Monday, April 30, 2012

Prime Cut Cafe 3 Course Meals for $20!

Prime Cut Cafe
1547 W. Katella Ave.
Orange, CA 92867

The Stadium Promenade has suffered some loses in the past few years. Bob's Big Boy, my very first reviewed place shut down early this year. A short time later the Auld Dubliner shuttered as well. A few years back, Carino's suffered a similar fate. None of these restaurants have been replaced with anything since their departure. I would say this center is cursed, but they do have some good going on here, like Prime Cut Cafe.

Prime Cut Cafe opened in 2008, and we reviewed it in late 2010. You can read that review here. We liked the restaurant back then, but I knew that I should have gotten what they were famous for, beef. Lucky for us we were invited to try their new $20 Three Course dinners, and I was sure that there would be some red meat on this prix fixe menu. I would not let my chance slip away this time.

Prime Cut can best be described as a California casual restaurant. Earth tones dominate the dining space, and a spaciousness is indicated with its high ceilings. The decor and service is reminiscent of a fine steakhouse restaurant, but with a more relaxed feel to it. What you probably will not see at one of those fancy steak places is a $20 Three Course dinner. This dinner is offered Monday through Thursday, 4pm to close. Enough of the details, let's check out the food.

The first course selections include eight different options. So whatever you are in the mood for, you will find something to start your meal off right. Both Katie and I selected salads to begin our meal at Prime Cut Cafe. She went with the Baby Iceberg Wedge Salad. This salad brought big time flavor with the addition of applewood smoked bacon, chopped egg, tomatoes, and Point Reyes blue cheese crumbles. Hearts of Romaine Caesar Salad was my choice. The presentation was a little different than I expected, but the house made Caesar dressing more than made up for it, and the unique Parmesan croutons were an excellent addition here.

This shot of the Shortrib Pasta is a little deceiving. It makes the portion size look small, but this was definitely not the case. This comfort food classic is made of a heavy ragout sauce of slow cooked shortribs, served over fettuccine noodles. Katie had a hard time cleaning her plate here. The meat was tender, the pasta cooked well, and there were bursts of garlic in the sauce that really blew her away. She would get this again for sure.

True to my word, I selected a red meat option, the Filet Mignon Steak Sandwich. This sandwich had it all. Sturdy bun that held all the contents perfectly, steak that was cooked the way it is supposed to be, medium rare, fresh produce, and a solid flavor boost from the Point Reyes blue cheese crumbles. I was really happy with this sandwich.

The Three course meal wraps up with dessert. Katie selected the Creme Brulee, which is made in house at Prime Cut Cafe. Katie called this one of the best she has had. Good caramelization on top to go along with the smooth vanilla bean custard below. I am a real Carrot Cake snob, but this one was among some of the best I have had. The cake portion was filled with pineapple, walnuts, coconut, and carrots. Very moist, but the whipped cream cheese icing stole the show here. It was light and had a hint of cinnamon. great way to finish our meal.

We left Prime Cut knowing that we will be back very soon. This three course meal is a real bargain at $20. With six entrees, four dessert options, and eight starters the combinations of meals you can have at Prime Cut Cafe are going to keep you coming back. Service was first rate during our visit here.

We would like to thank the staff and management of Prime Cut Cafe for hosting this wonderful food event for us. You were all great. We would also like to thank Pamela Waitt of the Orange County Restaurant Association for the invitation to this great dinner. Thank you so much.

For more information on Prime Cut Cafe, and their prix fixe meals, click here:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sunday Funday at Taps Fish House!

Taps Fish House and Brewery 
101 E. Imperial Highway
Brea, CA 92821

I know what you are probably thinking, "Didn't they just review Taps?" You would of course be right. Taps was the first restaurant that we reviewed in Brea early this month. Since that time we have now done two other reviews in Brea. The reason for our quick return to Downtown Brea? We were invited to try Taps Brunch.

After my first trip to try Taps lunch was a great success, I was very excited to see what they had in store for us, especially since brunch is one of my favorite meals. We got to Taps right at noon and the place was packed. We were ushered to the back of the restaurant, where our party of some of the best food writers and bloggers that our county has to offer were assembled. Most of the blogs that are listed to the right, under "my favorite blogs", had a representative  in attendance. I always like meeting up with this great group of foodies. Trading stories, getting  some tips on where we should eat, and just catching up.

Our hosts for the brunch were Proprietor/Founder of Taps, Joe Manzella and Taps award winning Brewmaster, Victor Novak. Both men were very hospitable with us. We even tried to presuade Joe to open up in South OC. He told us that they are working on it. Victor learned his craft back in Philadelphia, and continued his brewing education on trips to Europe. As an added bonus we were given a bottle of their award winning Imperial Russian Stout, Remy. Have not tried it yet, but with the beers that we did try, I am sure it will be great.

When we entered the room we were handed this very well garnished Bloody Mary. At Taps they feature a Build Your Own Bloddy Mary Bar, for an additional charge. With all of these fixings and the delicious bloody mary mix that they use as a base, each concoction is sure to be a winner.

Since Taps is first and foremost a fish restaurant, let's start with the seafood portion of the brunch buffet. Oysters on the Half Shell, Shrimp Cocktail, and Salmon are just some of the many offerings from the sea. All were fresh, and tasted great.

Here is a quick look at some of the salads at Taps. When I am at a brunch this is the section that I tend to avoid, just because I like to focus on the hot foods. I did however try the Crab Macaroni Salad, The Baked Potato Salad, and the flavorful Garlic Crostini. I am not really a big macaroni salad fan, but the added crab was a real flavor booster. All the salads were refilled many times throughout our visit.

This is where I make my killing at a buffet brunch, with the hot items. Numerous items were offered at Taps. The Sliced Turkey with gravy was a must eat. I also was a fan of the Cheesy Potatoes, and no brunch buffet would be complete without a carving station featuring Prime Rib. This prime rib was cooked a perfect medium rare. Also featured were the usual breakfast items, Bacon, Sausage, Waffles, and the Bread Pudding and Cinnamon Rolls deserve special mention. Both merited return visits to the buffet line.

Desserts are not to be missed at Taps for sure. They have slices of Cakes, Creme Brulee, and Flan, but the big draw here is the Chocolate Fountain.  Dipping items included, pretzels, fruit, rice crispy treats, marshmallows, and graham crackers. We spent a lot of time here. The beignets are ordered off of a menu, along with all egg dishes, and are included in the price of the brunch. Having the kitchen prepare omelette's and egg dishes, helpss keep the flow of the restaurant moving.

Here is a quick shot of two of my very full plates at the brunch. I really did some damage at Taps. Brunch is served from 9:30 to 2:30 every Sunday at Taps. Reservations are strongly advised, and this place definitely fills up. They offer over 100 items, so there will definitely be something for everyone at Taps.

We would like to thank everyone at Taps for the wonderful hospitality. Service was first class on our visit here. Special thanks to Joe Manzella, a guy that knows his stuff and was a real pleasure to talk with. Thanks also to Victor Novak for the beer samples, which all tasted great. Tom Hope is also worth spotlighting for the wonderful brunch buffet that is done under his tutelage. One last thanks goes to our hostess for the brunch, the amazing Lee Heally. Thanks so much for the invite to another wonderful event.

To find information about the brunch or any other meals at Taps, click here:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hail to the Sandwich King?

Sandwich King
17885 Sky Park Cir.
Irvine, CA 92614

This is another one of those posts where we were not where we were supposed to be. We were all set to go to another lunch spot, but due to circumstances beyond our control, they were remodeling, we ended up driving past Sandwich King and decided this would be as good a place as any to eat. I would like you to think that we had this all planned out. That we had sought out this hidden sandwich shop in the back of a business complex, but that is not the case. Also, Katie only had an hour for lunch, so we probably did not have time to drive anywhere else.

Sandwich King is in the same business complex as Harry's Deli, which was remodeling. Sandwich King is far from the street, and I am sure they get a lot of their business from the overflow at Harry's. The restaurant is a real mom and pop kind of place. Ordering is done at the counter, and your name is called when your sandwich is ready to be picked up.

We got to Sandwich King at about 12:30 on a Tuesday. They have about ten tables, and most were occupied with business people and others from the industrial park. The restaurant was pretty clean, our order was taken promptly, and the guys in the kitchen got the food out quick. Let's take a look at how it came out.

Katie went the traditional sandwich route at Sandwich King with a Turkey Avocado and Swiss. The sandwiches at Sandwich King all include tomatoes, onions, and pickles for those inclined to get them. Katie was surprised by the smoothness of this sandwich. From the creamy avocado to the thickly sliced Swiss cheese. The turkey was sliced a little thicker than she usually likes, but overall this sandwich was a hit for her.

I may not have rocked the world with my sandwich selection, but it is something I have never had before. Pastrami, Avocado, and Cheese. Of course, I have had pastrami before, but never with avocado. These two do not seem like they go together, but the contrasting saltiness of the meat and the smoothness of the avocado really worked here. Add in the onion and the sturdy bun, and the result is a well-balanced sandwich. All of the ingredients were very fresh from the avocado to the onions, and the pastrami had a good bite to it. The large size was indeed large, and would easily tide anyone over until dinner time. At $8.49 it was well worth the extra $3, you would have paid at Subway for an inferior sandwich.

The menu at Sandwich King has enough on it for us to come back and try more. They feature over fifty varieties of sandwiches. Sure, most of them are pretty basic, like Ham and Swiss, or Roast Beef, Ham and Cheese, but if all the other sandwiches are as fresh and stuffed as the ones we had, it will be a pleasure coming back to try them, unless they are closed for remodeling.

Out of five Peanut Butter, Banana, and Bacon sandwiches, (because this was Elvis Presley's favorite sandwich, and he is referred to as the King), five being best to zero being worst, Sandwich King gets 3 Peanut Butter, Banana, and Bacon sandwiches.

For more information about Sandwich King, head to their website here:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Shuffling Our Feet to Cha Cha's

Cha Cha's Latin Kitchen
110 W. Birch
Brea, CA 92821

People always ask me how we pick the restaurants that we go to. It is quite simple really. I get a good many tips from people that I know or meet. It seems everyone is passionate about some of their favorite restaurants. I also read a ton of restaurant/food blogs, and find out where the best places are and put them on my list. In rare instances, I hear about restaurants from press releases that I receive. This is the case with Cha Cha's Latin Kitchen. I probably get about one press release a week from them. Well, their persistence has paid off because we were headed their way.

We already had one failed attempt going to Cha Cha's a few weeks ago. At that time they were not open for lunch. We did find out that they would be opening for lunch in a few weeks, so our first Cha Cha's experience would have to wait. It just so happened that I would be getting another vacation the week after they started lunch service. So my Mom and I were once again headed to downtown Brea.

Cha Cha's is located in refurbished Downtown Brea. This area has seen a rebirth lately, and restaurants are spearheading the comeback of the downtown area. We got to Cha Cha's at noon on a Monday. The weather was great, so we took a seat out on their large patio. The lunch crowd was a little slow in arriving, but there was a steady stream of people eating here during our lunch.

Cha Cha's has been open for close to three years now. They are not a Mexican restaurant. They state on their web site that they are a Latin restaurant. Or to be more precise, they claim to offer a California-Latin menu. I don't care what they call it as long as it tastes good. Let's see how the food turned out for us.

Here are the chips and salsas that were brought to the table after ordering. They have a green tomatillo salsa that everyone raves about. I thought it was just okay. A little too citrusy taste for me. I was more into the red salsa. Had a decent amount of heat, without being too over the top. The chips tasted very fresh.

For an appetizer, we ordered something that we had never had before, the Wood Fired Queso Fundido. This is a baked blend of cheeses cooked in a small pot with roasted poblano peppers and potatoes. We decided to add the optional chorizo for a dollar more. Glad we added the chorizo because it really added more flavor. The peppers were not too noticeable here. This is served with three of their house-made corn tortillas, so it makes this more of a cheese taco. Their corn tortillas are actually pretty good. I am not too big of a corn tortilla guy, but these were some of the best I have had. Wish we had more than three of the tortillas though. We had plenty of cheese leftover that we had to eat with our fork. Very rich start to the meal.

Let's start with my lunch, Wood Fired Carnitas with achiote onions and served with black beans and rice. When I first saw the portion size of this I was a little disappointed. At $14 I was expecting a bigger plate of food, but it might have been the cheese dip to start, or the serving size of this was a little bigger than I initially thought, but I had a little trouble finishing this lunch. The carnitas were full of flavor. Cooked perfectly, with little bits of crunchiness on the ends and tender pieces of pork attached to them. The onions were marinated well, and the beans and rice were pretty solid also. I had asked for flour tortillas, but corn tortillas came instead. No worries, because they were still pretty good.

Cha Cha's offers three very affordable lunch combinations, including my Mom's choice, the Chicken Flautas, and Organic Mixed Greens. The flautas are stuffed with tender chicken, Oaxacan cheese, guajillo chile, and corn, then topped with refreshing mango salsa. The cheese in these flautas really stood out for me, maybe because it was unexpected. The mixed greens included cherry tomatoes, cotija cheese, tortilla strips, and a sherry vinaigrette dressing. The dressing really overpowered the salad for me. Should have gone with another dressing choice. Not a bad lunch option at only $8 though.

I was pretty happy with the food at Cha Cha's. Everything was pretty fresh and flavorful. Not your typical Mexican restaurant. The menu is not overly large here, and the prices can be steeper than you are used to paying at other Mexican/Latin restaurants.  Lunch entrees average about $16, but the lunch combinations are a steal at $8 for the smaller portion size. They do have plenty of specials during the week, and their happy hour is seven days a week, and all day on Sunday through Thursday. Service was pretty good. Our waitress kept things moving at a good clip. We are pretty happy for all the press releases, and that we finally made it to Cha Cha's for lunch.

Out of five yellow scarfs, (because the character Cha Cha Digregonio used this to signal the start of the race at Thunder Road in the movie Grease), five being best to zero being worst, Cha Cha's Latin Kitchen gets 3 yellow scarfs.

For more information on Cha Cha's, click here: