Grub Guide

Tasty morsels from the county's best damn dining guide

COSTA AZUL
Everything at Costa Azul—great empanadas, spicy enchiladas, delicious chocolate dipped alfajor shortbread cookies—is secondary to its terrifying, glistening asado: five pieces of cow for a ridiculous $11.50. No extra spices, sauces or sides adorn any of these cuts in Costa Azul's asado: just pure, monumental beef. 121 N. Lemon St., Orange, (714) 628-0633. $

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 citrus-y 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

Location Info

Map

Cafe Casse Croute

656 S. Brookhurst St.
Anaheim, CA 92804

Category: Restaurant > French

Region: Anaheim

Native Foods

2937 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Category: Restaurant > Eclectic

Region: Costa Mesa

Dalton's Restaurant

9575 Valley View St.
Cypress, CA 90630

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Cypress

Harbor House Cafe

34157 Pacific Coast Highway
Dana Point, CA 92629

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Dana Point

Thai Rama

2500 E. Chapman Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92831

Category: Restaurant > Thai

Region: Fullerton

Anna's Mondu

9972 Garden Grove Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92843

Category: Restaurant > Korean

Region: Garden Grove

Delicias de Mexico

13466 Harbor Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92843

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Garden Grove

Assal Pastry

14130 Culver Drive
Irvine, CA 92604

Category: Restaurant > Bakery

Region: Irvine

Bistango

19100 Von Karman Ave.
Irvine, CA 92612

Category: Art Galleries

Region: Irvine

The Melting Pot Restaurant

2646 Dupont Drive
Irvine, CA 92612

Category: Restaurant > French

Region: Irvine

Imperial Burgers

241 E. Imperial Highway
La Habra, CA 90631

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: La Habra

Casa Olamendi's

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

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Laguna Beach

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SOPHIA'S
The food is simple and perfect for long lunches in the pretty dining room or the small garden patio. I love their chicken and lemon soup. They serve a whole range of roasted meats, including lamb and fresh seafood. Their pistachio baklava tends to be very rich. 1390 N. Kraemer Blvd., Placentia, (714) 528-2021. $

SAN CLEMENTE

SONNY'S PIZZA AND PASTA
Home of a monster marinara sauce that is nearly orgasmic. The sauce is ladled on to your choice of spaghetti, mostaccioli or rigatoni with Italian sausage or meatballs the size of your fist on a plate big enough to feed three. 429 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente, (949) 498-2540; www.sonnys.com. $

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO

CARNICERÍA EL CAMPEÓN
All things being equal, we find that the less we comprehend of a menu, the higher the odds we're going to get authentic food. "Tamale" at Carnicería El Campeón was arranged on the menu near some other foods that only a Mexican mama could recognize. Unlike the other joints, their tamales are unencumbered by frills. It is a Bauhaus dish: cornhusk, moist masa, chicken. 31921 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 240-3141. ¢

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. $

BENJIES
Benjies is mostly about big, meaty food served quickly. After chucking any hopes of swimsuit modeling, the Francheesy may be for you: grilled knackwurst with bacon and American cheese just oozing off the sides. It's angioplantastic! 1828 N. Tustin Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 541-6230.$

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 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' top is low. 515. S. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 541-0350. $$

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. $

SANTA ANA FARMER'S MARKET
This Wednesday afternoon farmer's market is standard save for its bacon-wrapped hot dogs, the stuff of after-concert Los Angeles curbside vendor legend. Preparation is simple: Father grabs an all-beef hot dog and wraps it with strips of pale bacon as if it were gauze on an injured thigh. Son slaps the coiled wiener on the grill, where the bacon begins to fry. Sizzle. The fat of the bacon seeps into the hot dog, which plumps quickly while the bacon burns until it's black and crispy. Every Wednesday on the corner of Third and Birch, Santa Ana; www.grainproject.org.

SEAL BEACH

PHILLIPS' FAMILY RESTAURANT
After a lifetime of frozen supermarket chicken pies these are a revelation. The crust is thick and flavorful and, unlike its frozen brothers, Phillips' isn't stingy with the chicken. Also, Phillips' doesn't bother with vegetables. Who needs 'em? Just about everything chicken is worthy here! 13936 Seal Beach Blvd., Seal Beach, (562) 596-1437. $

STANTON

MITSUYOSHI
Mitsuyoshi, a humble, rock solid Stanton restaurant patronized by the North County Japanese community, makes a particularly alluring version of sukiyaki with a heavy, sweet broth packed with thin slices of beef, green onions, cellophane noodles, mushrooms, tofu cubes and bamboo shoots. And in traditional fashion, there's a bowl of raw egg in which to dip the beef strips. 12033 Beach Blvd., Stanton, (714) 898-2156. $$

SUNSET BEACH

CAPTAIN JACK'S
Opened June 25, 1965, this steak and seafood restaurant supposedly serves 53,000 pounds of Alaskan king crab per year—more than any other restaurant in the U.S. It prides itself on consistent quality and hearty portions. The bar is one of the few that still use the "Super Well," meaning that if you order gin, you get Bombay, and if you order vodka, you get Absolut. 16812 Pacific Coast Hwy., Sunset Beach, (562) 592-2514. $$

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