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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.
          http://www.trabucooakssteakhouse.com/...

          Senor Licos used to be pretty good.
          Call for their hours.
          SENOR LICOS MEXICAN RESTAURANT
          ( 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:

            http://www.opahrestaurant.com/

            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.