10 Essential Garden Grove Restaurants

Drink up, then eat up!
Drink up, then eat up!
Laila Derakhshanian

Garden Grove has too many of my favorites. It took me a few days to chop my first draft of this list down to the ten you see below. If you hadn't noticed, Garden Grove is that Venn diagram sweet spot where O.C.'s own Korean District overlaps with Little Saigon.

What's left are the 10 restaurants and eateries that make Garden Grove one of the best eating towns in our county...or the state, even.

Do you agree? Disagree? Have your own 10? Participate in the discussion and put in a comment, won't you?

Brodard
Secret sauce not pictured...
Secret sauce not pictured...
Edwin Goei

The nem noung rolls that made Brodard famous are still the ones against which all others are measured. The protein at the fulcrum is a ruddy concoction which isn't quite a sausage and not really a meatball, but a harmonious fusion of the two. A slender piece of it is grilled then wrapped tautly inside transculent rice paper with more vegetables than you probably had all week. And don't forget that secret dunking sauce--a substance whose recipe is better-guarded than nuclear launch codes. But you can still see them make the rolls on their assembly line; and then munch in their newly remodeled dining room. Brodard doesn't look like a dolled-up high school gymnasium as it used to, but it's still behind a 99-Cent-Only store.

Cham Sut Gol
Right now, your stomach is just as hungry as your eyes
Right now, your stomach is just as hungry as your eyes
Charles Lam

You can't do much better at an all-you-can-eat than Cham Sut Gol. It remains one of the most popular and consistent Korean BBQ's in Garden Grove's Korean District. Their supply of panchan is good enough to fill up on, constituting a hearty meal on its own if you eat it with rice. It includes one of the most delicious potato salads found on Earth. But it's the bulgogi, the kalbi, and the spicy pork you're after. You don't even have to stand up to get more meat; they bring it to you, along with a steamed egg custard pot that, yes, functions as filler. But you should eat anyway. It's deliciously airy and worthy of the any stomach left unclaimed by all the animal flesh you'll sear and eat.

Joe's Italian Ice
Edward Hopper, eat your heart out!
Edward Hopper, eat your heart out!
Edwin Goei

Joe's sits in a lonely hut on its own tiny lot, along a dark stretch of road just outside the border of Disneyland's tourist enclave. In the night, the luminous stand looks like something straight out of an Edward Hopper painting, a refuge for the desolate, bathed in light. Its specialty is authentic Philly-style water ice in permutations too numerous to recount but include those named Razzamatazz and Bananadana. Made in the store with fruit and just the right dosage of sugar and food coloring, the best way to consume it is as a Joe-Latti. A waxed-paper cup is filled by teenage employees with the Italian ice of your choosing, then topped with a dollop of a rich, soft-serve vanilla ice cream of an ultra-dense, calorically concentrated East Coast character.

Go Goo Ryeo
Meat feast!
Meat feast!
Edwin Goei

The best part about Go Goo Ryeo is that it's a do-it-yourself Korean barbecue joint where everything is done for you. But to experience the full splendor of the service, come on a Friday, or better yet, a weekday, during which the ratio of restaurant staff to diners will be stacked in your favor. They'll tend to the meats sizzling on your tabletop grill, turn over every piece of beef to check if it's properly seared, and snip the bacon into bite-sized swatches with scissors. Then they'll transfer every freshly grilled morsel to your plate one-by-one and answer in limited English how to eat it. There's a supply of mouthwash in the restroom in case you have some place to go afterward.



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