It's Best Of time . . . you have your dead-tree copies, right? No? Go get one . . . we'll be here when you get back.
Unfortunately, whoever was supposed to tabulate the Reader's Choice poll this year into one easy-to-read guide must have had a huge hangover because it's nowhere to be found online--but we, your benevolent Forkers, have compiled the list for food and drink (and some of the bar/club stuff that involves drinking). It's on the last page of this post.
We're not sure if it's the fact that our crack marketing department allowed the nominees to campaign this year--pretty much every available flat surface at both outposts of Kéan Coffee was covered with posters urging patrons to stuff the ballot box--but you're catching on, Orange County. Keep this up, and someday we might actually be able to have an argument on the merits.
First, the good: We don't even care that you picked a chain as Best Mexican Restaurant because it means you didn't pick Javier's--though we did, for Best All-Ages Meat Market. Jerry's Wood-Fired Dogs? Worthy choice for Best Hot Dog. We agreed with you about Seabirds for Best New-Age Food Truck and again with your choice for Best Outdoor Dining (Beachcomber Café).
This being OC, we can sort of kind of accept Chronic Tacos through the haze of, um, that stuff President Barack Obama used to smoke but now prosecutes because he's turned into the Man. Only the potato tacos, though--the other stuff, nah.
Irvine Farmers' Market at UC Irvine is definitely a worthwhile pick, as is the aforementioned Kéan Coffee, which won both Best Coffee and Best Coffeehouse.
Of course you were going to pick Goat Hill Tavern as the best dive bar in OC--we might as well just preprint the award plaque.
Now for the bad . . .
You need some work on your Vietnamese food. Pho 99 isn't even in the top 50 pho shops in the county, and Bodhi Tree, while tasty, isn't even a Vietnamese restaurant; it's a pan-Asian place at which maybe 10 percent of the menu is Vietnamese. Chipotle again? Come on, guys--at least go eat at El Toro Bravo.
Jerry's Famous Deli? The antithesis of everything New York loves in a deli? The place where we once had to instruct the waiter on how to make a chocolate egg cream--a thing given pride of place on the menu--in order to avoid having actual eggs be used? This is the best deli OC has? No, no, a thousand times no.
P.F. Chang's won Best Chinese Restaurant for the umpteenth time in a row. Are you people sick in the head? Was the voting skewed by a bunch of people from Leisure World whose grandchildren just taught them how to use that Interwebs thingy? I mean, we didn't even pick them for Best Lettuce Wrap--that honor went to Ziing's in Fullerton.
All of you people who voted for Bruegger's as the best bagels in OC--get out. Pack up your leaden, soggy, bready round things and your extra-gelatinous cream cheese that springs back like revolting dairy gummy worms and get out of our county so maybe the real bagels can come out of hiding. Seriously, have you ever eaten an actual bagel?
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The snark this year was written halfheartedly; this year's results are so far ahead of last year's and--ugh--2009's--that it caused a tiny spark of hope even in our jaded hearts that maybe we're helping people eat better. Keep it up, OC--and for the love of all that's holy, go out and eat some actual Chinese food between now and next year.
Meanwhile, the curated list is on the next page.
Best Bagels - Bruegger's
Best Bakery - 85C Bakery
Best Bar in Orange County - Crow Bar
Best Bartender - Andrea at the Green Girl Saloon
Best Beer Selection - Yard House
Best Brewery - Newport Beach Brewing Co.
Best Burrito - Chipotle
Best Chinese Restaurant - P.F. Chang's China Bistro
Best Coffee - Kéan Coffee
Best Coffeehouse - Kéan Coffee
Best Cupcake - Casey's Cupcakes
Best Deli - Jerry's Famous Deli
Best Dessert - Roy's chocolate soufflé
Best Diner - Ruby's Diner
Best Dive Bar - Goat Hill Tavern
Best Farmers Market - Irvine Farmers Market at UC Irvine
Best French Fries - Memphis Café
Best Hamburger - In-N-Out
Best Happy Hour - Yard House
Best Hot Dog - Jerry's Wood-Fired Dogs
Best Ice Cream - Rite Aid/Thrifty Ice Cream
Best Indian Restaurant - Natraj's Tandoori
Best Italian Restaurant - Roman Cucina
Best Japanese Restaurant - Matsu
Best Late-Night Dining - Harbor House Café
Best Margarita - El Matador
Best Martini - La Cave
Best Mexican Restaurant - Avila's El Ranchito
Best Middle Eastern Restaurant - Marrakesh
Best New Restaurant - True Food Kitchen
Best New-Age Food Truck - Seabirds
Best Outdoor Dining - The Beachcomber
Best Pho - Pho 99
Best Pizza - Gina's Pizza and Pastaria
Best Restaurant - Seasons 52
Best Restaurant When Someone Else Is Paying - Mastro's Ocean Club
Best Seafood Restaurant - The Crab Cooker
Best Sports Bar - Rudy's Pub & Grill
Best Sunday Brunch - Las Brisas
Best Sushi - RA Sushi
Best Taco - Chronic Tacos
Best Thai Restaurant - Royal Thai Cuisine
Best Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurant - Native Foods
Best Vietnamese Restaurant - Bodhi Tree Vegetarian Café
Best Waterfront Dining - Duke's Huntington Beach