It takes quite a bit of huevosto name a restaurant after yourself, but it's an eatery tradition as hallowed as disappearing silverware. And while popular culture reveres the Pucks, the Joes and the McDonald's of the world, our local restaurateurs get in on the racket as well. The only difference: their food is actually good.
Brees' is the last place in Orange County where you can take wild game to be, um, processed. You bring all of it in: claws, paws, hooves, snouts, horns, antlers and buckshot. You take it home in chops, steaks, rounds, sausages and other cuts of meat. Good feral hog! 11877ValleyViewSt.,GardenGrove,(714)892-1115.$$
The creation of Pascal Olhats, whose Pascal Restaurant in Newport Beach is consistently rated among the best in the county, this café allows you to treat yourself to his signature light Provençal fare at a fraction of the restaurant price. The prosciutto panini—a flattened baguette stuffed with the aforementioned as well as cheese and tomatoes—is an effeminate calzone. It's terrific. 3333BristolSt.,CostaMesa,(714)751-4911.$
Men in the office claim this is more of a scene than Tsunami's, which is weird because I didn't think there could be more of a scene than Tsunami's. Daimon's is for Japanese-cuisine-loving porn stars, strippers, hot guys—and the people who like to hang out with them. 16232PacificCoastHwy.,HuntingtonBeach,(562)592-4862.$$
JON'S FISH MARKET
The fresh fried-seafood offerings are tasty and reasonably priced, but the ambiance is about what you'd expect from a fish market. 34665GoldenLantern,DanaPoint,(949)496-2807.$
An easy sprint from the 405 freeway, Kaplan's features all-day breakfast and more than 50 burgers and sandwiches, as well as such deli staples as latkes and hash. The food is big and delicious. 3211HarborBlvd.,CostaMesa,(714)557-6611.$
Los Anaya's specializes in Mexico City-style food, so you'll enjoy the hefty hallmarks of that diet here: grilled pambaso sandwiches, buttery quesadillas that look like crepes, diabetes-provoking Mexican Coke and a plantation of fresh fruit juices, and an extraordinary caldo tlalpeño that predates Cortés and contains about a half-dozen vegetables. But more remarkable are Los Anaya's two moles, the finest versions of this complex, sauce-heavy dish in Orange County not concocted at a Oaxacan eatery. 12662ChapmanAve.,Ste.4-A,GardenGrove,(714)740-1533.$
Besides the tried-and-true Italian classics (hey, that's a spicy meatball sub!), this mom-and-pop restaurant boasts one of OC's better selections of seafood. 801S.StateCollege,Anaheim,(714)490-0990.$$
When you want to throw caloric caution to the wind, there's no beating Mel's. The cooking is home-style, the portions huge and the waitresses friendly. Other than a hot cuppa joe (yep, that's here, too), what more do you want? You'd be a knucklehead to leave without ordering the hubcap-sized, homemade cinnamon rolls topped with generous dollops of pure melted butter (served weekends only). 9430WarnerAve.,Ste.1,FountainValley,(714)963-2662.¢
This establishment's barbecue is definitely Memphis-style, from the secret sauce with 20 ingredients to the beef brisket. The menu is basic, but choosing what to eat still isn't easy because everything is so good. 11513KnottAve.,Cypress,(714)799-6222.$
Lurking within this seemingly mundane Mexican restaurant are delicious, complex rarities from the central state of Puebla, platters more familiar to an ethnography than an Orange County menu—dense mole poblano, pale goat menudo and guilotas, a chewy type of quail so region-specific it's not even listed in most Spanish dictionaries. 1221E.FirstSt.,Ste.C,SantaAna,(714)834-9004.$
There's a lot to work through in the menu; of the pastas, you should be particularly partial to the gnocchi. And the linguine pescatora is a close cousin to Paolo's cioppino, brimming with mussels, shrimp, clams, salmon and calamari. OldWorldVillage,7561CenterAve.,Ste.37,HuntingtonBeach,(714)373-5399.$$
After a lifetime of frozen supermarket chicken pies, these are a revelation. The crust is thick and flavorful, and unlike the contents of its frozen brothers, Phillips' isn't stingy with the chicken—and they don't bother with vegetables. Who needs 'em? Just about everything chicken is worthy here! 13936SealBeachBlvd.,SealBeach,(562)596-1437.$
Roy's is all about Hawaii—from the "aloha" you get when you come in the door and the Israel Kamakawiwo'ole playing over the speakers to the blah, blah, blah about Tokyo-born founder Roy Yamaguchi, whose childhood visits to Maui, we're told, indelibly shaped his palate (and his palette). Yamaguchi has been fusing ever since—and with great success: he is now the Wolfgang Puck of some 31 eponymous restaurants in North America, with entrées such as rib-eye and hibachi-style grilled salmon. 453NewportCenterDr.,NewportBeach,(949)640-7697.$$$
The dictionary describes scallops as the puffy, powerful adductor muscles of free-swimming mollusks. Scott's Seafood describes the scallop sauté as flown in fresh from Maine and served over caramelized leeks with seared tomatoes, herb corn polenta and sauce chardonnay. 3300BristolSt.,CostaMesa,(714)979-2400.$$$
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Owner Pablo Benavente references his Peruvian roots during lunch and Italian dinners. Before you chow through an extensive, expensive gustatory tour of southern Italy—highlights include powerfully herbed cannelloni, filling risotto and multiple chicken dishes—Benavente trots out a thimble of ají, the deceptively spicy Andean condiment, for your bread-spreading pleasure. 6078 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 841-3619; www.sebastianis.net. $$
This is one cozy oasis—especially after generous margaritas and frosty-mugged Tecates are set before you. The shark fajitas—strips of onion, tomato, bell peppers and killer fish served sizzling in a platter—are muybueno.11035WarnerAve.,FountainValley,(714)531-4909.$$
This could be any OC sushi bar, but when you pop that perfect piece of soy-bathed yellowtail into your mouth and feel the wasabi burn the nether reaches of your sinus cavities, you'll know you're at Tommy's. 1051E.MainSt.,Tustin,(714)544-5241.$
View our complete dining guide at www.ocweekly.com/food.