Top

dining

Stories

 

Grub Guide

Tasty morsels from the 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

Merhaba Restaurant

2801 W. Ball Road
Anaheim, CA 92804

Category: Restaurant > African

Region: Anaheim

BOUTIQUE SAMOA

1217 S. Western Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92804

Category: Restaurant > Polynesian

Region: Anaheim

Sarkis Pastry

2424 W. Ball Road
Anaheim, CA 92804

Category: Restaurant > Middle Eastern

Region: Anaheim

Thai Laos Market

1721 W. La Palma Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92801

Category: Restaurant > Grocery

Region: Anaheim

Hot Dog On A Stick

2153 Brea Mall Way
Brea, CA 92821

Category: Restaurant > Fast Food

Region: Brea

POFOLKS

7701 Beach Blvd.
Buena Park, CA 90621

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Buena Park

Trabuco Oaks Steak House

20782 Trabuco Oaks Drive
Coto De Caza, CA 92679

Category: Restaurant > Steakhouse

Region: Coto de Caza

Cafe Jardin at Sherman Gardens

2647 E. Coast Highway
Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

Category: Restaurant > French

Region: Corona Del Mar

Hi-Time Wine Cellars

250 Ogle St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Category: Restaurant > Wine Bar

Region: Costa Mesa

Super Corokke

675 Paularino Ave., Ste. C
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: Costa Mesa

Scott's Seafood Grill & Bar

3300 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Costa Mesa

Related Stories

More About

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

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

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

ANAHEIM

CEDAR BAKERY
Cedar Bakery differentiates itself from the other Middle Eastern restaurants in Anaheim's crowded Little Gaza district by specializing in such small meals as sambouseks, cinnamon-dusted ground beef turnovers. Mornings begin with a bowl of kishek, a sort of Lebanese oatmeal of yogurt, bulgur wheat and salt that doesn't do much for the sweet tooth but bulks you up for the day like a one-hour free-weights session. Pair the kishek with a croissant, although these are salty and as svelte as the crescent on Turkey's flag, not the chubby Gallic version Americans will expect. 930 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim, (714) 991-5888. $

 

MERHABA RESTAURANT
You're probably the second non-African to visit Merhaba after me, so the owner will be extra attentive and repeatedly ask if you enjoy her East African recipes. You will. East African cuisine sticks mostly to stews: chewy cubes of tibisy beef; lamb ribs battling with furious peppers for control of your tongue; and the famous Ethiopian doro wat, spicy chicken cooked in butter, hot like the pits of hell. The vegetarians in your party will content themselves with the shiro, an Eritrean chickpea mush similar to hummus. 2801 W. Ball Rd., Ste. 5, Anaheim, (714) 826-8859. $

BOUTIQUE SAMOA
There are many options available at this Polynesian trade store's always sweltering buffet table. Mostly meats—pale, turgid beef sausages with a lean snap; finely sliced povi masima (salted beef) ruddy in color and buttery in flavor; fatty, sweet turkey tails and a couple of styles of ufi (fish) ranging from bitter to silky to sweet. Make sure to take home a couple of palusamis, baked taro leaves stuffed with onions and coconut milk that are little paragons of bite. 1217 S. Western Ave., Anaheim, (714) 220-9675. $

 

SARKIS PASTRY
So much joy erupts from the trays of Sarkis Pastry that it would take many root canals to try all of its Middle Eastern confections. All that needs to be said about the kol-wa-shkor is that it translates from Arabic into "taste and give thanks to heaven." 2424 W. Ball Rd., Anaheim, (714) 995-6663; www.sarkispastry.com. ¢

THAI-LAO MARKET
Every ingredient you need for a Thai life is here, from fish sauce in foot-tall bottles to seasonings for at least eight curries. At the front of the store are Thai pastries and desserts—and videos. Look for the fresh fish, meats and veggies in the back freezer. But bachelors will rejoice at the more than 40 varieties of Thai instant noodles, four for a buck. 1721 W. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, (714) 535-2656. $

BREA

HOT DOG ON A STICK
While these lemonade-churning chicks and guys do serve the dead stuff, they also peddle awesome veggie corn dogs. And to ensure that you are not ingesting a real wienie, the jockey-hatted crew marks the veggie versions with a green dot on the end of each stick. 2153 Brea Mall Way, Brea, (800) 321-8400. ¢

BUENA PARK

POFOLKS
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 kind of place 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. 7701 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, (714) 521-8955. $$

 

CANYON CITIES

TRABUCO OAKS STEAK HOUSE
Cruise this ramshackle roadhouse with a creek purling behind it, where inside you'll find the best dry-aged, corn-fed, hand-trimmed, mesquite-grilled beef in OC. It's all served with fried or baked potatoes, beans, garlic bread and a house salad. 20782 Trabuco Oaks Dr., Trabuco Canyon, (949) 586-0722. $$

CORONA DEL MAR

CAFÉ JARDIN
Located at the tranquil Sherman Library and Gardens, the café's menu is well-thought-out. The mushroom soup is the color of a spa mudpack with an earthy mushroom flavor, and all of the desserts are made on the premises. 2647 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar, (949) 673-0033. $$

COSTA MESA

HI-TIME WINE CELLAR
Not sure if there's a restaurant in OC that sells it, but the best wine since the days of Dionysus is Commandaria St. John, an elixir from Cyprus that's reputed to be the oldest vintage in the world. Hi-Time Wine Cellar also stocks nearly every other hooch on the planet. 250 Ogle St., Costa Mesa, (800) 331-3005; www.hitimewine.com. $$

SUPER COROKKE
Super Corokke offers nine different versions of the corokke, a Japanese take on the resolutely down-home croquette: a shot put-sized cream corokke oozing with a puree of corn, squid and fish that tastes like marine-tinged mashed potatoes; or the evocatively named Popeye, filled with spinach strands and bacon bits, simultaneously bitter and crispy. Better is the curry corokke, a mash-up that fuses the light, almost imperceptible burn of Japanese curry with some good-ol'-boy crunchiness. 675 Paularino Ave., Ste. C, Costa Mesa, (714) 444-3418. $

 

SCOTT'S SEAFOOD
The dictionary describes scallops as the puffy, powerful adductor muscles of free-swimming mollusks. Scott's Seafood describes the scallop sauté as flown in fresh from Maine and served over caramelized leeks with seared tomatoes, herb corn polenta and Chardonnay sauce. 3300 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 979-2400.$$$

TAQUERÍA EL GRANJENAL
Named after a Michoacán rancho that has sent thousands of its residents to Orange County, the colorful restaurant makes the best tacos in the county. They deviate from taco protocol by using full-sized corn tortillas and pile on chunks of your choice of grilled meat. The salsa is extraordinary, a dark-red lava extract whose burn factor is unknown outside Paricutín. 899 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 645-4964. $

ZIPANGU
There are marvels here: the kabocha dumpling is baby lobster and pureed Japanese pumpkin in a balsamic glaze and garnished with some sort of flash-fried sage or mint. The New York steak, served as sushi-sized pieces in a tangy teriyaki sauce, is buttery and tender and perfectly done. And enough sushi is here to warrant a Greenpeace visit. 2930 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 545-2800; www.zipanguoc.com. $$

CYPRESS

CAFÉ HIRO
Café Hiro is a three-year-old Cypress eatery that has everything going for it except the design scheme, a setup that would only happen elsewhere if Goodwill decorated Denny's. But Hiro's exquisite entrées—a fantastic fusion of Japanese, Italian, French and American—ensures a steady stream of suitors; ridiculously cheap prices guarantee many rendezvous. And the ahi poke appetizer special—the buttery fish seared, warm and salty on the outside and chilled on the inside, wonderfully contrasting the accompanying field greens' snappiness—launches a thousand romances. 10509 Valley View St., Cypress, (714) 527-6090. $$

DANA POINT

BEACH CITIES PIZZA
There's sweet spaghetti, wonderful breadsticks and a terrifying garlic sauce with thin, crispy strands of garlic that will actually numb your lips. But order yourself one of the gourmet pizzas—try the Newporter, a sweet mix of meaty prawns, juicy sun-dried tomatoes and a tangy pesto sauce glued onto a thin crust with a milky cheese. 34473 Golden Lantern, Dana Point, (949) 496-0606. $$

FOUNTAIN VALLEY

PUNJAB CUISINE OF INDIA
When tandoori-style cooking is done right, it's among the most delicious you can find, and you'll find no greater example of it in Orange County than at Punjab. It is solid, delicious and affordable. You'll get flavor flashbacks thinking about the lamb boti kebab masala. 18687 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, (714) 963-6777. $$

FULLERTON

RUBEN'S BAKERY
There are about a dozen coolers of pan dulce at Ruben's, each containing multiple trays holding a specific pan dulce genus, each genus boasting mucho diversity, and so forth. Stock up on empanadas, turnovers engorged with fillings and adorned with unique crusts. The camote empanada houses its sweet yam innards within a firm, buttery crust; the same crust also gives refuge to fillings of the lemon and cream variety. 438 S. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 992-0414. ¢

 

THAI RAMA
Making tempura is a delicate process, but when it's cooked right, it's better than Jesus. This quaint little restaurant offers a vegetable tempura—lacy, golden, spot-on perfect with fresh vegetables, cooked to a slight snap and coated in a batter so light it floats—that walks on water. 2500 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton, (714) 526-0777. $$

ZIING'S BISTRO BAR & RESTAURANT
Ziing's owners consulted a feng shui master during the design, and the results seem to vindicate their expenditure. This applies particularly to the miso-seared ahi, which is sliced and arrayed on a black plate with a red spoon of Shanghai sauce, mixed greens, a cube of wasabi and shiitake-ginger "chopsticks" that look like Vienna roll cookies. The ahi itself is exquisite. 209 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 526-5777. $$

GARDEN GROVE

BÁNH MÌ CHE CALI
If you want to know what a thousand years of Chinese domination and a half-century of French colonization with dashes of Polynesian influence taste like, go for the bánh mì dac biet. Stuffed with pâté, pickled carrots and Chinese-style ham, this sandwich is the house specialty. 13838 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove, (714) 534-6987.¢

 

CAPITAL SEAFOOD
The clam-and-ginger soup at Capital Seafood is amazing. Small, chewy clams in their shells combined with a delicious, spicy, clear ginger broth make one of the most interesting and flavorful seafood soups out there. 8851 Westminster Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 892-4182; www.capitalseafoodrestaurant.com. $$

 

HANG A RI NOODLE HOUSE
The cult of gook soo at Hang A Ri Noodle House, a wood-paneled Korean restaurant in Garden Grove's Little Seoul district, might initially flummox your American palate—these buckwheat noodles are thin, slimy and pungent. But then you chopstick the noodles into your mouth—sluiced with chile, paired with fiery kimchi, supported by a fine complementary anchovy soup—and the frustrations of the evening vanish. 9916 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 537-0100. $

LA VERANDA
Most of the Vietnamese dishes listed on La Veranda's colossal 14-page menu are unsullied by French influences—here, the colonization runs backward. Traditional French delicacies such as escargot, frog legs and coq au vin are accompanied by such Vietnamese side dishes as pickled daikon, nuoc mam (sweet fish sauce) and rice paper. The ensuing DIY combos result in plates that should earn La Veranda at least a four-star rating from the Michelin guide. 10131 Westminster Ave., Ste. 114, Garden Grove, (714) 539-3368. $

HUNTINGTON BEACH

LOTUS CHINESE EATERY
Lotus is the county's second Chinese Muslim restaurant and it does a fine job of representing that cuisine's emphasis on meat, magazine-thick noodles and sesame breads large enough to double as Frisbees. Like almost every northern Chinese restaurant, Lotus trots out so-so egg rolls and egg-flower soup as appetizers, so it's better to start with chilled ox tripe. 16883 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 848-4940. $$

 

DUKE'S
Everyone from surfers in damp trunks to families celebrating special occasions feels welcome at this restaurant inspired by the Islands and the Pacific Rim. 317 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, (714) 374-6446. $$

EAST COAST HOT DOGS
No tables inside—just counters and stools. No air conditioning—that's why there are two tables outside. There's a great Italian roast beef sandwich, a multifolded pastrami, fries, onion rings and tater tots. But people line up five deep for the 11 hot dog varieties, ranging from Chicago to chili-cheese to something called the Wow! Dog—a blackened kielbasa, sautéed onions and a schmear of thick, gritty mustard worthy of its exclamatory name. 19092 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 378-0364. ¢

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. $$

IRVINE

CHANTECLAIR
Both coffin dodger and whelp alike enjoy a sterling menu prepared by executive chef Yves Fournier, one in a long line of dazzling Chanteclair chefs that includes Pascal Olhats. Fournier maintains Chanteclair's multiyear tradition of Zagat listings with such items as his filet mignon, a dish that drips with enough blood to qualify as a Red Cross donation. Also lustrous is the steak Diane, a perfect compromise for no-frills meat fans and nuance-demanding foodies. 18912 MacArthur Blvd., Irvine, (949) 752-8001. $$$

DIHO BAKERY
The Japanese are the creators of nikuman, the world's cutest sandwich, which consists of a candied, spongy flour wrapped around gingered meats and vegetables. At Diho Bakery, nikuman-type sandwiches are elevated to an art form on par with calligraphy. The taro, in particular, is a pleasant surprise—not your tiki party's dull, watery poi paste, but instead a jam waiting to be copyrighted by See's. 14130 Culver Dr., Ste. J, Irvine, (949) 857-6415. $

SAM WOO SEAFOOD & BARBECUE EXPRESS
As everyone knows, gourmet cuisine has to be presented with class. Our oyster dish came designed like a fish, with cucumbers sliced into the shape of a fish's tail, while the oysters, drenched in black bean sauce, formed the meaty body of the fish. Now that's talent! 15333 Culver St., Ste. 720, Irvine, (949) 262-0888. $$

WHEEL OF LIFE
Whether it's your first visit to Irvine's Wheel of Life Restaurant or your 30th, the welcome remains the same: a smile, a pat on the back and a vigorous handshake offered by owners Victor and Kim Lim. Even if the only interaction between owner and customer here were the bill, the Wheel's fresh, flavorful, flesh-free food (prepared mostly via a Thai cooking prism) would continue to attract the most demanding gourmand. 14370 Culver Dr., Irvine, (949) 551-8222. $$

LA HABRA

CHICKEN BOX
A tiny room that always seems packed, Chicken Box fries up all the bird parts you'd expect with just enough grease to keep things tasty, as well as ribs, batter-fried fish and reasonably healthy stuff like salads. And you gotta love a place that sells boysenberry punch—a supertart, purple elixir probably mixed nowadays only at one other concern, Knott's Berry Farm, and then probably only as a tourist curio. 330 E. Whittier Blvd., La Habra, (714) 525-1345. $

LA PALMA

PAESANO'S NEW YORK PIZZA
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. 5440 Orangethorpe Ave., La Palma, (714) 521-4748.

LAGUNA, LAGUNA, LAGUNA!

ALISO BEACH SNACK BAR
This South Laguna landmark anchored Aliso Pier until the pier's 1999 demolition but remains unchanged since its 1972 opening, save for the prices. Yet a wooden menu dating back to the start shows that even those aren't dramatically different. The wait is always long, but don't hold it against owner Barbara Perry—she's usually the only person working. She no longer makes the funnel cake that seared itself into many lingual memories many years ago, unfortunately, so salve your disappointment with a sip of a powerful banana shake and a surprisingly tasteful chicken gyro. 31131 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 499-6811. ¢

THE COTTAGE
What's the secret of this Laguna Beach restaurant's decades of success? Good food and lots of it; comfy chairs and friendly service; charming framed photographs of Laguna's original greeter; and a full, sated belly every time you leave. 308 N. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-3023. $

 

DIZZ'S AS IS
The dishes here are by far some of the best food you'll ever eat in OC. Rack of lamb perfumed with rosemary melts on the tongue. Filet mignon is plump and full of seared-in flavor. 2794 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-5250. $$

THE JOLLY ROGER
This plain-folks restaurant's best dish is as plain as you can get: fish and chips. Fit to satisfy Ishmael's cravings, the fish is soaked in a thick batter that seals in the flavor just like the fish and chips from around London. 400 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-3137. $

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. 1301, Laguna Hills, (949) 768-0500.$$

 

PALACE BAKERY
Palace Bakery is the county's second shop to specialize in Persian desserts, a sweet-tooth tradition similar to Arabic pastries in their sumptuousness but exhibiting bolder flavors. You shouldn't let the yen for the new prevent you from ordering the Middle Eastern pastries. Palace's baklava is sweeter than what they hawk in Anaheim's Little Arabia—splashed with more rosewater and honey, the phyllo dough tougher and rolled around a dense almond filling so it resembles a miniature cigar. And every boxed purchase comes with a cool golden sticker! 24751 Alicia Pkwy., Ste. D, Laguna Hills, (949) 768-6252. ¢

TACO LOCO
At Taco Loco, you can feast for cheap without the insult of fast-food taste. Whether it's the delicious à la carte Mexican food or the cheap prices, the place is constantly swarming with the beautiful surfing crowd. 640 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-1635. $

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; www.zinccafe.com. $

LAKE FOREST

EMPANADA MAN
Empanada Man prepares its steaming specialties 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 crepe at La Crêperie Café. This sorta-Provençal café offers perfection drenched in butter and sugar with a twist of lemon. C'est bon! 4911 E. Second St., Long Beach, (562) 434-8499; www.lacreperiecafe.net. $$

 

GREEN FIELD CHURRASCARIA
The phrase "food coma" was invented for the visceral carnality that clogs your pores at Green Field Churrascaria, which specializes in the terrifying meat onslaught known as churrascaria, or Brazilian barbecue. Churrascaria is pricey, but here's what you get: all-you-can eat Brazilian sausage, tightly packed and burnt to nirvana, like a nonsweet Chinese sausage; a chicken thigh, good but perhaps too dry; and beef loin, best ever, rare but hot clear through. And this is only the first offering—the folks at Green Field will not be satisfied until meat starts poking out of your ears. 5305 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Long Beach, (562) 597-0906. $$

 

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) 435-3511. $$$

LOS ALAMITOS

KATELLA DELI
The place has a voluminous menu that spans matzo to mud pie, spinach salad to skyscraper sandwiches, knish to kippers—not to mention a full bakery that houses fresh rolls and bagels. Their Denver omelet is terrific. 4470 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos, (562) 594-8611.¢

MISSION VIEJO

SANTORA'S PIZZA SUBS & WINGS
Matthew 20:16 taught us that the last shall be first, and that's the best way to describe Santora's Pizza, Subs & Wings, a dank tavern just down the street from the sterile opulence of the Shops at Mission Viejo. Santora's pizza is passable; the subs nothing a Togo's drone can't slap together in three minutes. But Santora's Buffalo wings are the gourmand Gospel manifest: the Good Word transubstantiated into fleshy appendages ready to burn through your alimentary canal like the fires of Gehenna. 28251 Marguerite Pkwy., Mission Viejo, (949) 364-3282. $

NEWPORT BEACH

HOAG HOSPITAL CAFETERIA
There are bagels and muffins and, a friend swears, "killer" breakfast burritos in the morning at Newport Beach's ritzy Hoag cafeteria. In the refrigerated case, you can get grilled chicken caesar salads or roast beef horseradish panini. Want sushi? They've got vegetarian rolls for $3.75 and spicy tuna cut rolls for $4.15. Newport Beach class at cafeteria prices. 1Hoag Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 645-8600. $

MASTRO'S OCEAN CLUB FISH HOUSE
Mastro's prides itself on an à la carte menu with gargantuan portions—think Claim Jumper, but three times the style and cost. So it's not a problem that an appetizer like vanilla-battered shrimp includes just three of the crustaceans: the shrimp are among the largest you'll ever see, about the size of a cop's blackjack. And any qualms over paying almost $30 for a fish fillet will disappear under the dense, buttery consistency of one. 8112 E. Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, (949) 376-6990. $$$

SOL GRILL
New Orleans feel, Mediterranean taste: the kung fu shrimp and blackened ahi are excellent, but the jambalaya over fettuccine will leave your innards glowing. 110 McFadden Place, Newport Beach, (949) 723-4105. $$

SEASIDE BAKERY
It's 2 in the morning, and you're stumbling out of some bar at the Newport Pier. Nothing soaks up the booze like a nice warm croissant stuffed with ham and Cheddar cheese. A few bites of this, and you can kiss your fears of alcohol poisoning goodbye. 2108 W. Oceanfront, Newport Beach, (949) 675-2533. ¢

YI DYNASTY KOREAN BBQ
With a barbecue promising such exotica as honey-corn tripe, black pork bellies, barbecued bone marrow, wild boar and stingray, Yi Dynasty is sure to placate even the most demanding gourmand. Korean cooking protocol—panchan, DIY meat cooking, feuding tastes in your mouth—is in effect at all times. 1701 Corinthian Way, Newport Beach, (949) 797-9292; www.yi-dynasty.com. $$$

ORANGE

EGG ROLLS, ETC.
Naming a restaurant Egg Rolls, Etc., implies that the eatery specializes in various versions of Asia's preferred fried snack. This recently opened Orange establishment, however, creates but one kind—lumpia, the Filipino type that's bulky enough to wield for bruising purposes. The "Etc." portion of Egg Rolls' name is more accurate, referring to the turo-turo ("point-point") cafeteria tradition of Filipino cuisine to which the restaurant adheres. 1710 W. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 937-0800. ¢

 

THE FILLING STATION
The menu is hi-fi breakfast/lunch food. The grilled-chicken caesar salad is distinctly clean and refreshing, letting you taste each ingredient in the mix, and the Old Towne scramble proves this is a very good place to wake up. 201 N. Glassell St., Orange, (714) 289-9714; www.fillingstationcafe.com. $

PLACENTIA

REMBRANDT'S BEAUTIFUL CUISINE
Rembrandt's may claim to do "beautiful food," but that translates to hearty, plain fare done to nostalgic perfection: a Brown Derby for our county minus the starlets and that whole wrecking-ball thing. This is truly the little steakhouse that time forgot. It looks like what the Velvet Turtle would be if they'd redone it Spanish-style in the '80s: stark, white walls, huge paintings, chandeliers and filet mignon to the hilt. 909 E. Yorba Linda Blvd., Placentia, (714) 528-6222; www.rembrandtsrestaurant.com. $$$

SAN CLEMENTE

SURFIN' CHICKEN
José "El Cuatro" Martínez's method of preparing chicken is as miraculous as Mass. He soaks his hens in lemon butter before slapping them onto the open-fire grill. He then shakes tremendous amounts of chile powder onto the meat and grills them until crisp, the lemon and powder fusing onto the chicken and seeping through the tender meat to the bone. The result is mysterious: soft, slightly smoky and exuding a sour/spicy crackle that's nearly radioactive. 71 Via Pico Plaza, San Clemente, (949) 498-6603. $

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO

RAMOS HOUSE CAFÉ
After Burrell's and a couple of Santa Ana Mexican taquerías, Ramos House is probably the only restaurant left in Orange County that operates in a living, noisy neighborhood. Its Southern fried breakfasts—fried green tomatoes topped with goat cheese is the most imaginative spin—are a Capistrano Valley institution, the bitter Bloody Marys, Orange County's best. But it's the comforting cinnamon beignets that make the long Saturday-morning drive and the one-hour wait all worth it. 31752 Los Rios St., San Juan Capistrano, (949) 443-1342; www.ramoshouse.com. $

SANTA ANA

NANCY PUEBLA RESTAURANT
Lurking within this seemingly mundane Mexican restaurant are delicious, complex rarities from the central state of Puebla, platters more familiar to an ethnography than an Orange County menu—dense mole poblano, pale goat menudo and guilotas, a chewy type of quail so region-specific that it's not even listed in most Spanish dictionaries. 1221 E. First St., Ste. C, Santa Ana, (714) 834-9004. $

 

ROYAL KHYBER
The self-proclaimed "restaurant of the year" unabashedly serves upscale Indian cuisine in a setting more suited for coats and ties than T-shirts and jeans. The spicy chicken Madras features big chicken chunks and sliced tomatoes buried in a potent curry highlighted by freshly ground black pepper. It torches. 1621 Sunflower Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 436-1010; www.royalkhyber.com. $$

TOMMY PASTRAMI
Even in the Brobdingnagian world of Reubens, Tommy's version eclipses all local competitors—Everest to everyone else's Santiago Peak. Grab Tommy's jumbo Reuben with your hands, and half of the meat and sauerkraut immediately plops onto your plate. More meat and sauerkraut falls forth when you finally take a chomp. This process repeats itself with each bite—and still the sandwich, like Jesus blessing fish and loaves, offers even more meat. More sauerkraut. More bread. By the time you finish, there's enough on the plate to feed a class of ravenous kindergartners. 3751 S. Harbor Blvd., Ste. B, Santa Ana, (714) 540-2700; www.tommypastraminydeli.com. $$

TIKAL TIENDA Y RESTAURANTE
All the mainstays of the Guatemalan diet are available at the county's only Guatemalan produce store—pork, chicken or chipilín (mint) tamales wrapped in banana leaves, the equivalent of corn Jell-O; and chile rellenos stuffed with carrots, onions, potatoes and ground beef. Tikal truly excels in the soup business, though. Foremost among the broths is hilacha, a brick-red boiling stew sharp with tomato, shredded beef strands and about three different squashes bobbing in slow circles. 1002 E. 17th St., Santa Ana, (714) 973-8547.¢

WHOLE PITA GREEK ISLAND GRILLE
The Whole Pita's menu is simple—variations on gyros and salads, universal Mediterranean appetizers such as hummus and olives. But from this predictability emerges some of the finest Greek cuisine since the dearly departed Café Plaka. Pitas are Doric-big; the casseroles are hearty, meaty and teeming with layers of flavor. Remember to squirt in some fotia, the restaurant's hellish emerald-green hot sauce, but drink lots of water afterward—fire! 3940 S. Bristol St., Ste. 113, Santa Ana, (714) 708-3000. $

SEAL BEACH

WALT'S WHARF
One of the best—and most popular—seafood restaurants in the county, Walt's Wharf is perhaps most famous for things having nothing to do with fish. Those would be the oak-grilled artichokes and the epic wait for a table that could make one very cranky if the food weren't so good and the bar weren't fully stocked. 201 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 598-4433. $$

STANTON

MAD 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. $

SUNSET BEACH

HARBOR 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. $

TUSTIN

PINA'S BISTRO
From her earthy navy-bean soup to voluptuous Naples-style pizza with homemade fennel sausage, Pina Ercolamento, a native of Italy, puts Neapolitan pride into all of the creations in her tiny Tustin trattoria. 640 W. First St., Tustin, (714) 730-5442. $$

PHILLY'S FAMOUS CHEESE STEAK
Though smaller than the monsters hawked at John's Philly Grille in Anaheim or Costa Mesa's Frank's Philadelphia, Philly's Famous's cheesesteak surpasses the two in the most crucial cheesesteak factor: the cheese. It overwhelms your senses like a good cheese should, like the best quesadillas: sharp, comforting, gooey. The cheesy cheese choice marries Cheez Whiz, American white and provolone into a tasty, wonderful triad, each fromage strong and distinct. And despite the dairy onslaught, the beef's savor doesn't wilt, remaining juicy like the finest shawermas. 648 E. First St., Tustin, (714) 505-6067. $

VILLA PARK

ROCKWELL'S CAFE AND BAKERY
This neighborhood café and bakery is an ode to Norman with Rockwellian gilt-edged plates and prints covering the bathroom walls. Besides the interior-design salute, Rockwell's serves four great versions of eggs Benedict, all with hollandaise sauce made from scratch. 17853 Santiago Blvd., Villa Park, (714) 921-0622. $

WESTMINSTER

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. $$

 

SARA'S MERCADO
For the past four years, Sara's Mercado, a storefront in a section of Westminster Boulevard not occupied by Little Saigon, has imported Colombian produce directly from the homeland. Its three badly lit aisles tower above shoppers' heads with Colombian favorites: smoked oysters, slabs of arequipe (a decadent, silky milk candy), fruity cooking sauces and three different types of salty-sweet fried plantain chips for snacking. Don't forget to gulp down all the sodas! 7134 Westminster Blvd., Westminster, (714) 903-0900. $

 

SAIGON BISTRO
The place has an interior seemingly boxed up and mailed from fin-de-siècle Paris. The distinctly cosmopolitan appearance of the restaurant carries over into the song selections (we hear English-, Spanish- and Vietnamese-language tunes) and menu (escargot, flan and Vietnamese offerings). 15470 Magnolia St., Westminster, (714) 895-2120. $$

TOP BAGUETTE
Top Baguette trumps its independent competitors primarily because of its care with ingredients. Their bánh mì heo nuong, ruddy and strongly flavored with hoisin sauce, tastes almost like a moist pork jerky. A meatball bánh mì is tender and cooked in a savory gravy subtly flavored with nuoc mam, the fish sauce Vietnamese pour onto their food like other Asians use soy sauce. For breakfast, Top Baguette even offers a bánh mì of two eggs over easy with pickled carrots, daikon, jalapeño and sprigs of cilantro. 9062 Bolsa Ave., Westminster, (714) 379-7726. ¢

YORBA LINDA

THE WILD ARTICHOKE
While the restaurant's motto, "Food prepared from the heart, with the soul in mind," is cumbersome (it's like a New Age math problem), all of chef/owner James D'Aquila's culinary creations are fabulous, simply fabulous. Stick to the artichokes—either the simple Wild Artichoke salad tossed with various vegetables and sprinkled with bitter balsamic vinaigrette, or the Artichoke Napoleon, a puff pastry in which sautéed artichokes assume the luxuriousness of truffles. 4973-A Yorba Ranch Rd., Yorba Linda, (714) 777-9646; www.thewildartichoke.com. $$$

MULTIPLE LOCATIONS

ATHENS WEST
Many Greek restaurants offer French fries on their menus, but few treat them with the care you find at both Athens West locations. They fry long, skinny potato strips until golden and firm, and then dust them heroically with—is it parsley I taste? Or oregano? The feta cheese on top is melted slightly, just enough to lend creaminess without producing a gooey disaster. Put some of Athens West's kebabs on top, and you have impromptu Greek chili billies. 7101 Yorktown Ave., Ste. 106, Huntington Beach, (714) 536-6112; 303 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 431-6500. $

BÁNH CUÔN HÔNG MAI
This chain of two near-closets in Garden Grove and Santa Ana offers most of its dishes—fragrant com tam, slippery bún and satisfying drinks—in 27 different fashions. But Hông Mai's ultimate specialty isn't numerology, but rather the studious preparation of the rice roll delicacy known as bánh cuôn: silky, light, furtively filling, a good sponge for the accompanying fish sauce. The rice paper itself is a bit bland, but that neutral flavor somehow amplifies a bánh cuôn's innards tenfold. 10912 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 534-4526; 5425 W. First St., Santa Ana, (714) 554-9190. ¢

 

THE GREAT DANE BAKING COMPANY
Owned by Dane Jodi Pedersen, the bakery specializes in Scandinavian pastries, bread and cakes. Besides items coated with marzipan, try their superb soft cardamom rolls. 6855 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 842-1130; 11196 Los Alamitos Blvd, Los Alamitos, (562) 493-6899. $

 

LEE'S SANDWICHES
Based out of San Jose, the shop specializes in bánh mì, the Vietnamese sandwich that is an appetizing post-colonial amalgamation. Though the always-endless lines seem imposing, Lee's service is so outstanding that you'll quickly be savoring one of the most outlandish deals ($1.50 for a huge, nine-inch, delicious sandwich) in the world. 9261 Bolsa Ave., Westminster, (714) 901-5788; 13991 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove, (714) 636-2288; 1028 S. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 525-2989; 4127 Campus Dr., Irvine, 949-509-9299; www.leessandwiches.com. friggin' ¢

WINGNUTS
The brain child of Gregg Diganci of Reuben's and Charley Brown's steakhouse fame, Wingnuts is the first West Coast restaurant to specialize in chicken wings. With the sampler, one normally gets five wings each in five different flavors: teriyaki, original Buffalo style, honey mustard, kung pao, and sweet and sour barbecue. But you can pick and choose from over 30 varieties. 3030 Harbor Blvd., Ste. H-3, Costa Mesa, (714) 434-7700; 26711 Aliso Creek Rd., Aliso Viejo, (949) 305-7700; www.wingnuts.biz. $$

THE YARD HOUSE
An uberbrewpub/restaurant boasting 180 taps of brew with some good European pilsners and Anchor Steam. This is good news given the long lines. If you can wait the wait, drink the beer and eat the steak. You'll be happy. Triangle Square, 1875 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0090; 71 Fortune Dr., Irvine, (949) 753-9373; 401 Shoreline Village Dr., Long Beach, (562) 628-0455; www.yardhouse.com. $$

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