Grub Guide

Tasty morsels from the county's best damn dining guide

Visit the rest of Orange County's best damn dining guide at ocweekly.com/food , where it says "Where to Eat Now" on the right side of the screen. If there are any bugs with it, e-mail Gustavo at garellano@ocweekly.com with your complaints.


DINNER FOR TWO:
¢ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Less than $10!
$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $10-$20
$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $20-$40
$$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ¡Eres muy rico!


ANAHEIM

Location Info

Map

Peking Restaurant

8566 Westminster Ave.
Westminster, CA 92683

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: Westminster

The Coffee Grove

17769 Santiago Blvd.
Villa Park, CA 92861

Category: Restaurant > Coffeehouse

Region: Villa Park

India Sweets & Spices

14441 Newport Ave.
Tustin, CA 92780

Category: Restaurant > Grocery

Region: Tustin

Captain Jack's Prime Rib & Seafood Restaurant

16812 Pacific Coast Highway
Sunset Beach, CA 90742

Category: Restaurant > Seafood

Region: Sunset Beach

Mad Greek Restaurant

12120 Beach Blvd. Stanton, CA
Stanton, CA 90680

Category: Restaurant > Greek

Region: Stanton

Nick's Deli

223 Main St.
Seal Beach, CA 90740

Category: Restaurant > Breakfast

Region: Seal Beach

El Gallo Giro

1442 S. Bristol St.
Santa Ana, CA 92704

Category: Restaurant > Fast Food

Region: Santa Ana

CARNICERÍA EL CAMPEÓN

31921 Camino Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

Category: Restaurant > Grocery

Region: San Juan Capistrano

Iva Lee's

555 N. El Camino Real
San Clemente, CA 92672

Category: Restaurant > Cajun

Region: San Clemente

The Royal

909 E. Yorba Linda Blvd.
Placentia, CA 92870

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Placentia

EL PORTAL DE VERACRUZ

4530 E. Chapman Ave.
Orange, CA 92869

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Orange

Pescadou Bistro

3325 Newport Blvd.
Newport Beach, CA 92663

Category: Restaurant > Bistro

Region: Newport Beach

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MERHABA RESTAURANT
If you're non-African, the owner will be extra-attentive and repeatedly ask if you enjoy her East African recipes. You will. East African cuisine sticks mostly to stews: chewy cubes of tibisy beef; lamb ribs battling with furious peppers for control of your tongue; the famous Ethiopian doro wat, spicy chicken cooked in butter, hot like the pits of hell. The vegetarians in your party will content themselves with the shiro, an Eritrean chickpea mush similar to hummus. 2801 W. Ball Rd., Ste. 5, Anaheim, (714) 826-8859. $


BREA

TAPS FISH HOUSE & BREWERY
Located in the desperately fine-dining-deficient Brea, this place has everything—from steaks, chicken and pastas to an immense oyster bar. Gorge yourself with abandon on such appetizers as tropical-shrimp quesadillas or French Quarter Egg Rolls. 101 E. Imperial Hwy., Brea, (714) 257-0101; www.tapsbrea.com . $$


BUENA PARK

POFOLKS
PoFolks is a rustically eccentric restaurant—tin and wooden agricultural-company signs on the walls, a working train that chugs the perimeter—specializing in Norms-style home cooking with a Southern bent, the kind of place where fried chicken livers with red beans and rice is a daily special, and peach cobbler isn't some ironic/iconic treat but rather what's for dessert. 7701 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, (714) 521-8955. $$


CORONA DEL MAR

GALLO'S ITALIAN DELI
The thirtysomething-year-old deli is little more than counters, chips and sodas—which is to say, it's the perfect beach-shack restaurant, even if it's on PCH. Request the Gallo's combo; the server will no doubt reply (as he once did to me), "Are you sure about that?" When he grabs sausages and begins hacking off massive slices, you'll understand his skepticism—the sandwich is bigger than most house cats. 3900 E. Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar, (949) 675-7404. $


COSTA MESA

GREEK TOWN GRILL
You can sing the praises of Greek Town Grill in Costa Mesa's happening East 17th Street District for its sleek décor (ceiling-to-floor windows, mosaic counter, sexy lighting and chairs), delicious takes on such Greek-American classics as pitas and dolmades, and the fact that owner Jim Marutsos works with fresh ingredients. But also hum some bars for the pear salad, a glistening hill of leaves, candied walnuts, long pear slices and melted gorgonzola. 279 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 515-2788; www.greektowngrill.com . $


CYPRESS

FRANCO'S ITALIAN RESTAURANT
This tiny Cypress restaurant is the kind of place where the tablecloths are checkered; the waiters earnestly smack fingers against lips when describing linguine; and Frank, Dino and Pagliacci roar without rest. Franco's has an extensive Italian menu—all your major pastas, subs and even a surprising selection of veal dishes—but leave space for the cheesecake, one of the best ever to grace this world: thick, almost like tiramisù, but so strong with cinnamon you can feel it sizzle on your tongue. 4453 Cerritos Ave., Cypress, (714) 761-9040. $$


DANA POINT

Harbor House Café
Besides Denny's, this is basically the only 24-hour joint in the area, and thus a popular hangout for high-school kids. After the one in San Clemente closed something like a decade ago, this became the hangout for San Clemente High School students, too. As far as eats go, it's known for its wide omelet selection and thick shakes. 34157 Pacific Coast Hwy., Dana Point, (949) 496-9270. $


FOUNTAIN VALLEY

EBISU JAPANESE NOODLE RESTAURANT
This restaurant is a sleek ramen mecca that serves miso ramen, a curative soybean-flavored elixir, poured over a tangled cake of supple noodles rife with bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, hard-boiled-egg halves and scallions. 18930 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, (714) 964-5993; www.ebisuramen.com . $

FULLERTON

CHICAGO HARV'S
Most every county hot-dog cart advertises Chicago dogs, but Harv's is among the few places that does it better than the South Side. They ship in bulky Vienna sausages directly from the Windy City, stuff 'em into a poppy-speckled bun next to dill-pickle slivers, and squirt the mess with stinky-but-super quarts of relish and mustard that'll leave lips a yellow-green color as vibrant as a 1970s Notre Dame football uniform. 410 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-0491. ¢


GARDEN GROVE

LA VERANDA
Most of the Vietnamese dishes listed in La Veranda's colossal 14-page menu are unsullied by French influences—here, the colonization runs backward. Traditional French delicacies such as escargot, frog legs and coq au vin are accompanied by such Vietnamese side dishes as pickled daikon, nuoc mam (sweet fish sauce) and rice paper. The ensuing DIY combos result in plates that should earn La Veranda at least a four-star rating from the Michelin guide. 10131 Westminster Ave., Ste. 114, Garden Grove, (714) 539-3368. $$


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 . $$


IRVINE

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 instead of chicken strips. And instead of mixing it into the shirin polo, the Darband cooks bring out the bird simmering in a bowl of chicken broth. The result was a chicken so succulent and tender, I was able to eat it with a spoon. 14210 Culver Dr., Ste. H, Irvine, (949) 857-8265. $$


LA HABRA

IMPERIAL BURGERS
Imperial Burgers serves many more things besides its Cheddar cheese-heavy pastrami burritos—its namesake, for instance, a charbroiled marriage of meat, soft bun, sweet cheese, girth and lettuce. Or standard breakfasts of pancakes, hash browns and sausage. And always sip on ultra-sweet Orange Bang whenever you find this increasingly rare beverage. Everything is good here, really. But La Habra is so far away, and the pastrami burrito is so good—why would you ever order anything else? 241 E. Imperial Hwy., La Habra, (714) 525-1611. $


LA PALMA

PAESANO'S
You probably slap together half of Paesano's menu at least once a week for dinner: sauce-drenched entrées such as mostaccioli, spaghetti and lasagna that aren't so much Old World as they are Hoboken. So why bother visiting this 26-year-old eatery? Meatballs that are lacy, herbed and delish. And good subs. 5440 Orangethorpe Ave., La Palma, (714) 521-4748. $


LAGUNA BEACH

LAS BRISAS
Sometimes you've gotta choose: The kid's college education, or another round of margaritas? Ah, but at Las Brisas—perched above Laguna Beach's Heisler Park, granting you a luxurious after-dinner view of the sun setting over Catalina—the seafood and booze are so good as to make temptation irresistible. 361 Cliff Dr., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-5434. $$


THE LITTLE LAGUNAS

ONAMI SUSHI & SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Here, you can partake of as much sushi as you want. You can gobble down transparent globules of ikura (salmon roe) like popcorn or tiny particles of masago (smelt egg) as if they're, well, tiny particles of masago. 24155 Laguna Hills Mall, Ste. 1301, Laguna Hills, (949) 768-0500. $$


LAKE FOREST

MANILA FOOD MART
Every Filipino joint offers the same meals; Manila Food Mart differentiates itself by hawking various products, from such Filipino garb as handbags and barongs (an ornate, light long-sleeved shirt similar to the Caribbean guayabera) to a freezer stocked with ready-to-eat meals such as bags of plump, sugary longansina pork sausages. 24601 Raymond Way, Ste. 10, Lake Forest, (949) 461-0113; www.manilafoodmart.com . $


LONG BEACH

AlegrÍa Cocina Latina
The Spanish-styled brocheta vegetariana isn't like any bruschetta we're used to. The bread is replaced with corn tortillas and topped with skewers of grilled vegetables in a light sesame sauce on a pile of Peruvian corn, fresh-chopped tomatoes and tofu. That's right—tofu! 115 Pine Ave., Long Beach, (562) 436-3388. $$


LOS ALAMITOS

KATELLA DELI
The place has a voluminous menu that spans matzo to mud pie, spinach salad to skyscraper sandwiches, knish to kippers—not to mention a full bakery that houses fresh rolls and bagels. Their Denver omelet is terrific. 4470 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos, (562) 594-8611. ¢


MISSION VIEJO

ALOHA BBQ
Hawaiian staples such as manapua (steamed pork buns) and boiling saimin noodles are fine at Aloha BBQ, along with a Korean-skewed side menu filled with bimimbap and complimentary kimchi. As great as those are, the most impressive meat meal is the spicy pork ribs. Most rib places content themselves with giving patrons a couple of twigs, but Aloha BBQ carts over four massive things that appear to have been torn from a hippo. 24000 Alicia Pkwy., Ste. 4, Mission Viejo, (949) 581-0976. $


NEWPORT BEACH

PESCADOU BISTRO
Despite its location—in a storefront across from Newport Beach City Hall—Pescadou manages to impart a South-of-France feel with vibrant colors and eclectic table settings. You'll find traditional French dishes—frog legs and coq au vin—as well as such bistro fare as rib-eye steak, bouillabaisse and a variety of fish dishes. 3325 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, (949) 675-6990; www.pescadoubistro.com . $$$


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 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

REMBRANDT'S BEAUTIFUL CUISINE
Rembrandt's claims to do "beautiful food," but for them, that translates to hearty, plain fare done to nostalgic perfection: a Brown Derby for our county minus the starlets but without that whole wrecking-ball thing. This is truly the little steakhouse that time forgot. It looks like what the Velvet Turtle would be if they'd redone it Spanish-style in the '80s: stark, white walls; huge paintings; chandeliers; and filet mignon to the hilt. 909 E. Yorba Linda Blvd., Placentia, (714) 528-6222; www.rembrandtsrestaurant.com . $$$


SAN CLEMENTE

IVA LEE'S
So authentically Cajun they hand out beads to patrons, Iva Lee's is a haute-cuisine take on the Big Easy. Crawfish cakes are topped with a dollop of saffron aioli, and the pan-fried pork chops are thick and juicy. The chicory coffee crème brûlée is so tasty it's like eating crack pudding. 555 N. El Camino Real, Ste. E, San Clemente, (949) 361-2855; www.ivalees.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 mami could recognize. Unlike other joints, El Campeón's tamales are unencumbered by frills—just cornhusk, moist masa and chicken. 31921 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 240-3141. ¢


SANTA ANA

EL GALLO GIRO
Leopaldo Gonzalez cranks tortas out in seven excruciating seconds, but they're worth the wait. The tortas are delicious and filling beyond description. The bread is warm, and the fresh meats are savory and perfectly complemented by the condiments. 1442 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana, (714) 549-2011; www.gallogiro.com . ¢


SEAL BEACH

NICK'S DELI
Nick Zampino has no evidence, no proof, no corroborating facts or photographs, but he swears he knows in his heart that his family originated that most delicious and conveniently held of early-morning victuals: the breakfast burrito. After tasting these apotheoses, you'll be inclined to agree. 223 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 598-5072. ¢


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

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. $$


TUSTIN

INDIA SWEETS AND SPICES
It's a sweet shop and a produce vendor, a place to rent videos, buy Urdu-edition newspapers and get a home-style meal in a pop-culture mini-bazaar that caters to your taste for Indian soul food. 14441 Newport Ave., Tustin, (714) 731-2910. $


VILLA PARK

The Coffee Grove
Villa Park's answer to Cheers, the Coffee Grove is a place where you can chat with the locals or read the paper while they whip up your favorite caffeinated drink. 17769 Santiago Blvd., Villa Park, (714) 974-2650. $


WESTMINSTER

Peking Restaurant
The jellyfish salad is quite tasty, and if you think of it as Chinese pasta, you won't squirm. The family dinners are fabulous and feature such interesting choices as an entire steamed fish. 8566 Westminster Ave., Westminster, (714) 893-3020. $$


MULTIPLE LOCATIONS

COSMO'S ITALIAN KITCHEN
The restaurant is actually named after a family friend of the owners—no relation to Cosmo Kramer. Try the homemade, meat-filled ravioli topped with pesto sauce; it has more flavor than anything Chef Boyardee could ever dream up! 23411 Aliso Viejo Pkwy., Aliso Viejo, (949) 448-9040; 28562 Oso Pkwy., Rancho Santa Margarita, (949) 216-9029. $

THE DAILY GRILL
This is where you can learn to love the Cobb salad, an orchestrated event of chicken, tomatoes, avocado, bacon, blue cheese, scallions, hard-boiled egg, and romaine and iceberg lettuces mixed in a creamy Italian dressing. Also American comfort food—don't miss the meatloaf—prepared at its highest level. 2636 Dupont Dr., Irvine, (949) 474-2223; 957 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 644-2223; www.dailygrill.com . $$

EL CARBONERO
Owner María de Jesús Ramírez ensures that El Carbonero Nos. 1 and 2 use the same recipes of her hearty native cuisine, the primary reason why the county's pioneering guanaco restaurant persists while so many other Salvadoran restaurants disappear. Imitate the regulars and order at least one pupusa, the masa griddle cake Salvadorans consume from crib to crypt. And El Carbonero's horchata, heavy with cinnamon and toasted rice, makes Mexican horchata taste like a Tijuana gutter. 9516 W. Katella Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 527-4542; 803 S. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 542-6653. $

EL FORTÍN
In a country where each state has its unique version of the curry-like mole, Oaxaca is king, and El Fortín offers four stunning varieties of the royal family. I won't even bother describing the house mole, as my tongue cannot possibly articulate this creation—only eat. 700 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 773-4290; 10444 Dale Ave., Stanton, (714) 252-9120; www.restaurantelfortin.com . $

FLEMING'S PRIME STEAKHOUSE
Styled after traditional Eastern steakhouses, Fleming's offers an à la carte menu of appetizers, salads, side dishes, "red meat and white meat," and seafood. The steaks are cooked in a superheated gas flame to "seal in the juices," as the publicity goes. They are. A little salt is added to the cut before cooking. 455 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 720-9633; 1300 Dove St., Ste. 105, Newport Beach, (949) 222-2223. $$$

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