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Grub Guide

A sampling of Orange County's best damn dining guide

J.J. BAKERY
Nearly every Irvine Chinatown visitor eventually waddles into this clean, well-lit bakery/boba shop, seeking a sugar capper to his day: bite-sized red-bean cookies, taro pastries, tart egg pudding and a bizarre bread slice that contains half a mango covered with cream cheese. But the main reason you should haunt J.J. Bakery is for its prepackaged sandwiches, a sort of regal Hot Pockets that, at 90 cents, are the best lunch options since the three-tacos-for-a-buck special at Jack in the Box. 15333 Culver Dr., Ste. 660, Irvine, (949) 653-1566. $

 

TAIKO
Irvinites all agree on one thing and one thing only: the No. 10 combo, a tender, chewy, delectable calamari steak with teriyaki sauce and sashimi. Taiko's calamari is a delicate homage to the squid, one that I have many times failed to re-create. 14775 Jeffrey Rd., Ste. K, Irvine, (949) 559-7190. $$

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E-San Rod-Sap

1719 W. La Palma Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92801

Category: Restaurant > Thai

Region: Anaheim

TAPS Fish House & Brewery

101 E. Imperial Highway
Brea, CA 92821

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Brea

The Golden Truffle

1767 Newport Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Category: Restaurant > Eclectic

Region: Costa Mesa

El Matador Restaurant

1768 Newport Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Costa Mesa

Orchid Restaurant and Lounge

3033 Bristol St., # D
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Costa Mesa

Mike's Bar-B-Que

11513 Knott Ave.
Cypress, CA 90630

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Cypress

Moonlight Pizza & Chicken

9895 Warner Ave.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

Category: Restaurant > Hot Chicken

Region: Fountain Valley

The British Grocer

305 N. Harbor Blvd.
Fullerton, CA 92832

Category: Restaurant > English

Region: Fullerton

Hot Wok Restaurant

1111 S. Lemon St.
Fullerton, CA 92832

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: Fullerton

Mandarin Pavilion

1050 W. Valencia Drive
Fullerton, CA 92833-3305

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: Fullerton

Roadside Burgers

513 N. Harbor Blvd.
Fullerton, CA 92832

Category: Restaurant > Burgers

Region: Fullerton

Boulangerie Pierre & Patisserie

14354 Brookhurst St.
Garden Grove, CA 92843

Category: Restaurant > Bakery

Region: Garden Grove

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LA HABRA

IMPERIAL BURGERS
Imperial Burgers serves many more things besides its Cheddar cheese-heavy pastrami burritos—its burgers, 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

ELLEN'S PINOY GRILLE
Ellen's attracts as many non-Filipinos as pinoys, perhaps because Ellen's offers a menu—a list of all 70 entrées, 10 of them available at any time in the always-steaming turo-turo buffet. The daing na bangus—milkfish stew marinated with garlic and cucumbers, cooked in a searing coconut-and-soy-sauce broth—is fabulous. 7971 Valley View St., La Palma, (714) 522-8866. $

LAGUNA, LAGUNA, LAGUNA!

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. $

ONAMI SUSHI & SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Here, you can partake of as much sushi as you want. You can gobble down transparent globules of ikura (salmon roe) like popcorn or tiny particles of masago (smelt egg) as if they're, well, tiny particles of masago. 24155 Laguna Hills Mall, Ste. 1300, Laguna Hills, (949) 768-0500. $$

PICAYO
This charming boutique French restaurant has a terrific appetizer—a sautéed foie gras served on a bed of spinach with a sherry vinegar sauce. Forget your misgivings about eating goose liver; this is a culinary petit mort. Your server will suggest a glass of sweet sauvignon blanc to accompany the foie gras, and even though this will bring your tab to more than $20 (and you still haven't ordered an entrée), you'll do it gladly. 610 N. Pacific Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-5051. $$$

 

ROYAL THAI
Feel 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. $

ZINC CAFÉ
The lasagna is a great example of why meat or the absence of it is a non-issue at Zinc Café. A mixture of ricotta, ginger, shallots, garlic and spinach is lavished between the noodles, making it rich and filling. Served on a soft bun with all the trimmings, the vegetarian Zinc burger imparts that certain meat-lust satisfaction that few meatless burgers do.350 Ocean Ave., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-6302. $

LAKE FOREST

EMPANADA MAN
Empanada Man prepares its steaming delicacy upon order, so it'll be a while before you can start debating whether to order a fourth or fifth one for the journey home. Chicken and beef empanadas are mini-stews of joy, the meats moist and accompanied by corn kernels in the former, hard-boiled egg slices in the latter. The spinach and potato selections are the edible equivalent of Argentina's gold-medal-winning Olympic soccer squad: rough, earthy, at first unimpressive but ultimately a winner. And the tangy dance the ricotta cheese empanada stomps upon your palate is worthy of a Gardel croon. 20761 Lake Forest Dr., Lake Forest, (949) 855-9257; www.empanadaman.com. ¢

LONG BEACH

LA CRÊPERIE CAFÉ
Someone once said, "Simplicity is the spice of life." Snicker all you want, but he must have been referring to the Bolero crêpe 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. $$

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