Just because you're coming to Blizzcon at the Anaheim Convention Center does not mean you're confined to the spectacularly mediocre restaurants than surround it. (Seriously, what is it about that area that depresses the quality of already-mediocre chains?)
Harbor Boulevard in the Anaheim Resort is not, shall we say,
chock-a-block with destination restaurants. A visitor who never leaves
the resort area could be forgiven for thinking our gastronomic highlight
is Mimi's. Below are some suggestions for your visit this weekend; for
more, please be sure to check the Best of OC 2010, published last week.
1. The Caffeine Fix
Everyone knows geeks run on caffeine; geeks who play MMORPGs doubly so. Fortunately, the Vietnamese, who have established a convenient, huge enclave just a few minutes from the Anaheim Convention Center, have invented what can only be described as the Black Hole of Caffeine: unbelievably strong coffee mixed 1:1 with sweetened condensed milk, then poured over ice: it's called cà phê sữa đá. Nhu Lan Bakery (13036 Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove) is just down the road, where you can partake of this wonder, along with $2.50 bánh mì (Vietnamese baguette sandwiches).
2. The Exotic Ethnic
MMORPG geeks are well known as being of a multicultural mindset; it seems to come with the territory of online interaction stripping away racial and cultural markers. For those anxious to try out something not available at home, three suggestions: Vietnamese food, including outstanding spring rolls and great bun cha Hanoi–grilled pork and pork meatballs in a smoky, sweet sauce served with noodles and herbs–at Vien Dong (14271 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove); Oaxacan food such as various types of mole and tlayuda, the real Mexican pizza, at El Moctezuma (12531 Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove); or an eat-with-your-hands Ethiopian feast at Tana Ethiopian (2622 W. La Palma Ave., Anaheim).
3. The Beer Run
Orange County may not be San Diego in the craft brewing department, but we're no slouches. If you want tasting rooms, head for Bootlegger's Brewery (401 S. Richman Ave., Fullerton) or The Bruery (715 Dunn Way, Placentia). The Bruery also has tastings (and cheese) at the new Bruery Provisions (156 N. Glassell St., Orange); since all of these places close by 10, round out your beer night at Haven Gastropub (190 S. Glassell St., Orange), which is open until 2.
4. The Hangover Cure
The problem with the excellent, strong beers produced in Orange County is that overindulgence leads to a sore head the next day. While everyone has their own pet hangover cure, there are two worthy of mention: the Korean soup haejangguk, which translates exactly as “hangover cure soup”, available at Jang Mo Gip (9711 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove); and my personal preference, birria from El Cabrito (1604 W. 1st St., Santa Ana). Something about pit-roasted lamb or goat with handmade tortillas and salsa de aceite just chases the morning-after headache away.
5. The Sunday Brunch
The Phoenix Club (1340 S. Sanderson Ave., Anaheim) is a German-American club with a restaurant called the Lorelei that serves an outstanding brunch buffet, from German specialities such as sauerbraten and sausage to the most addictive (and fattening) lemon cream-filled pancakes in existence. Be aware that it's also Oktoberfest, so you may fight for parking.
6. The Guildie Dinner
Thai Nakorn (two locations: 12532 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove and 11951 Beach Blvd., Stanton) is an outstanding place with plenty of room for your guildies. The Garden Grove branch can hold a hundred without batting an eyelash (but do give them some notice), and the menu is abundant, excellent and cheap. If you're accustomed to pad thai and barbecue chicken, run your eyes down the specials page for an eye-opening introduction to more authentic Thai cooking. Unlike most Thai restaurants, Thai Nakorn is fully licensed, for all your guild boozing needs.