Best Of :: Food & Drink
The only downside to Kéan Coffee is that it's not a countywide or nationwide chain like Diedrich Coffee or Starbucks, which is a shame because unless you live in Newport Beach or Costa Mesa, you're probably going to settle for a more generic cup rather than battle the traffic on the 55 Freeway. Founder Martin Diedrich—yep, the surname is no coincidence: he's the son of the founder of Diedrich Coffee; Martin was forced out of the business after it was bought up by Irvine-based Taco Bell—grew up on a coffee finca in Antigua, Guatemala, and still roasts beans by hand in the coffee roaster his brother invented, which is based on the antique roaster his father used. Kéan Coffee is the only place where you can buy hand-roasted coffee that's so fresh they only sell it in paper bags—no plastic to artificially extend the life of the beans—that even tell you what day Diedrich personally roasted the coffee. More than three-quarters of the beans at Kéan are fair-traded, which means they were grown by farming cooperatives in the Third World, who actually don't get ripped off by the industry's notorious middlemen. So the coffee not only tastes great, but it's also guilt-free. But the best thing about Kéan Coffee is the guilty pleasure that comes with drinking it. Because Diedrich, who has decades of experience selecting and roasting beans, knows how to roast each blend—whether its an earthy Huehuetenango or a silky Sumatra—to fully realize the bean's flavor. No fast-food, one-(dark)-roast-fits-all approach here. And if you order a latte or cappuccino, take a moment to savor the spoon-tooled artwork in your foam. And stick around to drink it: On any given day, you're likely to see Diedrich himself behind the bar, carrying out the family tradition with an infectiously broad smile.
You don't have to shave your head or drink the Krishna Kool-Aid to enjoy the dirt-cheap vegetarian feast every Sunday. Get in touch with the "source" as you meditate to instrumental music and, if you like, chant along. For just a $3 suggested donation, you'll be catered to by robed monks carrying a variety of delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes. Chow down while sitting cross-legged and barefoot on the floor, but don't worry about cleanlinessmonks never get sick.
This place serves a variety of French-influenced Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches and noodle specialties, but it makes our list because here's where you can find the freshest, biggest, saltiest and Frenchiest baguettes in Orange County. A large loaf will put you back just $1.75. Just make sure you eat that breador stick it in an airtight breadboxthe same day. Unlike the crap you buy at an American supermarket, it goes hard overnight.
Here's a bakery that does it all and does it well. The petite cakes are topped with fresh fruit or layered with ganache; neither too sweet nor too rich. The fried bread is stuffed with breaded pork cutlets, and the white bread loafs have their crusts already removed. Airy buns are glazed to a mirror shine, and the curry puffs stay hot just until you bite into them. These are the delights of JJ Bakery; a proving ground for all things flour.
No doubt you've heard the array of monikers (tapioca ball, pearl tea, black pearls, boba, bubble, milk tea) that make ordering that milky, pastel-colored cold drink with a fat straw and dark marbles on the bottom of the cup a little tricky. The craze was born in Taiwan about 25 years ago, when stands sold the cold teas as an after-school treat for kids. The gummy "pearls" are balls of cooked tapioca starch, reprocessed cassava or "yucca" root. TenRen's Tea in Anaheim gets our vote for being around for 10 years, long before the boba craze became mainstream in the U.S. And they do their boba old-school-style: no shrink-wrapping over the plastic cup, no powdery artificial-tasting teas, and a good selection of flavors (including flan!). And their pearls are the perfect consistency: pliant and smooth.
You don't often hear "cheap" and "Fashion Island" together. There are certainly plenty of places to drink, from the upscale Daily Grill to the seaside view of the bar in the Cheesecake Factory. And if you're a guy, there are also plenty of reasons to drinkchances are you're only there to humor your lady's shopping fix, and there aren't a whole lot of obvious "man hangouts" in sight. So pay attention because the cheapest cocktails are somewhere you'd never suspect: Red Robin, the corporate burger joint upstairs by the movie theater. You can't beat a $6 zombie, or a $4.79 Jack-and-Cokewhen was the last time you got prices approaching that at an actual bar? Great service, too, and the burgers aren't too shabby.