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Grub Guide

Tasty morsels from the county's best damn dining guide

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 could be a while before you can start to debate 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, hardboiled 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. ¢

Location Info

Map

Sinbad Ranch

521 S. Brookhurst St.
Anaheim, CA 92804

Category: Restaurant > Grocery

Region: Anaheim

Beach Cities Pizza

34473 St. of the Golden Lantern
Dana Point, CA 92629

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: Dana Point

Kasen

9039 Garfield Ave.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

Category: Restaurant > Sushi

Region: Fountain Valley

Hotbellies

1860 W. Orangethorpe Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92833-4406

Category: Restaurant > Dessert

Region: Fullerton

Hwang Hae Do BBQ

9448 Garden Grove Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92844

Category: Restaurant > Korean

Region: Garden Grove

East Coast Hot Dogs

19092 Beach Blvd.
Huntington Beach, CA 92648

Category: Restaurant > Hot Dogs

Region: Huntington Beach

Jimmy Z Grill

4517 Campus Drive
Irvine, CA 92612

Category: Restaurant > Eclectic

Region: Irvine

Chicken Box

330 E. Whittier Blvd.
La Habra, CA 90631

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: La Habra

Johnie's JR. Burgers

7811 Valley View St.
La Palma, CA 90623

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: La Palma

Kakh and Palace Bakery

24751 Alicia Parkway, Ste. D
Laguna Hills, CA 92653

Category: Restaurant > Bakery

Region: Laguna Hills

Zinc Cafe & Market

350 Ocean Ave.
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Category: Restaurant > Eclectic

Region: Laguna Beach

Empanada Man

20761 Lake Forest Drive
Lake Forest, CA 92630

Category: Restaurant > South American

Region: Lake Forest

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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. 4911 E. Second St., Long Beach, (562) 434-8499. $$

COCO RENO'S
Coco Reno's, adjacent to its tattooed hipster sister bar the Reno Room, serves what can only be described as delight on a platter. Better known as carnitas, they can even be made to order for the carb-challenged. Cancel the rice and beans, smother the succulent pork in cheddar cheese, slop on the sour cream and guac, and cheat just a little with a toasty tortilla. 3400 E. Broadway St., Long Beach, (562) 438-9381. $

LOS ALAMITOS

ISLAND GRILL
Island Grill sells Hawaiian food with a Japanese bent, so that means you can get your sushi and bento box fill along with sumptuous teriyaki bowls. But regardless of main course, your dessert should be the shaved ice: a frosty, chilled monolith flavored with fruit and so delicate you could whittle it down with dental floss. 4390 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos, (562) 431-6496. $

MISSION VIEJO

ROYAL DONUTS NO. 6
Do not be put off by the terrifying nominal collision of fats. The doughnuts are good but it's the sloppy double cheeseburgers that really shame the chains. 24501 Marguerite Pkwy., Ste. 5, Mission Viejo, (949) 837-3909. $

NEWPORT BEACH

BLUE BEET CAFÉ
This restaurant is a steak oasis where the meat is aged for about one week to break down the sinew—that's what makes it tender—while it marinates in head chef Jorge Guttierez's secret marinade before it's charbroiled to delectability! 107 21st Place, Newport Beach, (949) 675-2338. $

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; www.mastrosoceanclub.com. $$$

RED ROCK CHILI
You wouldn't expect a chili station to be a tenant in Fashion Island's hoity indoor Atrium Court. Yet there it is, in big neon letters: Red Rock Chili, a spicy meat-and-bean man's Xanadu where six varieties of the goop are always bubbling in cauldrons. For those of us who prefer our chili molten, the Hot Rock chili, stewed with the infamously hellish habanero peppers and vanilla-by-comparison jalapeños and chipotles, burns the spot. 401 Newport Center Dr., Ste. A104, Newport Beach, (949) 760-0752; www.redrockchili.com. $

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

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

ORANGE

BYBLOS CAFÉ
A drop-kick from the historic traffic circle in the city of Orange, Byblos is one of the county's best places for a leisurely summer lunch. "Fine Mediterranean Cuisine" (here that means a mix of Lebanese and Greek cuisines) is the advertised fare. You are committing a crime if you do not have a cup of the lentil soup. 129 W. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 538-7180. $$

THE FILLING STATION
The menu is hi-fi breakfast and 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 to. 201 N. Glassell St., Orange, (714) 289-9714; www.fillingstationcafe.com. $

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