21 Cafe Rio, Lake Forest
22 Cucina Alessá, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach
23 Daily Grill, Irvine
24 Dosa Place, Tustin
25 House of Big Fish,Laguna Beach
26 House of Kabob, Lake Forest
27 Scottie’s Smokehouse, Orange
28 Wadiya, Anaheim
29 Yves’ Bistro, Anaheim Hills
30 Z’Tejas, Costa Mesa
At Eat Chow it’s hard not to order the signature fried green tomatoes with aioli, or the truffle Parmesan sweet potato fries. Get over it. You’ll leave much more satisfied after a helping of turkey chili. This $5 bowl o’ red is thick, rich, and flavorful, with a nice kick. 1802 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, 949-650-2469, eatchownow.com.
In her hands-on workshops, chef Katie Averill gives detailed instructions and gentle corrections as you fill and mold bonbons into hearts, roses, butterflies, and other shapes. The finished product is satiny, shiny, and impossible not to devour on the spot. Next class, for $69, is Aug. 1 at Tspoons, 6 Gilly Flower, Ladera Ranch, 949-545-6978, www.tspoons.com. She also teaches at Sur la Table in Corona del Mar, surlatable.com.
A wall of self-serve spigots awaits at Yogurtland, a leader in DIY fro-yo technology, as does a bank of imaginative add-ons, from 16 fresh fruits to 40 nut and candy choices. Pay by weight—30 cents an ounce for this tasty nonfat yogurt. Cookies and Cream, and New York Cheesecake are popular, but we love the Red Velvet Cake, and Toasted Coconut. Locations throughout Orange County, yogurtland.com.
If you’re running on fumes in San Juan Capistrano, pull into the 76 station at Doheny Park Road and Victoria Boulevard. There, you can hear piped-in classical music as you pump. Owner Michael Nejad says, “It’s relaxing; it’s good for my employees and customers.” 34131 Doheny Park Road, 949-496-6950.
At Chef’s Toys we found at least 15 varieties of ice cream scoops. This warehouse wonderland can fulfill commercial needs (shopping for a 300,000-BTU range?) and your home kitchen desires: flatware, knives, chairs, and more—often at amazing prices. Informed staffers answer questions, and there’s next-day service for knife sharpening. 18430 Pacific St., Fountain Valley, 714-435-9222, chefstoys.net.
He skates like the wind and scores like crazy. Fans took to right-winger Dan Sexton, that little guy who takes big hits. The blogosphere lit up when “Big Sexy” was sent back briefly to the minors, and again when he returned. He’ll be at training camp this fall, hoping to earn a spot on the Anaheim roster. We’re pulling for him ’cause nothing is wackier than hearing grown men scream, “Go, Sex!” anaheimducks.com.
His concerts are filled with arts cognoscenti, from Orange County Performing Arts Center President Terry Dwyer to critics and choreographers. UC Irvine music professor Kei Akagi, a former Miles Davis sideman, plays a mean jazz piano but specializes in heady original compositions. His biggest hit? Blending in California budget-cut jokes as stage patter to a receptive town-and-gown crowd. http://music.arts.uci.edu/content/kei-akagi.
At K1 Speed, go-karts equipped with 20-horsepower electric motors have more than twice the muscle of their gasoline-powered competitors—and who needs that fuel smell? For $20, riders get a helmet and 14 laps. Battle your friends, and compare race times. 17221 Von Karman Ave., Irvine, 949-250-0242; 1000 N. Edward Court, Anaheim, 714-632-6999; k1speed.com.
For a burger restaurant, 25 Degrees sure knows how to please a vegetarian. The $8 grilled cheese sandwich has so many thick layers of Jack, cheddar, and Emmi Gruyere it’s borderline obscene, but the cheese is kept in check by thick slices of brioche. It’s massive, so share this crunchy, creamy indulgence with a friend. 412 Walnut Ave., Huntington Beach, 714-960-2525, 25degreesrestaurant.com.
Contemporary Varga girls can rustle up a stylish wardrobe at Roadkill Boutique, where the vintage-inspired clothes harken back to the ’40s and ’50s. That means curvy dresses by Stop Staring and Bettie Page that ooze sex appeal on the hanger; uniquely crafted Lucite purses; and accessories such as floral headbands, and, around the holidays, seamed nylons. 119 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, 714-773-1156,