This week in legume love
Beans, bean: the magical fruit,
So damn good, it makes Atkins moot.
Pinto, black, soy: this guide tells all,
Just make sure, friend, to blast in a stall.
¢…….…..……………Less than $10!
$$$……………..……More than $40
It's a drop kick from the historic traffic circle in Orange, one of the county's best places for a leisurely summer lunch. "Fine Mediterranean Cuisine" (here, it means a mix of Lebanese and Greek) is the advertised fare. You are committing a crime if you do not have a cup of the lentil soup. 129 W. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 538-7180.$$
EL CAMINO REAL
The only place to eat pinto beans that match up to my mami's version—light on the garlic and salt, not too refried, perfect for scooping with a chip or smearing on a tortilla. 303 N. Euclid St., Fullerton, (714) 447-3962.¢
CHONG KI WA TOFU
The tiny Korean eatery offers nine different tofu-centric soups, ranging from tofu and oysters to their namesake house specialty. At your request, the server will crack an egg into your dish, giving the tofu a yolkier taste. You can order any tofu dish on a sliding spice scale to give it an even better seasoning, ranging from one (white, clear broth) to five (hydrochloric acid). 5238 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, (714) 562-8989.$
The casamiento is a vegetarian's delight, combining black beans and rice with eggs, avocado and cream, plus a piece of really salty cotija cheese on the side. We suggest you chase that down with a big cup of Salvadorian horchata. 300 W. Fifth St., Santa Ana, (714) 973-0554. $
EGG ROLLS, ETC.
The halo-halo dessert at Egg Rolls, Etc. contains a bright-green sweet bean amongst its swirl of fruit and ice whose various Tagalog names I think translate into English as "I'll never let chocolate touch my mouth again." 1710 W. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 937-0800.$
FELIX CONTINENTAL CAFÉ
One of OC's finest Cuban joints. Lunches run more than $5, and most entrées come with black beans that are reason enough to support the embargo. This place is legendary, and it smells damn good, too. 36 Plaza Square, Orange, (714) 633-5842.$$
Though they serve pinto beans here as well, this Oaxacan restaurant tends to smear everything with a black-bean paste, the tiny dudes exploding with flavor and going well with the restaurant's salty quesillo (stringed cheese) slowly melting within its obsidian broth. 700 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 773-4290; also 10444 Dale Ave., Stanton, (714) 252-9120; www.restaurantelfortin.com.$
Nearly every Irvine Chinatown visitor eventually waddles into this clean, well-lit bakery/boba shop, seeking a sugar capper to their day: taro pastries, tart egg pudding and a bizarre bread slice that contains half a mango covered with cream cheese. Try the bite-sized red-bean cookies—what, never let a sweet red bean melt on your tongue before? Then you don't know life. 15333 Culver Dr., Ste. 660, Irvine, (949) 653-1566.$
Seemingly half of Little Gaza visits Kareem's three times a day, taking comfort in one of the few Orange County Middle Eastern restaurants to offer distinctive breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Owners Mike and Nancy Hawari are the sole employees of the tiny place, and the waiters/cooks/hosts coddle their customers from entrance to exit with wondrous hummus and smiles rounder than a pregnant woman's belly. 1208 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim, (714) 778-6829.$
Dining at the Napa Rose, located inside Disneyland's Grand Californian Hotel, is pricier than a Mouse House year-round pass, so stick to the white-bean soup, a silky broth made from chicken stock with bits of carrot and grilled lamb. As enjoyable as The Lion King, without all the regicide and Hamlet overtures. 1600 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 635-2300.$$$
From her earthy navy-bean soup to voluptuous Naples-style pizza with homemade fennel sausage, Pina Gruner, a native of Italy, puts Neapolitan pride into all of the creations in her tiny Tustin trattoria. 640 W. First St., Tustin, (714) 730-5442.$$
RED ROCK CHILI
You wouldn't expect a chili station to be a tenant in Fashion Island's hoity indoor Atrium Court. Yet there it is, in big, neon letters: Red Rock Chili, a spicy meat-and-bean man's Xanadu, where six varieties of the goop are always bubbling in cauldrons. For those of us who prefer our chili molten, the Hot Rock chili, stewed with the infamously hellish habañero pepper and vanilla-by-comparison jalapeños and chipotles, burns the spot. 401 Newport Center Dr., Ste. A106, Newport Beach, (949) 760-0752; www.redrockchili.com.$
TIKAL TIENDA Y RESTAURANTE
This Guatemalan store brews one of the strangest drinks I've sipped, a goo called atol blanco. Served in a small bowl, atol blanco is black-bean broth, whitened, diced with onions and garlic, and powdered with enough salt to scare a slug. It's definitely an acquired taste—you'll tolerate its pungent wallop after about 15 tries—but it hits every nutritional note, and that means you don't have to consume anything else again. 1111 S. Main St., Santa Ana. (714) 973-8547.¢
VAN HANH VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT
Vietnamese cuisine includes a proud tofu tradition, and Van Hanh's menu represents its full, finest flowering. No limp kung pao and imitation orange chicken here. Instead, you'll find biting papaya concoctions drenched in chile powder and lime juice, noodle selections studded with tasty tofu and veggies, and more rice plates than in Uncle Ben's wildest dreams. 9455 Bolsa Ave., Ste. D, Westminster, (714) 531-4661.¢
ZOV'S BISTRO AND BAKERY
In his 1992 thriller, Hideaway, Dean Koonz's main characters dine at Zov's on calamari and black-bean soup that was "such a perfect sensual experience that the monochromatic bistro seemed ablaze with color." 17440 E. 17th St., Tustin, (714) 838-8855.$$
KNOW A PLACE TO GRUB? E-MAIL GUSTAVO AT GARELLANO@OCWEEKLY.COM. FOR MORE FOOD FUN, INCLUDING ORANGE COUNTY'S BEST DAMN DINING GUIDE AND THE WEEKLY RACIST-MEXICAN-RESTAURANT-LOGO search, VISIT WWW.OCWEEKLY.COM/FOOD.
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