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GARDEN GROVE

AL WAHA B.B.Q. FAMILY RESTAURANT

This is America at its most yummily raucous, as Asian, Latino and white families join Muslims in the clamor, united under the brotherhood of good Middle Eastern grub. The buffet is the most popular choice, but hidden under the daily-specials menu heading are Middle Eastern regional specialties unknown to other county Arabic restaurants that trump Frommer's in giving insight to the Middle East. 9562 Chapman Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 539-0656. $

Location Info

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Angelo's Drive-In Hamburgers

511 S. State College Blvd.
Anaheim, CA 92806

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Anaheim

Ara's Pastry

2227 W. Ball Road
Anaheim, CA 92804

Category: Restaurant > Bakery

Region: Anaheim

Brea's Best Burgers

707 S. Brea Blvd.
Brea, CA 92821

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Brea

Bismillah Halal Tandoori Restaurant

8901 Knott Ave.
Buena Park, CA 90620

Category: Restaurant > Indian

Region: Buena Park

SideDoor

3801 E. Coast Highway
Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

Category: Restaurant > Comfort Foods

Region: Corona Del Mar

Marukai Market

2975 Harbor Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Category: Restaurant > Grocery

Region: Costa Mesa

Royal Capital

There are scallops, and then there is what Royal Capital serves. If they're offered on the fresh-fish menu at this funky, authentic Chinese spot, by all means order them. Served on a half-shell, these large, meaty scallops—three to four times the size of regular scallops—are cooked in a wonderful Thai-style mint-and-chile sauce laced with minced garlic. Tasty sauce aside, the scallops are perfectly firm with a rich, intense flavor. 10911 Westminster Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 638-8331; www.royalcapitalseafood.com. $

HUNTINGTON BEACH

BREWBAKERS

Part fraternity, part bakery, part miniature brewery, Brewbakers is as much a bonding experience as an eating establishment, a gustatory amusement park in the midst of chain-heavy Huntington Beach. While the personal beer-making process is the main attraction, owner Dennis Midden maintains that baking is his first love, and a chomp through his pretzels—chewy loops with a perfect crustiness and enough salt to enhance the taste but not cover it—confirms it. 7242 Heil Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 596-5506; www.brewbakers1.com. $$

SMOKIN' MO'S

A tour of barbecue traditions within the confines of a gleaming Surf City development, Smokin' Mo's redeems the red states from which it pulls its stuff. Tennessee shines with vinegary, massive, great pork ribs; Louisiana appears with hot links that please like a boat ride through the bayou. Better than that, we love its pig mascot—wide-eyed, holding a massive wooden spoon, grinning at the thought of eating its brethren, the happiest cannibal since that weird gay German guy. 301 Main St., Ste. 107, Huntington Beach, (714) 374-3033; www.mosbbq.com. $

IRVINE

CHICAGO'S BEST

This tiny counter in a nameless Irvine food court serves all your Chicago faves—hot dog, roast beef sandwich and the fascinating Chicago tamale, a sweeter, fluffier version of the Mesoamerican standard stuffed with chili. Not bad at all—you could sneak one into a Mexican household come Christmastime, and no one would complain. 2540 Main St., Irvine, (949) 757-1802. $

DARBAND

All Persian restaurants feature shirin polo, basmati rice mixed with shredded chicken and fragments of orange peel, pistachios and almonds. Darband outdoes them all by including half a chicken, not chicken strips. And instead of mixing it into the shirin polo, the Darband cooks bring it out simmering in a bowl of chicken broth. The result is a chicken so succulent and tender you can eat it with a spoon. 14210 Culver Dr., Ste. H, Irvine, (949) 857-8265. $$

LA HABRA

GREAT WALL MONGOLIAN BBQ

In a culinary tradition that varies little whether you're chopsticking through Mongolian barbecue in Ulan Bator or Utica, Great Wall differentiates itself by offering grub more fiery, more nuanced and a bit more bountiful than other charcuteries. Their daily lunch special is one of the most rewarding in the county—$4.50 for a bowl of barbecue, plus a better-than-average egg roll, a thimble of fried rice that tastes vaguely Mexican and a small tureen of unctuous egg-flower soup. 1261 Harbor Blvd., Ste. A, La Habra, (714) 680-3569. ¢

LA PALMA

A'ROMA RISTORANTE TRATTORIA

The restaurant has a modern décor in deep soothing colors, and the servers are attentive. Put yourself in the mood for the chicken-breast special, which is cooked to a golden tenderness and seasoned to a subtle richness. 30 Center Pointe Dr., Ste. 1, La Palma, (714) 523-3729. $

LAGUNA BEACH

CASA OLAMENDI

Casa Olamendi's is the sort of place at which you ask for a balcony seat for a sunny lunch or come later and watch the sun sink into the sea over the two T's: tamales and tequila. Tamales typically arrive on a combo plate, served without the husk and with a little cheese covering good corn masa and delicious, tender chicken chunks. 1100 S. Coast Hwy., Ste. 202, Laguna Beach, (949) 497-4148. $$

HUSH

Hush is a wonderful eyesore, an anomaly among the run-down boutiques and faceless office buildings cluttering the southern portion of Pacific Coast Highway. Elegance also is prominent in Hush's menu, a New American take on standards such as rack of lamb, salmon and pork tenderloin that reminds me why people would ever plunk down $50 for a dinner. But when you just gnawed on chicken from heaven, with port wine slowly soaking through your soul, racial and class warfares tend to dissipate like the sun into the Pacific. 858 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-3616; www.hushrestaurant.com. $$$

SAVOURY'S

Located in the La Casa del Camino Hotel in beautiful Laguna Beach, the restaurant is run by executive chef Brad Toles, captain of Team California in the International Culinary Olympics. He melds Asian and European cooking with a New Age flair. You can have your Brie and pad Thai here, and you'll like it. 1287 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 376-9716; www.savourys.com. $$$

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