For 16 years, the Orange County Register's annual Best of Orange County has mystified county eaters with this simple question: are the paper's readers really that stupid and tasteless to continue calling the Olive Garden the best place in Orange County for Italian food?
The answer this year: they're getting better, because the Olive Garden merely ranked number two. The somewhat edible Peppino's chain, according to the Reg, is the best Italian restaurant in Orange County.
The restaurant choices for the Best Of span the breadth, depth, and everything else of Orange County dining in being ultimately clueless about it, and always stands as a damning condemnation of how out of touch with the present Reg readers are. Best brunch? El Torito. Best business lunch? Nothing against Knowlwood, but it's hardly the best place to talk shop. Best subway shop: Subway. Best coffee–Starbucks? Sundried Tomato Cafe as third-best new restaurant in Orange County? Ruth's Chris as best steakhouse? Best Chinese–P.F. Chang's? Really? A chain created by some guy from Phoenix? Best Greek is Daphne's? Blech.
And where the hell are the ethnic restaurants, the places that make this damn terrain livable?
I'll stop torturing the intellect of ustedes gentle SaFII readers and cease from listing any more “winners.” But the Reg's Best of Orange County didn't fuck it all up.
Although I rarely visit Natraj because there are so many better Indian restaurants, it's not a horrific choice for best Indian considering it's the Reg who's designating the honor. BJ's is a good chain, although two first-place prizes (for pizza and microbrewery) is a bit much. The Persian choices were impossible to mess up because all Persian restaurants in Orange County aren't chains. In-n-Out is the natural winner in you-know-which category. And the “Hidden Gems” sprinkled throughout are actually keepers, although they're about as much a revelation as the announcement Glenn Beck was once a coke fiend.
Our wish for the future Best of Orange County food sections released by the Reg: let your actual food writers do it. They've never been a bad batch, y'know. And our Best of appears soon…