Photo by Keith MayAhhh, Laguna Hills: where sapphire-blue waves gently massage miles of rocky coastline. Wait—that's Laguna Beach.
Laguna Hills: where tens of thousands of wizened retirees relax during their golden years . . . that's actually Laguna Woods.
Hmmm . . . Laguna Hills: home of one of the most exciting and dynamic racetracks in . . . no, that's Laguna Seca.
Of course! Laguna Hills: the gutless appeaser that sold out Czechoslovakia to the Nazis. Wait—that was Neville Chamberlain.
Anyway, Laguna Hills is a place where people live. A kind of pretty place, especially its neighborhoods, that has the tony distinction of having crosswalk buttons set high so ultra-rich Nellie Gail Ranch residents can reach them while on horseback. It's a place that enjoys having a good name, some good food and the most nightmarish stretch of road since that parkway festooned with Spartacus and his pals. Still . . .
LAGUNA HILLS CHOWS DOWN
P.J. Bernstein's Restaurant & Delicatessen. Breakfast all day, every day. Get the "French toast our way," which is made with thick, fluffy slices of egg bread. This restaurant/delicatessen/bakery also has such brunch hybrids as the classic Reuben omelet—no kidding, it has sauerkraut and everything! Broadway musical posters and five TV sets surround the main dining room, both of which provide adequate distractions for boring family get-togethers. 25211 Paseo de Alicia, (949) 472-2266.Split Rock Tavern.This nautical-themed place is all dark and wooden inside, much like one of those old sailing ships with the masts and the sails and the guys with those funny striped shirts. The menu focuses on seafood, which makes sense, given the restaurant's maritime atmosphere. But the meat-loaf sandwich is also great. 24035 El Toro Rd., (949) 458-7939.
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LAGUNA HILLS CHOWS DOWN, BUFFET-STYLE
O-Nami Sushi & Seafood Restaurant.An efficient, clean and bright oasis in the Laguna Hills Mall. Translated as "Big Wave," O-Nami is an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet offering plenty of your favorites, including salmon roe, smelt egg and calamari. There's even a bit of green-tea ice cream at the end. 24155 Laguna Hills Mall, Ste. 1300, (949) 768-0500.Natraj Cuisine of India.This mini-chain of Indian food buffets offers delicious Northern Indian treats like lamb and chicken and vegetables. The marsala sauce is rich with subtle herbs and spices—be sure to order extra garlic naan to sop it all up. The spinach and eggplant vegetarian dishes are also delicious. 24861 Alicia Pkwy., (949) 581-4200.
LAGUNA HILLS LOVES ITS TRAFFIC
5 freeway onramps at El Toro Road.Where every day is the fall of Saigon. Where making a simple lane change has all the charm of driving into downtown Kabul. Where drivers display the mannered lan that once distinguished cart drivers fleeing the siege of Stalingrad. This has got to be the worst set of freeway ramps in Orange County, and that is saying something. Too many cars crammed into too few lanes and too close to other cars coming out of malls, fast food joints and—St. Christopher preserve us!—Leisure World.