As a former two-year vegetarian, ribs, pastrami, and barbecue chicken were nowhere in my dictionary. At barbecue restaurants, I (sadly) opted for salads and pasta while my friends sucked on ribs. One bite of meat was a capital vice. Then I became not a vegetarian.
Vegetarians, this is your guide to vegetarian hell – the 10 meatiest and deadliest sins in Orange County. Be wary: temptation may be provoked. And hey, if (when) you decide to start eating meat again, you can use this as a reference.
In no particular order..
All That Barbecue (Irvine)
All-you-can-eat Korean barbecue joints are undoubtedly the epicenters of carnivore carnivals in Orange County. At a place like All That, where the meats are lean and marinated to perfection, knowing when to stop binging is hard. If you end up feeling bad, though, I suggest you grab the provided salad bowl for mercy. That's what it's there for.
The Hat (Lake Forest)
If you want to fall into a black-hole of never-ending pastrami, then The Hat is a good place to start. At The Hat, pastrami is the focal point of every menu item, heavily topping every burger, sandwich, and plate of fries. Remember, at The Hat there's no such thing as too much pastrami, so order away. Why else would you be at there anyways? (OK, the Orange Bang is nice too).
Tulsa Rib Company (Orange)
When bitten, Tulsa Rib Company's rib meat falls off effortlessly, like a feather falling from the sky. Once in your mouth, the tangy barbecue sauce – if it's the Caribbean you ordered – infiltrates the taste buds, leaving you to clean your palette with the equally succulent creamed corn or cole slaw.
Punjabi Tandoor (Anaheim)
Indian food is vegetarian friendly, and that's no exception at Punjabi Tandoor. However, their meat curries are so exceptional they need to be on this list. The rogan josh — lamb cooked with ginger, garlic, herbs, and spices — is tender and hearty. Though its portion size is hefty, it doesn't overwhelm. Meat aside, get a combo. Side dishes like rice pudding, vegetables, and garlic naan add a harmonious balance to the meat.
Portillo's (Buena Park)
Be forewarned: dishes at Portillo's are unapologetically messy, but that's what makes them so good. Portillo's in Buena Park, a 1930s-Chicago-themed establishment, is most popularly known for its Italian beef sandwich, Italian sausage sandwich, and chili cheese dog. Its prices are cheap, so you know what that means: more meat.
Fil-Am Barbecue Grill (Orange)
Fil-Am Barbecue Grill, located in the food court of The Village in Orange, has as many Filipino beef and pork dishes as you can imagine. Their sweet yet savory barbecue sticks are addicting (try just eating one), and sisig (chopped-up pork with extra crispy skin) with rice and Mang Tomas (don't ask, just eat) always makes for good comfort food.
Aloha BBQ (Mission Viejo)
Expect meat portions to take up 70% of your plate at Aloha BBQ, with only minimal room for side dishes. In addition to the classic crispy chicken katsu and BBQ beef, a few spam musubi is a must because hey, what's Hawaiian fast food without spam?
Cali Tacos (Orange)
Cali Tacos is no stranger to large portions, and consequently, lots of meat. Though their tacos and carne asada fries are huge, the Angel burrito is — imagine this — the literal size of a newborn baby (yes, even bigger than a Chipotle burrito). Angel filling options incluse asada, pollo asada, carnitas, or adobaba, and the burrito comes with shrimp and rice.
Though a LinX dog is smaller than the average hot dog, LinX makes up for it with its unique array of topping choices, which include giardiniera relish and apple-bacon kraut. The T.J. street dog — a polish dog topped with avocado and applewood smoked bacon — is a popular contender for customers, but if that's not what you want, griddled franks and bratwurst are just as good.
Slater's 50/50 Burgers (Anaheim)
Slater's, the Holy Grail of bacon fanaticism, is a playground for those obsessed with meat's most daring forms. If you're looking for half-bacon patties, bacon ketchup, bacon ice cream (yes, it exists here), or any other kind of bacon-hybrid, really, then a stop by Slater's just makes a whole lot of sense. And remember, Slater's didn't do bacon patties before they were cool, Slater's made them cool.