Restaurant Guide–Orange County

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California

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  • Date indicates the most recent update of the restaurants listed
  • Bold indicates my recommendations; others come from what I consider to be good sources (see bottom of page for further explanation)

Anaheim

Aleppo’s Kitchen–513 S. Brookhurst St. (Syrian) Closed Mon.  Legit Syrian food with very good reviews.  Voted “Best Middle Eastern” by OC Weekly. (1-27-16)

E-San Rod-Sap–1719 W. La Palma Ave. (Thai) Open daily 10 am to 8 pm (9 pm Fri & Sat).  Northeastern Thailand (E-San) style food with very good reviews.  When I have had this type of food before I particularly liked the pad thai (and some of the reviews I have read confirm that this place has the real deal).  However, there are a number of other dishes that are not common in Thai restaurants and that will have an authentic spice scale if you order them here.  Note: the Thai and Laos Market is next door. (1-27-16)

Gustav’s Jagerhaus–2525 E. Ball Rd. (German) Open Daily.  Famous for its breakfast (German potato pancake with lemon and sugar).  Many people also like the lunch and dinner menu (Schnitzel and Bratwurst get a lot of good comments).  Most people, though, say to go for breakfast. (3-21-17)

Lindo Michoacan–327 S. Anaheim Blvd. (Mexican) Open daily (serves breakfast).  Some say it is the best and most authentic Mexican rest. in Orange County.  However, it is a taco restaurant, so the menu is somewhat limited. Also in Santa Ana. (3-21-17)

Milan’s Grill–1721 W. Katella Ave. (Czech) Dinner Tue-Sun; lunch Sat & Sun.  Also serves Italian food, but the “Taste of Europe” menu has the Czech offerings which seem to be about the best you can get anywhere in the U.S. (both in variety and quality).  The Czech “bar food” dishes are cheap, and dinners are reasonable (a big change from many other Czech restaurants). (3-21-17)

Noodle House–613 N. Euclid St. (Chinese) Open daily 11 am to 9:30 pm.  Authentic Chinese–some dishes are as good as in SGV.  Green onion pancake, xiao long bao, hand cut noodles, three cup chicken, fish in spicy sauce, Chinese burrito are recommended (not all as as good as SGV but all are good). (3-21-17)

Poki Town–2883 W. Lincoln Ave. (Hawaiian) Open Daily.  One category of restaurants I like to include on this list are those popular with locals, and this one is.  This is one of many local restaurants serving Hawaiian style fish salad, but this is apparently the one with the best ratings.  Serves tuna or yellowfin, and spicy or non-spicy.  There is a long list of vegetables and toppings they include, so it is best to study the list before you order in case there is anything you do not want included. (1-26-16)

Sahara Falafel–590 S. Brookhurst St. (Middle Eastern) Open daily 10 am to 2 am.  I have heard that in Israel they love falafel, but they know they can’t make them as good as the ones in Lebanon. In Orange County people apparently go to Sahara for the really good ones, and the reviews seem to be unanimous about this. (And yes, they do serve other good items besides the falafel). (3-21-17)

Sawali Grill–3414 W. Ball Rd. (Filipino) Closed Mon.  Small rest. with 7 tables.  Positive is that the food tastes like home cooking.  Negative is that it is somewhat inconsistent. (1-26-16)

Buena Park

Mountain–7446 Orangethorpe Ave. (Korean) Open daily to 10 pm.  This restaurant seems to have many items that you probably have not seen at other restaurants. If you don’t know what to order, don’t worry–reviewers can’t seem to find anything they do not like. From the photos, though, I worry about there being too much food, especially with all the side dishes (perhaps it is best not to go alone). (3-20-17)

Costa Mesa

Din Tai Fung–3333 Bristol St. (Taiwanese) Open Daily.  Taiwanese chain that opened this restaurant in OC, specializing in its famous (and very popular) xiao long bao (XLB).  In fact, this may be the place in the US to get the authentic version (at least the Taiwanese version).  Pork is the most popular, but they also have shrimp, red bean, and others.  Also try the sauteed string beans. (3-21-17)

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka–665 Paularino Ave. (Japanese) Open daily 11 am to 8:30 pm.  Tokusen toroniku ramen is recommended. (3-21-17)

Outpost Kitchen–1792 Monrovia Ave. (New American) Breakfast & lunch only (closed Sun).  Excellent food, but breakfast seems to be particularly interesting (many recommend the Aussie scramble, tropical muffin, and a number of other dishes).  This place has every trendy label you can put on it–gluten free, organic, and vegan (if you want vegan).  Don’t worry–everyone says you will enjoy the food either because of this or in spite of this. (1-27-16)

Taco Maria–3313 Hyland Ave. (Mexican) Closed Mon (and closed from 2:30 to 5:30 pm).  Offers much more than tacos–this is an upscale restaurant from one of the country’s most acclaimed chefs.  Tacos are available with blue corn tortillas.  A four course dinner with wine pairing is also available.  This was named the best restaurant in Orange County by OC Weekly in both 2014 and 2015.  I don’t know how expensive it is, but it’s listed as $$$ on Yelp. (3-20-17)

Vietnam’s Pearl–1215 Baker St. (Vietnamese) Closed Sun (and closes early other days–7:30 pm or earlier).  Described as “authentic,” a “true gem,” a “great alternative outside of Little Saigon,” and better than anything in San Diego.  Has a wide menu, but the pho is very popular.  If this is the same restaurant as the VP that used to be in Seattle, I highly recommend it based on my own experience. (3-21-17)

Cypress

California Fish Grill–10569 Valley View St. (Seafood) Open daily 11 am to 9 pm.  This may be one of the best bets for affordable but very good fish and seafood.  People recommend Taco Tuesdays, the Cajun salmon, ahi tacos, shrimp wrap, and really a long list of choices.  Also in Irvine. (3-21-17)

Dana Point

Waterman’s Harbor–34661 Golden Lantern St. (Seafood) Open Daily.  Many years ago I ate at the Crab Cooker in Newport Beach, and was impressed by the seafood (so I didn’t want to leave this category off the list).  Some say Waterman’s Harbor is now the best balance of good seafood, an ocean view, and prices that are not out of line. (3-20-17)

Fountain Valley

Au Lac–16563 Brookhurst St. (Vietnamese) Closed Mon (and closed from 3:30 to 5:30 pm).  Serves vegetarian Vietnamese food.  Despite being a little different from “normal” Vietnamese food, reviewers say it has real Vietnamese flavors. (1-25-16)

Istanbul Grill–18010 Newhope St. (Turkish) Open Daily (closed from 3 to 5 pm).  Good food for a good price (lunch is about $10). (1-25-16)

Fullerton

Fuoco Pizzeria–101 N. Harbor Blvd. (Pizza) Open Daily.  The owners, reviewers, and even the OC Weekly assure us that this is the “real deal” Neapolitan style pizza.  The margherita pizza is said by many to be the best in the US, and definitely the most authentic.  Also has the “real deal” spumoni for dessert. (1-27-16)

Garden Grove

Vientiane Thai Laos–10262 Westminster Ave. (Lao) Closed Wed.  Authentic and flavorful Lao food.  This is a hole in the wall restaurant run by a family.  Reviewers say everything is prepared the way it is supposed to be (both in flavor and in authenticity).  Note: Spicy Lao is another restaurant in Garden Grove that may be just as good, but it’s closed on Sun evening and Monday (it also seems to be not as much of a hole in the wall). (3-21-17)

Irvine

Jinbei–3923 Portola Pkwy. (Japanese) Open daily (closed from 2:30 to 5 pm).  Good sushi, but it is one of the few really good Izakaya restaurants with a large menu. (3-21-17)

Laguna Beach

Brussels Bistro–222 Forest Ave. (Belgian) Dinner daily; lunch Sat & Sun.  Casual restaurant with very good food (but it’s a little pricey for casual).  Vol au Vent de poulet, Liege meatballs, pommes frites, and all you can eat mussels (Mon, Tue, & Wed) are recommended.  Some say in summer there are bigger crowds so they like to avoid it. (3-21-17)

Eva’s–31732 S. Pacific Coast Hwy. (Caribbean) Dinner only (closed Mon).  Good food–chicken, fish, pork loin, etc.  Appetizers and desserts are quite good also.  I think it is a little on the upscale side (entrees run from $20 to $25).  Eva is from British Guyana, but I think the food comes from throughout the Caribbean. (3-21-17)

Mission Viejo

Hayashi–27531 Puerta Real (Japanese) Open 9:30 am to 7:30 pm (closed Sat & Sun).  A locally popular Japanese fast food style restaurant that most reviewers simply describe as “really really good.”  Udon, ramen, and salmon bowl are recommended.  Reviewers say the food here is too good to just order things like teriyaki (that you can get at many other restaurants). (1-27-16)

Orange

Anepalco–3737 W. Chapman Ave. (Mexican) Closed Sun evening & Mon (and closed from 2:30 to 5 pm).  Voted Best Mexican Restaurant by OC Weekly 2016. Authentic food with flavorful sauces–this is a rather upscale sit-down Mexican place. (3-20-17)

Wok N Tandoor–1948 N. Tustin St. (Indian) Closed Sun.  This is not a traditional Indian restaurant, but it specializes in Indo-Chinese food (and apparently it is very good). Some recommended dishes include gobi manchurian and chicken hakka pizza (probably not Chinese, but it has a variety of dishes including traditional Indian ones). (3-20-17)

Placentia

El Farolito–201 S. Bradford Ave. (Mexican) Open Daily (open for breakfast).  Reviewers say this is one of the two best places for “authentic” Mexican (along with Los Compadres in Long Beach).  Some authentic looking dishes include red enchiladas, fish al mojo de ajo, carnitas, steak picado.  Some Cal-Mex looking dishes include tostado salad, burrito, taquitos.  It seems to be good for both types of food. (1-25-16)

San Juan Capistrano

Sol Agave–31105 Rancho Viejo Rd. (Mexican) Closed Mon.  Upscale restaurant that is described as “authentic” and “artisan.”  The restaurant grew out of a very popular food truck.  The menu is pretty basic (tacos, burritos, simple meat plates) but the preparation of it is what is special. (2-1-16)

Santa Ana

Antojitos Clemente–210 W. 1st St. (Mexican).  Many say these are the best fish tacos they have ever had.  May be Michoacan style.  Camarones a la diabla are recommended. (1-25-16)

El Moctezuma–809 N. Fairview St. (Mexican) Open daily 9 am to 9 pm. Oaxacan style. Has 5 kinds of mole. (Also in Orange at 1740 W. Chapman Ave.). From reviews, I would say the one in Santa Ana is better. (3-21-17)

Irenia–400 N. Broadway (Filipino) Closed Sun & Mon (and closed from 2 to 5:30 pm).  Reviewers say it is high quality, and a better representation of Filipino food than will be found at most restaurants. (3-20-17)

Stanton

Thai Nakorn–11951 Beach Blvd. (Thai) Open daily (closed from 3:30 to 5 pm except weekends).  Some people say this is one of the top Thai, if not the top one, in the U.S.  Get beef curry, chicken yellow curry, papaya salad (but if it’s really the top restaurant in the U.S. I would say you could order just about anything). (3-21-17)

Tustin

Dosa Place–13812 Redhill Ave. (Indian) Closed Mon (and closed from 2:30 to 5:30 pm).  South Indian food–specializes in dosa.  Good reviews of the food, but I did not see that they have thali (I think a “real deal” restaurant would do this instead of the buffet that they have).  You can also order from the menu, and from the reviews it seems that the food is good. (1-27-16)

Honda-Ya–556 El Camino Real (Japanese) Open daily (dinner only).  Izakaya style–good food, sushi, and drinks (in fact, most say it has excellent food).  Also has a location in Fullerton and in LA (Little Tokyo). (3-21-17)

Westminster

Banh Cuon Tay Ho–9242 Bolsa Ave. (Vietnamese) Open 8 am to 8 pm (closed Tue).  I have been to the one in Oklahoma City, and know that this is a “real deal” Vietnamese restaurant (although it is a little on the downscale, fast food side).  I recommend the Banh Cuon (rice sheet wraps), but I make sure to tell them to omit the MSG. (3-21-17)

Hanoi Vietnam–9082 Bolsa Ave. (Vietnamese).  May be the best Vietnamese for those who want authentic, subtle flavors.  Bun cha hanoi, cha ca thanh long, sweet yam shrimp.  Reviewers say food is good but parking is a problem. (1-27-16)

Lau Xanh Grill–15041 Moran St. (Vietnamese) Open daily 10 am to 2 am.  This is a little different from the other Vietnamese restaurants in that it specializes in seafood (Vietnamese style). (3-21-17)

Le Croissant Dore–9122 Bolsa Ave. (Vietnamese) Open daily 7:30 AM to 7:00 PM.  One source indicates it is a bakery (not a restaurant), but other information indicates that they also serve food.  In any case, the bakery is the main reason to come here.  Fruit tart is recommended. (3-21-17)

Mai’s Kitchen–9039 Bolsa Ave. (Vietnamese) Open 9 am to 9 pm (closed Tue).  Authentic Vietnamese (the canh chua actually has okra in it).  It’s also cash only (so this keeps the price down quite a bit).  They seem to have quite a few dishes you will not find at most restaurants. (1-27-16)

Sumran Thai–6482 Westminster Blvd. (Thai) Closed Tue (and closed from 3 to 4 pm).  Just when I think I have found all the best Thai restaurants some more pop up, such as this one listed by OC Weekly as the best Thai of 2016. I would like for some of the reviews to recommend a favorite dish, but it seems that everything is good (so there is no favorite dish that I can tell). OC Weekly says they have E-San sausage, so personally when a restaurant serves Isan style Thai food I will probably order this. Most reviewers say it is really not a good idea to order the food here “hot” (if you are basing it on “hot” in other restaurants). (3-20-17)

 

Notes About This List:

This is a “master list” of restaurants that I have seen on the Internet or other sources and would like to try, or that I think would be of interest to others.  I do not mean for this to be an exhaustive list of every good place to eat, but it should represent a good sample of the most interesting or unique restaurants, along with a few that best represent an area’s regional cuisine.  My own recommendations are in Bold.

I am not looking to include:

  • Fine dining (unless they are unique because of regional specialties)
  • Low end restaurants that are popular with locals but may not be of much interest to travelers or people in general (everyone will have to use their judgment on this one)

Extra consideration for the following:

  • The food is organic, fresh, healthy, or farm to table
  • The restaurant serves a relatively hard to find type of ethnic food and reviews are good

In addition to the regular guidelines I try to include:

  • The best Asian restaurants in the area even if they are not totally authentic
  • Particularly good Mexican restaurants (this usually means the food is from a particular state in Mexico or it is one of the best examples of a U.S. regional style)

Please feel free to leave your own comments or suggestions.

 

Sources:

Chowhound (Orange County)

OC Weekly  2015 | 2016

Urbanspoon.com (former web site which I used for preliminary research)

Yelp (California)

Zomato (Orange County)

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