Friday, December 30, 2011

Our Best and Worst of 2011!

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones. We here at Eating My Way Through OC have decided to wrap up this year with the obligatory best and worst list. We went to a record 123 restaurants this year. That is a lot of eating! Nearly three restaurants reviewed a week. We went on two east coast trips, to New York and Boston. The food there was phenomenal! Culinary highlights of those trips included the Lobster Roll from Neptune Oyster House in Boston, authentic New York pizza from Grimalidi's, the Tres Leches Donut from the Doughnut Plant on the lower east side, and the Chocolate Chip and Banana Pancakes from Mike's City Diner in Boston.

We also added new foods to our eating adventures. We reviewed Indian, Japanese, Lebanese, Peruvian, and Vietnamese. We are looking forward to adding even more diverse foods to our list in 2012. We may have tried different foods this year, but we could not stray too far from hamburgers, Mexican food, and barbecue. We of course are still in search for our best breakfast burrito in OC. We have had some really good ones, but nothing that has knocked our socks off, like the one we had in Pasadena, at Lucky Boy.

Let's see what made our best and worst list for the year 2011. Starting us off will be the worst restaurants of the year, in no particular order.


The night we came to Chelas Mexican Grill, they failed to impress. The meats were not prominent in any of the tacos or burritos that we had. They used way too much lettuce on everything, and that caused the food to become cold too quickly. If I had wanted bland Mexican food, I would have just gone to Chipotle.


We did not get to too many places this year to find the perfect place to watch football on Sunday mornings, but we unfortunately made it to Rudy's Pub and Grill in Foothill Ranch. Not only did my football team stink it up this year, but the food here did as well. My southwestern scramble put my taste buds in a coma. The rest of the food proved to be no better than mediocre, which is what I wish for my Jaguar's next year. Mediocre would be a step up for them.


Not to pick on Foothill Ranch, but it is home to two of the five worst restaurants on our list this year. After our visit to Mustard Cafe, we are sure that Togo's is not sweating competition from them. My Reuben sandwich was served with the least amount of meat I have seen on a Reuben, and they were out of rye, so they served it on wheat. Failure on both counts.


The one plus we got by eating at Florentine's Downtown Grill was we had buy one, get one free coupons. The bad part was we had to pay for any of this food at all. All of our food came out tasteless, overly breaded, and just plain average. There are so many good restaurants in Downtown Fullerton, we will pass on this one in the future.


Another area that has a plethora of great restaurants is Laguna, but sadly, C'est La Vie is not one of these great food spots. The food we had here this year was sub par, but would have been made better had it been served hot. We were one of two couples here on a Friday night, and the kitchen still got our food out to us cold.

Enough of the negative, let's find out what the best five restaurants of the year have been. In no particular order, here they are.


It is finding restaurants like El Farolito, that makes this blog worth writing. I would have never been to this local institution if I did not write this blog. The Mexican food here is great. The best carnitas I have had yet, and the prices can not be beat. I can not wait to go back for more in 2012.


If you had made me a bet at the start of the year that I would be including a sushi restaurant on my best restaurant of the year list, I would have taken it, and owed you money. I am not much of a sushi guy, but Sushi Wasabi could convert me. The fish here was fresh, and filled me up. I never thought I would write that about a sushi place. A little pricey, but you get what you pay for here.


We go from a crazy priced sushi restaurant to one of the cheapest meals we had this year, at John's Philly Grill. Usually a place just hangs some Phillie's or Eagles pennants, and calls itself a Philly Cheesesteak shop. The pennants are here, but so are the great sandwiches. These sandwiches come out molten hot, and once they achieve an edible temperature, you will be transported to a meaty/cheesy nirvana. Saves on the plane tickets to Philadelphia.


The menu might be limited, but the food at Gulfstream, was really good the night we were here for my birthday dinner. The rib eye was one of the best hunks of meat I had all year, and the crab cakes Katie went with were rich, with thick cuts of crab. A great way to mark another birth year.




My best of list would not be complete without Slater's 50/50. They make the list for the Breakfast Burger that is above alone. Yes, that is a donut for a bun, along with a fried egg, two strips of bacon, cheese, and a 50 percent ground beef and 50 percent ground bacon patty. I just gained a pound by typing what was on this breakfast burger. We have been back to Slater's a number of times through the year, and it has been a delicious adventure every time.

So there you have it. The best and worst of 2011. I would like to thank each and every one of you that has read the blog, sent in a suggestions, written a comment, or even sent in a criticism. I think I replied to each and every one of the responses I have gotten. To my fellow diners that have accompanied us on our dining adventures, thanks for waiting to eat, while I snap some pictures, and giving me your opinions on the food you just consumed. I would also like to thank my fellow food bloggers that I read religiously everyday. You all inspire me to be a better writer and reviewer of restaurants. Once again, thank you all very much, and here's to a great 2012!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Beautiful Cuban Food at Bella Cuba


Bella Cuba
3930 S. Bristol Ave. #114
Santa Ana, CA 92704

The corner of Bristol and Sunflower is quickly becoming the United Nations of eateries. This corner, directly across from South Coast Plaza, features Peruvian, Vietnamese, Mexican, Greek, and Japanese restaurants. Now you can add a Cuban place to that long list of cuisines that can be found on that corner. As soon as we heard there was a new Cuban place here, we could not wait to try it.

Bella Cuba opened about a month ago, and the food blogs have already given some glowing reviews. There is also some mystery surrounding this place. It is rumored that the owner and manager of Bella Cuba are defectors from the most famous Cuban restaurant in LA, Versailles. I have never been to Versailles, but it gets an 88% approval rating on Urbanspoon, four stars on Yelp, and gets rave reviews from others that love Cuban food. So needless to say, I had very high hopes for this place.

We arrived at about 2 on a Sunday afternoon. Kind of the limbo time before dinner and after lunch. A time when most restaurants are slower than normal. That was not the case at Bella Cuba. Almost all of the twenty tables were filled with parties large and small. There seemed to be lots of large families eating here. The decor was warm and inviting. Even with the crowd, we did not feel cramped. With the crowd here, I guess the secret was out about this place. Let's see if the food can match the hype.


After being seated we were brought this Bread Basket. The bread had a nice crunch to it, and was buttered nicely.



Whenever we are in a Cuban restaurant I always have to try the Cubano Sandwich. This might be one of the best ones we have had outside of Miami. This sandwich features pork, ham, pickles, cheese, and mustard, all on Cuban bread. This sandwich was greasy, but that just made it full of flavor. I would have liked this with a little more mustard or pickles on it to break up the saltiness from the meats, but it was a very good start to the meal. The bread had a nice crunch to it. I was a little surprised that they did not offer a media noche sandwich, which is one of my favorite sandwiches of all time.



Katie had heard great things about the Pollo al Ajillo or Garlic Chicken. This half chicken is marinated in mojo sauce and served with black beans, rice, and plantains. The sauce was a little too citrusy for our taste. The citrus taste really overwhelmed the garlic here, but the onions helped to cut the citrus taste.. The chicken was as advertised, as being very tender, and fell off the bone easily. She would have liked a little less bone and more meat,  but she would definitely get this again.



It has taken sometime for me to find my go to meal in a Cuban restaurant, but I may have found it with the Macitas de Puerco Fritas, Fried Pork Chunks. This delicious plate had fried and marinated pieces of pork. The pork tasted great, and had a wonderful simple flavor. Reminded me of a sweet and sour pork chunk, without the sweetness. Really tasty, but I thought the portion size here was a little weak. Only about six or seven pork chunks on the plate. The black beans and rice were great when mixed together, and the plantains added a sweetness to the meal, almost like dessert. I would for sure get this meal again.


No trip to a Cuban restaurant would be complete for us, unless we had a Tres Leches slice of cake. Bella Cuba was no exception. The cake here was not as damp as some of the others we have had. The icing was not as sweet either. Still with all of these factors going for it, this was still a great item to finish our meal off with. The tres leches at Felix's is still better, but that will be the only part of the meal that is better.

I am sure you can tell by this glowing review, we really liked our trip to Bella Cuba. The food here was very good, and I was very happy to have found my new favorite meal in a Cuban restaurant. The vibe here was very casual, but the restaurant when full, like it was when we were here is very loud. The service on this day was pretty good. I thought the portions were a little on the small side, but what they lacked in mass, they more than made up for in quality. Bella Cuba is for sure going to be on our heavy rotation list.

Out of five boxing gloves, (one of Cuba's favorite sports), five being best to zero being worst, Bella Cuba gets 3.5 boxing gloves.

For more information on Bella Cuba, click here: http://www.bellacubarestaurant.com/index.html

Bella Cuba on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Arresting Pizza at New York Pizza Department?


New York Pizza Department
2279 Eagle Glen Parkway #105
Corona, CA 92883

After I posted my last blog about a Cuban restaurant in Corona, I got a comment from Mikehu about a pizza place in Crown Town. Mike had not been there himself, but his boss had raved about it. That was good enough endorsement for me. It just so happened that we were going to be in the area visiting Sabrina and Anthony, so that is where we decided to head.

Actually, I should clarify this. We got the food here to go. So, I have still technically not been to the restaurant, but I was really excited to blog about it. I was in the mood for a really good New York pizza, and if I was going to sit through all of Sabrina's awful stories, then I should at least have a great food experience to show for it, right? Also, if the food was not good I can at least plug my ears with it. Of course I am just kidding PPG, (sorry, inside joke).

New York Pizza Department opened its doors in 2004. Like most restaurants this one has a story to go along with it. A group of friends from NYC moved to Southern California, and missed the great food of the Big Apple. They had been in the bagel business back home, and now wanted to venture out into the world of Italian cooking and pizza. They used their families recipes to help shape the menu, so lets see how it all turned out for them.


We have been on a real Garlic Knots kick lately, and here was no exception. At NYPD these knots were definitely topped with enough garlic to keep any vampire away, but they were not as soft as we would have liked. I would have liked these better, if the garlic had been baked in as well, instead of having the garlic presented on top of the knot.


Our second appetizer choice for the evening was the Fried Mozzarella. This dense, triangle of cheese was very good. The breading was seasoned well, and the cheese inside had a thickness to it, that added to the heaviness of this starter. The marinara sauce that accompanied this was a good companion to this cheese wedge.



When it came time to order the pizza we opted for the N.Y.P.D. Special. This Neapolitan style pizza came with pepperoni, sausage, onions, meatballs, mushrooms, and bell peppers. We omitted the olives that usually come on this pizza. True to New York form, the pizza slices were cut very large. This was the Bigga size which featured eight slices. The toppings here did not wow me. I really expected more flavor from them, but they yielded little. The crust was a little soggy in the middle, but the ends and outer portions were nice and crisp. The cheese was okay here, nothing to get excited about. When it was all said and done, this was a very average tasting pizza.


Unlike the pizza, the Fettuccini Ala NYPD got rave reviews at our table. This pasta dish came with pine nuts, tomatoes, chicken, broccoli, all served with pesto sauce. The flavors in this pasta dish melded well together. The pesto sauce was good, along with the perfectly cooked pasta. The pine nuts added an unexpected earthiness to this dish. The only complaint I could make about this was they kind of skimped on the chicken, or maybe Sabrina hogged it all. Good, solid pasta dish though.

I know that the P in the name of this place stands for pizza, but maybe they should change it to pasta. The pizza here failed to live up to our expectations. The pasta however was really pretty good. We have had pizza in New York this year, and this one does not compare. It was not awful, but just lacked the wow factor. The starters were hit and miss this night. The fried cheese we would get again, but we would skip the garlic knots. If I were in the area again, I would come back and give them another try.

So out of five boroughs, (because that is how many boroughs make up New York City), five being best to zero being worst, New York Pizza Department gets 2.5 boroughs.

For more information regarding New York Pizza Department, click here: http://nypdcorona.com/

New York Pizza Department on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Food Frenzy Invades Taste of Sicily!


Taste of Sicily
655 N. Tustin Ave.
Orange, CA 92867

You may think that being a food blogger is a pretty solitary experience. I thought it would be as I started this blog over two years ago. What I have discovered though, is that I became part of the food community of our great county. I have been lucky enough to be invited to great events from time to time, and up until this point everyone has been so nice and welcoming. So it was with great excitement that I was headed to another great  food event, the Food Frenzy Foodie Fest.

In case you do not know it, the Orange County Register has a food blog, (http://foodfrenzy.ocregister.com/),  where they review restaurants, pass on information, and on rare occasions meet up to eat, find new places, and talk about our passion, food. This meet up was going to be extra great because we were going to be getting the opportunity to meet Food Frenzy's newest blogger Kathleen Luppi. As well as Kathleen, other bloggers in attendance were Nathan, from Papa Kaster Eatin, Niyaz, representing Fat Dude On A Diet, and one of my favorite blogs to read, Eat In OC, which is written by Dan. With all of these food bloggers and readers of Food Frenzy here, of course we talked about food, shared some laughs, and some food related stories, but when the food came, everyone turned into TMZ, and the cameras came out, just like on the red carpet. Let's see if the food is ready for its closeup.


After being seated we were presented with these Garlic Knots. Katie prides herself on being a garlic knot connoisseur, and she pronounced these as some of the best she has had. They were soft on the inside, and were not overly saturated with garlic. I would have liked more garlic here, but these were good, and I definitely ate my fair share. Next time I will ask for a side of ranch dressing with these.


Both mine and Katie's meals came with a Dinner Salad. This was your basic dinner salad. I did enjoy the cheese that was added to this, and they were very liberal with the dressing, which is always a plus for me.


Food Frenzy reader, Michael ordered some Fried Calamari, and was generous enough that he allowed all of us to sample it. I felt that this was little over done, but I did enjoy the breading here. It was thick, but did not get in the way of the squid. Thanks for the sample Michael!


When it was my turn to order, I was at a loss for what to get, but I finally decided on the Pasta Carbonara. This mostaciolli dish was served with bacon, basil and a cream sauce. The first few bites of this were good, but then it just became too rich. The sauce was very heavy, and I could only finish three quarters of this plate.
I would probably choose something different off of their menu next time.


Claudia, our event organizer barely made a dent in her medium Green Margherita Garlic Pizza. This thin crust pizza came with a green pesto sauce, mozzarella, and roasted garlic. I really wanted to try some of this, but was too full from my meal. She seemed very pleased with her choice here, and I am sure she had leftovers for  a long while after.


Niyaz was thoughtful enough to package his wife some of his Baked Ziti, with sausage added, to go. I forgot to ask him how it was, but I did not hear any complaints from him.


Katie went the pasta route as well, with her selection, the Tortellini with Blush Sauce. She liked the sharpness of the cheese used in the tortellini, and felt the blush sauce had a nice full body, which complimented the pasta well. I tried a bite of hers and felt this was a nice, mellow dish.


Nathan was more than happy to show off his Sausage Sandwich. This $12 sandwich was huge. The picture does not do it justice. This sandwich could easily feed two people with a normal appetite. It looked real good too.

Taste of Sicily was not a bad spot for this Food Frenzy Foodie Fest. The restaurant was comfortable, low key, and could easily accommodate our party. The prices here were not bad for a sit down Italian place. The pasta dish ranged in the $10 to $15 range, and the chicken and beef dishes were a little more. The serving sizes were definitely good. You will probably have leftovers. The service on the night we were here was very good. They are under new management, so the menu is going to be tweaked, but all of the pizza, sandwiches and pastas will probably be safe.

So another Foodie Fest is done. I look forward to the next one. I would like to thank Claudia at Food Frenzy, and of course all of the people we had the pleasure of dining with at this food event. I look forward to swapping food stories and many more meals in the future.

Out of five coppola's, (a traditional flat cap worn in Sicily, and it is now regarded as the definitive symbol of Sicilian heritage), five being best to zero being worst, Taste of Sicily gets 2.5 coppola's.

For more information on Taste of Sicily, click here: http://www.tasteofsicily.net/

Taste of Sicily on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fulfilling Breakfast at Flappy Jacks


Flappy Jack's Pancake House
2848 N. Santiago Blvd.
Orange, CA 92867

I go to my parents house in Yorba Linda every Monday. Right before the 55 freeway merges into the 91 freeway, there used to be a Spires Restaurant, just off of Lincoln. It was there for as long as I can remember.  I always used to think it was an odd place for a restaurant. It was so removed from all of the other business's on nearby Tustin Avenue. It is seen from the freeway, but the off ramp is before you can see the restaurant, so I would not imagine them getting a lot of freeway traffic stopping by. What do I know though? The Spires was there for a long time, and the new joint is busy every time we drive by. This new breakfast place in the neighborhood is Flappy Jack"s.

Flappy Jack's has filled out the rather large restaurant nicely. They definitely need the room. We arrived at 8:30 on a Sunday morning, and the place was bustling with activity. I have been told that at some of their peak times, waits can be as long as an hour, or more. The restaurant is decked out with large murals of the downtown Orange area, statues of Elvis and other 50's icons, and classic rock and roll music over the PA system. They are definitely going for a diner vibe here, without going over the top by having the waitress's wearing poodle skirts.

This is the second location for Flappy Jack's. The other location is in Glendora. Checking out Yelp, they really get glowing reviews. The menu here is huge. The portions are supposedly huge, and I could not be more excited to try the food here. So let's see what we ended up with.


Okay, I know what you are thinking. After all that build up about big portions and everything, I use this as the first meal that I show. Well, I figure I will gets this one out of the way first. It is my Mom's breakfast, the Bacon and Eggs. This two egg dish came with four strips of bacon, (she gave my Dad and I a strip each before I snapped the picture). This breakfast also comes with toast or pancakes, she of course went with toast, and the option between home style potatoes, cottage cheese, or tomatoes. As if you could not tell from the picture, she went with the healthy option, the fruit. This $7 breakfast was called, "solid", by my Mom. She felt the fruit was fresh, and the price was more than reasonable.


Do not tell the good guys over at Disney that they are serving Mickey Mouse Pancakes here. This one was off of the kids menu, for my niece Lillie. It was more than enough breakfast for her. She took close to half of this home. She liked the melted chocolate chips, and felt there was enough of them here. I did not get to try a bite of this, but looking back on it I would have liked to have tried this.


At Flappy Jack's they offer 22 different omelette's to choose from. After some great debate, my Dad went with the Mushroom and Swiss. This four egg omelette was not finished by the old man. He managed to put a lot of it away though. This omelette was stuffed with more than enough mushrooms and cheese to satisfy.


Instead of getting one of the omelette's, Katie got one of the 12 skillets that are offered here. This Santa Fe Skillet came with tomato, onions, bell peppers, spicy bacon, and Monterey Jack cheese. This skillet only came with two eggs, but the amount of the other items here more than made up for that. Katie felt this was hearty and delicious. I had her leftovers for lunch the next day, and there was more than enough to fill me up. I would have liked this a lot better with a runny egg, but Katie is not a fan of that kind of egg.


The skillet parade continued with Kristin's pick, the Oklahoma Skillet. This simple skillet combined ham and cheddar cheese, with potatoes. Again, this was enough for breakfast here, and lunch later at home. She was impressed with the jelly selection here, but was not a fan of the potatoes. The potatoes here were cut very thin, almost had a noodle texture to them. Besides not liking the cut of the spud, we all felt that these potatoes needed to be crisper.



My nautical themed breakfast was the Neptune Omelette. This breakfast dish was as big as a life preserver. This omelette included bay shrimp, crab, bell peppers, green onions, Cajun seasonings, and I added jack and cheddar cheese to this. In case this omelette was not rich enough, this one was topped with hollandaise sauce. I am a very big eater, but even I could not finish this plate. The omelette was good, and had a good flavor. This breakfast would have been made better with different potatoes, but the girth of this omelette more than made up for the spud's deficiency.


You did not think that we would go to a restaurant named, Flappy Jacks, and not get Flap Jacks, did you? Lucky for us all of the breakfasts here come with your choice of toast or pancakes. A no-brainer of a choice in my opinion. The pancakes here are light and fluffy. They do not sacrifice flavor though. The buttermilk flavor comes through.

Flappy Jack's was all it was said to be. The menu was indeed huge, with the portions to match. The service was actually really good while we were here. They have an army of servers, bussers, and hostess's to get food in and out quick. The prices here were a little on the high side, but with the amount of food you receive it is easier to rationalize an $11 omelette. Not the best breakfast we have had, but this place will definitely fill you up and start you off on your day. If you are like us, you may not even have to eat lunch after eating here.

Out of five wrestlers, (because a flap jack is a move in wrestling, and after eating here you may need to do some wrestling to work off the humongous breakfast you just ate), five being best to zero being worst, Flappy Jack's gets 3 wrestlers.

For more information on Flappy Jack's, click here: http://flappyjacks.com/

Flappy Jack's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bomb Breakfast Burrito at Troy's?


Troy's Burgers
404 E. Lincoln
Orange, CA 92865

Anyone that has read this blog on a regular basis know that I am a fanatic when it comes to breakfast burritos. I had the best breakfast burrito of my life when we visited Lucky Boy Drive In in Pasadena, last year. After that experience I have been on a quest to find a breakfast burrito to equal or surpass that experience in OC, but have had no luck.

I had read one of my favorite blogs, Eat In OC, and he has exclaimed that Troy's in Orange makes the best breakfast burrito in Orange County. Likewise, another blog I read, Papa Kaster Eatin' has raved about the breakfast burrito here as well. So it was a non-issue where we would be eating breakfast after taking family pictures in in North OC, we were headed to Troy's Burgers.

Troy's is a small joint, kind of off the beaten track. I can imagine that this place has been here for a long time. After ordering at the counter, we went into the small, five table place to wait for the breakfast burritos to arrive. After about a ten minute wait, they arrived, and this is how they turned out.



The first picture with the dollar bill will show you how big of a burrito we are talking about here. Not the biggest one I have had, but good sized, and it definitely filled me up. Above is the Bacon Breakfast Burrito. The burrito really had a good flavor on its own. With lots of breakfast burritos, the potato can sometimes get in the way, but not the case here. It complimented the egg and cheese well. The bacon added saltiness, but the only complaint I could make about this burrito was the slight lack of bacon. A few more slices would have made this even better, but they did have a secret weapon to counteract the lack of swine.


The Salsa Verde really added big time flavor to the breakfast burritos. It was spicy and flavorful, without being overbearing. Sometimes salsa can take over proceedings, and that is all that you taste. This was not true here. The flavor was really good, and you get a little kick at the end of each bite.


Here is a quick shot of the Sausage Breakfast Burrito. This one was like the bacon one above, but of course it had sausage links in it. I would have liked this better if the sausage was sliced up, instead of just left whole. I usually do not go for sausage in breakfast burritos, but we wanted to try a variety.





Since we were just finished getting our family pictures done, my nieces were eating with us, but they are not too keen about breakfast burritos. They were a little let down that there were no pancakes on the menu here, so they settled for Chicken Strips, Fries, and a side of Sausage. I know, crazy kids! The chicken strips were cooked really well, probably because they used fresh oil, because everyone else was eating breakfast burritos. Lillie had the sausage, and when I asked her how it was, she commented, "it is good, and they are not spicy". The fries were good as well, your standard fast food fries.

Am I ready to declare Troy's the best breakfast burrito in the OC? I am ready to do that, but there are a few more that I want to try, before I will declare them king of the breakfast burrito. I know there is Pepe's in Placentia, Ham 'n Scram in Westminster, and Athenian III in Buena Park. I am really looking forward to doing some delicious research in the future, but for now, like my Dad said at Troy's, "this is the best breakfast burrito I have had in Orange County". Up until this point in time, I have to agree with him.

Out of five gemstones, (because gems are weighed using the Troy system , and I think great breakfast burritos are as valuable as precious stones), five being best to zero being best, Troy's Burgers gets 3 gemstones.

Troy's Burgers does not have a website, but you can find information about them here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/troys-drive-in-orange

Troy's Burgers on Urbanspoon