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Is there chow near Coto de Caza?

You know the tune by now. You turn off the 5, away from the Chinese and Korean places in Irvine, away from all the ethnic food that's splattered all over the 714 area code, a kind of Chowhound's Garden of Culinary Delights.

You turn your wheels north on the 133, then south on the 241. Your FasTrak beeps the death-knell of decent food. You are entering the Do-Not-Chow Zone: Lake Forest; Foothill Ranch; Rancho Santa Margarita; Las Flores; Coto de Caza; Ladera Ranch.

I have friends who have just moved down there. I went down there this weekend and (I'm so ashamed to admit this!) I ate at a Pick Up Stix last night and (sob!) Bruegger's Bagels this morning, surrounded by the Real Housewives of Orange County.

I wanted to stab myself with a teriyaki skewer.

Please, please, if there is food worth eating down here, please tell me! Any kind of food, any price range. We'll be down here more often, now that friends are moving in to the area, and I can't deal with all crappy chains all the time!

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  1. Inka Mamas, really nice Peruvian
    Address: 26676 Portola Pkwy, Foothill Ranch, CA 92610
    Phone: (949) 951-6262

    Antonucci's, casual Italian & really good pizza
    Address: 24190 Alicia Pkwy, Mission Viejo, CA 92691
    Phone: (949) 472-4332

    1. check out Infusion, Picante, Beachfire in Ladera Ranch.
      www.infusionladera.com , www.picante1.com. , www.beachfire.com
      All three restaurants opened this year and have given us some hope here in South OC.

      1. Somebody mentioned a NY style pizza place in Lake Forest BG something.

        4 Replies
        1. re: reality check

          The majority have disliked that place. Sorry RSMBOB.

          1. re: JAB

            Whoa! I think the Majority Likes it and is being silent in this case. Long story short I think BG EMILIOS Pizza is really good for the style that it is(Very thin Crust) and we've tried most of the Pizza Places in that area.

            1. re: russkar

              This subject cracks me up. BG Emilios was so bad that I thought that RSMBOB was pulling our leg. I've certainly had recs from this board that didn't live up to my expectations but, this is the 1st one that was one of the worst eating experiences in my life. Right up there with my 1 experience at the Olive Garden. I've had better frozen pizza.

              1. re: JAB

                Yikes...greetings from Chicago! Didn't expect to find my name referenced here in a post I hadn't even read yet! If you find that post on BG Emilio's you'll see that I have tried about 4 other local places that I had never been to before as well and gave some comments on them. That being said...as Russkar stated above, I think BGE does a very good job at a true thin crust pizza and balances the crust/sauce/cheese/toppings nicely. With the Pennysave coupon it's an especially good value, but again, it's not "gourmet" pizza...it's what I would consider "pizza joint" pizza. I'll leave the pretentiousness, overpriced food and drink, and chain mentality to all the other south OC places.

                By the way, the semi-annual trip to Chicago just confirms how darn good pizza is here...and if you REALLY want the best ultra-thin crust pizza anywhere, I suggest you venture up to Milwaukee to Zaffiro's...bar pizza at it's ultimate.

        2. You'll surprise your friends by taking them to Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse.

          Senor Licos used to be pretty good.
          Call for their hours.
          ( 949 ) 858 - 0724
          20722 ROSE CANYON RD,TRABUCO CANYON,CA,92678

          1 Reply
          1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

            You MUST have reservations for the Steak House... don't even try without them. One time -they were completely empty and we were with friends... "Do you have resevations?" nope. "Sorry, we can't seat you". EMPTY!?

            Senor Licos is now called ROSE CANYON CANTINA AND GRILL... Still good and you DON'T "NEED" reservations. The owners are often mingling with the regular locals - it is a great atmosphere.

          2. I remember there being a pretty good Hawaiian place in Rancho Santa Margarita that has sit down and take out. My wife and I went to it about two weeks after we got back from Hawaii, about a year ago.

            Just found it on Google:
            Lani Kai Hawaiian Grill
            Kohl's Shopping Center 22245 El Paseo, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688
            Phone: (714) 888-0888

            I also found Opah to have some decent chow, but it's been over a year since I ate there:


            9 Replies
            1. re: Alfredo Garcia

              Actually, Lani Kai is more hawaiian takeout and is just OK [IMHO]. In the same center is a more sit-down hawaiian place called Ono Ono [same as the one in Irvine, I gather]. Will set you back a few more clams than Lani Kai, but the food is much better, and the menu is pretty extensive. The same center has the rather uninspiring woodranch BBQ and Canyon Fireside Grille, niether of which are anything to write home about. Lani Kai is more like hawaiian fast food [meat and rice bowls] to go, But I'm fond of Ono Ono. Review here: http://www.ocweekly.com/food/this-hol...

              While South OC can seem like a food wasteland, there are some decent joints. The aforementioned Fusion and Opah are your typically South County Desperate Housewife hangouts, complete with flirty martini spilling moms hanging out at the meatmarket bar. Along the same lines [should you be so inclined] is Hanna's in the same center as Opah [menu here: http://www.hannasoc.com/index.html]. For a decent breakfast in the same center is Cinnamon Productions. Great cinnamon rolls.

              In Ladera Ranch is a branch of Roma D'Italia that just opened up [from the same family that has been running the original in Tustin for decades]. Good family-style intalian. http://www.romaditalia.com. It is right next to Fusion. Between the two is Picante, a very interesting and somewhat upscale looking spanish place, which I have not yet tried. For breakfast in the same center is Pacific Whey Cafe which has killer pancakes [www.pacificwhey.com]. However, you will still be tripping over the same silicon bimbos flapping on cell phones while you try not to get run over by some snot-nosed punk kid in a raised up gas guzzler complete with the tesoro HS football sticker.

              1. re: SouthOCHound

                I think that Ono Ono was the place where we got our food. I just put "Hawaiian food RSM" into Google, and Lani Kai was what was spit out. Based on your description, I will second the review of Ono Ono, and retract the name Lani Kai.

                1. re: Alfredo Garcia

                  Must be Ono Ono-we've eaten at Lani Kai and had the most disgusting food experience ever.

                2. re: SouthOCHound

                  Have you actually eaten at the Rome D'Italia in Ladera? Unfortunately, I've heard nothing but horrible comments about it. Apparently it does not compare at all to the one in Tustin. I'm scared to even try it!

                  1. re: Samantha

                    Yeah, we did actually, but we only had the roma special pizza, which was as good as the one in tustin, but i suppose would not be a very good guage as to overall quality. Hope they can work out the kinks b/c i love the roma D in Tustin.

                    1. re: SouthOCHound

                      Well, this gives me hope. Maybe it's worth a quick week night visit to check it out for myself . . .

                    2. re: Samantha

                      Roma D'Italia in Ladera Ranch is possibly a good family restaurant, but watery pasta, butcher paper on the floor underneath booster seats, and sun umbrellas indoors turn me off.

                    3. re: SouthOCHound

                      We're headed to Hanna's tonight. I'll report on it soon.

                    4. re: Alfredo Garcia

                      they have closed their doors, Opah was all we had that was decent in RSM.

                      Now you must go to Ladera Ranch to Beach Fire or a few others.

                    5. If you like Thai food, this place is the best. It's a new thai restaurant opened a few months ago in Rancho Santa Margarita, next to Coto De Caza. I think it's the only Thai place in the area.

                      If you walk inside, you'll notice it's a nice little place with very trendy atmosphere. It has some Thai pictures hanging on the all. The table and chairs are comfortable. If you are alone, sit by the bar area and you can watch all the action of the servers and ocassionally you can peep inside the kitchen and actually see how the food is prepared.

                      The food - It's excellent. As the name of the restaurant implied, pad thai noodle is their specialty. I saw most people order that there. It is very good. The noodle texture is perfect. It comes with beef, pork, shrimp ($1 more), or tofu vegetarian style. Some of my other favorites include satay, BBQ chicken, crying tiger (very tender grill beef), thai fried rice, egg rolls... Watch out for the spicy level though, even if you order medium, it's quite spicy.

                      Drinks - Their Thai ice tea is a little too sweet for me. But I think it's like that in most other thai restaurant. If you are a wine drinker, they serve wine also. And the price of the wine is very reasonable.

                      Dessert - You HAVE to order the fried banana coconut ice cream. That's actually one of the reason I go there a lot. If you want to try something exotic, get the mango sticky rice. It's not my type of tea but it's not bad.

                      Pad Thai
                      (949) 713-9122

                      30486 Avenida De Las Banderas Ste C
                      Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688

                      Cross Street:
                      Between El Corazon and Alma Aldea

                      1. I live down in Ladera Ranch and have spent the better part of 2 years trying to find passable places to eat. Here are some places we've found in the area:

                        Opah in Rancho Santa Margarita-still my favorite upscale restaurant in the area; really like the seafood salad
                        Selma's Pizza in Rancho Santa Margarita (son of the BJ's owner, or something like that-I know they are related some way)
                        Cosmo's in Las Flores (not the best Italian food, but standard red sauce and decent, though I don't like the bread they serve before dinner)
                        Agave in Rancho Santa Margarita (upscale Mexican next to Opah)
                        Sid's in Mission Viejo off of Marguerite (across from Saddleback College-standard bar fare-hamburgers are excellent, as are the french fries & onion rings)
                        Romeo in Laguna Niguel-off of Greenfield and Crown Valley (if you want to venture that far, but it is the best Italian in the area)
                        Pacific Whey Cafe in Ladera Ranch-great for breakfast or lunch; slightly expensive, but they have wonderful coffee, breakfast fare, and salads for lunch
                        Infusion in Ladera Ranch-similar to Opah cuisine; very small inside (reservations are a must); food not as good as Opah, but decent
                        Beachfire in Ladera Ranch-haven't been yet, but have heard many positive reviews; the original location is in San Clemente
                        Jalapeno's in Ladera Ranch-decent take-out Mexican
                        Picante in Ladera Ranch-upscale Spanish cuisine; had a wonderful seafood paella there a few months ago, but it is on the more expensive side
                        Oceans 33 at the Mission Viejo mall-decent seafood; I like the calamari appetizer (it's spicy)

                        1. No nothing. I live there. Best to cook in.

                            1. re: ChristianZ

                              Second the vote for Taco Mesa. Much less greasy than Jalapenos.

                            2. So many good posts here. Yes, south OC is overrun with chains, and some are worthwhile, but it is worthwhile to find the local gems. I will reiterate a previous post and suggest Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse. If and when I move from the area it will be the place for my last dinner.

                              By the way, speaking of chains, Agave in RSM is now closed and will re-open as, sigh, El Torito Grill. Senor Licos has been closed a couple years and was re-opened by the family of the original owners...called Two Sisters or something like that.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: RSMBob

                                Rose Canyon Cantina and Grill... formerly Senor Licos. We go quite often. Margaritas - VERY good. Staff, very friendly. AND the owners are often there mingling with the local regulars (the more regulars than us).

                              2. OK - Here is a Reply (on it's own) for ROSE CANTINA & GRILL
                                20722 Rose Canyon Road
                                Trabuco Canyon, CA 92678

                                949-766-6939 *NEW* number - NOT the same as listed in the "Senor Licos" post.
                                [url] http://www.rosecanyoncantina.com/ [url]


                                Fajita Style Chicken Salad - MY favorite. I don't know what they do to the chicken but, the flavor is SOO yummy. Our daughter likes to get a side of JUST the chicken!

                                The locals often end the day/week here and you can often find at least one of the owners mingling with the diners (especially the locals).

                                There is a Spinach and Shrimp Salad that is really good too. Oh, and the "regluar" menu items are very good too. But, I just can't get enough of that fajita chicken!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: tissa1020

                                  I love Rose Cantina and Grill... the patio atmosphere cannot be beat. I have enjoyed the mexican shrimp cocktail for food, but other than that, to be honest, the food is bland. My guests from out of town say the same. But that won't stop us from going. It's not BAD, just not "up there" for this food lover.