O.C.’s Best: More of What We Loved Eating in Orange County This Year

Our dining and drinking scene keeps getting more adventurous and creative, and we’re all the happier for that.


Hula Dog
Hula Dog

Hawaiian Hot Dogs
➞ Hawaiian-style hot dogs ($7) are available right here, at Hula Dog, near the Newport Beach pier. Choose your freshly baked bun, select a Polish or veggie dog, decide on the heat of the secret lemon garlic sauce, and pick a fruit relish. The mustards come in tangy lilikoi or sweet guava. Complete your meal with fresh-squeezed guava lemonade ($3.25). 2233 W. Balboa Blvd., Newport Beach,
949-220-7094, huladogsocal.com

HB Surround Sound Burrito at Secret Spot

Hybrid Burrito
➞ Though Secret Spot boasts a near-perfect Yelp rating and some of O.C.’s most highly ranked sandwiches and burritos, what drives this hole-in-the‑wall’s cult following is the HB Surround Sound ($9). The dish is a Sloppy Joe meets burrito: potatoes, melted cheese, your choice of meat or other protein, salsa, avocado, and famed homemade molasses-based barbecue sauce. 3801 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach,
562-592-4494, facebook.com/secretspothb

Healthy Indulgence Salad
➞ When we’re in the mood for something filling but righteous, we order the Dawn Salad ($10) at the O.C.-based Pain du Monde chain. Its perfect balance of flavors includes red and golden beets, farro, butter lettuce, arugula, grapefruit, and lumps of goat cheese tossed in a kiwi-citrus vinaigrette. Add a protein to put
it over the top. Locations at Fashion Island and on Bristol in Newport Beach, and in Corona del Mar and Dana Point

poke fries
Poke Fries at Mar

Asian-Fusion Fries
➞ Starving snackers everywhere, take note: these famous fries will satisfy your cravings. Spanish-Asian seafood joint Mar has reinterpreted the latest craze for poké with furikake-seasoned poké fries, made with ahi and topped with avocado, pickled ginger, and more ($11 to $14). 4th Street Market, 201 E. Fourth St., Santa Ana, 714-425-8223, 4thstreetmarket.com

Tuscan Toast at MRK Public

Garlic Rush
➞ Get thee to MRK Public for one of the county’s most flavorful bargains. The sharable Tuscan Toast ($8) is made up of oblong cuts of toasted bread, garlic confit that spreads like soft butter, grape tomatoes, herbs, fromage blanc, good olive oil, and balsamic reduction. That and a bottle of wine, and the evening’s damn-near perfect. 1402 S. El Camino Real, San Clemente, 949‑441‑7621, mrkpublic.com

Al Pastor Tuesdays
➞ Downtown Santa Ana’s beloved and quirky cantina Lola Gaspar satisfies fans with $1 spit-roasted al pastor tacos until they run out. Brave the happy hour hordes (they call it “good times”), 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and pay only $3 for draft beers and well drinks. Now you can afford to stay for dinner. 211 W. Second St., Santa Ana, 714-972-1172, lolagaspar.com

Breakfast Burrito at the Beach
➞ Tackle Box has great lunch grub, but we’ll take the breakfast burrito, please ($10). A flour tortilla, browned lightly on the flat-top to give it a delightful crunch, is layered in such a way that the three scrambled eggs, applewood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, crispy hash browns, and pico de gallo are tasted in each bite. Order it with avocado, $2 extra. Sparkling ocean view, free. 3029 E. Shore Ave., Corona del Mar, 949-723-0502, tackleboxoc.com

Sexy Secret Sauce
➞ House-made Sriracha Syrup from Sessions West Coast Deli is a sweet-spicy most valuable player. Drizzle over French toast or mix with walnuts and cream cheese to enhance a bagel. Think beyond breakfast and use in cocktails, over roasted carrots with cumin and squeezed lime, or on Asian‑style ribs. $7 for 12 ounces. 2823 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, 949‑220-9001; 414 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, 714‑594-3899; sessionswcd.com

Casa Oaxaca

Vegetarian Oaxacan Cuisine
Casa Oaxaca chef Rogelio Martinez makes stunning vegetarian creations, such as Oaxacan-style tacos stuffed with red wine-sauteed hibiscus ($5), and squash-blossom tempura over a layer of huitlacoche mole ($5). They are unlike anything we’ve ever tasted. Flavor-packed and fresh, they please vegetarians and omnivores. 3317 W. First St., Santa Ana, 714-554-0905, casaoaxacarestaurant.com

Hot Legs
➞ Why wing it, when you can kick it? Wings are boring once you’ve chowed on Buffalegs—Buffalo-style drumsticks, only at Blake’s Place and only from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday. The spicy legs and crispy fries are $10 for all you can handle. 2905 E. Miraloma Ave., Anaheim, 714-630-8574; 11105 Los Alamitos Blvd., Los Alamitos, 562-431-1111; blakesplacebbq.com

Bao Hog

Bao Down
The punny Baos Hog is devoted almost entirely to the bao, that fluffy steamed bun folded around all manner of fillings. The Bolsa bao ($3.50) is pure O.C.: a slab of crunchy fried pork belly buried under a slaw of lightly pickled vegetables. It’s a banh mi without the French roll. 13918 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove, 714‑600-3311, squareup.com/store/baoshog

Rosemary Biscuits
➞ Baked to order, these heavenly orbs, hot from the oven and softly redolent of fresh rosemary, are all the reason you need to make Gulfstream, the seafood restaurant in Newport Beach, a regular haunt. Tender, flaky, buttery—they’re everything you want in a biscuit ($3 to $5). Just add butter. 850 Avocado Ave., Newport Beach, 949-718-0188

Korean Side Dish
➞ Refrigerators filled with to-die-for kimchi and nothing else—that’s why the no-frills Seoul Do Soon Yi Kimchi Co. draws converts from across Southern California and a perfect five stars on Yelp. Staff members advise on age and seasoning. The glass jars are the preferred way to serve the traditional Korean veggie dish with its full-bodied flavors and fresh crunch ($16 to $20 per gallon, cash only). 9972 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, 714-638-5424


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