Halloween invites ghosts, paranormal activity, and zombies–but, instead of being scared, what if we used these supernatural existences to our advantage? Guys, we're talking about raising some of our favorite Orange County restaurants from the dead. If beloved Filipino restaurant Magic Wok (now named Crispy House) could do it, maybe–just maybe–the rest of these can too.
10. Sushilicious (Irvine)
Sure, Irvine has Kula and Gatten Sushi for revolving sushi, but they just don't make rolls the way Sushilicious did (plus, Sushilicious always gave college students amazing discounts.) For baked and tempura rolls, Sushilicious definitely had more options than any other revolving sushi joint in the city. Not only that, but their vegetarian options were just as good and weren't limited to cucumber or avocado rolls. [Charles' Note: Their tempura ice cream was one of my favorite desserts 🙁]
9. Renzo's Taste of Peru (Irvine)
Another loss for Irvine was Renzo's Taste of Peru, which had fantastic ceviche. Of course, Edwin wrote about it a couple years back:
Ceviches are the first–and perhaps only–thing you need to order at Renzo's. Start with the immaculate ceviche de pescado: cubes of white fish acid-cooked in prodigious amounts of citrus juice until the fish shines like porcelain and assumes a chew as firm as your inner cheek. Ask for it as spicy as possible to add a pleasurable burn to each bracing bite.
8. Ferdussi (Santa Ana)
Ferdussi is another restaurant that said it would reopen when it closed, but it never did. A Persian eatery that cooked lamb shanks with meat that fell off the bone and the most beautiful morasa polo, there'll never be another place like it. Here's what Stephen Lemons said about it:
Their kashk budemjon (eggplant and whey dip) is so deliciously gooey, topped with toasted garlic, onion and mint, that I was tempted to lick the plate. Similarly, their crunchy rice (tadeeg) harvested from the bottom of the cooking pan, which was half-spread with ghormeh (spinach and kidney beans) and half with gheimeh, tomato and split peas, was so tasty I did what I almost never do–took some home.
7. D'Amore's (Tustin)
If there was any pizza in Orange County that was close to real New York pizza, it was the pizza at D'Amore's. This family-owned pizza shop used an 100-year-old recipe that was passed from one generation to the next, and it always had the same result: pizza a thin, crispy crust and light, but gooey cheese. The prices were good, too: for $3, you would get one big slice and, for $6, two slices and a drink.
6. Paradise Perks (Irvine)
Of course, the only cool thing in Irvine was taken away (by Irvinians–no surprise) and it was because of *dun dun dun* noise complaints. Now, there's hardly a cooler place to watch an open mic in the city–albeit a place to drink coffee and play board games (Starbucks, Coffee Bean, and Peet's don't count–you'll be fighting for a table and have to shush.)
5. Albatros (Lake Forest)
Just the fact that Albatros was open 24 hours is a win in itself–at least for South County. That being said, Albatros was the kind of restaurant you went to at 2 in the morning because you're drunk, often get the munchies, or are a UC Irvine student who was procrastinating. Though the ingredients of their carne asada fries were simple, an exact carbon copy–with its ultra thin, crispy fries–is hard to find. The California burrito–sweet, substantial tortilla with your choice of meat, fries, sour cream, and guacamole–was also delicious. Too bad people were always stabbing each other all the time (okay, not all the time–but a lot!)
4. Harry's Deli (Irvine)
There are two sides to wanting Harry's Deli back. On one hand, you want them to succeed like they were supposed to and eat those delicious sandwiches again. On the other, you don't want anything bad to happen to them. Named our "Best Deli" and known for their New York pastrami, grilled cheese, and other classic sandwiches (with ingredients all made from scratch, of course), Harry's Deli had to close first because of personal reasons and then because of a fire. Maybe it's bad feng shui or a curse, but to whatever's responsible for their misfortune, please take a bite of one of their sandwiches. It might make you reconsider.
3. La Palma Chicken Pie Shop(Anaheim)
Starting in 1972, La Palma Chicken served chicken pies and German chocolate cake, but it unfortunately closed because its owner, Otto Hasselbarth, passed away. The might've been the one of the days that changed Orange County the most, because where else could you get a pie that was perfectly crusty, flaky, and with the most tender chicken meat? The answer is nowhere, guys. Nowhere. And to make things even sadder, it was announced that the shop would reopen when it initially closed, but it never did.
2. Izakaya Ku (Fountain Valley)
It's an anomaly how a restaurant that won our Best Japanese Restaurant award (and has topped many of our lists) could ever close. But for now, we can only long for their chicken teriyaki, table-side broiled mackerel dish, and kushiuaki (sticks of meat flipped over a white hot coal bezier).
1. Memphis at Santora
Without a doubt, Memphis at the Santora will be mentioned in future books on the history of Orange County food. Here's more on it from our Mexican-in-Chief:
Memphis at the Santora–the downtown SanTana restaurant that was a pioneer in turning OC's county seat into a hipster mecca upon its opening in 2001, which helped to spur OC's cocktail revolution, which fed multiple generations of Weeklings, won more Best Of awards than I can remember, and which served as my watering hole–is closing sometime in February.
Whenever someone eventually does the history of OC restaurants, Memphis will be up there, not just for what it offered but what it represented for a segment of Orange County during the 2000s. It was a place where cuisine could be something more that greasefests or Newport Beach's hoity toity bullshit.