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Santa Ana, Irvine, Newport Beach and environs


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I'll be working there for four months. Where should I eat?

Also: need coffee. And beer.

I was in Irvine last week. It ain't Munich.

 

I'll settle for warmer, with Mexican food.

and there you go - you have found the two advantages to Orange County over Munich.

 

But Morelia beats OC if those are the baseline.

Been long enough that I have nothing constructive to add. Except OC is big - ethnic in parts, ritzy in others. You can eat and drink well if you put some effort out. Care to narrow the geography?

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I spend about a week out of each year shuttling between a hotel in Newport Beach and a training center in Irvine, with dinners out every night, and I can't really recommend anything. That should tell you a lot about the area.

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  • 1 month later...

Probably the best place for coffee is Kean, two locations (Tustin and Newport Beach). A nice variety of beans and they roast in-house and do a decent job. I prefer the Tustin location, the guys at night are pretty good. Otherwise, I go to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf *shrug*.

 

As for beer, I don't drink so I dunno.

 

85C is that Taiwanese bakery that is all the rage, and I believe Irvine has the only US branch. I'm not a big fan, but it's perhaps worth a looksee if you're interested in huge lines and lots of Asian people.

 

Hmm, for actual food, a lot of things are better in LA, but then you have to deal with the traffic. There are some decent ramen places out here, I usually recommend Santouka, but there's that new one that opened up that is good.

 

There is decent sushi and some spectacular views as you get closer to the beach. I like Sushi Shibucho for no-frills omakase, not as good as the no-frills omakase at Hide in Los Angeles, but it will do for OC. I sit in front of the old man and try to ignore the young guy (son).

 

Mexican food is v good, if you're not from LA or Mexico (in that case it's crap). Grande Bakery is one of the best panaderias around, in Santa Ana, very hard to find, but they make very good tamales and excellent pan dulce, for unbelievably low prices. My favorite panaderia in OC, better than 90% of the panaderias I've been to in LA, imho, at least in terms of taste. They don't have as much variety as some places. Their bollilos are good. Tacos are a harder say for me, since I very rarely eat meat. Ask someone else.

 

Random thoughts:

Irvine is notable for being one of the few cities in CA that I know of where you can get freshly made sangak at multiple bakeries. In San Fran, they're always bemoaning the lack of fresh sangak, but we take it for granted here. My favorite is the sangak at Wholesome Choice on Michaelson and Culver. Fresh out of the oven, it's springy, crackly at the charred edges and wrapped in paper for you to sneak in and eat a huge amouunt before paying. also an Anaheim location.

 

If you're going to be here for a while, you might as well spend some time at the beach. Make it Laguna Beach and eat shitty tourist food. Oh, and look at all the art galleries featuring whale and tortoise oil paintings. Drive PCH to get there, preferably in a convertible, for the maximum effect.

 

If you PM me, I'd be happy to help you out some more. These are just random thoughts that are drifting out of my head of a mornin, and do not necessarily comprise all the best in OC.

 

P.S. Sorry but my interests tend to be carb-heavy.

 

--oh and I seriously doubt you would care, but the best vegan burger place (and I now have been to many) is Veggie Grill, which started in Irvine (UC Irvine's Marketplace to be exact). You have to slather on your condiments yourself, but once you do, it's vegan burger nirvana. Meat-eaters tend to wander in here and don't realize it's vegan until they're done.

 

--sounds like you might be interested in Professor Salt's blog. Google it and you will find it. He also writes for the OC Weekly, on occasion. Sounds like he writes about the food you would like; he definitely likes his tacos.

 

--There is a branch of the Counter in Irvine. You'd probably like that place.

 

--and don't forget to check out the Irvine Farmer's Market. It's quite a good one.

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I forgot, if you're going to be in OC, you gotta have pho. The pho here is very good, most likely way better than what you can get, unless you're in Vietnam. LA pho sucks ass (though there are some good places near El Centro, to the east of LA) and SF pho is--generally speaking--a joke (there are a few exceptions). While the epicenter of US phodom is prob Westminster, Irvine actually has a few very good places; they're just pricey compared to their Westminster cousins. I like the Pho Bac on Barranca and Culver. Pricey (about $7), and they don't have culantro, but I personaly tink the pho is very good.

 

If you do manage to go to Westminster, you might as well check out the vietnamese mall, get more pho, get some banh mi, try some bun bo hue (various locations, but I used to go to one off Westminster and Brookhurst), and maybe even get some vegan Viet food (I like Au Lac for their lunch specials). Also, for dessert, get some che at Hien Khanh (sp?), theirs is the best. I usually go to the tofu factory as well and get some tofu for home, when my father doesn't feel like making it. That said, my favorite tofu besides dad's is in Gardena at Meiji Tofu. Get the fresh tofu in the bamboo basket (50 fee for the basket, but you get it back if you return it). Creamy, rich and utterly delicious, it barely holds its shape when used in dishes. The unsweetened soy milk is good too, but quite rich. I usually cut it with something.

 

Actually, in Irvine, there are some decent Korean homestyle places, Kaya is one of my old favorites, but I haven't been there in a while. Very close to good homestyle food, very comforting (at least to me), that is if you're into large portions of homestyle Korean food.

 

If you're in Tustin for that coffee at Keans, check out Cream Pan. It is excellent.

 

A very good pizza place is Pizza e Vino, but that's kind of a drive to Rancho Santa Margarita. In Costa Mesa which is closer, there are a couple of Neopolitan style places that are supposed to be good, but I haven't tried them yet. Very good to me means I find it better than most places in LA, other than Mozza which, while not perfect, is still my favorite when in LA. If you do end up in Pizza e Vino, I would try to go later in the night, so that the dough has had a chance to warm up. I found that the pizzas early in the night were compact.

 

Harry's Sandwiches in Irvine is all the rage on Yelp. The pictures look great, but since I don't really eat much meat, I personally can't comment. Close to the airport.

 

OC actually has a few remarkable things, if you know where to look.

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Wow, that is a ton of good information. Thank you so much! (I eat meat but in limited amounts usually, so a vegan burger is right on.) I adore vietnamese and korean food, I was hoping there would be some good options there.

 

Will certainly make it up to LA at least a few times, I have some good friends up there. Maybe a small MF meet-up sometime as well?

 

Ha, I didn't realize Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf was in the US -- I've only been to them in Asia (for lack of other options...)

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Wow, that is a ton of good information. Thank you so much! (I eat meat but in limited amounts usually, so a vegan burger is right on.) I adore vietnamese and korean food, I was hoping there would be some good options there.

 

Will certainly make it up to LA at least a few times, I have some good friends up there. Maybe a small MF meet-up sometime as well?

 

Ha, I didn't realize Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf was in the US -- I've only been to them in Asia (for lack of other options...)

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf aka The Coffee Bean started in LA. For years their business plan was to get you to buy beans (or tea) and make it at home. You could sample some coffee in the stores but it was all about buying the beans and melita filters to take home for brewing. Finally, after years of watching Starbucks it dawned on somebody that they could make money selling brewed drinks in the stores. Then they came up with the ice blended which Starbucks still tries to match.

 

FWIW, I think the OC equivalent of Koreatown is in Garden Grove.

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I was just remembering that I was recently at Bootlegger's Brewery in Fullerton. It's a drive for you, about 20-30 min, but this place is amazing. The food is catered by food trucks, which is kind of trendy, but the food is actually good, depending on the truck of the day. it's located in what looks like a forgotten warehouse.

 

The beer is what you come for though. The people who come here are insane about beer and really liked this. I don't drink but I witnessed the insanity.

 

--in irvine, OC Wine Mart and Wine Tasting Bar has always gotten great reviews. I've never been.

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