By Keith Plocek
By Edwin Goei
By Edwin Goei
By Matt Coker
By Edwin Goei
By Dave Mau
By Gustavo Arellano
Cheese is in again, with many households stocking up on the fromage of various countries and animals (haven't had camel's cheese? Oh, you poor soul). But most restaurants still settle for the standards—Parmesan, Cheddar, Romano. These eateries, however, are exceptional.
2281 W. Ball Road
Anaheim, CA 92804
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612 Avenida Victoria, Ste. E.
San Clemente, CA 92672
Region: San Clemente
DINNER FOR TWO:
¢ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Less than $10!
$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $10-$20
$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $20-$40
$$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ¡Eres muy rico!
AL AMIR BAKERY
Al Amir Bakery in Anaheim's Little Arabia enclave attracts all sorts of eaters, but it works best as an old-style pizzeria, a place where young people step in for a quick bite and flirt. Its primary draw is the extraordinary sphihas, a kind of Lebanese New York-style pizza: thin, toasty, wonderfully crunchy crust with layers of such powerful Middle Eastern flavors as soujouk, zaatar and milky Palestinian cheese. 518 S. Brookhurst St., Ste. 3, Anaheim, (714) 535-0973; www.alamirbakery.com. ¢BENJIES RESTAURANT-DELI & BAKERY
Benjies is mostly about big, meaty food served quickly. After chucking any hopes of swimsuit modeling, the Francheesy may be for you: grilled knackwurst with bacon and American cheese just oozing off the sides. It's angioplantastic! 1828 N. Tustin, Santa Ana, (714) 541-6230. $BRAVO BURGERS
Bravo's Elvii and Marilyns can get annoying, but people return for the grub. Bravo's burgers are sticky with Thousand Island dressing and buttressed by toasted buns that hold a sublime grilled patty. It's messier (and better) when topped off with Bravo's monumental chili: cheesy, meaty and smoky. Other sandwiches are available—mayo-heavy club sandwich this, greasy bacon burger that, even a game attempt at a chicken gyro—but in this county's proud melting pot, few things approach that icon of culinary fusion, Bravo's pastrami quesadilla. 19102 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 968-9880. $THE CLUBHOUSE
Since you can't afford to eat here anyway, skip the entrées and head straight for the toasted ravioli, a main-dish-worthy appetizer. Lightly toasted ravioli filled with ricotta and dusted with Parmesan and Romano cheeses ring a bowl of tasty marinara sauce. Order it alone with a glass of wine and a side salad, and you're dining in style and on the cheap. 3333 Bristol St., Ste. 2802, Costa Mesa, (714) 708-2582. $$$THE CULINARY WRAP
The Culinary Wrap serves up healthy and yummy wraps, salads and soups in a cozy, non-formulaic atmosphere. The barbecue-chicken salad is my fave: chicken, corn, black beans, red peppers, Jack and Cheddar cheeses, tortilla strips, red onions, and lettuce. 250 E. 17th St., Ste. D, Costa Mesa, (949) 548-4403; 2435 E. Imperial Hwy., Ste. E, Brea, (714) 672-9727. $
LA GALETTE CRÊPERIE
Seventeen crepes available in this beautiful little shop just a jog away from the Pacific—try the Kansas City Chicken crepe, beckoning with the promise of heartland-meets-Left-Bank fusion: roasted chicken and caramelized onions tinctured with a maple BBQ sauce and sprinkled with Jack cheese. And the PPV crepe has whole slices of candied pears marked with thick, sugary mascarpone and a dollop of whipped cream on the side, with a spray of vanilla sauce on top of the crepe. 612 Ave. Victoria, Ste. E, San Clemente, (949) 498-5335; www.lagalettecreperie.com. $
LA MAISON GOURMET
Every Friday for about two years, this charming shop on the edge of Lake Mission Viejo has opened its private lakeside patio for wine tastings. The events are a smash; reservations are required, limited to about 30 per session and best made at least two weeks in advance. But it's also a bona fide gourmand's treat, with wines from across the world available plus a diverse cheese-and-meat wheel for grubbing. 27772 Vista del Lago, Ste. B-15, Mission Viejo, (949) 916-4810; www.lamaisongourmet.net. $$$
View Orange County's best damn dining guide at ocweekly.com/food.
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