Anne Marie's Top Five Restaurants of 2013

Dirty, sexy, happiness at ARC.
Dirty, sexy, happiness at ARC.
Anne Marie Panoringan

My primary focus is reporting on what's out there locally. Not reviewing or waxing poetic about such-and-such; it's just not my style. I leave the creative prose to our creative Weeklings. Instead, I am tasked to interview many inspired and passionate cooks who introduce readers to their specialty. And I'm fortunate for these introductions, because that's how we learn about the cuisine Orange County is known for. These guys and gals are having a grand time in the kitchen-- and it shows.

5. the slummin' gourmet

Anne Marie's Top Five Restaurants of 2013
Photo by Elsie Fang

For my high end taste, this lonchera BRINGS it. They aren't shy about pricing, either. because that $10+ burger has a cringe-worthy food cost associated with it. But damn, it's so good. And so are their sweet potato tots with a chipotle maple drizzle, as well as the jam-packed shrimp corn dogs. They serve an ever-changing menu between local roundups like Irvine Lanes, Best Buy Fullerton and the OC Fairgrounds. I hear about tap takeovers and guest chefs at sit-down restaurants, but Tony Lu was collaborating with Waffles de Liege on a chicken and waffle dish that is white linen and decrumber worthy. Slummin's cuisine pushes the preconceived notions most folks have of what a lonchera should be serving, and we noticed. www.theslummingourmet.com.

4. PIE-NOT

Use your hands!
Use your hands!
Anne Marie Panoringan

Yay, crust! Just when I thought OC was covering a breadth of cuisines, out pops another concept. A welcome first behind the orange curtain, eating with my hands hasn't been this much fun since . . . I don't know when. I stand behind the dozen or so savories in the display case, especially their ode to my favorite meal of the day-- stuffed with beef, onions, cheese and cherry tomatoes underneath flaky goodness. And when you've got neighbors like Sidecar to contend with, managing a steady clientele deserves applause for the pie masters. Look forward to next week's On The Line interview with their kitchen.

3. HopScotch

Andouille sausage and grits with red Fresno coulis, white cheddar, poached egg and hollandaise.
Andouille sausage and grits with red Fresno coulis, white cheddar, poached egg and hollandaise.
Anne Marie Panoringan

HopScotch has changed chefs in the last handful of months for the better. I was introduced to Cody Storts and the Culinary Militia when they were doing Nieuport 17 pop-ups for another concept. Originally acting as restaurant consultants, they did a round of menu development with the management team before it first opened at the Fullerton transportation depot. Once they eventually took the reins, things have gone uphill ever since. And no, I'm not just saying that because of our love of brunch. . . although it (and their killer pastry chef) certainly helps. I order the escolar fish and chips, lamb belly stroganoff and their PB&J with house pepita butter. Plentiful booze, hearty appetizers and a love of the pig make for one badass militia.



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