This Week in Restaurants I Forgot

Editing this Grub Guide requires not only that I come up with weekly cutesy groupings, but also that I remember to rotate restaurants so all 622 entries in our online dining guide eventually get some print love. But I am not a perfect carousel—the following eateries have slipped my mind. And for that, I apologize—by feasting at each and every joint in the coming weeks.






The décor is plain—heavy, high-backed chairs surrounding tables draped in typical red-and-white tablecloths. But the service is friendly and the food is great, especially the meatball sandwich, which drips with melted mozzarella and tangy sauce. 514W.BalboaBlvd.,NewportBeach,(949)673-1930.$

As far as Azteca goes, there are two words to keep in mind: “garlic” and “taco”—beef tacos with the usual fixings but flavored with a fresh garlic-and-vinegar dressing and lime. The garlic hits first, but it's the citrus that finishes each bite. 12911MainSt.,GardenGrove,(714)638-3790.$

The kitchen here throws trendy down the sink, takes what's good about the oft-maligned cuisine and charges up a seafood-heavy menu. But the star is the ungodly guajillo pepper steak, which is among the best sauce/meat combos you'll find in these parts. 305N.HarborBlvd.,Ste.111,Fullerton,(714)447-3202.$$

What's the secret of this Laguna Beach restaurant's decades of success? Good food and lots of it, comfy chairs and friendly service, charming framed photographs of Laguna's original greeter, and a full, sated belly every time you leave. 308N.CoastHwy.,LagunaBeach,(949)494-3023.$

Everyone from surfers in damp trunks to families celebrating special occasions feels welcome at this restaurant inspired by the Islands and the Pacific Rim. 317PacificCoastHwy.,HuntingtonBeach,(714)374-6446.$$

El Matador, with its scaled-down Olvera Street interior, boasts 27 combination plates and 30-weight mole sauce of chiles, chocolate and whatever else will make you reflect, “This thing in my mouth should not be there. Help.” The spicy shrimp tacos rise majestically over most fish tacos, too. 1768NewportBlvd.,CostaMesa,(949)645-0324.$$

A classy, non-chain Mexican restaurant that makes its own tamales and features the “Kick-Ass Margarita,” which apparently does. Nice patio, friendly servers. 215S.ElCaminoReal,SanClemente,(949)366-5202.$

Served with rice or noodles, George's food tastes, looks and smells so delicious your senses will beg you for return visits to this trippy little oasis. And if you've been a good boy, you can have some of the kiwi, mango or coconut ice cream. 3732S.BristolSt.,SantaAna,(714)979-8366.$$

Don't be scared by the fact that the menu cover reads, “Jimmy Z” Jimmy Z Grill is the hottest non-chain restaurant in Irvine, and Jimmy Z is a really nice guy. But that's not all: his menu is chock-full of delicious eats. 4517CampusDr.,Irvine,(949)737-6700.$$

DO NOT under any circumstances journey to Kasen and attempt to order teriyaki chicken or shrimp tempura or—dear God—California roll, which is about as authentically Japanese as the Viennese waltz. Kasen is not that type of Japanese restaurant. 9039GarfieldAve.,FountainValley,(714)963-8769.$$

The windowless room nestled near a nondescript corner of working-class Fullerton has black-bow-tied waiters who bring out such treasures as the three-flavor sizzling rice soup, a scintillating broth of grains, shrimp, ham and mushrooms that actually issizzling when it arrives at the table. It's one option of their mandatory three-course dinners. 1050W.ValenciaDr.,Fullerton,(714)870-7950.$$

The “Last Word in Fine Food” is cheap, cheap, cheap. Full breakfast—eggs, pancakes and bacon—for $2.19. Burger specials with fries and drink for $3.45. Steak dinner for $4.10. If cholesterol doesn't scare you, see you there. Scary food item: the pastrami burrito unearths bad memories of Oki Dog. Sadly, no Charlton Heston sightings. 319W.ChapmanAve.,Orange,(714)532-2022.¢

Joseph Moscatiello owns this restaurant, but it's his father, Carlo, who is the true patriarch. He's the type of dad who'll give you free sandwiches and make small talk with you. Even if he didn't exhibit such fatherly concern, the sandwiches—bulging with fresh meats, cheeses, peppers and onions—would have you coming back for more. 23600RockfieldBlvd.,LakeForest,(949)951-2611.$$

Munch down their vegetarian spring rolls, made special off the menu, or try the pad Thai noodles with shrimp and chicken and stir-fried vegetables—not too heavy or greasy. 19690BeachBlvd.,HuntingtonBeach,(714)964-1151.$

The longer you take to eat Sho's bowl of tempura udon, the better it tastes. The soup is incredibly hot—probably the hottest Japanese food there is—so start off your bowl by gulping down a few of the tempura-fried shrimp and shiitake mushrooms that provide a sort of floating garnish. Oishiidesu!(Japanese for “mmm, mmm good.”). 2263FairviewRd.,Ste.J,CostaMesa,(949)645-5502.$

Thai food offers infamously spicy dishes, and Thai Kitchen is no exception. But for people with vanilla palates, Thai Kitchen can prepare dishes medium-hot, which tastes just right and leaves the tongue intact for, uh, other activities. 4250BarrancaPkwy.,Ste.U,Irvine,(949)857-1788.$$

Serving the best in Northern Vietnamese food, including banh tom co ngu, an addictive dish of lightly fried shrimp and sweet potatoes. As with many dishes, it comes with a plate loaded with mint leaves, lettuce and rice paper for rolling into burrito-like tubes. 14271BrookhurstSt.,GardenGrove,(714)531-8253.$

Only two things stuck in my memory after lunching here: the roomy interior that left me feeling as if I'd died and gone to Georgia O'Keeffeland and an appetizer, in which fresh lumps of crab meat and Louisiana crawfish were pan-fried and served on a roasted-tomato sauce with sweet-pepper mayonnaise and jalapeño tartar sauce. SouthCoastPlaza,3333BristolSt.,Ste.1876,CostaMesa,(714)979-7469.$$

Zubies has yummy pizzas, sawdust on the ground and lots of TVs. Don't worry if food falls on the ground—you won't be able to find it even if you try. 9059AdamsAve.,HuntingtonBeach,(714)963-6362.$$

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