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Grub Guide

Tasty morsels from the county's best damn dining guide

SPAGHETTI BENDER
A many-roomed space, the Spaghetti Bender is like a home with its dark carpets, tiny candles and flowery wallpaper. Their gnocchi, an Italian potato dumpling, is the industry standard for good. 6204 W. Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, (949) 645-0651; www.spaghettibender.com. $$

TACO ROSA
It's not just the wide swath of Mexico—Mexico City, Oaxaca, even the Yucatan—that makes Taco Rosa one of the few truly successful gourmet Mexican restaurants. Taco Rosa succeeds because its few tweaks are Mexican-based and surprising. Ask for the aguas frescas, and instead of horchata, waiters will recommend a frosted, freshly squeezed cup of cantaloupe or melon—¡delicioso! 2632 San Miguel Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 720-0980. $$

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, Ste. 6, Newport Beach, (949) 797-9292; www.yi-dynasty.com. $$$

Location Info

Map

Siam Chili Paste

1739 W. La Palma Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92801

Category: Restaurant >

Region: Anaheim

Bismillah Halal Tandoori Restaurant

8901 Knott Ave.
Buena Park, CA 90620

Category: Restaurant > Indian

Region: Buena Park

Gen Kai Japanese Restaurant

3344 E. Coast Highway
Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: Corona Del Mar

Pinot Provence

686 Anton Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Category: Restaurant > California

Region: Costa Mesa

Super Corokke

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

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: Costa Mesa

Chanteclair

18912 Macarthur Blvd.
Irvine, CA 92612-1411

Category: Restaurant > Fine Dining

Region: Irvine

230 Forest Avenue Restaurant & Bar

230 Forest Ave.
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Category: Restaurant > Eclectic

Region: Laguna Beach

Anastasia Cafe

460 Ocean Ave.
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Laguna Beach

Seaside Bakery

2108 W. Oceanfront
Newport Beach, CA 92663

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Newport Beach

Poul's Danish-american Bakery

770 N. Tustin St.
Orange, CA 92867

Category: Restaurant > Bakery

Region: Orange

TLAQUEPAQUE

101 W. Santa Fe Ave.
Placentia, CA 92870

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Placentia

Vine

211 N. El Camino Real
San Clemente, CA 92672

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: San Clemente

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ORANGE

EL PORTAL DE VERACRUZ
Most people pick their El Portal meal from a buffet that surprises hourly. Sometimes you'll find fried bananas sidling up to pork ribs slathered in a citrusy green salsa spiked with smoky cactus strips. Or you can go veggie and load up on grilled jalapeños, cheese-sprinkled refried beans and moist rice. But no meal at El Portal is worth eating without at least one masa-based Veracruzan snack: potato-y garnachas, lightly fried picaditas or fluffy chicken tamales. 4530 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 538-1660. $

POUL'S DANISH-AMERICAN BAKERY
Smells of sugar and cinnamon greet you at this bakery that has been a tradition in Orange since 1960. The glass cases are filled with sweet rolls, twists, cookies and Danishes with countless flavors. 770 N. Tustin Ave., Orange, (714) 532-5101. $

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 from the sweetest ingredients on earth or spices harvested from Satan's flower garden. 111 W. Santa Fe, Placentia, (714) 528-8515. $$

SAN CLEMENTE

VINE
Vine is an epicurean stunner, a snug eatery that's been open for about a year now but continues to attract South Countians seeking a joyous repast. It focuses on California wine-country cuisine, meaning alchemies of seasonal flavors and ingredients that are as nuanced and numerous as the vineyards of Napa: pumpkin ravioli appetizers, sea scallops with fava beans and other assorted meal miracles prepared by owner/chef Justin Monson. 211 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente, (949) 361-2079; www.vinesanclemente.com. $$$

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO

THE TEA HOUSE AT LOS RIOS

The tea and scones here are quite delicious and genteel, just like the little story on the tea house's menu of its origins. And we quote, "A special place where guests could enjoy each other's company in a quiet, genteel setting. This would indeed be unique, relevant and healing in today's stress-filled society." Good shepherd's pie too. 31731 Los Rios, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 443-3914; www.theteahouseonlosrios.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. $$

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., Ste. C, Santa Ana, (714) 953-9454. $

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. $

YELLOW BASKET
Eighteen whoppers are flipped at this Santa Ana food-mark, but the best is a triple cheeseburger that could out-Carl's-$6-burger any day—and at only $4.60. 2860 S. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 545-8219; www.yellowbasket.com. $

SEAL BEACH

KOI RESTAURANT

Koi's menu is uncomplicated, authentic and relatively easy on the wallet. For a starter, I adore their famous crunchy rolls made from shrimp tempura, a Japanese root called gobo and smelt egg. I know sea bass is politically incorrect these days, but what can you do? If you're an environmentalist, avoid it. If not, dig in! 600 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Ste. 100, Seal Beach, (562) 431-1186; www.koisushi.com. $$

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