As Main Street in Santa Ana turns into Main Street in Irvine—just before it shoots underneath the 55 freeway—you enter a geographical time warp. There’s an actual strawberry farm with an actual stand that sells produce whenever the fruit is in season. No new construction is visible, although the high-rises of the South Coast Metro area are on the horizon. The rough edges of the county seat turn into the bland office parks of Larry Agran’s domain. And across the street from the strawberry field stands a liquor store that advertises itself as a deli and actually is one: Qwik Korner.
It’s one of the more surprising liquor stores in central county—a seeming ampm rip-off from the outside, but downright gourmet on the inside, with racks of good wines and dozens of different boozes. The aisles are clean, and the workers are nice, but first-timers can be excused for walking in and vainly searching for the promised hoagies. Are they those cold, plastic-wrapped mushes in the corner? Eventually, the owner will kindly guide you next door to the kitchen—food used to be sold in the convenience store proper, but Qwik Korner’s success demanded it expand.
The most popular items are the breakfast burritos, among the most massive around—place them alongside a hoagie, both shrouded in butcher paper, and a casual observer wouldn’t know the difference. The stuffing of each is perfect—the hash browns sit on the fence between too crispy and too juicy, the eggs maintain a hint of yolk and get cooked only long enough to afford them a silky consistency, the cheddar cheese stretches for inches after each bite. And the meats! Sandwich-quality cuts mean the ham, bacon and sausage actually taste like they’re supposed to instead of the bland pork too many breakfast-burrito emporiums use. The only drawback to the gargantuan size is that the flavors eventually overwhelm you—depending on what meat you ordered, the tail end of the burrito might taste more like an Egg McMuffin than anything Mexican. And I wish Qwik Korner let the tortilla crisp a bit more, but who’s complaining when this Leviathan can carry you through a 10-hour workday?
Better are the breakfast sandwiches—cheaper, just as filling, with the ingredients still delish and falling out of the large slices of toasted bread. The lunch sammies are great, too: Reubens, Philly cheesesteak, BLT, pastrami, Italian and German-derived monsters with multiple cold cuts. But if you pick just one, pick the liverwurst, that grand sandwich of yore, minimally dressed with mustard and onions. Qwik Korner might seem anomalous in Santa Ana, but hey, that’s what makes this city so pinche cool.
Qwik Korner, 3960 S. Main St., Ste. C, Santa Ana, (714) 545-5772.
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