Top

dining

Stories

 

Grub Guide

Orange County's best damn dining guide

Visit the rest of Orange County's best damn dining guide at ocweekly.com/food, where it says "Where to Eat Now" on the right side of the screen. If there are any bugs with it, e-mail Gustavo at garellano@ocweekly.com with your complaints!

DINNER FOR TWO:

¢ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Less than $10!

Location Info

Map

India House Restaurant

7775 Beach Blvd.
Buena Park, CA 90620

Category: Restaurant > Brunch

Region: Buena Park

Silverado Cafe

28272 Silverado Canyon Road
Silverado, CA 92676

Category: Restaurant > Cafe

Region: Silverado

Katie Mcguire's Pie & Bake Shoppe

10121 Valley View St.
Cypress, CA 90630

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Cypress

Beverly's Best Bakery

3020 Brea Blvd.
Fullerton, CA 92835

Category: Restaurant > Bakery

Region: Fullerton

Chicago Harv's

410 E. Chapman Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92832

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Fullerton

Anna's Mondu

9972 Garden Grove Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92843

Category: Restaurant > Korean

Region: Garden Grove

Vien Dong

14271 Brookhurst St.
Garden Grove, CA 92843

Category: Restaurant > Vietnamese

Region: Garden Grove

Zubies Dry Dock

9059 Adams Ave.
Huntington Beach, CA 92646

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Huntington Beach

Clay Oven Cuisine Of India

15435 Jeffrey Road, Ste 116
Irvine, CA 92618

Category: Restaurant > Indian

Region: Irvine

Kochee Kabob House

4143 Campus Drive
Irvine, CA 92612

Category: Restaurant > Middle Eastern

Region: Irvine

Casa Olamendi's

1100 S. Coast Highway, Ste. 202
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Laguna Beach

French 75 Bistro and Champagne Bar

1464 S. Pacific Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Category: Restaurant > Bistro

Region: Laguna Beach

$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $10-$20

$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $20-$40

$$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ¡Eres muy rico!

ANAHEIM

CAROUSEL BAKERY
Customers cram this cramped emporium not for the pan dulce—which is delicious, by the way—but for raspados, the Mexican version of snow cones made with the vivacious fruits of the country in syrup form. Choose quickly from the 14 options because a line of customers is no doubt forming impatiently behind you, already shouting out their orders. 1509 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, (714) 778-2051.¢

E-SAN ROD-SAP
E-San specializes in 78 dishes of Isaan cooking, the sour-and-spicy cuisine of northeast Thailand that's exotic even inside the Southeast Asian kingdom. Most diners order from a buffet near the kitchen, where a stern-looking woman in a milk-colored hairnet lords over entrées that constitute the $5.50 three-items-plus-rice combo. Choices vary from hour to hour and include a spicy Lao-style vegetable soup redolent of pumpkin, fiery green curry (smoky with eggplant chunks) and fried catfish that crackles loudly across the dining room. 1719 W. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, (714) 999-0563. $

INKA ANAHEIM
Groups eager to party will dig the décor: blacklight scenes of Peru's landscape. A good introductory dish to the Inka menu is the casa—a rotisserie chicken, featuring one-quarter of the bird, white rice, brown beans and salad, plus an Inka soda to wash it all down. 400 S. Euclid St., Anaheim, (714) 772-2263. $

WIN THAI CUISINE
You probably won't go to Win Thai for its cheesy Asian pop background music, but you would go for the deep sweat its notoriously spicy dishes stimulate. Win Thai offers more than 100 items, ranging from traditional rice dishes to more exotic fare such as the spicy green mussel salad. 1151 N. Euclid St., Anaheim, (714) 778-0940. $

BREA

LUCILLE'S SMOKEHOUSE BAR-B-Q
Side dishes at Brea's hottest spot—two per entrée—would serve a family for a month in some sub-Saharan nations. But these servings are mere crumbs when weighed against the feral bulk of a Lucille's barbecue plate. After plowing through one of these, you'd better waddle out fast before Lucille's owners size you up as ready for a dance on the grill, so plump will you be. 1639 E. Imperial Hwy., Brea, (714) 990-4944; www.lucillesbbq.com. $$

BUENA PARK

INDIA HOUSE
Americans famished for a taste of liberty should trek over to India House, a tiny-but-posh Buena Park restaurant where the promise of freedom comes with a complimentary basket of naan. India House's buffet, an Electoral College of flavors, scents and options, offers the hallmarks of any outstanding Indian feast—smoky tandoori chicken, assorted curries and masalas, and billowy basmati rice mounds—but the chefs also sneak in some surprises in a vegetarian key. 7775 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, (714) 670-2114; www.newindiahouse.com. $$

CANYON CITIES

SILVERADO CAFÉ
For breakfast, feast on their miner's omelet: a crepe-like blanket of eggs filled with mushrooms, onions, green peppers, chiles, tomatoes and cheese. I love the patty melt with fries and coleslaw for lunch. 28272 Silverado Canyon Rd., Silverado, (714) 649-2622.$

CORONA DEL MAR

GEN KAI
Many sushi bars don't stock hokegai, a generously two-toned Japanese clam with a mild flavor. It's a mark of quality that Gen Kai occasionally has on hand, and their fish servings are out-of-the-net fresh!3344 E. Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar, (949) 675-0771. $$

COSTA MESA

CAFÉ PASCAL
The creation of Pascal Olhats, whose Pascal Restaurant in Newport Beach is consistently rated among the best in the county, the café allows you to treat yourself to his signature light, Provençal fare at a fraction of the restaurant price. The prosciutto panini—a flattened baguette stuffed with the aforementioned as well as cheese and tomatoes—is an effeminate calzone. It's terrific.3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 751-4911. $

THE GOLDEN TRUFFLE
Impossible to categorize with elements of different restaurants including seafood, French bistro, Pacific rim and down-home joint. Everything from pot roast to grits to chicken livers is served up with excellent service, making for one of the best meals you will have had in years.1767 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 645-9858. $$$

HABANA
The ambiance makes this the perfect date restaurant. The Nuevo Latino menu leans toward Cuban but mixes in Jamaican, Mexican and other flavors. The bar serves some of the best sangria around, and the lemon-drop martinis are near-legendary, too.2930 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 556-0176; www.restauranthabana.com. $$

ORCHID
Persian food served in abundant portions on perfectly arranged plates complete with precise ovals of rice and small domes of vegetables. The basmati rice is as fluffy as cumulus clouds and as flavorful as fresh-popped popcorn.3033 S. Bristol St., Ste. B., Costa Mesa, (714) 557-8070. $$

CYPRESS

KATIE MCGUIRE'S PIE & BAKE SHOPPE
Here are chicken pot pies worthy of Nebraska: small but filling, flaky but sturdy, a yellow crust the tone of moist earth. Inside the crust is bouncy breast meat mixed alongside pea, potato and carrot bits. Nourishing the bird and veggie chunks like amniotic fluid is the gravy, a sweet, gooey liquid that will scald you if you don't blow on it for a couple of minutes. 10121 Valley View St., Cypress, (714) 826-7437. $

DANA POINT

MIRABEAU BISTRO
The eatery's appellation derives from the famous Cours Mirabeau, a tree-lined avenue of bistros in Aix-en-Provence dear to the restaurant's proprietors. And the food offered here—lamb osso bucco with a North African twist, fine wines and an addicting pork-and-duck confit—is just as renowed. As the French Revolution-era orator Mirabeau might have shouted, c'est magnifique! 17 Monarch Bay Plaza, Dana Point, (949) 234-1679; www.mirabeaubistro.com. $$$

FOUNTAIN VALLEY

EBISU JAPANESE NOODLE RESTAURANT
This restaurant is a sleek ramen mecca that serves miso ramen, a curative soybean-flavored elixir, poured over a tangled cake of supple noodles rife with bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, hard-boiled-egg halves and scallions. 18924 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, (714) 964-5993; www.ebisuramen.com. $

FULLERTON

BEVERLY'S BEST BAKERY
In an era in which restaurant chains focus-group everything to manufacture a sense of Grandma, Beverly's Best is hominess with a brownie. The macaroons are chocolate-dipped coconut dreams: rich, light and fluffy, a guaranteed late-night craving. The holiday-themed sugar cookies—haunted houses, Christmas trees, Guy Fawkes (kidding)—are beautifully, deliciously detailed pieces of art. And chocolate-chip cookies fresh out of the oven (co-owner Carmela's admitted favorite) will make you discard Mrs. Field's as if they were a mere carton of Chips Ahoy! 3020 Brea Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 529-3989. $

CHICAGO HARV'S
Most every county hot-dog cart advertises Chicago dogs, but Harv's is among the few places that do it better than the South Side. They ship in bulky Vienna sausages directly from the Windy City, stuff 'em into a poppy-speckled bun next to dill pickle slivers, and squirt the mess with stinky-but-super quarts of relish and mustard that'll leave lips a yellow-green color as vibrant as a 1970s Notre Dame football uniform.410 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-0491. ¢

MANDARIN PAVILION
The windowless room nestled near a nondescript corner of working-class Fullerton has black-bowtied waiters who bring out such treasures as the three-flavor sizzling rice soup, a scintillating broth of grains, shrimp, ham and mushrooms that actuallyis sizzling when it arrives at the table. It's one option of their mandatory three-course dinner. 1050 W. Valencia Dr., Fullerton, (714) 870-7950. $$

GARDEN GROVE

ALI BABA'S KITCHEN
Although Ali Baba's prepares decent versions of subcontinental standards such as chicken tikka and tandoori and an epic chicken biryani that's more rice than fowl, concentrate on the Pakistani specialties—three types of kebabs and a scorching chicken kahari. And do trot out with an order of Afghan naan—a little less than two feet in length, dimpled, soft and sweet, about the thickness of a Bic, and easily feeds four. 14282 Brookhurst St., Ste. 1, Garden Grove, (714) 531-2000. $

ANNA'S MONDU
Anna's Mondu keeps an English-language menu; bright pictures on the wall hint at its specialty: the massive Korean dumplings known as mondu—steamed giants of minced meat, buckwheat noodles and green onions. The true revelation is the dduk bok ki, a plateful of stretched gnocchi over which the chef has drizzled a sweet-and-spicy chile sauce. Just three of the dduk will meet your daily caloric maximum; the plate comes with at least 20. 9972 Garden Grove Blvd., Ste. F, Garden Grove, (714) 530-0102. $

VIEN DONG
Serving the best in Northern Vietnamese food, including banh tom co ngu, an addictive dish of lightly fried shrimp and sweet potato. As with many dishes, it comes with a plate loaded with mint leaves, lettuce and rice paper for rolling into burrito-like tubes. 14271 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove, (714) 531-8253. $

HUNTINGTON BEACH

SMOKIN' MO'S
A tour of barbecue traditions within the confines of a gleaming Surf City development, Smokin' Mo's redeems the red states from which it pulls its stuff. Tennessee shines with vinegary, massive, great pork ribs; Louisiana appears with hot links that please like a boat ride through the bayou. Better than that, we love its pig mascot—wide-eyed, holding a massive wooden spoon, grinning at the thought of eating its brethren, the happiest cannibal since that weird gay German guy. 301 Main St., Ste. 107, Huntington Beach, (714) 374-3033; www.mosbbq.com. $

SEBASTIANI'S ITALIAN BISTRO
Owner Pablo Benavente references his Peruvian roots during lunch and Italian dinners. Before you chow through an extensive, expensive gustatory tour of Southern Italy—highlights include powerfully herbed cannelloni, filling risotto and multiple chicken dishes—Benavente trots out a thimble of ají, the deceptively spicy Andean condiment, for your bread-spreading pleasure. 6078 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 841-3619; www.sebastianis.net. $$

ZUBIES DRY DOCK
Zubies has yummy pizzas, sawdust on the ground and lots of TVs. Don't worry if food falls on the ground—you won't be able to find it even if you tried. 9059 Adams Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 963-6362. $$

IRVINE

CHINA GARDEN
The dim sum jockeys who patrol China Garden with their carts and filled plates want you to gorge immediately, but pace yourself: the visits will not cease, the goodness of the county's best dim sum will not end. Cha shu bao, filled with sweet red barbecued pork, perfectly foils the steaming cup of the sharp house oolong tea. So does the steamed chicken bun, a light, chewy thing filled with ground chicken meat, ginger and herbs. 14825 Jeffrey Rd., Irvine, (949) 653-9988. $$

CLAY OVEN
What makes the Clay Oven stand out is the way it uses the traditional tandoori tools to expand upon the cuisine. You can't find a better swordfish in Orange County. It's so tender it flakes apart at the mere hint of a fork. 15435 Jeffrey Rd., Irvine, (949) 552-2851.$$

KOCHEE KABOB HOUSE
Kochee Kabob might lack decorative charm and a relaxed ambiance, but its grilled meat is, well, hard to beat—eight kinds of kebabs, each paired with flurries of long-grained, nutty basmati rice and a salad that can't quite measure up. Kochee Kabob's meats are flavorful enough without condiments, but there are two available: sour chili powder and a green hot sauce that's a fusion of a mint chutney and emerald Tapatío. 4143 Campus Dr., Ste. 195, Irvine, (949) 854-0206.

LA HABRA

IMPERIAL BURGERS
Imperial Burgers serves many more things besides its Cheddar cheese-heavy pastrami burritos—its namesakes, for instance, charbroiled marriages of meat, soft bun, sweet cheese and lettuce. Or standard breakfasts of pancakes, hash browns and sausage. And always sip on ultra-sweet Orange Bang whenever you find this increasingly rare beverage. Everything is good here, really. But La Habra is so far away, and the pastrami burrito is so good—why would you ever order anything else? 241 E. Imperial Hwy., La Habra, (714) 525-1611. $

LA PALMA

PAESANO'S
You probably slap together half of Paesano's menu at least once a week for dinner: sauce-drenched entrées such as mostaccioli, spaghetti and lasagna that aren't so much Old World as they are Hoboken. So why bother visiting this 26-year-old eatery? Meatballs—lacy, herbed, delish. And subs. Good subs. 5540 Orangethorpe Ave., La Palma, (714) 521-4748. $

LAGUNA, LAGUNA, LAGUNA!

CASA OLAMENDI
Casa Olamendi's is the sort of place in which you ask for a balcony seat for a sunny lunch or come later and watch the sun sink into the sea over the two T's: tamales and tequila. Tamales typically arrive on a combo plate, served without the husk and covered with a little cheese, with good corn masa and delicious, tender chicken chunks. 1100 S. Coast Hwy. Ste. 202, Laguna Beach (949) 497-4148. $$

FRENCH 75 BISTRO AND CHAMPAGNE BAR
The most beautiful bar in Orange County—with prices to match. The resonant thunk of champagne corks popping will be the only competition for the jazz piano as you savor the basil-fed escargot and langoustines with Black Forest ham swimming in herb-garlic butter.1464 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-8444. $$$

GAURANGA'S VEGETARIAN CUISINE
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 cardamom-scented rice pudding is tasty, too.285 Legion St., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-7029.$

MADISON SQUARE & GARDEN CAFE
Topped with berry-infused butter, the ginger and lemon-perfumed ricotta pancakes are creamy and moist. Also, try the Shanghai chicken salad; it's a towering bed of gourmet greens, shredded carrots, rice, noodles, won tons and chicken. 320 N. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-0137. $

KOSHER BITE DELI
Orange County seems just too spic-n-span Christian to host a real New York-style Jewish deli, but try telling that to the folks at Kosher Bite in Laguna Hills, a cluttered room where the air conditioning is three ceiling fans on their last wobbly rotations, potato-and-barley soup is boiled daily, the Sabbath means rest and the menu—knishes, matzo ball, pastrami on rye—is as stubbornly Borscht Belt as Carl Reiner. 23595 Moulton Pkwy., Ste. H, Laguna Hills, (949) 770-1818. $

ROYAL THAI
Feeling a cold coming? Phone Royal Thai and place an order for the po tak soup. It's a yummy clear chicken/seafood broth with New Zealand green mussels, scallops, calamari, shrimp and fresh green chiles. It'll make your eyes tear up and clear your head better than any over-the-counter sinus meds. And that's just smelling the stuff. 1750 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-8424. $

LAKE FOREST

ABEL'S BAKERY
Abel Salgado has been keeping the challah coming for 40 years, the last five of them in one of Orange County's few Jewish bakeries. Trays buckle with rugala, small cookies moist with chocolate chips, and the holy hamantashen, a fruity triangle-shaped turnover sold by the thousands during the festival of Purim and by the hundreds the rest of the year. 24601 Raymond Way, Ste. 7, Lake Forest, (949) 699-0930. ¢

LONG BEACH

LA CRÊPERIE CAFÉ
Someone once said, "Simplicity is the spice of life." Snicker all you want, but they must have been referring to the Bolero crepe at La Crêperie Café. This sorta-Provençal café offers perfection drenched in butter and sugar with a twist of lemon. C'est bon!5110 E. Second St., Long Beach, (562) 434-8499. $$

DIPIAZZA
Established in 1952, this award-winning Italian restaurant received Best Pizza honors in the Entertainment Book for five straight years. It offers a huge menu selection, including American dishes; you'll want to try the enticing chicken piccata, fettuccine alfredo, lasagna, shrimp and pastas. The chicken Parmesan melt sandwich and the calamari steak will create lasting memories in your stomach. Plus, they sell Fernet Branca, which will cure your cholera. 5205E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Long Beach, (562) 498-2461; www.dipiazzas.com. $$

SIR WINSTON'S
Located in Long Beach's biggest sitting duck (otherwise known as the Queen Mary), Sir Winston's is the LBC's focus for fancy food. Their lobster just reeks of garlic—delicious. But before that, order the Boursin cheese salad. It's made with real Boursin cheese—not the fake kind so many restaurants use—and has lots of tomatoes and cucumbers.1126 Queens Highway Dr., Long Beach, (562) 499-1657. $$$

LOS ALAMITOS

PITTSBURGH CHICKEN & TATERS
Most Americans know the Steel City for its bankrupt hockey teams and bruising football squads, but this storefront restaurant with its goofy hen mascot (circa early Peanuts) makes broasted chicken. They pressure-cook the gals with the same relentless intensity the Steelers defense applies on third-and-15, producing meat that's plump and moist inside a fine gnarled skin. 3671 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos, (562) 594-0140. $

MISSION VIEJO

ALOHA BBQ
Hawaiian staples such as manapua (steamed pork buns) and boiling saimin noodles are fine at Aloha BBQ, along with a Korean-skewed side menu filled with bimimbap and complimentary kimchi. As great as those are, the most impressive meat meal is the spicy pork ribs. Most rib places content themselves with giving patrons a couple of twigs, but Aloha BBQ carts over four massive things that appear to have been torn from a hippo. 24000 Alicia Pkwy., Ste. 4, Mission Viejo, (949) 581-0976. $

NEWPORT BEACH

CALIFORNIA BEACH SUSHI
Hardcore sushi addicts have long dismissed California rolls as bastardized, Westernized versions of the popular and expensive Japanese food. Screw 'em. California rolls are damned good. And you can't go wrong with ordering them at California Beach. 3355 Via Lido, Newport Beach, (949) 675-0575.$

THE LIDO SHIPYARD SAUSAGE CO. AND SABATINO'S FAMILY RESTAURANT
The meals begin like an explosion at the back end of a cornucopia. The sausage is made on the premises and is meaty, clean and flavorful. The stuffed pasta is also incredible.251 Shipyard Way, Newport Beach, (949) 723-0621. $$

MULDOON'S
The perfect fish-and-chips search ends here. Five pieces of fresh red snapper are piled atop skin-on shoestring fries made from real potatoes. The batter on the fish is golden and puffy, like fried cumulus clouds. And the Irish soda bread will make you a regular. 202 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 640-4110. $$

ORANGE

CHA THAI
The yellow curry selection is optimal for those who sport the same color on their bellies, so be brave and step up a spice level to the red curry. Its marvelous mixture of bamboo shoots, bell peppers and coconut milk will give you the sensation of having had sex for two hours in a sauna. 1520 W. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 978-3905. $

THE TULSA RIB COMPANY
An open-minded place with a sense of adventure. The ribs rule here, coming in a broad range of styles from traditional to Cajun to Caribbean.954 N. Tustin Ave., Orange, (714) 633-3760.$$

PLACENTIA

TLAQUEPAQUE
A place where Mexican Mexican food is served with items not found at Taco Bell. Try the mole with a salsa that has the texture of ketchup made up from the sweetest ingredients on earth or spices harvested from Satan's flower garden. 111 W. Santa Fe, Placentia, (714) 528-8515. $$

SAN CLEMENTE

MOLLY BLOOM'S IRISH BAR AND RESTAURANT
Molly Bloom's interior has the standard Irish pub features: low lighting, Guinness posters and bricks. Lots of bricks. Both bar and restaurant offer sizeable menus featuring traditional Irish dishes such as fish and chips, bangers, or beans and mash (a surprisingly tasty combination of sausages, baked beans and mashed potatoes). 2391 S. El Camino Real, San Clemente, (949) 218-0120. $$

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO

L'HIRONDELLE
The French/Belgian restaurant L'Hirondelle is a San Juan Capistrano institution, used as proof by residents that their city offers more than Father Serra this and swallows that (although the restaurant's name is French for "the swallow"—guess one can't fly too far from the nest). The lapin à la liégeoise (rabbit) is perfect, tasting like a duskier, moister turkey, with a plum wine sauce lending a bittersweet taste and juicy plum skins mixed in. 31631 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 661-0425. $$$

SANTA ANA

BANGKOK TASTE
Thong "Chim" Johnson, owner of Bangkok Taste, knows how to pack heat into her torrid Thai creations, like her luscious green curry and her garlic shrimp; no other Thai place I know of makes its own ice cream like Johnson's does. 2737 N. Grand Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 532-2216. $

EL CURTIDO
The casamiento is a vegetarian's delight, combining black beans and rice with eggs, avocado and cream, plus a piece of really salty cotija cheese on the side. We suggest you chase that down with a big cup of Salvadoran horchata. 300 W. Fifth St., Santa Ana, (714) 973-0554. $

MARISCOS LA SIRENA
This little palace serves caldo de caguama (turtle soup) but also represents its own endangered genus—the restaurant whose métier is stunning Sinaloan-style Mexican food with a side of stereotypes—blistering aguachile with wooden parrots, nuclear ceviche served under drooping nets and deer steaks that are almost as tender as each waitress's top is low. 515. S. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 541-0350. $$

PHO HIEN VUONG
Pho Hien Vuong, supposedly the county's first restaurant to serve its eponymous beef noodle soup, does serve other things besides its namesake dish: bouncy goi cuon (spring rolls); rice domes towering over chunks of sautéed beef, chicken or steamed vegetables; and the fabulous chilled vermicelli salad known as bún. But most of Orange County's legal community speeds in from the faraway Central Court for one of the restaurant's 18 primordial phos. 2525 W. Westminster Ave., Ste. H, Santa Ana, (714) 554-2696. $

RUTH'S PLACE
Open here for 11 years, Ruth's Place carries a tough-to-read sign out front advertising Southern-style soul food. You'll always find Ruth here, cooking catfish steamed and piled fist-high, yams sweet as Sade (the singer, not the sadomasochist), cornbread greasy as Pam Houchen's palms, and black-eyed peas that are soft and plump and just the proper earthen hue. 1236 Civic Center Dr. W., Santa Ana, (714) 953-9454. $SEAL BEACHYUCATÁN GRILL
If the baffling neon color scheme doesn't dissuade you from entering, you'll be rewarded with a stunning offering of Caribbean specialties. Order their steak Palomilla, a husky chunk of marinated steak topped with a garlicky garnish called mojo. 550 Pacific Coast Hwy., Ste. 111, Seal Beach, (562) 430-4422. $$SUNSET BEACHHARBOR HOUSE CAFÉ
This 24-hour diner is a local institution that serves consistently good food. As it's incredibly popular with the late-night crowd, be prepared to wait for a table. 16341 Pacific Coast Hwy., Sunset Beach, (562) 592-5404. $STANTONMAD GREEK
Reasons to go to the Mad Greek: this place began the zucchini stick "craze"; the Greek salad comes in Herculean portions; uncouth vegetarians have proclaimed the falafel sandwich as "fuckin' radness"; and anything on the menu above $6 you won't be able to finish yourself. 12120 Beach Blvd., Stanton, (714) 898-5181. $TUSTININDIA SWEETS AND SPICES
It's a sweet shop and a produce vendor, a place to rent videos, buy Urdu-edition newspapers, and get a home-style meal in a pop-culture mini-bazaar that caters to your taste for Indian soul food. 14441 Newport Ave., Tustin, (714) 731-2910. $

KAPPO SUZUMARU
Small though it is, Kappo Suzumaru is really two restaurants—a fast-paced sushi bar with comforting (California) and confounding (fermented soy bean?) rolls, and a leisurely main dining room separated by paper lanterns and banners stitched with slogans in katakana and kanji script. At some point, get the ochazuke: rice plum soup that's hearty but viciously tart—something that will comfort and enthrall you the rest of the day. 17292 Mcfadden Ave., Ste. B, Tustin, (714) 665-1300. $$

VILLA PARK

CHINA PANDA
With close to 200 menu items, I'd lean toward the three-ingredient taste, an ESL-named chicken, beef and shrimp combo in a broccoli brown sauce. Or the honey shrimp with walnuts; the salty, sweet shrimp go perfectly with a cold Tsing Tao beer. 17853 Santiago Blvd., Ste. 102, Villa Park, (714) 998-4592. $

WESTMINSTER

COFFEE FACTORY
To get the full range of Vietnam's jolting coffees, pull up a table at the French-themed Coffee Factory on the edge of Little Saigon. Sip slowly on the ca phé sua nong, which is as black as Larry Agran's heart (and just as shudder-inducing) or some ice-cold ca phé den da, complete with black tapioca pearls. 15582 Brookhurst St., Westminster, (714) 418-0757. $

GALA BAKERY
When was the last time you had a decent baguette when you met that special someone in Paris and professed your undying love? What happened? Did you lose touch? Did they cheat on you with dirty Spaniards or slutty Canadians? Go to Gala Bakery, order a few fresh loaves of baguettes and some iced café au lait, and try to remember a time when love was not so cruel. 14570 Brookhurst St., Westminster, (714) 775-7327. $

PAGOLAC
Pagolac will show you another side of beef—seven, to be exact. "Bo 7 Mon," the restaurant sign's subtitle, is Vietnamese for seven courses of beef, the restaurant's specialty. Ungodly slabs of sirloin are transformed into wisps of flavor-packed beef. 14580 Brookhurst St., Westminster, (714) 531-4740. $$

THANH'S
It's as if you're in the other Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City), sans the oppressive humidity. The menu—108 items ranging from bò nuong (barbecue beef) to hu tieu (noodle soup) to com (rice)—is a gastronomic delight. 9872 Bolsa Ave., Westminster, (714) 531-3888. $

YORBA LINDA

FITNESS PIZZA & GRILL
Their oval-shaped, thin-crust pizzas have deceptively healthy names like Triathlete, Iron Man and Gymnast (it is pizza after all, but they claim they're all very low in fat). Either way, they taste good. 18246 Imperial Hwy., Yorba Linda, (714) 993-5421; www.fitnessgrill.com. $

MULTIPLE LOCATIONS

BIRRIERIA Y PUPUSERIA JALISCO
Whether you order Mexican or Salvadoran food at Birriería y Pupusería Jalisco, make sure to mix and match condiments, if only in the name of Latino solidarity. Add curtido (the Salvadoran slaw that accompanies pupusas) to Birriería's bottle-sized burritos—enjoy the contrast between the garlicky, pickled curtido and the unspiced beans-rice-and-meat simplicity of the burrito. Spread the chilled, citrus-tinged house salsa on the pupusas to tweak the hearty appetizer. 404 N. Grand Ave., Ste. A, Santa Ana, (714) 836-4409; 17292 W. McFadden, Ste. D, Tustin, (714) 573-1586; 6999 E. Cerritos Ave., Stanton, (714) 826-3382; 2525 N. Grand Ave., Ste. A, Santa Ana, (714) 288-8931; 1212 S. Bristol Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 662-7400. $

CLARO'S ITALIAN MARKET
Claro's is a fourth-generation family business with a passion for food as big as the 600-pound loaves of provolone they are known to display during winter. Besides a huge selection of imported groceries, Claro's houses a stellar deli and bakery. 1095 E. Main St., Tustin, (714) 832-3081; 101 W. Whittier Blvd., La Habra, (562) 690-2844. $

THE GYPSY DEN
Hipster Orange County's favorite place to ogle progressive waitresses. The menu is still filled with an eclectic collection of healthy post-hippie sandwiches, and the décor is almost identical, from the earthy walls to the funky art. 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 835-8840; 2930 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 549-7012; www.gypsyden.com. $OPAH
The menu is a blend of nouveau-seafood with democratic flair. Fish fanatics must get the Pacific Northwest cioppino, which bursts with chunks of salmon, halibut and ahi. 26851 Aliso Creek Rd., (949) 360-8822; 22332 El Paseo, Rancho Santa Margarita, (949) 766-9988; 13122 Jamboree Rd., Irvine, (714) 508-8055; www.opahrestaurant.com. $$PASTA CONNECTION
If you haven't dined at this Italian-Argentine chain, you're at least familiar with its logo—a picture of a howling toddler with spaghetti dripping from his head, an Orange County advertising icon as beloved as Mickey Mouse or the Spanky's guy. As the name suggests, Pasta Connection likes to prepare pasta—silky fettuccines, blockish raviolis and lasagnas that look like a Bicycle pinochle deck. 1902 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 646-3484; 2145 W. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 541-0053; www.pastaconnection.net. $

PAUL'S PLACE
In a region still dotted with the mom-and-pop burger dives of yore, Paul's Place is our Mel's, a mini-chain with locations in Buena Park, Fullerton and Anaheim that don't look a day older than 50. Burgers are charred, massive and come sans condiments, the better for you to squirt to your delight. And in a nod to the changing times, there is also a salsa bar to douse their quite-big, quite-tasty burritos and gyros. 1040 N. Magnolia Ave., Anaheim, (714) 761-4351; 7012 Orangethorpe Ave., Buena Park, (714) 522-5050; 506 S. Euclid Ave., Fullerton, (714) 870-5995. $

SUN-DRIED TOMATO CAFÉ
Rack of lamb is as ubiquitous to fancy American bistros as falafels are to Middle Eastern bazaars, but the Sundried Tomato Café prepares a version fit for hoity-toity cavemen—meaty bones doused with a tart cranberry sauce, the lamb cooked to pink perfection. Great, zesty namesake cream soup as well. 31781 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 661-1299; 361 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach; (949) 494-3312; www.sundriedtomatocafe.com. $$

SWEET JILL'S
Bakery standards at Sweet Jill's—peanut-butter brownies, cookies, lemon bars and a cornucopia of fruit-flavored muffins—taste like a church fund-raiser held outside the Pearly Gates. The cinnamon rolls are the biggest sellers, as is the great peach coffee cake, a snowdrift of cream smartly balanced by unsweetened peaches in the cake's center. But beware of the German chocolate cake coated with a tan coconut frosting that Jill's could successfully export to the Fatherland; the stuff's denser than uranium. 123 1/2 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 598-3445; 5224 E. Second St., Long Beach, (562) 438-4945. $

Show Pages
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Loading...