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Feb 6, 2013 09:28 AM

North Orange County - Food Bermuda Triangle - Need Restaurant Recs

I live in Fullerton and miss being in West LA and Downtown for good food. Can anybody give me your top 10 food places in North OC?

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  1. I moved to Brea from West Hollywood/Beverly Hills about 3 years ago so initially felt your pain. Here some of my top choices.
    Early Bird (Fullerton) - great brunch and excellent single origin coffee. Chef and owner used to work under Ludo at Bastide.
    Burger Parlor (Fullerton) - same owner as Early Bird. Great fries and burgers.
    Honda-Ya (Fullerton) - same chain as the one in DTLA. They are good for izakaya food. The ramen is serviceable in a pinch.
    G Burger (La Habra I think this is technically LA) - not sure whether this is better than Burger Palor but think you should decide and try both.
    Moros Cuban (La Habra) - very authentic Cuban. Better than many of the places in Miami and the best I've had outside Havana. Very friendly staff and they have an excellent Sunday brunch.
    Bruxie (Brea) - waffle sandwiches and frozen custard.
    Merely Sweets (Brea) - love their macaroons and berry cake which is better than the triple berry at Sweet Lady Jane. Started by a few local CIA grads.
    Olive Pit (Brea) - great Greek/mediterranean food. Owner used to be chef at Spago. The gyro is my favorite. Everything is very good and well priced.
    Playground (Santa Ana) - chefs from the Lime Truck who opened up a brick and mortar. Great place reminds me very much of LA style restaurants like Animal but not so heavily pork focused.

    There is a plethora of great Chinese and Korean food north on the 57 in Rowland Heights/Hacienda Heights area. It's a quick 15 to 20 minute drive if you're close to the 57. Search the board but start at Earthen and Newport Tang Seafood.

    If you don't mind driving you're actually within like 20 minutes of a lot of great spots for food. Santa Ana has a lot of great restaurants and is attracting a lot of great restaurants. Anaheim is filled with great Lebanese and middle eastern. Costa Mesa has pretty much every great ramen place in SoCal except for Tjusita. Most of the best higher end dining is in the Irvine/Costa Mesa/Newport Beach area - Mozza, Ecco, Marche Modern.

    9 Replies
    1. re: js76wisco

      You rock! Thank you so much. I've been using Yelp! but that is hit and miss (mostly miss) and should have thought of Chowhound first. Excited to try these places out!

      1. re: js76wisco

        La Habra is in northern Orange County, so any CH-worthy recommendations from that fair city would qualify for buttdrunk's list, as far as locale is concerned. So, yes, G Burger and Moros in LH would make the cut ...

        ... as would the two Claro's locations, La Habra and Tustin, in Orange County. Claro's is a long-established chain-let of Italian markets (six stores total, I think) that got underway in 1949. Not only is the shopping there fun, so is ordering a custom-make sandwich at the deli. Should you crave a three-salami sandwich, the good folks at the deli counter will make you one ... and it won't cost an arm and a leg.

        Don't know if anyone mentioned Jagerhaus, but it's pretty darned terrific. My husband and I enjoyed an early but enjoyable New Year's Eve there; he had Jagerhaus' paprika schnitzel and I ordered the Holstein schnitzel. The verdict on both? Yum.

        El Farolito (Placentia) will offer solid, uber-traditional Mexican fare.

        Finally, as js76 mentioned, the area has a nice concentration of Korean eateries. Don't overlook the Fullerton/Buena Park area, which has several spots given nice comments by fellow CHers.

        1. re: Dornfelder

          Thanks! I used to work in Orange so have been to Jagerhaus on a couple of occasions and they are quite good. The others, I'll have to try. Most excellent!

          1. re: buttdrunk

            If Jagerhaus floats your boat -- and it has ours for years -- keep in mind that it's in Anaheim, a hard shot from the Honda Center, home of the Anaheim Ducks. It's on Ball, right off the 57 Freeway offramp, and in a forgettable-looking strip mall on the right-hand side of the street.

            (Note: Jagerhaus can get pretty busy before Ducks' home games -- fans, to their credit, prefer fairly priced brats or schnitzel to seriously overpriced arena fare -- so it'd be a good idea to get to know the team's home schedule before heading over there.)

            1. re: Dornfelder

              Love Jagerhaus, especially for breakfast, but also to delve into my German roots :)

              1. re: scottca075

                Jagerhaus' knack for letting me delve into my likewise roots is a similar appeal. :D

          2. re: Dornfelder

            El Farolito also has locations in North Anaheim and in downtown Fullerton. Also, I just was thinking about California
            Ranch Market on Commonwealth in Fullerton. Good tacos and other things when they have the grill out on weekend evenings.

          3. re: js76wisco

            Ate at Early Bird Sunday morning and it was fab..

            1. re: js76wisco

              Nice list! +1 on Early Bird (one week I went 4x), Honda-ya & Bruxie. I prefer Kentro's Greek Kitchen to the Olive Pit and What's Up Men serves up a good bowl of chuuka soba (ramen) and kimchi fried rice. I've also started to frequent Tlaquepaque (also in Old Town Placentia) more frequently over El Farolito bc (1) there's less of a wait, (2) it's less gloppier/greasier and (3) their enchiladas & chili rellenos are better (though I prefer ElF's carnitas over T's). And for a mom & pop shop Taiwanese tea house w home cooked food, I head on over to Midastee on Imperial. For HH, we'll go to Yardhouse, but sometimes prefer the Olde Ship for the pub atmosphere.

            2. Wok Coco in Anaheim (easily the most interesting Indo food in all of LA)
              Continental Deli: La Habra
              Namastey India: Buena Park
              Moodaepo: Fullerton (if you have to do KBBQ)
              E-San Rod-Sap: Anaheim
              Pieology Pizzeria: Fullerton (a passable version of 800 degrees)

              No need to head over the hill just to eat Korean. There's a shit-ton of Korean restaurants in Buena Park/Fullerton, refer to:

              Little Arabia is in Anaheim:

              Of course, you also have Taps, The Bruety and Bootleggers and Noble Ale, so that makes Fullerton-adjacent almost as cool (beer wise) as Eagle Rock.

              4 Replies
              1. re: TonyC

                I always forget about the Korean in Buena Park but definitely closer to Fullerton and enough good spots.

                1. re: TonyC

                  I didn't know that there was a Little Arabia. I think this might be first on my itinerary.

                  Namastey is right next to my favorite Korean place called Honey Pig. My buddies are constantly telling me that it is better than the one in Koreatown.

                  1. re: buttdrunk

                    If you like Honey Pig, you should try the neighbor immediately to the Westwhich used to be a A&W Rootbeer.

                    Han Yang has rather edible "home" style Korean cooking, and they're pretty quick with the check during lunch.

                    For coffee/lattes, Cafe Wind Bell in Buena Park is one of the few shops in the area roasting their beans, and the barista has mad free pour skills:

                    Sadly, Frati Gelato closed last March, and there has been no worthy successor.

                    I tend to avoid nearly all "American" food in the nabe with the exception of things like Early Bird/Burger Parlor. Have tried Haven's food in Pasadena, as well as some rendition of Slater's 50/50. The stuff is putrid excuse for "gastropub" food. Taps "seafood" is laughable compared to the Cantonese/Chiu Chow seafood in Hacienda Heights. Go there to drink some draft, drive up Harbor to eat.

                    1. re: TonyC

                      "The stuff is putrid..."

                      Wow, that's a word not usually seen on Chowhound, but a very good word in the correct circumstances. Thanks, TonyC, for using putrid in a description.

                2. +1 on Early Bird, Honda Ya, Olive Pit, and Bruxie, though I much prefer the ramen at What's Up Men in Fullerton to the Ramen at Honda Ya. It's still not as good as what you can get in Costa Mesa, but it's very good for the area.

                  I would also add:

                  Orea in Placentia for great sit-down mediterranean small plates.

                  Tony's Little Italy in Placentia for Chicago-style pizza (opinions vary, but I think it's great). Just order at least 30-45 minutes ahead.

                  Rubalcava's in Placentia for great Mexican baked goods and take-out Mexican food. The Sonoran Dog is a must try.

                  The Bruery in Placentia. No food other than the trucks that park there, but their beer is great. And speaking of beer...

                  Haven Gastropub in Orange for a great selection of beers and very good food. Their Haven Burger and Lamb Burger are insane. I have only ever had one subpar experience there out of many visits.

                  THE RANCH in Anaheim. One of my favorite steaks (bone-in rib).

                  TAPS Fishhouse in Brea for very good seafood and handcrafted beers. Try their weekend Jazz Brunch, too.

                  A couple of others that I am ashamed to admit I haven't tried yet but are on my short list based on recommendations are Ma's Islamic Chinese in Anaheim and Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen in Orange.

                  Welcome to the neighborhood, and happy hunting.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: OCSteve

                    +1 on Tony's Little Italy, Tap's brunch and Haven.

                    What city would you consider the cut off for North OC? If you look on a map it looks like Irvine is about the mid point. San Clemente almost feels like San Diego to me.

                    Have you tried the new gourmet hot dog place in Orange? Can't remember the name.

                    1. re: js76wisco

                      I consider Orange the cutoff for North OC as far as what we consider "close" for dining options. It also happens to be the border for a lot of the real estate market reports I read at work, so that may have something to do with my thought process. That being said, Santa Ana has a lot of great dining, and it's only a couple more minutes away. Alas, I just don't get there that often.

                      I have not been to the new hot dog place in Orange. It's called Linx, and I can't wait to try it.

                      1. re: OCSteve

                        Orange is much further south than I would have put the border but then again I'm still trying to find my way around OC.

                        I haven't seen any news about Linx either but I might give it a try this weekend although not sure it justifies an extra 15 minute drive from Berkeley Dog.

                    2. re: OCSteve

                      Much appreciated! I've feel like a kid in a candy store at the moment. Will have to eat my way through all these recommendations!

                    3. -george's hamburgers- breakfast burritos
                      -olive pit and les amis for mediterranean
                      -the sunday brunch at taps is amazing. rivals las vegas buffets
                      -the original pancake house in anaheim is a few exits away down the 57
                      -downtown fullerton is always fun, joes is a bar with good exotic sausages (like wurstkuche downtown).
                      -kentros greek kitchen is very good and the ambiance reminds me of an eatery on 3rd street/beverly.

                      1. Have you tried Santa Ana? Lola Gaspar, Chapter One: the local modern, The Playground and Ostioneria Bahia Mexican Seafood?

                        Other spots to look at Mas Islamic, Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen, Fuoco Pizzeria Napoletana, and over the hill, the Cat & Custard Cup.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: scottca075

                          Mas Islamic was my dinner tonight. Very good stuff. Going back soon to eat the rest of the menu