This week contains one of the most ancient and cherished traditions in America, where families get up at shockingly early hours to fight traffic just to be together for a day. Thanksgiving, you say? No, Black Friday, the day by which all retail business for the entire year is judged.
If you're headed out into the scrum of Orange County's shopping centers, you are going to need a bite to eat at some point (unless you're one of those people pressing your face on the glass of the door at Wal-Mart at 3:59 AM, in which case there is no helping you). Here are some ideas for ways to avoid the food court:
There's not a lot within walking distance of the Brea Mall; Brea is not a particularly pedestrian-friendly city. That said, for the nostalgia factor, head for The Hat and get a pastrami dip and, if your cardiologist isn't already having a myocardial infarction by proxy, get the wet fries with cheese. Make sure to do bicep curls with your shopping bags on the way back across the intersection. 1210 East Imperial Highway, Brea; (714) 257-9500.
Anyone who's ever watched the Real Housewives knows about Javier's, and while that's a good place to hang out if you're a hot young guy looking for a sugar mama, the food (as Edwin and Gustavo discussed) is not up to par. Leave it to the S&M crowd (that's "stand and model," thankyouverymuch) and head over to Veggie Grill instead. Unlike many vegan places, which seem to think that you can't appreciate the non-cruelty of the food unless you're completely unhappy eating it, the folks at Veggie Grill aren't afraid of spices and flavor. 81 Fortune Drive, Irvine; (949) 727-9900.
Laguna Hills Mall:
Need to recover from those doorbuster sales? Line up (and prepare to wait) for the finest breakfast in OC at the Chowhound and Yelp cult favorite, Break of Dawn. The restaurant's menu reads like the ethnic history of la naranja writ small, but you can take a culinary tour with Portuguese sausage and rice, or maybe oatmeal brûlée. This place might be worth making the so-depressing Laguna Hills Mall your Black Friday destination. 24351 Avenida de la Carlota #N-6, Laguna Hills; (949) 587-9418.
Santa Ana Mainplace:
There are actually several decent places to grab a bite to eat, but only one that can also give you the liquid courage you need to get back into the fray. While Hollingshead's Deli is a little bit of a walk from the mall, you can work off the calories from their home-style sandwiches, their good deviled eggs, and the dozen-plus interesting, good beers on tap (or the 400 types of beer in bottles). Warning: if you're a Vikings fan, don't talk about football here. 368 South Main Street, Orange; (714) 978-9467. Closed weekends.
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Mall food courts are usually just depressing, and Westminster's is no different. What is different, however, is the presence just across the parking lot of S Vietnamese Fine Dining, one of the few upscale Vietnamese restaurants in a sea of Formica-table pho shops. Why suffer through another tasteless plate? Recover from the deadly stampedes for the two TVs available at those fire-sale prices with a comforting bowl of pho, or a bowl of bun sao vit mang (duck breast soup), or maybe a plate of turmeric-marinated roughy grilled with dill and onions. 545 Westminster Mall, Westminster; (714) 898-5092.