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Apr 26, 2007 05:53 PM

One month in the OC, some pleasant surprises

I've recently moved from NW Denver burbs to Orange County, and there has been some very pleasant finds. This is not meant to be exhaustive, but it's a quick rundown of what I've liked. You will notice a bias to RSM, it's where we're(SO and I) based right now. Will be looking for suggestions in laguna niguel soon....hint, hint.

Baja fish taco - corner of Alicia and Crown valley, next to Von's. Great fast food fish taco, the salsa bar has some of the tastiest onions I've found so far.

Itz-a-Deli - Lake Forest. TASTY corned beef on rye. Huge piles of meat on great bread. Veggie sandwich on squaw bread(think honey sweetened wheat-rye) is another favorite. $5 for sandwich and small cup of salad that will fill you up if you are there before 11:30 or after 1(they close at 3, itza lunch place).

Taco Mesa - Lake forest, Los Alisos and Trabuco. Great basic grilled meat on tortillas. Good guac and taste like homemade chips. Best is pork w/chile verde and the steak. $1 Taco Tuesdays, great deal. Horchata is a skip.

India Cook House? - Culver just E of I5. Good savory N Indian food(tikka masala, butter chicken, etc). The vindaloo/karahai stuff wasn't right, not enough heat. Adequate naan, didn't have crisp enough outside. Savory dishes were outstanding though, they stick in the head. I'm having a pavlovian response as I type this.

Caspian Restaurant - Culver just E of I5. Wouldn't have tried this place w/o some recs, just didn't have the feel of a great restaurant. It was very tasty, don't have a reference for authenticity. We went on a sunday night and saw the brother in law from vermont was thinking of not going back(to vermont). My favorite was the chicken in thick sauce(pomegranate?) and rice with golden raisins, dried plums, and nuts. My wife liked the lamb that came with dill rice. HUGE portions, the three of us could have split an app and one main. The yoghurt drink was fantastic(du?).

Harbor Grill - Dana Point. Great fresh fish on mesquite grill. Surprisingly tasty NE clam chowder. Very nice breakfast, esp crab benedict. The huevos rancheros is a skip, doesn't have the right consistency.

Rose Canyon Cantina - Trabuco Canyon. Best marg I've had yet here, comparable to Mezcal 'coin' in Denver. Patio is an extremely pleasant place to have a meal, large trees shading the tables. Relleno and enchilada were probably good but not great, made better by locale and good drinks.

Canyon Cafe - RSM town center. Surprisingly good roasted chicken.

Taco Loco, Laguna Beach. Tacos taste really good after a day at the beach, but not something I'd go out of my way for.
Cinnamon Creations(?) - RSM town center. well executed generic breakfast. The bran blueberry muffin was the best part. Coffee had a really odd but identifiable odor of marijuana. Seriously. I thought the retiree behind me in line got her sunday morning started with a pipe.
Wine Bar, RSM town center. Hits and misses with food, the wine was nothing special at the tasting bar. Feels like they're still trying to get it figured out.

Opah - RSM town center. Blech.
Fat Burger - Aliso Viejo Town Center. Rather have an In-n-Out, esp for the highway robbery price.

If you made it this far, why don't you hit the 'reply' button to share your favorite hole in the wall in south OC? Please?


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  1. Inka Mama's in Foothill Ranch

    11 Replies
    1. re: JAB

      You've hit some great ones already. And I was about to add Inka Mama's to the mix before I saw JAB's post. I will add Cosmo's for good family Italian restaurant in Aliso Viejo and also Ladera Ranch. Gotta try Lucille's BBQ in Lake Forest on El Toro. It recently opened, so it's always packed, but a bit pricey. Celinda's on SM Parkway tucked away behind the KFC for one of the best chile verde burritos and fresh chips, salsa, and guacamole to go. If you're looking for Pizza, I can recommend Antonucci's on Alicia at Muirlands in MV and also Ciceros on Alicia and Trabuco. I too like Baja Fish Tacos, but if you're willing to travel a bit north to Tustin, you've gotta try Las Cotijas. They're the best fish taco's, which can be verified by many Chowhounders. Still looking for a good Chinese place. Lakeside on Alicia/Olympiad and Crown Chinese on Marguerite/Crown Valley are fairly Americanized and mediocre at best, and they are both the same owners, so we are not given much variety here. Pickings are a bit slim in south OC, but there are some good restaurants here and there if you can find them.

      1. re: BabyDaddy

        Assal pastry in Irvine is pretty good. Did you try the pizza at NYC Style Pizza in Foothill Ranch by the Regal Cinema? There is also an indian place in the same complex that I like.

          1. re: JAB

            If I'm thinking of the right place, Antonuccis was awful. It looks like it hasnt been decorated in 50 years and the soup comes in those flimsy wood bowls that come from a cafeteria. yikes! Pizza is best avoided in OC unless you like the CPK version.

            1. re: jroxybabe19

              Hmmm...Das Ubergeek recently recommended Luigi's D'Italia for NJ style pizza. As for me, I prefer thin crust Margheritas; and surprisingly, Buca's does a decent one...Market City Caffe also does a fairly good one.

              Market City Caffe--CLOSED
              110 W Birch St, Brea, CA 92821

              Luigi's D'Italia
              801 S State College Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92806

              1. re: jroxybabe19

                ? I've never had anything awful at Antonucci's. ?

                1. re: JAB

                  I apologize guys!!!! I was totally thinking of another place. MY BAD!!! so sorry, antonuccis was really good!

                  1. re: namstermonster

                    That the one on Garden Grove Blvd and Harbor? What style pizza is it, and do they do slices?

                    I have to confess that every now and then I get a hankering for a slice from the pizza place in the food court at The Block. It's not Vito's by any stretch but it's a damn sight better than many places...

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      There appear to be 2 Haus of Pizza locations, one in Costa Mesa, which I've been to, and the other in Garden Grove.

                      I've cut down on pizza since college, so I don't consider myself a pizza expert anymore, but my brother loves Haus of Pizza and considers it among the best in OC, at least for the Costa Mesa location.

                      Haus of Pizza
                      1500 Adams Ave, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

                      Haus of Pizza
                      12912 Harbor Blvd, Garden Grove, CA 92840

              2. re: BabyDaddy

                Like mentioned above, Los Cotijas is the tops when it comes to authentic baja fish tacos. This place really rocks.

                Don't forget to try Blacksheep Bistro in Tustin for some greatly inspired cooking and Pina's Bistro for the good Italian food in an atmosphere of being in Pina's home. Both are in Tustin.

                Also worth the try in Tustin is Haveli on Newport for Indian and the largest menu I've ever seen, Sushi Wasabi for the "Sushi Nazi" and his very traditional sushi, and Tustin Brewery for decent burgers but lousy beer.

            2. I moved to Irvine about the same time as you. I too have enjoyed Baja Fist Taco.

              A favorite so far is Javier's, which can be found in Laguna Beach or the Irvine Spectrum. The carnitas have been my favorite there.

              1. Best Chinese in the county is China Garden on Jeffrey & Walnut, just south of the 5 in Irvine.

                3 Replies
                1. re: MzMaggie

                  Have you tried Russell's seafood on Mac Arthur and Main near John Wayne. I think their dim sum is better there. I hate waiting for a table at China Garden. I think most people dont' know about Russells that's why it never really gets that packed. Great stir fry dishes here.

                  1. re: karynx78

                    I tried Russell's Seafood one time and will not go back there again. Quality of the dim sum is just not good at all. There is a reason why people wait for China Garden.

                    1. re: sportsfan8

                      I'm sorry that you didn't enjoy Russells but I feel that way about China Garden. The food seems to be prepared real sloppy and especially their lunch special dishes.. way too oily.

                2. I'm Indian so hence I will mention 3 Indian restaurants my husband and I have tried and have liked. One is Dosa Place off of Red Hill. Second restaurant is Masala Bowl off of Newport Ave in Tustin. For buffet type Indian food, try Taste of India in Fountain Valley. As mentioned, all 3 are awesome restaurants and definite restaurants my husband and I will visit again.

                  1. Oh, and if you enjoy fish, try California Fish and Grill. Good prices and awesome food!