OCs 97 Best American Restaurants

56. It's officially one of the county's three Pakistani eateries, but the Great Zucchini also preps industrial-park deli standards such as sandwiches, breakfast burritos and bagels. Nevertheless, there is no dish more American in Southern California than the bun kebab combo—a mayo-and-onion-laced burger with a ground-beef patty studded with pomegranate seeds, lentils, cloves and H-bomb-hot jalapeño shavings; fries served with chutney; and a creamy Pakistani cola. It's the melting pot gone car-hop. 765 St. College Blvd., Ste. B, Fullerton, (714) 879-8522.

57. Knowlwood is a chain, yes, but OC-born and -bred. Get the exquisite bacon cheeseburger with grilled onions, a hunka-hunka burning meat with smoky slices of swine and a three-napkin minimum. 5665 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, (714) 779-2501; 150 S. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 879-7552; 14952 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine, (949) 857-8927; 28061 Greenfield Dr., Laguna Niguel, (949) 831-1593; www.knowlwoodrestaurants.com.

58. South County's own opulent luxury chain, Opah is where you find high-class margaritas and farm-grown flesh of land and sea sluiced, slathered, marinated and God knows what else with various fruit compotes and sauces. Our choice: smoked applejack brandy barbecue ribs with papaya glaze. 26851 Aliso Creek Rd., Aliso Viejo, (949) 360-8822; 13122 Jamboree Rd., Irvine, (714) 508-8055; 22332 El Paseo, Rancho Santa Margarita, (949) 766-9988; www.opahrestaurant.com.

59. Waffles with the circumference of chessboards, topped with coconut, rife with pecans or drowned in maple syrup—fine and all. But have you ever chomped on the burger at California Waffle Bar and Family Diner? The certified-Angus-patty burger? The burger with a crescent of avocado, sinewy red onions and just-perfect mild salsa? You haven't? You just like the waffles here? Good for you—but eat the burger some day. 105 S. Ola Vista, San Clemente, (949) 498-9050.


#60 The stunning plum in
the Montage's pie

(Photo by Amy Thelig)

60. If coastal gourmands aren't flocking to Aqua, then they're calling in reservations for Studio, the stunning plum in the Montage Resort's pie. Seafood is gospel at Studio, but I once reveled in a salad with a red-pepper vinaigrette that satiated the gourmand and the Mexican in me in a way that hasn't happened since. 30801 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 715-6420.

61. Eddie's Galley is one of those precious Balboa Peninsula institutions—since 1957!—that remains open despite the consistent encroachment of the Balboa Island folks. Californian cuisine unsullied by attempts at fusion—this California is about omelets gorged with whatever tickles your tongue, hamburgers and hot dogs, all doused with filling chili. 829 Harbor Island Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 673-4110.

62. When Yellow Basket opened in the 1950s, Santa Ana was overwhelmingly white; nowadays, it's the most-Latino big city in los Estados Unidos. But the burger dive continues flipping its specialty by remaining fluent in the language of hamburger, with 18 dialects—cute junior hamburger for the kiddies, surprisingly lip-smacking garden burger for the vegetarian cop-outs and a colossal triple cheeseburger (yo quiero unPepto-Bismol shake, por favor). 2860 S. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 545-8219; www.yellowbasket.com.


#63 Rembrandt's beautiful cuisine 63. Rembrandt's Beautiful Cuisine is the kind of place where the most adventurous offering is a mozzarella-baked chicken Monterrey, stubbornly retro in its attempt to be undistinguished. Rembrandt's Beautiful Cuisine is the closest we have to such old-fashioned steakhouses as Brown Derby and Velvet Turtle, a Fleming's for the older-than-80 set. Steaks are as straightforward as the whiskey they pour out like rain. 909 E. Yorba Linda Ave., Placentia, (714) 528-6222; www.rembrandtsrestaurant.com.

64. With La Habra's Gordo Mellony's exiled to the meat grinder of history, it's now up to Mega Burgers in Dana Point to construct the county's largest mass of patties and buns: the mega-mega burger, more midget cow than meal. Said to equal the bulk of eight burgers and sliced like a dessert pie, forking through this will make you more burger than man. 34122 Pacific Coast Hwy., Dana Point, (949) 488-0849.

65. "Creative American Cuisine" is how Sage bills itself, and no disagreement from us there. Consider the grilled pork tenderloin, a hock of pig lacquered up with brandy sauce, buttressed by sweet-and-sour cabbage that's how all sauerkraut should be, and joined with a pair of parmesan-laced potato cakes. Sage also boils a most exquisite tortilla soup. 2531 Eastbluff Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 718-9650; 7862 E. Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, (949) 715-7243.

66. So many outstanding fusion sandwiches at Pangea—from grilled cheese triangles to more audacious fare such as a deceptively spicy Malaysian-curry chicken-breast sub sweetened with delightful slices of red and white grapes. We know one prominent Santa Ana activist usually gathers with her cohorts at Pangea, where they knife through beautifully grilled meatloaf while plotting new ways to burrow further into mega-developer-and-Pangea-landlord Mike Harrah's beard. 211 W. Second St., Santa Ana, (714) 834-0688; www.pangea-cafe.com.

67. If the Lazy Dog Cafe ditched the annoying dog theme—especially all the beagles; save for Snoopy, beagles are ugly, dour mutts—they would be left with an excellent Westminster diner far from the madding Little Saigon crowds. New American takes: pot roasts sautéed with iron-drenched spinach, chicken wings marinated in jerk seasonings, and a peppercorn-burnished burger so intriguing and bib-worthy you'll marvel that this restaurant was founded by the original owners of Mimi's. 16310 Beach Blvd., Westminster, (714) 500-1140; www.thelazydogcafe.com.

68. The most fabulous luxury about Svelte isn't its gaudy interior, liver-eradicating booze or beautiful people, but rather the burger "de luxe," a marbled mass of Kobe beef topped with caramelized onions, the onions imparting its bitter sugars to a patty that took years of pampering cows with sake massages, not to mention millions, to create. 440 Heliotrope, Corona del Mar, (949) 723-9685; www.svelte.cc.

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