By Kiera Wright-Ruiz
By Cleo Tobbi
By Moss Perricone
By Anne Marie Panoringan
By Edwin Goei
By Edwin Goei
By Edwin Goei
Highlight steak, the vegetarians start bitching about animal cruelty. Highlight tofu palaces, the carnivores want to kill you for succumbing to P.C. interests. In the interest of pleasing and infuriating both, then, here's a list of steer and veggie Valhallas.
DINNER FOR TWO:
¢ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Less than $10! $ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $10-$20 $$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $20-$40 $$$ . . . . . . . . Can you spare me some cutter?AL-SANABEL BAKERY The bakery makes only two dishes: pita sandwiches and sphiha. Within this simplicity, though, lies culinary greatness. More than half of the sphihas are strictly veggie affairs, but not the expected roughage-heavy dishes. Instead, the main ingredients are spices—and not the spicy kind; foreign-to-American-cuisine seasoning like pomegranate sauce is the principal player in Al-Sanabel's sphihas. 816 S. Brookhurst Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 635-4353. ¢Alisan Natural Food & Restaurant How many Chinese restaurants do you know that display a poem about man and nature's vital need for clean water? How many offer with their entrées a choice between white and brown rice? And how many serve "kung pao napa cabbage," "yuba (layered tofu) with broccoli" and "crispy soy chicken in garlic brown sauce"? They do here. 17201 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, (714) 962-0055. $$BLUE BEET CAFÉ
501 Main St
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
Region: Huntington Beach
7360 Westminster Blvd.
Westminster, CA 92683
11052 Beach Blvd. Stanton, CA
Stanton, CA 90680
2751-2755 W. Lincoln Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92801
238 Thalia St.
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Region: Laguna Beach
9455 Bolsa Ave.
Westminster, CA 92683
This restaurant is a steak oasis, where the meat is aged for about one week to break down the sinew—that's what makes it tender—while swimming in a secret marinade before being charbroiled to delectability! 107 21st Place, Newport Beach, (949) 675-2338. $
BODHI TREE VEGETARIAN CAFÉ
Deciding what to eat at Bodhi Tree—there are more than 100 mock-meat choices—involves the same deliberation needed for a koan. The tofu-drop soup, featuring bobbing meaty chunks of bean curd, bamboo shoots and cilantro, is free. Not free but worth the somewhat-pricey $3.50 is the chicken-satay baguette sandwich full of faux fowl, tomatoes and so many julliened carrots it could be classified under the salad portion of the menu and mislead no one. 501 Main St., Ste. E, Huntington Beach, (714) 969-9500. $
The filet mignon at this steakhouse is round and plump—like a muffin. Its ideal cut, deep flavor and tender texture make it possible to eat the entire thing without encountering a morsel of fat or gristle. In essence, it's a tremendous piece of meat. 2441 E. Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar, (949) 673-6585. $$$
The back-and-forth between French and Vietnamese décor at this vegetarian restaurant gets dizzying, even a bit annoying. But bickering soon dissipates under the brotherhood of great food, hybrids that you can imagine indulging in along the banks of the Seine or Mekong. And as Edith Piaf begins to sing "La Vie en Rose"—for some serendipitous reason, the CD player always plays her torch song around dessert time—and you sip on a second order of the coma-eradicating coffee, you can feel the world revert to a pre-Dien Bien Phu era, where French elegance and Vietnamese refinement waltzed tenuously. 7360 Westminster Blvd., Westminster, (714) 890-9711. $
FLEMING'S PRIME STEAKHOUSE
Styled after traditional Eastern steakhouses, Fleming's offers an à la carte menu of appetizers, salads, side dishes, "red meat and white meat," and seafood. The steaks are cooked in a superheated gas flame to "seal in the juices," as the publicity goes. They are. Only a little salt is added to the cut before cooking. 455 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 720-9633. $$$
GAURANGA'S VEGETARIAN BUFFET
Gauranga's has outdoor, ocean-view seating where you can enjoy a large salad bar, spicy yellow-lentil soup and cauliflower fritters. Sweet hibiscus tea is Krishna hooch, and the cardamom-scented rice pudding is tasty, too. 285 Legion St., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-7029. $
THE GOLDEN STEER
The Golden Steer is what a family restaurant used to be—not just inexpensive enough to feed a family, but also tasty and wholesome enough to feed it well. It also harkens back to the time when a family meal meant meat-meat-meat. The place is crowded, but good acoustics keep it from sounding like a mess hall, and incredible service keeps that growl in your stomach from turning into a bad mood. 11052 Beach Blvd., Stanton, (714) 894-1208. $
Gulliver's prime rib is the primest of prime. El Primo de Ribbie Ribozo! Un Primen de Ribentrop! What else is there to say? It's succulent, it's pink, it's thick, and it's delicious.You'll be saying, "Voulez-vous le Ribby de Prim! I surrender." 18482 Macarthur Blvd., Irvine, (949) 833-8411. $$
Open since 1962 (!), La Cave continues to be the county's place for a touch of romance and a hunk of meat. Their steaks, fine slabs of beef burnt or bloodied to your liking and as big as a school desktop, fill the innards. Their music—cheesy lounge, stellar jazz—fill the soul. And the ambience will get you lucky afterward. 1695 Irvine Ave., Costa Mesa, (949) 646-7944. $$
First-timers might enjoy the novelty—ties hanging from the rafters! Kerosene lamps! Injuns!—of this Garden Grove beef barn. But longtimers have returned almost weekly for the past 33 years because of Pinnacle Peak's masses of beef, pork and chicken, garnished only with barbecue sauce and a breathtaking amount of char. 9100 Trask Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 892-7311. $
RASTHAL VEGETARIAN CUISINE
The South Indian food served here ain't your Green Party fund-raiser spread of bland samosas and lukewarm lentil broth. Rasthal is the type of dive where kaju karela—a peppered, unctuous mush combining cashews with coconut oil and bitter gourds—is among the more conservative dishes, where a chile-laced farina called upma is celebrated with the reverence with which a Punjabi restaurant serves up tandoori chicken. 2751-2755 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 527-3800. ¢
REMBRANDT'S BEAUTIFUL CUISINE
Rembrandt's may claim to do "beautiful food," but that translates to hearty, plain fare done to nostalgic perfection: a Brown Derby for our county minus the starlets and without that whole wrecking-ball thing. This is truly the little steakhouse that time forgot. It looks like what the Velvet Turtle would be if they'd redone it Spanish-style in the '80s: stark, white walls; huge paintings; chandeliers; and filet mignon to the hilt. 909 E. Yorba Linda Blvd., Placentia, (714) 528-6222. $$$
Practically a helicopter ride from most of Orange County, the Saratoga Grill is worth the ride. The menu is beautifully simple: steaks, seafood and a couple of pasta dishes to go along with appetizing appetizers. 31911 Dove Canyon Dr., Trabuco Canyon, (949) 888-8477. $$$
Truth in advertising: the Stand is little more than wood, like, hammered together in the shape of a tropical roadside inn: outdoor seating; walls plastered with handwritten menus (key adjectives: "zesty," "crisp," "sumptuous") advertising a Christmas list of salads, Mexican-influenced plates and a few fresh soups; and famished birds twittering and hopping around for crumbs. The Special Oriental Burrito's ginger- and tamari-doused vegetables hint at new fusion possibilities for Mexican cuisine, Sino-Sinaloan. 238 Thalia St., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-8101. $
"Get the 'small but mighty,'" my friend counseled. "It's the best." This steak is more mighty than small. The meat has enough texture to create a tooth-gnashing gusto reserved for Discovery Channel feeding frenzies, yet no steak knife is required to cut the beautifully seared surface. 801 S. Tustin Ave., Orange, (714) 639-2434; also 444 N. Lakeview Ave., Anaheim , (714) 974-5321. $$
A steakhouse that co-owner Craig Voorting says is "all about the steak." With the best damn steak this side of a factory town and a pretty decent selection of white meat and seafood. 118 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-1290; also 28241 Marguerite Pkwy., Mission Viejo, (949) 218-0790. $$
VAN HANH VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT
Vietnamese cuisine includes a proud tofu tradition, and Van Hanh's menu represents its full, finest flowering. No limp kung pao and imitation orange chicken here. Instead, you'll find biting papaya concoctions drenched in chile powder and lime juice, noodle selections studded with tasty tofu and veggies, and more rice plates than in Uncle Ben's wildest dreams. 9455 Bolsa Ave., Ste. D, Westminster, (714) 531-4661. ¢
More dining fun is available at www.ocweekly.com/food.