Today is the release of our annual Best Of issue, our fantabulous guide to all things wonderful about this infernal land. For the purposes of ustedes, you only care about the food section, and you can peruse it here. But what's always interesting to us is the Readers Poll: will our faithful fans be better than those of the Orange County Register, or will we pull our hair out again because ustedes voted pinche Javier's as the county's best Mexican restaurant?
Following is what our readers picked, along with my commentary. And the survey says…
Best Waterfront Dining
Duke's Huntington Beach, 317 Pacific Coast Hwy. Huntington Beach, (714) 374-6446; www.dukeshuntington.com
Gustavo comment: Am surprised Las Brisas or Beachcomber Cafe didn't win this one. Have nothing against Duke's.
Bruegger's Bagels, various locations
Gustavo comment: Meh.
Harbor House Café, 16341 Pacific Coast Hwy., Sunset Beach (562) 592-5404; also at 34157 Pacific Coast Hwy., Dana Point, (949) 496-9270; www.harborhousecafe.com.
Gustavo comment: I think this wins every year, and while I understand the nostalgic factor, this should win for best 24-hour place, not for diner. Norm's is better–and Norm's serves high-end grease.
Best Chinese Restaurant
P.F. Chang's, various locations.
Gustavo comment: Do ustedes not dine in Irvine's Diamond Jamboree? And if you're going to go for Chinese-American, have you not been to Hot Wok in Fullerton? And if you're going to go for fast-food Chinese, have you not heard of Panda Express? Very disappointed in this choice.
The Cheesecake Factory, various locations.
Gustavo comment: Sometimes, I wonder if our readers realize we're the OC Weekly and not the Orange County Register. WTF???
In-N-Out, various locations
Gustavo comment: Not my choice, but a fine choice nevertheless.
Best Ice Cream
Rite Aid Pharmacy, various locations
Gustavo comment: Surprising choice, but another one I won't argue with, although I wonder if our readers have tried neverías…
Best Italian Restaurant
Roman Cucina, 1773 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 645-5550; also at 16595 Pacific Coast Hwy., Sunset Beach, (562) 592-5552 and 211 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton (714) 680-6000; www.romancucina.com.
Gustavo comment: I do like this mini-chain, and THANK GOD we didn't pick Olive Garden.
Sushi on Fire, 301 Main St., #103, Huntington Beach, (714) 374-8885; www.sushionfire.com.
Gustavo comment: Really? It's actually not bad, but we've done nothing but highlight the non-chain sushi masters over the years in OC.
Matsu, 18035 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 848-4404; www.matsuogood.com
Gustavo comment: Given the previous category, are we really to believe that the best Japanese food in OC is in Surf City? Um, no.
Best New Restaurant
Slapfish, 19696 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 963-3900; www.slapfishrestaurant.com
Gustavo comment: HEAR HEAR. Slapfish was honored twice in our picks–good job, readers!
Best Restaurant When Someone Else is Paying
Mastro's, various locations
Gustavo comment: I don't mind Mastro's but I'm surprised the choice wasn't Charlie Palmer's or another South Coast Plaza place.
Best Thai Restaurant
Royal Thai Cuisine, 4001 W. Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, (949) 645-8424; www.royalthaicuisine.com.
Gustavo comment: Am surprised it's not a Huntington Beach spot, because our Surf City crew LOVES to ballot-stuff this poll. I haven't been in years, but it's a passable choice given that this place is still run by the extended family of Jet Tila.
Best Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurant
Native Foods Café, various locations
Gustavo comment: No surprise at all. Nothing further.
So far, not TOO disappointing save for Cheesecake Factory–WTF? Tomorrow: Part 2!