Why We Love O.C. | Banh Mi in Westminster, Pub Crawls in Seal Beach, and the Strawberry Festival in Garden Grove

Breaking down these cities’ claim to fame

We turned to community leaders, residents, statistics, history, and even a few former presidents to tell you something incredible about every one of the 34 cities we call home.


Westminster

There are countless craveable dishes here,
but little can compare to this city’s bounty of banh mi.

Banh Mi from Top Baguette; Photo by Mariah Tauger

Little Saigon is one of the best Vietnamese dining destinations in the country. Favorites such as Banh Mi Che Cali and Top Baguette have for years served as the area’s unofficial embassies, converting countless newcomers to instant fans of their flaky baguettes and lemongrass-spiked beef. Others, like Tan Hoang Huong, offer a bit less fanfare but equally excellent sandwiches. Tan Hoang Huong’s meatball banh mi is unrivaled—tender pork meatballs slicked with a sweet, sticky sauce. Saigon’s Bakery is famous for its deals (buy two sandwiches and get one free) as well as its football-shaped French rolls. Even a comparative newcomer like Lynda Sandwich, a restaurant founded by a Vietnamese pop idol and with sandwich star power to match, can steal the show. Try the banh mi cha ca loaded with fried fish cake.


Seal Beach

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For a night of revelry with great beers and libations,
this north-coastal city has few rivals.


Photo by Mariah Tauger

Although many locals like to pub crawl at the iconic Irish bars on Main Street, this city is also home to some of the best beers and cocktails in the county. Just a short stroll from the sand on Main Street, the smell of smoked barbecue pulls you into Beachwood BBQ, a place where world-class house beers such as Mocha Machine and Kilgore Stout are poured through an invention called the flux capacitor. If you’re lucky, you can catch rare beer events such as Cantillon’s Zwanze Day or Russian River’s Pliny the Younger raffle. On the other side of the street, 320 Main is where bartenders drink to get inspired when they’re not working. Try the Pappy Baby Monkey—an Old-Fashioned cocktail that’s bold enough to use a $500 bottle of Pappy’s Old Rip Van Winkle as the syrup base ($18)—with the house-fried crispy Brussels sprouts. Being seaside, margaritas are a must, and the 65-strong 100 percent blue agave tequila list at Yucatan Grill on Pacific Coast Highway pairs nicely with the dual-personality Mexican and Caribbean cuisine the locals love.


Garden Grove

The Strawberry Festival will lure you into the local vibe.

Photo by Jenielle Chaney

Named in honor of the fields that once blanketed the city, the Garden Grove Strawberry Festival is a place to feel like a local, with rodeos, bowling competitions, fish ponds, and hat contests.

“It’s a community festival,” says spokeswoman Judy Cooper of the event that features 200 booths to support local charities and attracts about 300,000 people over its four days. “It’s not commercial. It’s about the charities. It’s like going back to the ’50s.”

How ’50s? Try a Redhead Roundup, ongoing since 1959. There are prizes for the most freckles and the classiest redheads.

Of course there are strawberries, including the legendary Strawberry Shortcake Supreme ice cream dessert and, on Friday, free strawberry shortcake. There’s a parade, with past celebrities such as Steve Martin (who once won the event’s talent competition), Debbie Reynolds, Hilary Duff, the Carpenters, and more. This year features actors Parker Bates and Mackenzie Hancsicsak from the hit TV show “This is Us.”

Festival profits donated to charity over the years have built the amphitheater seating, a children’s wing at the library, a police command post, the twin towers in Atlantis Park, and a building for the Garden Grove Boys and Girls Club, and helped victims of homelessness and abuse.


60th annual Garden Grove Strawberry Festival is May 25 to 28 at the Village Green, between Main Street and Euclid Avenue. The parade starts at 10 a.m. May 26 at the corner of 9th Street and Chapman Avenue. For the schedule, visit strawberryfestival.org

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