kiddie suitcase, the parrillada is four different piles of beef recommended for two but fit for a group of surly gauchos. Thin-skinned morcilla (blood sausage) oozes out a mushy, herbed gunk that's the equivalent of sticking a straw into a longhorn and sipping. Easier to digest are mollejas (sweetbreads), oily hypothalamus glands glistening with more grease than a bucket of Vaseline. For fans of "normal" meat—though if you don't take at least one chew of the morcilla and mollejas, you're a carajo—there's also well-done chunks of flank steak, short ribs, and, in a bit of beef blasphemy, an entire chicken. You can request a side of stale french fries to equalize the protein, but that's like using a water balloon to cool a volcano. 11025 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 638-9595.

A GREAT BARRIER REEF OF NOODLES

Pho is so mainstream nowadays that you can find the hearty Vietnamese beef noodle soup far from the safety zone of Little Saigon. The best is at Pho Quan Thanh in Irvine. Although Pho Quan advertises six types of pho, follow their advice and order the pho dac biet tai, which translates as "house special pho—rare." The helmet-size bowl is brimming with a Great Barrier Reef of noodles upon which juts a promontory of rare beef that you can dip into the bubbling, anise-flavored broth for a well-done finish, or you can leave it be if you like meat undone. Throw crisp bean sprouts and mint leaves into the pho, along with a dab of tart hoisin sauce, and the madness of Bolsa vanishes as the pho gently overwhelms your senses. 14120 Culver Dr., Irvine, (949) 559-1838.

THE MEAT RIDES SHOTGUN

Located on a nondescript corner of inland HB, Lou's Oak Oven Barbeque is a small restaurant with a big purpose. Unlike most other barbecue eatoriums claiming that good barbecue begins and ends in the American South, Lou's stands as a reminder of California's proud Santa Maria-style barbecue tradition. Lou's rotisseries its tri-tip, chicken, pork, spicy linguica sausage and ribs over genuine Central California red oak, ensuring that the flavor of the meat rides shotgun, enhanced—but never overpowered—by sauce basted on the meat or served on the side. Native Santa Maria pinquito beans come with entrées along with a variety of sides, including a stellar sweet potato baked with sugar and cinnamon, and seasoned potato wedges that compare to a good back scratching. And you'll be happy when the check arrives, not only because you're paying less than you expected, but because it's delivered with warm cookies. 21501 Brookhurst, Huntington Beach, (714) 965-5200.

RIVER OF LARD

The chicharrones (pork rinds) fried at Sarinana's Tamale Factory are cholesterol H-bombs, gnarled cylinders of hog fat baked for hours until each looks like a Precambrian fossil. The first time I chomped into one of them, I could only withstand that one bite—the coal-hard chicharrón immediately transformed into a river of lard upon entering the muggy warmth of my mouth. I gagged. "Obviously not a regular," said my companion. The people who frequent the 70-year-old Sarinana's frequently purchase chicharrones by the pound and eat the entire bag right there, adding only a sprinkle of lime and salsa as garnish. Angioplasties never sounded so worthwhile. 2218 W. Fifth St., Santa Ana, (714) 558-8650.

FOOD COMA

The phrase "food coma" was invented for the visceral carnality that clogs your pores at Green Field Churrascaria, a palatial A-frame structure just off PCH specializing in the terrifying meat onslaught known as churrascaria, or Brazilian barbecue. Listen to us, please: skip the sides, skip the salads, dodge the dessert cart, forget the bread, and don't dare sip any beverages. Just eat the meat. Green Field offers gastronomic nitroglycerine that sends caloric counts to levels approaching Brazil's skyrocketing foreign debt. The only thing updated at Green Field since churrascaria's origins in the early 20th century—back then, gauchos on Brazil's sertão(Great Plains) chopped up some animal, stuck it on a stick, and held it over a fire—is the sides. You got your red beans; rich, dark-flavored oxtails; zesty collard greens with garlic; and the black beans-and-rice jumble known as morros y cristianos. They all constitute a good meatless meal for any vegetarians who foolishly enter Green Field. But try to eat solely sides, and Green Field's management is liable to toss you out onto PCH. The Golden Rule applies to Green Field: do not do unto the Brazilian barbecue, lest it do unto you. This is why the proud man in the bow tie, the guy with the gentle Portuguese accent, is called a meat runner—if there were less meat, he'd be a meat walker. (And if there were any more, he'd be on roller skates, like a wizened old car hop. We'd pay a little more than the going $23.99 a head to see that.) He walks around with a real-life sword jammed to the hilt with meat chunks in one hand, another blade to carve off however much you want in the other. If it were up to him, he'd deposit the entire sword, and come back with another. And another. And another. Churrascaria is pricey, but here's what you get: Brazilian sausage, tightly packed and burnt to nirvana, like a nonsweet Chinese sausage; a chicken thigh, good but perhaps too dry; and beef loin, best ever, rare but hot clear through. That's the first go-round, if you will. The only thing preventing you from suffocating in meat is a tricolored wood cylinder, painted red-yellow-green, your gustatory stoplight for the evening. Green means go with the meat; red means stop. When you're ready for the check, flip it to yellow, and they'll bring the bill. Caveat comedor: even if you place your cylinder on red, the meat runner will ask if you want meat. And ask again. And again. The folks at Green Field will not be satisfied until meat starts poking out of your ears, apparently. Your second orbit, if you dare—and even if you don't, it'll still be hurled toward you—brings more chicken; dry-looking beef ribs; tender, savory lamb; and beef kabab sandwiched with onion slices so it won't dry out. The beef, just rare enough, keeps the onion from burning to a cinder while it also takes out all but the slightest sting. MIA on our visit were quail, rabbit, turkey wrapped in bacon, chicken hearts, and the ominous-sounding Various Games. This means there's an imminent rematch between the churrascaria and our small intestine. We can hardly wait. 5305 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Long Beach, (562) 597-0906.

A WARSAW PACK OF WIENERS

The Teglas family is going to turn you into a Hungarian, and there's nothing you can do about it. One step into their International Meats and Deli in Garden Grove and the scent of kolbasz wraps its smoky arms around you like the robust Magyar grandmother you wish you had. The Hungarian sausage is the mainstay of the Teglases' business, and the family has a hard time keeping it in stock—they ran through 300 pounds of it during the recent holidays. The kolbasz is made on the premises: cured and seasoned with imported Hungarian spices, and then smoked until the fire inspector gets antsy. Kolbasz comes mild or spicy and should be enjoyed as they do in Budapest: spread out on a table with bread, cheese, beer and more kolbasz. Other specialties include szalonna bacon, a pork liver sausage called hurka, and pick, an imported dry sausage that is found in few places outside the former Warsaw Pact. 10382 Stanford Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 539-6334.

GREASE-DAPPLED BLISS

Dduk bo sam—which means "wrapped in a rice noodle"—is the $30 hamburger of Korean cookery, a trendy Korean barbecue style that originated recently in downtown Los Angeles and can be found locally only at the recently opened Shik Do Rak in Garden Grove. Its popularity is mystifying. The only difference between dduk bo sam and regular Korean barbecue is that waitresses plop down a salver of rice noodle squares (dduk) instead of the silver bowl of rice that other Korean barbecue places provide. Ah, but then there's the ritual: take a lump of hot, moist meat charring on the stove at your table (a great pick is the half-inch rib-eye) and throw it onto the pile of shredded scallion and lettuce in front of you. Sprinkle some scallion-checkered chile sauce onto the pile. Peel a dduk square off the top of the stack and fold it over everything you've assembled, then shove the cannoli-shaped creation into your mouth. If you've done it right, each mouthful will be crunchy, spicy, and slippery with beef fat: grease-dappled bliss. 9691 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 534-7668.

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