Go Around the World In 50 States (or Cities, or Regions, or Styles, or Whatever)

The World on Your Plate
In Orange County, you can go around the world in 50 states (or cities, or regions, or styles, or whatever)

Next time some xenophobe tells you Orange County is culinarily bland, doesn’t offer anything other than Taco Bell and Cheesecake Factory, remain calm. Don’t yell; don’t grit your teeth. Instead, roll up this issue and . . . give it to them. Not only are the cuisines of more than 50 countries available in OC restaurants, but many of those eateries also specialize in a particular genre or regional style of those countries.

We’ve picked the county’s most essential cuisines, those that offer the greatest depth and diversity of offerings. It’s not a comprehensive list (we had to limit the Mexico section by half because, well, we can’t let wabs take over everything), and that’s the point. We live on fertile ground for food-lovers, and no amount of asphalt and housing tracts will ever change that fundamental truth. Now, eat! And if we missed something, yell about it at our food blog, Stick a Fork In It!

U.S. - Pacific Northwest-
Plum's Cafe
Keith May
U.S. - Pacific Northwest- Plum's Cafe
China - Islamic
Ma's Islamic
China - Islamic Ma's Islamic

Location Info


Iva Lee's

555 N. El Camino Real
San Clemente, CA 92672

Category: Restaurant > Cajun

Region: San Clemente


3630 Katella Ave.
Rossmoor, CA 90720

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Los Alamitos

Katella Deli

4470 Katella Ave.
Rossmoor, CA 90720

Category: Restaurant > Breakfast

Region: Los Alamitos

Anita's New Mexico Style Mexican Food

600 S. Harbor Blvd.
Fullerton, CA 92832

Category: Restaurant > Southwestern

Region: Fullerton

Plum's Café and Catering

369 E. 17th St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Category: Restaurant > Breakfast

Region: Costa Mesa

Memphis Soul Cafe

2920 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Category: Restaurant > Southern

Region: Costa Mesa

Philly's Best

26612 Towne Center Drive
Foothill Ranch, CA 92610

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Foothill Ranch

King Lobster Palace

2045 N. Tustin St.
Orange, CA 92865

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: Orange

May Garden Restaurant

1400 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: Costa Mesa

Tri Village

14121 Jeffrey Road
Irvine, CA 92620

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: Irvine

Chong Qing Mei Wei Szechwan Restaurant

5406 Walnut Ave.
Irvine, CA 92604

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: Irvine

Nice Time Deli

5408 Walnut Ave.
Irvine, CA 92614

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: Irvine


Unlike Lucille’s Smokehouse, which owes its title to a fictional Southern character dreamed up by a clever marketer, Iva Lee’s in San Clemente is actually named after an actual person: owner Lisa Wagoner’s Southern nana, who raised her on grits and gumbo. Here, they’re upgraded, cooked in elegant, three-course Cajun dinners that can include a beignet salad, jambalaya and a cup of fresh-brewed chicory coffee at completion. (EG) 555 N. El Camino Real, Ste. E, San Clemente, (949) 361-2855;

The official name—Mustard’s Chicago-Style Eatery—should clue you in as to what this low-key, sports-themed café serves up. Whichever wiener you order, from the petite “classic” (a single steamed dog) to the kick-ass Wrigley Field Firedog (char-broiled and propelled by homemade hot mustard), it’ll be a Vienna Beef dog in a soft, poppy-seed-covered bun that’s topped with “the works” (mustard, bright-green relish, onions, tomatoes, pickle spears, a pickled sport pepper and celery salt). Just one question: Will they dare rename the “Sears Tower” dog the “Willis Tower” dog now? (LM) 3630 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos, (562) 598-1662.

If you’re indecisive, avoid Katella Deli’smassive deli/bakery/bar. For its 24 different sandwiches will tempt, and that’s before you get to the omelets; salads; burgers; and beef, fish and chicken dishes. Oh, and did we mention that it also does breakfast? So . . . what to order? Our money’s on the chicken matzo-ball soup, followed by the Times Square combo—NYC in a sandwich, with hot corned beef (or hot pastrami) on rye, plus ’slaw, Russian dressing and potato salad. Diet schmiet! (LM) 4470 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos, (562) 594-8611.

One of Southern California’s two wholly New Mexican dives is in Fullerton: Anita’s New Mexico-Style Mexican Food. Order the enchiladas, and be surprised!(GA) 600 S. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 525-0977;

The focus at Plums Café is the eats of our wet, dour neighbors to the north—think salmon, chowder, steaks and chops—plus terrific wines and beers. Although Plums is best known for breakfast and brunch (both of which include the humongous “Famous Dutch Baby” deep-dish pancake), its must-try dinner entrée is the lamburger, made with feta, wild oregano and caramelized onions, served on a buttered, toasted bun and paired with either couscous or the thinnest shoestring fries on earth.  (LM) 369 E. 17th St., Ste. B, Costa Mesa, (949) 722-7586;

Though we haven’t got the legendary rivalry between Philadelphia’s Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks, we do have multiple places hawking the city’s cheesesteaks. But the king is Philly’s Best, not just because the meat is quality rib-eye or top round, planed thin, griddled, then deposited into a roll with a swipe of Cheez Whiz, but also for the other indigenous treasures: posters, sodas and TastyKakes, pastries so sweet they make Zingers taste like mud. (EG) Multiple locations;

We’ve spilled so much ink on Memphis Soul Café over the years that Weekly love for its two spots is almost cliché. But Diego Velasco’s take on the South makes it a necessary one. Gumbo? Check. Ribs? You bet. Hush puppies? Of course. The po’ boys are a bayou dream, but we can never resist the pulled-pork sandwich, overflowing with juicy shredded meat and accompanied by shoestring fries, served with just the right mix of sassiness and friendliness. (LM) 2920 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 432-7685; 201 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 564-1064;


*** CHINA ***

When you go to the San Gabriel Valley, the mecca of Chinese eating in America, most likely you’ll be eating Cantonese. Heck, any place you go where authentic Chinese food is served, it will probably be Cantonese. Even the usually dubious source of info Wikipedia says, “Its prominence outside China is due to its palatability to Westerners and the great numbers of early emigrants from Guangdong.” Well, for once, it’s right on. In OC, its best representative is King Lobster Palace, with classic dim sum in the morning and glossy char siu buns stuffed with pork all day. Dinnertime brings out the steamed fish, the House Special lobster and the shark-fin soup (we did say Cantonese, not vegan). (EG) 2045 N. Tustin St., Orange, (714) 282-9788;

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