Best Lebanese in Orange County?
My favorite is Zait and Zataar. Their chicken schwarma, falafel, hummus, fattoush salad, lebneh and little mini baked goods are all great. The garlic sauce that comes with the chicken schwarma plate is up there with Zankou (pre-industrial version). They make all their own pizzas and baked pies in a gas oven. All come highly recommended.
It's a small joint with about 4 tables inside a few others outside. My wife will not let us come here if its over 75 degrees. That oven is always on and there is no AC so it gets hot in the store.
I really like this place. The sojouk baked thing is greasy but man is it good. cheap too. That whole area in anaheim is loaded with amazing arabic/Middle Eastern food. Lots of exploring to be done there. Olive Tree isn't Lebanese (they have a lot of the same schwarma type stuff but I always get the amazing daily specials) but it's so good I plug it every chance I get.
I recently discovered the obscure Cafe Matinee in Lake Forest, even though it's been there for 11 years. Tried the falafel platter, and it beat my standard-bearer, Mamoun's in NYC.
The falafel is a house-made coarse-ground mix of fava and garbanzos. The coarse texture gives it great texture after it's fried. There's also no parsley in the mix.
According to the owner Suzane, no-parsley falafel is traditional in Lebanon. Supposedly doesn't give you gas and make you feel bloated. That might be true. I ate a platter big enough as a starter for two all by myself.
They do everything in-house, including curing their own olives in salt. Not sure they bake their own pitas though - it didn't taste like they did.
Next time, I'm trying their shawarma. I'm told it and the falafel are their top 2 selling items.
re: Professor Salt
Across the parking lot is Nina's Indian & British Grocery. It's a great place for grocery stuff, but they also have an Indian restaurant in the back that's pretty solid. Not a destination restaurant, but a decent and easy choice for Indian in Lake Forest. I still prefer Annapoorna in Irvine for my Indian fix in this area.
Taco Stop for a hole in the wall taqueria. Stay away from the picture menu. Choose from the printed menu on the counter right by the register (ie tacos, tortas, and burritos - that's what they excel at). Definitely sample the home-made salsas on ice. If you like heat, try the pineapple-habanero "relish".
Slater's 50/50 is also in this area, if you're feeling like an expensive gourmet burger + craft beer.
I would suggest Zena's Mediterranean & Lebanese Cuisine in Orange. I really enjoy their baba ghanoush, fried cauliflower, and hummus. They also have a spectacular raw lamb or beef kibbeh that is off menu, but you have to order it at least 1 day in advance since he gets it from the butcher the same day.
Zena's Mediterranean & Lebanese Cuisine
2094 N Tustin St
Orange, CA 92865
Olive Tree is definitely my favorite spot in So Cal. Their falafels are the best!! They have lots of other amazing dishes as well. And the bakery next door has yummy baklava and maamouls.
Cafe Matinee in Lake Forest is good for their mezze. I enjoy their hummus, fattoush salad, and kibbeh.