Food & Drink

  • Best Restaurant

    Break of Dawn - CLOSED

    Foodies have long loved Break of Dawn for its extraordinary breakfasts and lunches—including this paper, which deemed it Best Breakfast last year. But let's call Break of Dawn what it is—an extraordinary restaurant, period, a culinary treasure with few peers. It's not just the food—chef/owner Dee Nguyen uses his ethnicity (Vietnamese) and experience at the Ritz-Carlton equally, offering everything from… More >>
  • Best Restaurant to Take the Kids To

    John's Incredible Pizza Co.

    A pizza buffet replete with a fresh-doughnut maker and all-you-can-pour soft serve is exactly what parents don't want for their already sugar-loaded, barely controllable offspring. But at least John's Incredible Pizza—a gigantic, kid-friendly über-eatery that takes up almost the entire lower floor of what used to be Buena Park Mall—has multiple themed dining areas, some of them geared toward adults.… More >>
  • Best Restaurant That Will Probably Close Soon

    Four Seasons Hot Pot - CLOSED

    It takes a certain kind of blind optimism to call your hot-pot restaurant "Four Seasons." Such places are decidedly one season. It's a heat-generating meal that's only apt and appetizing when the weather is chilly and you can see your breath. But whatever the climate, the balding owner is always dressed in a suit and tie to welcome guests. In… More >>
  • Best Restaurant In a Cheap, Freeway-Adjacent Motel

    Formosa Chinese Restaurant

    Motel restaurants, when they exist, are typically eateries of last resort, places where dried-up chicken, overboiled vegetables and bland starches go to die. Open the menu at Formosa Chinese Restaurant, inside a Best Western-turned-Quality Inn, and you'll wonder what it was smoking. The first half of the menu is a depressing hodgepodge of fried junk tossed in sweet, sticky sauces… More >>
  • Best Restaurant to Cure a Hangover

    Jang Mo Gip

    Hangover remedies abound in every culture, from coconut water to tripe soup, but they involve insider information: You have to know what dishes are meant for the overindulgent. In the Korean culture, it's simple: Their hangover cure-all, haejangguk, translates as "soup to chase a hangover." Made of pork bones, doenjang (the Korean answer to miso), garlic, ginger, mushrooms and radish,… More >>
  • Best Restaurant During an Invasion

    Don the Beachcomber

    You never know when terrorists, Commies or zombies will make their way down PCH from Long Beach, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be prepared to defend your way of life. Oh, you'll shoot them with your cherished firearms? Well, what happens when you run out of ammo, smarty-pants? You'd better hope you're in the re-creation of Don Beach's tiki… More >>
  • Best Restaurant When Someone Else Is Paying

    S Vietnamese Fine Dining

    Sit down at Stephanie Dinh's upscale Vietnamese dining room in an outlying building of the Westminster Mall, and you'll be given three menus: the food menu, the wine list and the tea list. Ask for a fourth. There is a separate vegetarian menu of surprising length and creativity, full of foods such as an outstanding lotus-root salad with Vietnamese mint… More >>
  • Best Service In a Restaurant

    Studio Restaurant At the Montage

    They never say "sir" or "madam." Instead it's Mr. or Ms. [insert your surname here]. What's more, the servers at Studio Restaurant remember to use it throughout the night. Ask where the restrooms are, and they'll not just point you the way, but they'll also escort you there. When you come back to your table, your crumpled napkin has been… More >>
  • Best Restaurant Décor

    Park Avenue

    Park Avenue is Mad Men brought to life: satellite chandeliers, faux-stone walls, pictures of celebs in a bar where the Old-Fashioned isn't an adjective but an intoxicating noun, and a menu in which early-1960s-Americana grub rules. But chef/owner David Slay has improved on his restaurant over the past couple of years, adding a lawn for receptions and an ever-growing garden… More >>
  • Best Romantic Restaurant

    Brasserie Pascal - CLOSED

    Ah, Paris. It's expensive. Pascal Olhats knows this, which is why the French-food impresario has created what is arguably the most Gallic of all his French restaurants as an affordable alternative to a plane ticket. The space, inherited from the failed French 75, evokes the City of Lights, but the food is mostly Provençal-inspired. The ratatouille comes fuming-hot in its… More >>
  • Best Waterfront Dining

    La Galette Creperie

    The businesses on Avenida Victoria as the street dips near the Pacific offer perhaps the most underrated beachside view in Orange County—the train track, the beach, the ocean, tourists, hills, cars, all of what makes San Clemente so damn charming. And the restaurant to enjoy this view is La Galette Creperie, home to paper-thin crepes stuffed to burrito proportions. Don't… More >>
  • Best Outdoor Dining

    River's End Cafe

    Truth in advertising: River's End Cafe is at the mouth of the San Gabriel River, at the absolute end of Orange County—the Pacific Ocean on one side, Los Angeles County on the other. Here, then, is Orange County's only true riverfront dining. And while the San Gabriel isn't as scenic as, say, the Mississippi or even the Santa Ana, it's… More >>
  • Best Late-Night Dining

    Pho 54

    Little Saigon has plenty of late-night eats, but none is as bargain-priced and consistently lauded as Pho 54. The humble beef noodle soup is hot, starchy fuel for your nocturnal activities. But the most convincing reason to consider the Westminster Pho 54 before Denny's or Norms is economic. Scribbled on a whiteboard, the daily specials are select meals that get… More >>
  • Best New Restaurant

    SideDoor

    Seen a gastropub lately? Second only to gourmet trucks, the prevailing food trend in OC this year is the recent proliferation of gastropubs. SideDoor, one of the newest as of this writing, gets the formula right (if there were such a thing). It actually feels like an English tavern from a movie-set designer's sketchbook on English taverns. Sit on plush… More >>
  • Best Place to Trust the Ocean

    Jon's Fish Market

    This harbor dive has different fish specials on its whiteboard each day depending on what has been caught. Just know it'll be fresh, nicely cooked and all the more yummy for being consumed on an outdoor picnic table circled by seagulls.… More >>
  • Best Non-Credit-Breaching Steak Dinner

    Lua Bistrot

    If you have enough to worry about these days besides taking out a second mortgage just to impress your date, take her to Lua Bistrot. Though it's in decidedly unglamorous Little Saigon, this overachieving restaurant looks like something out of trendy midtown New York. The all-black leather seats are square-ish, the floor is shinier than a just-polished loafer, and the… More >>
  • Best Use of the Suffix -Licious In a Restaurant Name

    Sushilicious - CLOSED

    Before Daniel Woo opened his restaurant, he asked his young daughter what to name it. The minute she uttered, "Sushi Delicious," Sushilicious was born. The dishes are named with the same childlike frivolity. There's a roll called "Sushicalifragilisticexpialidocious" and another titled "The Roll Formerly Known as California." And that's just a taste of what will make you giggle at this… More >>
  • Olive Tree

    Best Place to Sacrifice a Lamb

    Olive Tree

    Every Middle Eastern restaurant in Anaheim's Little Gaza serves lamb; it's as vital to the scene as big hunks of beef in a Wyoming steakhouse. Not every restaurant, however, allows patrons the option of buying the whole damn thing. Give Abu Ahmad, owner of the very popular eatery, three days' notice and $300, and he'll have chef Um Alaa turn… More >>
  • Best Steakhouse

    Regina's Restaurant

    Regina's Restaurant is an Orange County standard, an Argentine diner that screens soccer all year in a charming space squeezed between a car-stereo shop and an apartment building. But the restaurant doesn't get enough credit for what it ultimately is: a steakhouse. Argies know their beef, and you can get a good, normal cut here alongside zesty chimichurri and pair… More >>
  • Best Brewery

    Bootlegger's Brewery

    Aaron Barkenhagen's labor of love is a cavernous warehouse in an unlovely part of Fullerton, within stumbling distance of the Amtrak station, in a plaza with an auto-body shop and no fewer than three storefront churches. An eclectic crowd stands around Thursdays through Saturdays, drinking beers of many colors out of Mason jars. The left-hand beer menu lists the house… More >>
  • Best Diner

    Pop's Café

    You'll wish you had a fedora to hang up as you enter. Pop's is the kind of diner that's pretty much extinct everywhere except in an octogenarian's fading memories and old film noirs in which Bogart plays a gumshoe. The cherry-red swivel stools at the counter wiggle unstably, worn from decades of use. Above you, precariously hung long-stemmed ceiling fans… More >>
  • Best Deli

    Harry's Deli - CLOSED

    Harry Kho of Harry's Deli is the wunderkind of sandwiches. Without so much as a backstory, the young proprietor of an office-park lunch stop has single-handedly changed the noontime scene in Irvine. Yelpers fawn over every morsel. Devotees are born every day. Harry has done it by doing what sandwich makers should have been doing all along: constructing sandwiches with… More >>
  • Best Place to Kick Off a Sock Hop

    Watson Drug and Soda Fountain

    All dolled up in your poodle skirt, polo shirt and saddle shoes, your hair pomaded to within an inch of its life, Daddy's little princess is ready for the big sock hop at the high-school gymnasium. You don't want to be the one who shows up while the decorating committee is still putting up streamers, right? Well, perch your dainty… More >>
  • Best Coffeehouse

    Monkey Business Café

    Question: What happens to foster kids who turn 18? Their care is no longer subsidized by the state, but they may not have the skills to live and work as independent citizens. Enter Monkey Business, a café that is part of Hart Community Homes' effort to reach these teens and give them employment and life experience. Stop by for the… More >>
  • Best Tea House

    Tranquil Tea Lounge

    Tea snobs, this is your Mecca, and its owners are your kin. Michellee Phelps and her brother, Jonathan Munsayac, have stocked their tea store and café with so many tea varietals you could conceivably visit for a hundred consecutive days and never repeat the same drink. Black, green, oolong, white, pu-erh, rooibos, maté, herbal and tisane constitute the base types… More >>
  • Best Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurant

    Zen Vegetarian

    Like the best magic shows, you'll come away from Zen Vegetarian marveling at its mastery of deception. Never before has eating meatless been so fun and so darned discombobulating. If you walk in oblivious of its mission statement, you are liable to walk out clueless that what you just ate contained no trace of an animal. The fake chicken not… More >>
  • Best Seafood Restaurant

    House of Big Fish & Ice Cold Beer

    Its name summarizes everything the restaurant is all about and everything it isn't. You know what it is: loud, crowded and the kind of place where alcohol flows as freely as the good times. You know what it isn't: expensive and pretentious. All are contrary to the fact House of Big Fish & Ice Cold Beer is located in Laguna… More >>
  • Best Thai Restaurant

    Rice and Spice Thai Cuisine

    Situated in a former Chinese restaurant in the remotest, most-suburban city in the county, unsuspecting diners might expect a menu that panders to Real Housewives and white-bread, meat-and-potatoes families. Dive into a bowl of Rice and Spice's beef panang curry, however, and fireworks will start going off in your mouth—though you have to visit a couple of times before the… More >>
  • Best Thai Restaurant Per Square Foot

    Sutha Thai Kitchen

    Sutha seats maybe 12 to 15 people. The square footage is so scant you've been inside closets with more space. Any more cramped, and it would be illegal to be a restaurant. A thin layer of drywall separates you from the kitchen. From the other side, you hear the unseen roar of the burner and the loud clangs of a… More >>
  • Best Cambodian Restaurant

    Sophy's Fine Thai & Cambodian Cuisine

    Thank goodness Sophy's Fine Thai & Cambodian Cuisine's previous landlord in Long Beach's Cambodia town refused to renew the lease; otherwise, Sophy Khut and her crew wouldn't have had the chance to expand. The new PCH digs is four times the space, and it has its own parking lot. Don't take this to mean that finding a spot is any… More >>
  • Best Vietnamese Restaurant

    Xanh Bistro - CLOSED

    Haley Nguyen is a juggernaut. Part teacher, part chef and all restaurateur, this woman seems to do everything. She teaches culinary courses at Saddleback College, and she cooks the coursework at her restaurant, Xanh Bistro. She is the ultimate rebuke of the aphorism "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach" because, well, she can do it all. Whatever you… More >>
  • Pho Thanh Lich

    Best Pho

    Pho Thanh Lich

    From the street, this low-slung temple to beef noodle soup looks perpetually closed; the deep eaves hide the neon signs that advertise the restaurant's specialty. Wander in, and most, if not all, of the tables will be occupied by people slurping up pho as though lost at sea for months. Thanh Lich's pho broth is quite possibly the least-greasy in… More >>
  • Best Divey Place to Slurp Noodles

    Trieu Chau

    Are you squeamish? A germophobe? If your answer to either question is yes, then forget about even setting foot in Trieu Chau in Santa Ana. When we use the word "dive" here, we mean it. The floor will likely have pieces of food on it. Also, the place is so cramped that you're probably—no, scratch that—you will most certainly get… More >>
  • Best Japanese Restaurant

    Ohshima

    If you think you know Japanese cuisine, get ready to be schooled by Ohshima. At this sushi bar that looks like any other from here to Peoria, you'll likely see foods you've never even considered putting in your mouth. Somewhere between the pig's ear salad and the barracuda sushi, it dawns on you how little you know. One way to… More >>
  • Best Shabu Shabu

    Shabu Shabu Bar

    A lot of people aren't sold on the shabu shabu idea. To paraphrase Bill Murray in Lost In Translation, what kind of restaurant makes you cook your own food? But some are enamored with the concept of swishing meat around a boiling pot. These are the same types who enjoy 1,000-piece puzzles: those who endeavor to do something not because… More >>
  • Best Sushi

    Wafu of Japan

    A great sushi restaurant understands the tightrope between offering fresh fish for the masses and pleasing the snobs, between tradition and innovation. And Wafu of Japan understands this better than its competitors. The tiny dive, located just outside the gates of John Wayne Airport, can omakase with Morimoto, offering blue shrimp complete with fried head for your sucking and buttery… More >>
  • Best Filipino Restaurant

    Kapit Bahay

    Filipino restaurants remain Orange County's most impenetrable eateries, with their only patrons usually Pinoys or their white relatives. But all you need is a combo plate at Kapit Bahay to turn you onto one of the world's great cuisines. Like nearly all stateside Filipino diners, this Anaheim spot is turo-turo (in Tagalog, "point point," which is to say a buffet).… More >>
  • Best Korean Restaurant

    Shik Do Rak

    Know this: You will stink. The smell of sizzled meat will get into parts of you that you didn't think were reachable except by doctors. What did you expect from arguably the most popular Korean barbecue in OC, where you, your neighbor and the whole packed house are cooking inside what is essentially one big communal kitchen? The suction vents… More >>
  • Best Self-Basting Birds

    Inka Grill Rotisserie Chicken - CLOSED

    You can get a rotisserie chicken just about anywhere these days: Costco, the local supermarket. The basic idea is as universal as chicken itself: Spear the whole hen on a rotating spike, then leave it to roast near a radiating heat source so the subcutaneous fat self-bastes the meat to a juicy sort of succulence. But the Peruvians at Inka… More >>
  • Best Fish and Chips

    England Fish and Chips

    An arm is about the only part you'll see of the man responsible for the masterpiece of the deep-fried arts that is England Fish and Chips' cod. You'll see his arm sticking out of a tiny service window, depositing orders. And since each piece of fish retails for less than most value menu items, there are a lot of orders… More >>
  • Best Old-School Food Truck

    Alebrije's Grill

    Long before it got all tied up with Twitter and Facebook, before it became fashionable, old-school food trucks such as Alebrije's Grill scratched out a living, going from to industrial park to industrial park, filling a simple but noble demand: to feed those who only have a precious 30 minutes for lunch. But even as it serviced these day toilers,… More >>
  • Barcelona OnTheGo

    Best New Age Food Truck

    Barcelona OnTheGo

    Meter maids and cops may point the finger at Kogi for inspiring a flock of gourmet taco trucks eager to follow it into success. But despite all its hype and parking violations, without Kogi, we might never have made the acquaintance of Barcelona OnTheGo, a truck that kinda sets the whole roach-coach thing on its head. Chimichurri-drenched steak with hand-cut… More >>
  • Best Italian Restaurant

    Cortina's Italian Market

    Other Italian restaurants make rarer dishes or use finer cooking techniques. But the overall mangia mangia experience of big-screen televisions, voluble chefs and wise-guy and -gal servers reaches a hearty climax at Cortina's, which has satiated Anaheim's palates for nearly 50 years. It's most famous for subs, edible Louisville sluggers with fresh cuts and sauces, including a meatball sandwich featuring… More >>
  • Best Chinese Restaurant

    Asian Tapas

    Peel back that disingenuous name, and you get what the restaurant is really about: impeccably cooked Northern Chinese fare. A lip-numbing slick of chili oil lubricates the wontons. Noodles and soft, tendon-y beef lurk beneath a dark-as-tea soup redolent of anise for a classic niu rou mien. Thousand-year-old egg with bluish yolks and clear-as-aspic albumen ride silken tofu blocks like… More >>
  • Best Indian Restaurant

    Traditions

    The Indian restaurant that replaced Roderick's in Tustin is a distinct improvement on its creepy, weird predecessor. A standout even in Indian-heavy Tustin, Sam Gupta's eatery relies on fresh ingredients and gracious (if sometimes slow) service. The lunch buffet is one of the best cheap-food options in Central County and well-worth the trip, but the reason to go is the… More >>
  • Best Fast-Food Indian

    Niki's Indian Food

    No epic buffets or rare dosas at Niki's, a shopping-center dive near where Santa Ana and Tustin merge, just massive piles of rice with your choice of meats, a cup of raita and naan. It keeps the tandoor burning all day, so stick with the meats: juicy, ruddy tandoori chicken; lamb; and even the occasional curry, whipped out within minutes… More >>
  • Best Mexican Restaurant

    Los Chilangos

    Orange County is not lacking in regional Mexican dives, from Baja California to Oaxaca and all points in between. But only Los Chilangos, a relative to one of the county's first Mexico City-style restaurants, changes its menu weekly to offer all of the dizzying street foods of the famed cuidad: fried quesadillas stuffed with flor de calabaza or truffle-like huitlacoche;… More >>
  • Best Middle Eastern Restaurant

    House of Kabob II

    The Lake Forest location House of Kabob made this list last year. This year, it expanded to Irvine and only got better. The rice, a free-flowing mountain of loose grains with a faint saltiness and a yogurt-y tang, is the anchor to every meal—meals that start with juicy, char-flecked kebabs of lamb, chicken, beef and koobideh, a ground meat tube… More >>
  • Best Breakfast

    Jägerhaus

    Whenever we're asked where to eat before a day at Disneyland, we always respond with the Happiest Breakfast On Earth at this old German standby overlooking the 57 freeway. Spätzle, German whole-wheat dumplings, are common as accompaniments to dishes such as sauerbraten, but Jägerhaus puts them inside eggs with excellent ham and calls it a Schwaben omelet. Sausages of several… More >>
  • Best Sunday Brunch

    Memphis At the Santora - CLOSED

    Memphis At the Santora is a bit of a cliché in this paper's pages, but damned if it's not a true one. And while we usually celebrate it for its bars and Southern-inspired lunches and dinners, let's not forget its Sunday brunch: crawfish omelets, eggs Benedict so buttery you can taste a stick in every dip, nuanced brioche French toast,… More >>
  • Best French Toast

    Bonjour Cafe

    We have no idea if this is how the French actually make French toast, but we suspect not: Bonjour Cafe's version could have won World War II. It uses some incantation to inflate the brioches to the shape and near-size of toasters, keeping the dish airy and sweet. The menu offers three fresh fruit-nuts-cream combinations for toppings, from kiwis and… More >>
  • Best Hot Dog

    The Dog House - CLOSED

    With hot dogs, it's about the venue as much as the sausage. Urban chaos and street noise seem as essential a condiment as mustard. You get both at the Dog House, a corner shack abutting Long Beach's busy Second Street. The windows are as huge as those holding back the waters at the Aquarium of the Pacific. The doors are… More >>
  • Best Burrito

    Pepe's

    The California burrito is a staple of San Diego and occasionally pops up in Orange County's Mexican restaurants, usually the kind patronized by non-Mexicans. The great exception is Pepe's, the Mexican-American chain at which chile Colorado and green pork rules and horchata is unheard of. But the star is the California burrito, an item so special it's not even listed… More >>
  • Best Pizza

    Il Dolce Pizzeria

    A certificate from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana—a rigid Italian standard to gauge the authenticity of Neapolitan pizza—hangs on the wall at Il Dolce, not that it needs any further validation. Roberto Bignes' barely 1-year-old pizzeria has been the subject of intense scrutiny on food bulletin boards and by newspaper food critics who think they know better. Meanwhile, the graying… More >>
  • Best Also-Italian-Accredited Pizza

    Pizza e Vino

    The space Pizza e Vino occupies has watched countless well-meaning Italian eateries drift into obscurity. But it seems the curse has been broken. Pizza e Vino has begun to make a name for itself—not just in South County, but across the Atlantic as well. In April, the gourmet pizzeria and wine bar got its certification from the Associazione Verace Pizza… More >>
  • Best Coffee

    Tana Ethiopian Restaurant

    The perhaps-apocryphal story about an Ethiopian goatherd noticing his charges acting excitedly after consuming the fruit of a certain mountain bush notwithstanding, Ethiopia is the cradle of coffee, and Tana Ethiopian Restaurant owner Shewaye Zeleke wants to make sure would-be drinkers have time for it because she starts with green coffee beans. After being roasted by hand over coals, the… More >>
  • Best Cheesesteak

    Frank's Philadelphia

    This store is definitely deserving of the Philly moniker, despite the lack of Cheese Whiz. Walking into Frank's, you're greeted by Eagles and Flyers pennants, Donovan McNabb pictures (No. 5, you will be missed) and the sounds of sports on the TV. More important, you can smell and see the delicacies that will have you loosening your belt once you… More >>
  • Best French Fries

    Alerto's

    Alerto's is the finest of the many rip-offs of the original Alberto's chain, and it also has the mejor version of the San Diego restaurant's carne asada fries—Mexican meets American with a bunch of jalapeños, chunks of carne asada, cheese, sour cream and mustard thrown in. Not authentically Mexican? You won't care after those last morsels of carne asada lay… More >>
  • Best Long-Simmered Intestinal Tracts

    Tri-Village - CLOSED

    In Mandarin, it's called wu geng chang wang—"5 a.m. intestine blaze"—referring to a stew set over an alcohol flame that gets started in the wee hours. If you've been looking for a place to get your chitlin on but want something besides the Creole soup of potatoes and the Cajun trinity of onions, bell peppers and celery, then head for… More >>
  • Best Insectuous Appetizer

    El Fortin

    The problem for people into John the Baptist cosplay is that while they're able to find honey and camel's hair tunics, they can't source locusts for love or money. Fear not; with sufficient application of chile powder, lime and salt, the chapulines at El Fortin Oaxacan Restaurant will serve perfectly well. They don't actually taste like much; this pre-Hispanic foodstuff… More >>
  • Best Hamburger

    Husky Boy Burgers

    Cooks have refined the once-humble hamburger into vessels of organic this and rocket salad that; Husky Boy cares for the days when topping patties with pastrami—created by Greeks in Anaheim during the 1970s, now strangely a Utah phenomenon—was as out-there as you could get. It's a greasy, glorious mess: a regular hamburger, already good because of Husky Boy's charbroiled process… More >>
  • Best Sandwich at 5 a.m.

    Banh Mi Cho Cu

    The lure of the über-cheap Vietnamese sandwich is no novelty in and around Little Saigon, but now hungry clubbers who closed down the after-party, workers on the early shift and families trying to beat LA traffic on the way out of town can stop for a filling breakfast at this tiny hole in the wall that opens at the unholy… More >>
  • Taco Loco

    Best Stoner-Inspired Mexican Food

    Taco Loco

    A neon-purple mushroom glows in the window of Laguna Beach's acclaimed Taco Loco. Sure, it offers an almost celestial cure for the post-pot munchies, but the essential beach-day pit stop is a staple for the stoned and sober alike, offering delectable combinations of Mexican, Californian and vegan fare. Fatty chunks of avocado ooze out of the famed blackened-mushroom-tofu burger and… More >>
  • Best Dessert

    Frostbites

    It may not be the first Italian-ice joint in Orange County, and it may not be the last, but for the moment, Frostbites has the dessert to detox you from too many disappointing frozen-yogurt stands. The frozen confection here tastes like something between an ICEE and a sorbet. Though thick enough to hang from an inverted spoon, it melts in… More >>
  • Best Cupcake

    Avanti Cafe

    Avanti changes its cupcakes often, so what you see in the enticing display case is what you get. It doesn't matter, though, because the creations of co-owners/co-chefs Mark Cleveland and Tanya Fuqua never disappoint. The cupcakes here are vegan, which means they are slightly healthier for you than the stuff other folks hawk, but no less delicious. A peanut-butter cupcake… More >>
  • Best Bagels

    Bagel Me!

    The sins committed in the name of bagels on the West Coast are many and legion, but the most egregious sin is to have a weak crust. We were surprised, then, to find OC's best approximation of the official breakfast of New York in a set of North County self-serve bagelries. Bagels ought to take a little bit of work… More >>
  • Oh Those Donuts

    Best Doughnuts

    Oh Those Donuts

    Goodbye, Krispy Kreme; hello, Oh Those Donuts! The Costa Mesa bakery and deli offers buttery, rich, delectable doughnuts 24 hours a day—even via a drive-through. Whether you're starting off your day or capping off a bibulous night, the yellow-and-red building shines like a beacon of seriously caloric delight. The intoxicating aroma of fried goodness emanates from behind the transparent case;… More >>
  • Best Non-Burger Burger

    Thasos Greek Island Grille

    The juicy and thick fried-squid pieces resemble mid-size onion rings mortared in earthy hummus. On their own, that'd make for a good Mediterranean meal, but when paired with fluffy burger buns and the traditional fixings of lettuce, tomato and red onions, the Calamari Burger becomes heartily American.… More >>
  • Best Empanada

    Rollie's Bakery - CLOSED

    Rollie's Bakery offers Mexican and Bolivian food, but disregard the Mexi part in favor of the delicious Bolivian dinners. Whatever you order, grab a couple of salteñas, the golden-crusted turnovers containing mini-dinners inside: olives, ground beef, cinnamon, raisins, hard-boiled eggs, vegetables, even broth. Be careful about that last part—though if you forget about the steaming broth as you bite into… More >>
  • Best Taco

    Taquería Zamora

    A taco is meant to be a quick snack; any bigger than your palm, and it's a burrito, right? Well, try telling that to Taquería Zamora, which produces perhaps the largest taco in the free world—wrapped in a wonderfully misshapen, freshly patted corn tortilla larger than your average flour version, thick and slightly crispy, and tasting of fresh masa. Atop… More >>
  • Best Meal You Can Pay for With Couch Change

    Taqueria El Granjenal

    After your first bite at El Granjenal, you'll exclaim, "¡Uno mas, por favor!" The menu items may be extremely cheap, but this brightly colored taqueria serves up delectably authentic, fresh Mexican fare. Spicy salsa, onions and cilantro are slathered liberally on the savory, soft tacos ($2.29 each). They're available al pastor (shaved pork with spices) or with tender carnitas, hearty… More >>
  • Best Cheap-But-Classy Dinner Date

    K'ya Bistro Bar

    The entire menu consists of "small plates," but here's the secret: They're not really small. They're not huge, mind you, but dishes such as the decadent truffle risotto could feed a person and a half for only $5. Few food items top $10 at K'ya, and everything from the pad Thai-style fried calamari to the pecan-crusted pork chop is shareable… More >>
  • Best Bakery

    Blackmarket Bakery

    Rachel Klemek's outstanding bakery is not a place anyone is going to accidentally happen upon. Situated in an anonymous corporate park just off the eastern end of John Wayne Airport's entry, the bakery is tucked far enough back that patrons have learned to look for the delivery van parked nearer the street. Once found, though, the harder part is leaving.… More >>
  • Best Ice Cream

    La Flora de Mexico

    Foodies are finally discovering the pleasures of Mexican helados—ice cream formed with native fruits such as tuna (the fruit of the prickly-pear cactus) and mamey, paletas (iced fruit bars) concocted from agues frescas, or flavored creams such as nuez (walnuts) or horchata. And while Santa Ana has the largest collection of neverías, the top choice is in Stanton, where the… More >>
  • Best Farmers' Market

    Irvine Certified Farmers' Market

    Call it Irvine, call it UC Irvine, call it whatever you like; the largest of Irvine's three weekly farmers' markets is the county's best. Parking can be a challenge, but outlying lots in the same center provide relief for those in the know. The Irvine Certified Farmers' Market is a magnet for high-quality produce from the Imperial Valley and Baja,… More >>
  • Best Restaurant Brought Back From the Dead

    Al-Amir Bakery

    Last year, Al-Amir Bakery's original Anaheim location mysteriously burned down, and fans of its sphihas (Middle Eastern-style pizzas) wailed in disappointment. But Al-Amir returned bigger and better this year, just down the street. The same sphihas dominate: baked to order, containing fresh ingredients, and drawing in even-bigger crowds from the Little Arabia district. They're still settling in to their new… More >>
  • Best Rotating Menu

    The Crosby - CLOSED

    Last year, the Crosby decided to grow up—it kept the hipster vibe and the cheap-but-delicious pizzas and pastas, but it also decided to debut a chef's menu that changes monthly. Head chef Aron Habiger has yet to disappoint—in his menu, eaters see the maturation and mad skills of a young gun who knows his limits and pushes them at all… More >>
  • Best Place to Burn Off Your Tongue Tastefully

    Wadiya - CLOSED

    Wadiya is already a must-visit, given it's one of the few Sri Lankan restaurants in the United States, let alone Orange County. But those who live to destroy their palate and innards with delicious heat will eschew Mexican forever in favor of the Anaheim eatery's dishes. Pork in black curry escalates its heat slowly, like the proverbial pot of water… More >>
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