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SINALOA
In Mexican popular culture, you don’t mess with people from this Pacific coastal state—not only is it the birthplace of most of the country’s drug barons, but also even the nice people combine the orneriness of a New Yorker with a Chi-Towner’s stubborn streak. These traits spill over to their seafood, best experienced at Mariscos Licenciado #2: fiery ceviche; chilled four-seafood soups served in hollowed-out coconuts; and the infamous aguachile, shrimp served in a cold lime broth and spiced to the levels of hell. (GA) 1052 N. State College Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 776-3415.

 

    

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

Map

Iva Lee's

555 N. El Camino Real
San Clemente, CA 92672

Category: Restaurant > Cajun

Region: San Clemente

Mustard's

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

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*** MIDDLE EASTERN ***

AFGHANISTAN
Huge portions of superb Afghan grub are the attraction at Gyro N Kabob. Mantoo (dumplings) and bolani (similar to a potato naan) are appetizers you won’t find anywhere in OC that’s not an auntie’s kitchen, and an honorable mention must go to the yogurt-based drink doogh (similar to lassi), freshly made here with cucumber and dried mint. (LM) 14145 Red Hill Ave., Tustin, (714) 505-0713; www.gyronkabob.com.

 

LEBANON
Papa Hassan’s is the county’s old-guard Lebanese standard, but the best is Zena’s. Start, with mezza, passed-around plates of antipasto-like appetizers. Hummus reservoirs glistening with olive oil puddles. A creamy cheese called labneh to scoop out with fresh cucumbers. Main courses of char-burnished meats will also travel hand-to-hand, supplies dwindling as they makes their way down tables shoved together, end-to-end—the way family meals should always be eaten. (EG) 2094 N. Tustin St., Orange, (714) 279-9511.

 

HOLY LAND
Mike and Nancy Hawari hail from Nazareth, so leave Middle Eastern politics aside and worship at Kareem’s, their altar of yum: labneh pita (labneh is a dairy spread not unlike a minty version of Philadelphia cream cheese), shawermas, a crispy/spicy fattoush salad. For dinner, it has to be the hummus with pine nuts and meat—lightly charred, reminiscent of carne asada. And the falafels? Best on earth. (LM) 1208 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim, (714) 778-6829.

 

IRAN
A Whole Foods with a Middle Eastern predisposition and better prices is what Wholesome Choice is. It is also a food court, which can be a model for the U.N. Chinese, Mexican and pizza counters coexist to bring you dinner. The Persian counter, at which gruff, hairy-armed men turn spits of roasting meats on swords, gets the most business. In another area, guys knead and wrestle with the sangak dough, a flatbread with the surface area of three large pizzas. Hot out of the oven, sangak is peerless in flavor and circumference. (EG) 18040 Culver Dr., Irvine, (949) 551-4111; 5755 E. La Palma Ave.,Anaheim Hills, (714) 779-7000; www.wholesomechoice.com.

 

    

*** VIETNAM ***

CENTRAL VIETNAM
Central Vietnamese cuisine is renowned for small bites presented with an artful flourish, intended to tantalize royal palates of Hue, the old imperial capital. Delicately steamed rice called banh beo comes in tiny saucers, gobbled up like you’re doing shots. A jackfruit salad you eat on crispy rice-cracker rafts encrusted with black sesame. There’s also bun bo Hue, a thicker, darker, heartier, beef noodle soup than the more proletariat dish you now know as pho. Best palaces for your intro are Quan Hy and Quan Hop. (EG) Quan Hy, 9727 Bolsa Ave., Westminster, (714) 775-7179; Quan Hop, 15640 Brookhurst St., Westminster, (714) 689-0555.

 

CHIU CHOW
Chiu Chow is actually a southern China province, but many of its natives have influenced Vietnamese culture over the centuries, leading to the namesake cuisine being more common in Little Saigons than Chinatowns. Lots of Cambodian influences as well, and no dish better exemplifies this delta of influences than the hu tieu Nam Vang (Phnom Penh-style noodle soup), which is Trieu Chau’s specialty. It is simultaneously the simplest and most complex soup you’ll ever slurp. The broth is pure, without any of pho’s anise-y perfumes. But the toppings will make a man out of you: shrimp, roasted duck haphazardly hacked by cleaver, pork, meat balls, fish cake and, for good measure, a honking piece of liver. Eat it. It’s good for you. (EG) 4401 W. First St., Santa Ana, (714) 775-1536.

FRENCH INDOCHINA
If any good came from the French occupation of Vietnam, it is, of course, the food—the baguette being the best example of all. At Le Croissant Dore, it is the chosen starch, dipped like a doughnut into the house beef stew. You eat it while staring at a mural depicting a caricatured cobblestone Parisian street, absent any actual Frenchmen. If there were, there would be more competition for Le Croissant Dore’s famous fruit tarts, sought-after masterpieces worthy of Escoffier. (EG) 9122 Bolsa Ave., Westminster, (714) 895-3070.

 

NORTH VIETNAM
How do you know Vien Dong is a Northern Vietnamese joint? One dish should say it all: cha ca Thang Long, small fillets of fish marinated in turmeric and galangal, then fried and served with tufts of dill. Why? Well, the delicacy earns its moniker from Thang Long, the old name for Hanoi. Then there’s the thit cay, which is a Northern Vietnamese curry traditionally made with dog. Calm down, PETA. No Fidos were harmed in the making of the dish at Vien Dong. Just your normal, everyday barnyard animals. (EG) 14271 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove, (714) 531-8253.

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