All Stripped Down
A journey through the culinary offerings of OC’s nudie bars reveals some predictably awful offerings—but also some surprisingly delicious discoveries
When I told my friends of my plan to review strip-club food, we had a good laugh. “What will they have there? Crabs?” one of them quipped.
But as the assignment loomed closer, dread set in. Did these places even serve food?
Here’s a tip for anyone else who sets out on such a fool’s errand: A photo of a snack bar on a strip club’s website doesn’t necessarily mean they have a snack bar. It only confirms that they own a neon sign that says, “Snack Bar.” This is what I found after I paid the cover to get into my first stop. Other than a sparsely stocked vending machine, there was no food to review.
I called ahead before going to the next place on the list: Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club in Westminster.
“Will you have food tonight?” I asked.
“Yes. Frozen pizzas, chicken fingers,” answered the guy on the other end.
“Is that part of the cover? Or is it extra?”
“No, it’s separate,” he said.
“Oh, okay, great!” I replied, semi-excitedly.
Then there was a pause as it dawned on him that I actually intended to eat there.
“It’s just oven-heated stuff. It’s not very good,” he warned with surprising honesty. “Really, you should eat somewhere else before you come.”
Any sane man would’ve taken his advice. But I had a job to do. So I prepared myself for a dinner of frozen pizza, only to be told by our waitress when I arrived that they weren’t serving food. “There are two guys selling tacos outside on the patio,” she said brightly. What happened next was a discovery so unexpected, so hope-instilling, that my friend and I could talk about nothing else for the rest of the night: These were some of the best tacos we’ve ever had!
The al pastor was brick-red, spicy, flavorful and crispy burnt in the right parts; the carne asada was tender, and the chicken still moist. All were wrapped in corn tortillas that were as smooth and soft as blinis.
Sold two for $3 and assembled to order on a rollaway cart, these were authentic street-style tacos done by Paraiso Catering, taco-truck guys usually based in Santa Ana, but invited by the club to serve patrons on Tuesdays and Fridays at their outdoor smoking lounge.
Before each order, our taco assembler rubbed his hands with some antibacterial gel, took some tortillas for a dab in oil, then plopped them on a griddle to warm until each puffed up slightly. Once done, he stacked them in twos on a paper plate and spooned over them generous mounds of meat from a heated container.
A compact but fully stocked salsa bar was self-serve, complete with two searing, day-glo hot sauces (red and green), cilantro, chopped onions and pico de gallo—all the condiments you’d expect from a good taquería. By the end of the night, we had surrendered more dollar bills at the cart than at the stage.
Next was Fritz That’s Too in Anaheim, an auditorium-sized hall of vice that proudly offers a full menu of burgers, pizza, hot wings, even steak, which I had to order on general principle. It was a decent cut: well-seasoned and smoky, if a little chewy—as good as a late-night diner’s steak and priced about the same. It came with clumpy rice pilaf that I barely touched and steamed veggies that were clearly reheated from frozen. I stole most of my starch from a mound of fries that accompanied my friend’s burger, both of which, he said, were “okay.” The fries reminded me of Disneyland’s.
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Before visiting Captain’s Cabaret, an old-Vegas-style club in the middle of suburban Lake Forest, I clicked on the “Dining” section of its website, expecting a menu. Instead, there was a list of suggestions on where to eat in Lake Forest, including the Hat and Nory’s Peruvian (both solid recommendations, by the way). Buried in the text, however, was an easy-to-miss blurb that complimentary hot dogs are served during the day.
The wieners were indeed free—and better than they had to be. Boiled in beer in a self-serve slow cooker, the dogs were juicy, thick and measured a foot. (There’s a joke here somewhere.) With them came free chips and an impressive menagerie of condiments.
Oh, and if you’re wondering why I haven’t really addressed or described the other goings-on at these places, let me spell it out for you now: There were strippers.
Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club, 7000 Garden Grove Blvd., Westminster, (714) 891-1430; www.hustlerclubs.com. Tacos by Paraiso Catering on Tuesdays and Fridays. Full bar.
Fritz That’s Too, 710 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 978-1828. Full menu with burgers, sandwiches, pizza, steak, etc. Full bar. Call for hours, current cover charges and drink minimums.
Captain’s Cabaret, 3642 Rockfield Blvd., Lake Forest, (949) 951-5052; www.captainscabaret.com. Complimentary hot dogs for lunch only. Full bar.