[Summer Guide] Taking It Alfresco This Summer
Taking it outside this summer
Ahhh, summer in OC. If there’s a better place to be during these hot months, I wouldn’t know about it. The sun, the surf (if you’re willing to fight the traffic, that is) and plenty of great eating places where you can relish being outdoors. From the fancy-pants meals with million-dollar views to the they-don’t-care-if-you’re-wearing-pants catering trucks, here are 10 places to get stuffed this season.
If you had a back yard, you could trot out your Weber grill and have a nice summertime barbecue. Or you could go to Fred Burrell’s place. Think of him as the neighbor with a meat smoker that’s perennially lit and a back gate that’s always unlocked. Stroll into his yard, sit yourself at a picnic table, and listen to the trickle of a fountain and the rustle of the leaves above you. Then lick the sauce that will get stuck under your fingernails and munch on crumbly cornbread and collard greens, all with grass between your toes. 305 N. Hesperian St., Santa Ana, (714) 547-7441.
JOE’S ITALIAN ICE
What’s summer without ice cream? With nothing but a walkup window and a menu dedicated to chilly, brain-freezing treats, Joe’s is a roadside stand built for hot weather. The soft-serve is piped into swirls as tall as a torch, leaving no space in the cone untouched by the ultra-dense, calorically concentrated frozen dairy dessert. Then it’s dipped in chocolate. Lactose-intolerant, you say? Cool your tongue while staining it with fluorescent hues by ordering the Italian ices instead. They come in 14 flavors, are served in wax cups and taste like granita. But with kitschy names such as Bada Bing Cherry and Blue Hawaii, this isn’t just some uppity European Icee—this is a dessert for the people. 12302 Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 750-1076.
KEN MORRONE’S HOT DOG STAND AT REI
More into the workingman’s kind of grub? Then visit “the Dogfudda”—that’s what Ken Morrone calls himself. And his is an offer you can’t refuse—sausages and hot dogs freshly grilled, hurled into a toasted roll, and served in the parking lot of a sporting-goods store. 1411 Village Way, Santa Ana. Find the Dogfudda on Saturdays, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sundays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
KOO’S CATERING TRUCK
While we’re talking about summer nights, let’s talk about the elusive Korean catering truck that seems to only come out during the warm-weather months. If you’re lucky, it will be there on Saturdays after dusk at the Freshia Market parking lot in Tustin. They cook and sell one product only: hotteok, crispy pancakes filled with a scalding layer of syrup, cinnamon, a few specks of nuts and sesame seeds. Once you spot the truck, don’t hesitate. Park, walk up, surrender a dollar, and eat the treat immediately, while standing on the sidewalk, if you have to. Its crispiness has a half-life of only a few minutes—a fleeting thing, just like all summer flings. Usually Saturday evenings in the Freshia Market parking lot, 14551 Red Hill Ave., Tustin.
Okay, we get it. Stop sending letters. Long Beach ain’t in OC. But this rag covers Snoop Dogg’s hometown. Always has. So deal with it. And besides, because we do, it’s a great excuse to talk about Tracht’s, the Jar spin-off by acclaimed chef Suzanne Tracht that shares everything with its LA progenitor without any of its Beverly Boulevard pretentiousness. This includes Jar’s legendary pot roast. Best part is the outdoor patio complete with a firepit, where you can eat said pot roast. Sure, your seat looks out to Ocean Boulevard, not the actual ocean, and yes, those are police sirens you hear. Call it “ambiance”—this is the LBC, after all. 111 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, (562) 499-2533; www.trachts.com.
THE CRAB POT
While we’re talking about Long Beach, let’s talk about the most old-school crab joint there is. Nothing impresses the out-of-towners like a big spread of steamed crab, shrimp, potatoes, corn and andouille sausage all dumped on your table. (That is, so long as they’re not from Seattle, San Francisco, Baltimore, or anyplace in the South.) First, they line your outdoor table with butcher paper, then they tie a plastic bib around your neck. You’ll look like a complete idiot, but you can’t beat the view of the harbor with a stick—not even with the well-worn wooden mallet they give you to crack open the crab shells. 215 N. Marina Dr., Long Beach, (562) 430-0272; www.thecrabpot.com.
What’s that? You’d rather not bother with the manual labor involved in cracking crab claws and shucking shrimp? Well, all right. Then try the newest place in OC to eat by the docks. But unless they finally chipped in money for a sign, you’ll need help to find it. (Hint: Blanca is about 30 paces from the Newport Lido Theater.) Once discovered, take a seat by the water, look out onto Newport Harbor, where all the spoiled people live, and then eat a meal that the spoiled people probably get to enjoy every day. The best thing to get at Blanca is crudo—Italian sashimi: raw fish dolled up with such tasty toppings as grapefruit gelée and puffed wild rice. 3420 Via Oporto, Newport Beach, (949) 673-0414; www.blancanewport.com.
THE PELICAN GRILL
But if it’s “snooty” you want, nothing tops the Pelican Hill Resort at Newport Coast. A golf course that overlooks the ocean? Puh-lease! That’s only the beginning. Property owner the Irvine Co. is rumored to have splurged a cool half-billion dollars to complete the final phase of the resort, which will include a hotel and God knows what else. What’s there now is a gourmet restaurant and a balcony with a view only lighthouses are privy to. Go there and have a look. They’ll let you. For now. 22800 Pelican Hill Rd., Newport Coast, (877) 735-4226; www.pelicanhill.com.
Farther south on the coast is the stalwart of outdoor eating. Sapphire cook their meals with locally sourced, organic ingredients, yadda yadda yadda. But check out the patio, and you’ll realize what it’s really about. The area is elevated from the sidewalk, so you won’t be pestered by gawking pedestrians. And best of all, there’s a firepit to combat those chilly evening coastal breezes. Also, it’s a good excuse to cuddle. 1200 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 715-9888; www.sapphirellc.com.
We end the list with what many consider the best French restaurant in Orange County. It’s everything everyone tells you it is. And yes, again, it’s about that patio. Who would’ve thought such an oasis of serenity could exist on the third story of a shopping mall? Citrus trees. Cabanas. Sunshine. And yeah . . . the best French food in Orange County. South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Ste. 3001, Costa Mesa, (714) 434-7900.
Check out Edwin Goei’s Monster Munching column every Sunday at blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Orange County dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.