OCs 97 Best American Restaurants

69. PoFolks is a rustically eccentric restaurant—tin and wooden agricultural-company signs on the walls, a working train that chugs the perimeter—specializing in Norms-style home cooking with a Southern bent, the type of joint where fried chicken livers with red beans and rice is a daily special and peach cobbler isn't some ironic/iconic treat but what's for dessert. Make sure to put honey on the hearty hush puppies, though, and not Cajun sauce lest the linebacker-sized waitresses laugh at you. 7701 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, (714) 521-8955.

70. Loved more for its Googie-gone-Mary Poppins design than its greasy-spoon grub, Seal Beach's Parasol is in constant danger of meeting the toothy end of a bulldozer. Do the owners a favor and stage a sit-in for breakfast, lunch and dinner—food is good, but wacky restaurants like the Parasol are going the way of Kona Lanes. 12241 Seal Beach Blvd., Seal Beach, (562) 598-3311.

71. Blintzes, matzo balls, knishes, kugel—not a Krusty the Klown standup routine but the sellers at Katella Deli, one of Orange County's few full-service Jewish delis. All pass a bubeleh's muster—the matzo-ball soup will keep you warm all winter; it's all about the egginess—but goyim can also feast on the mayo-tinted mini-tower Katella calls a Reuben. 4470 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos, (562) 594-8611.

72. Just down the street from the faux-downtown Birch Street Promenade, Brea's Best Burgers employs Thousand Island dressing with a studied judiciousness rarely seen in burger stands: enough for the pink-orange pseudo-sauce to act as an apt foil for the nicely charred patty and toasted sesame bun but not enough to overwhelm it into a pungent morass. 707 S. First St., Brea, (714) 990-2615.

73. Not since Boogie Nights has a wiener garnered so much deserved buzz as the yearlong love-in for those steamed at Jerry's Wood-Fired Hot Dogs. Owner and Cleveland native Jerry O'Connell comes from the land where sausage-making is gospel, and his dogs show it: all-beef franks bursting from taut casings; X-rated kielbasas with a vicious, Warsaw Pact bite; and a Jalapeño Hot Link that is proudly inauthentic, but nobody gives a damn as his whining-hole is deep-throating the eight inches. 2276 E. 17th St., Santa Ana, (714) 245-0200; www.jerrysdogs.com.

74. Beachfire is what a neighborhood restaurant should be—a mini-gallery featuring hometown artists (appreciate the colorful boats of Chico Dias), goofy theme nights from Monday Night Football to Palate and Palette Thursdays, live bands, kid's specials and booze. Lots of booze. But it's the seafood that ultimately impresses the most—the macadamia-nut-crusted mahi, particularly. 204 Ave. del Mar, Ste D, San Celmente, 949-366-3232; www.beachfire.com

75. SpongeBob Squarepants creator Stephen Hillenberg was raised in this county, so we'll wager clams to fins that he must've eaten at Charlie's Chili at least once, a madcap diner complete with various nautical gewgaws. What else but its eons-renowned chili—thick and sumptuous, smeared on platters from cheesy omelets to cranium-sized burgers or alone in a bowl—and the constant guessing as to its secret creation process could inspire the Krusty Krab and its arch-nemesis, Plankton? 102 McFadden Place, Newport Beach, (949) 675-7991.

76. It's hard to ignore a joint that boasts WORLD FAMOUS PASTRAMI in big block lettering on the sign out front. It's harder to dispute The Hat's boast, though, when chomping through folds of the red-and-brown meat, each layer saltier than the last, with a cup of juices for luscious dunking. 1210 E. Imperial Hwy., Brea, (714) 257-9500; 23641 Rockfield Blvd., Lake Forest, (949) 586-9200; www.thehat.com.

77. Proof that San Diego knows more than just overachieving Chargers teams and Mexican-bashing, Karl Strauss' Costa Mesa outlet is where the South Coast set goes to slum it with bros—after all, class differences dissipate with the promise of multiple lagers, sports on the big screen, magnificent hoagies, and comely lasses delivering said magnificent hoagies and booze. 901-A South Coast Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 546-BREW; www.karlstraus.com.

78. Papa's Western BBQ smokes its meat Santa Maria-style—tri-tip served lean with a marinade dipping sauce that's salty yet delicious, meat soaking up the redwood smoke of its heated chips, and a wall of country-and-western stars so old it still hadn't met a dead Hank Williams Sr. in the back of a Cadillac. Baby-back ribs split apart like Legos are served sauceless save for that marinade. Chicken, steaks, pork loin: anything bathed in that dark, dense marinade transforms into the Divine. 10900 Los Alamitos Blvd., Los Alamitos, (562) 594-9251; www.papaswesternbbq.com.

79. I doubt many county residents have visited Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant, probably because the tourist hordes line up for hours here as part of their Knott's Berry Farm day trip. And it's a shame, since the cooking scions of Cordelia Knott still fry a damn yummy bird that crackles into sweet-batter bliss if you so much as eyeball it. 8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, (714) 220-5080.

80. The Mini-Gourmet is a Placentia strip-mall diner where adults wear T-shirts proclaiming allegiance for the football squad at nearby El Dorado High while sipping coffee alongside no-frill omelets. The Ortega omelet is all about the mild chili, ripe tomatoes and liquefied cheese awaiting its scraping up with toast. 1210 E. Yorba Linda Blvd., Placentia, (714) 524-1611.

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