Dave's Top 5 Restaurants of 2012

Dave's Top 5 Restaurants of 2012

It's the most common question I'm asked: what are your top five restaurants? I was asked in my 20 Qs on Greer's OC earlier this year, and I punted on the question because every year we're told to make this list up, and it's hard enough to pick just five.

I wish I had more than five spots for my top five; I'm leaving out restaurants that truly deserve a spot here. The pop-up dinners at Anais+, trolling the ever-changing menu at The Playground, burning the cold out of my sinuses at Chong Qing Mei Wei, octopus anything at Broadway by Amar Santana, and so many others: it's just about impossible to pick just five.

Read on for the finalists... 

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5. Paninoteca Maggio

You could walk in to Paninoteca Maggio, order in Italian from owner Sharron Barshishat, sip an excellent espresso while you wait, and never have a clue you weren't in Cinque Terre or Genoa until you paid in dollars rather than euros. The sandwiches are simple but excellent; they're not very much more expensive than the schifo they serve at Quiznos, and they're orders of magnitude better.

4. Potzol den Cano

The love I have for the enfrijoladas at Potzol den Cano--thick tortillas dipped in bean sauce and wrapped around chicken, then topped with cheese and chorizo--is deep and abiding. I love the pozole too, which comes a close second to the family pozole recipe. I even love the tortas, simple as they are. What I love most about Potzol den Cano, though, is that it's a metaphor for Santa Ana: authentically Mexican without pandering. If you haven't been, you need to go right now.

Dave's Top 5 Restaurants of 2012
Dave Lieberman

3. Dat Thanh

Sure, they're known for having better

Break of Dawn's head chinito chingón Dee Nguyen
Break of Dawn's head chinito chingón Dee Nguyen

Every time I hear someone complain that they can't get "normal breakfast food" at Break of Dawn, I cringe, because that's not why you drive to Laguna Hills. No, you drive for the tempura eggs; the shell shatters like sugar when you touch it with your fork, revealing a perfectly set white and a thick, runny yolk. You drive for the braised lamb with 62º egg, so softly cooked that it barely holds together. You drive for the Vietnamese take on smoked salmon, with green herb sauce atop savory oatmeal cakes. Denver omelet? That's what Woody's next door is for.


THE RANCH (their insistence on capitalization, not ours) is arguably the best thing to happen to Anaheim dining since Little Arabia; an upscale restaurant in an unlikely location just outside both tourist foci of the city, it serves truly farm-to-table food (the farm is in Orange Park Acres) and excellent steaks, chops, and roasted meats with what may be the best restaurant wine list in the county. Maybe that's why Anne Marie and I both chose it in our Top Five.

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