Grub Guide

Tasty morsels from OC'c best damn dining guide

EL PORTAL DE VERACRUZ
Most people pick their El Portal meal from a buffet that surprises hourly. Sometimes you'll find fried bananas sidling against 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. $

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

Location Info

Map

Dunarea

821 N. Euclid Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92801

Category: Restaurant > European

Region: Anaheim

Siam Chili Paste

1739 W. La Palma Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92801

Category: Restaurant >

Region: Out of Town

Super Corokke

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

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: Costa Mesa

Irie Jamaican Restaurant

9062 Valley View St.
Cypress, CA 90630-5802

Category: Restaurant > Caribbean

Region: Cypress

Au Lac Vegetarian Restaurant

16563 Brookhurst St.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: Fountain Valley

TAAL

2720 Nutwood Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92831

Category: Restaurant > Indian

Region: Fullerton

Table Ten California Grill

124 W. Commonwealth Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92831

Category: Restaurant > California

Region: Fullerton

Light Town House

8902 Garden Grove Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92844

Category: Restaurant > Korean

Region: Garden Grove

The Chicken Co.

9017 Adams Ave.
Huntington Beach, CA 92646

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Huntington Beach

East Winds Asian Cuisine

7114 Edinger Ave.
Huntington Beach, CA 92647

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: Huntington Beach

TACOS EL CHARITO

Florida St.
Huntington Beach, CA 92648

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Huntington Beach

Darband Persian Cuisine

Heritage Square, 14210 Culver Drive
Irvine, CA 92604

Category: Restaurant > Persian

Region: Irvine

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WAFFLE LADY
Waffles with the circumference of chessboards, topped with coconut, rife with pecans or drowned in maple syrup—fine and all. But have you ever chomped on the burger at the Waffle Lady? The certified-Angus-patty burger? The burger with a crescent of avocado, sinewy red onions and just-perfect mild salsa? You haven't? You just like the waffles here? Good for you—but eat the burger someday. 107 Via Pico, San Clemente, (949) 361-9132. $

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO

RENDEZVOUS
This restaurant is beauty manifested in an old Pullman railroad car, with fascinating takes on American cuisine (bison covered with chicory) and a strawberry-rhubarb cobbler topped with sweet corn ice cream that's all that's great with America. 26701-B Verdugo St., San Juan Capistrano, (949) 496-1006; www.rendezvoussjc.com. $$$

SANTA ANA

AMI SUSHI
Ami Sushi is the perfect Japanese restaurant: efficient during lunch, stately enough for a date, staffed with serious chefs who can wow you with off-the-menu stunners (ask for the wrap that looks like a burrito) or a simple crunchy roll. The Sunset Action is a California roll topped with albacore, the fatty fish melding nicely with the light crabmeat. 1804 N. Tustin Ave., Ste. C, Santa Ana, (714) 567-0018. $

 

MARISCOS EL PESCADOR
True to its name, Mariscos El Pescador (The Fisherman's Seafood) specializes in marine treats, everything from shrimp covered in garlic sauce to shrimp ceviche so plentiful that it's stacked on two tostadas. But there is also a small business in cordoniz (Cornish game hen) and guilotas (quail), two small game birds sweeter, smaller and oilier than chicken. Also on the menu are burritos, tacos, enchiladas—your basic Mexican menu, except bigger and cheaper than most dives. 315 W. 17th St., Santa Ana, (714) 664-8815. $$

 

RICAS TORTAS AHOGADAS
Ricas Tortas Ahogadas offers no seating except a shade-free street curb where it parks on Santa Ana's Fifth Street, next to a host of auto shops. But this lunch truck is a barrio culinary school: the guys inside slap out hellacious tortas ahogadas, the Guadalajara specialty involving luscious carnitas, crispy French rolls, cold onions and a pool of salsa: the best burn since Chris Rock ragged on his own kind. On the corner of Fifth and Townsend sts., Santa Ana. No phone number. ¢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 as 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. $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

CREMA CAFÉ
Crema is a good place to take a balmy window seat and nurse a newspaper as the beach people bounce along outside while you enjoy omelets and crepes filling enough for a man but tasty enough for gourmands. 322 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 493-2501. $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 "Fuckin' radness"; and anything on the menu above $6 you won't be able to finish yourself. 12120 Beach Blvd., Stanton, (714) 898-5181; www.themadgreekrestaurant.com. $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

HK FOOD MARKET
Like most ethnic grocery stores, the Korean-centric HK Market functions more like a Costco, a capitalist wonderland where jewelry stands abut gumball machines and towers of bags swelling with rice are visible from the counter where a cute girl sells designer purses. The most enjoyable feature here, however, is the aisle stands where you can sample its products, from fat Korean sushi rolls to an infinite number of kimchis. 14554 Red Hill Ave., Tustin, (714) 731-6801. $

ZOV'S BISTRO AND BAKERY
In his 1992 thriller Hideaway, Dean Koontz's main characters dine at Zov's on calamari and black-bean soup that was "such a perfect sensual experience that the monochromatic bistro seemed ablaze with color." 17440 E. 17th St., Ste. A., Tustin, (714) 838-8855. $$

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