Another year has gone by way too quick. It seems like I was just writing a year end review a month or two ago, but of course it has been twelve months now. Not to sound like a senior citizen, but listen to me when I tell you younger people that the years go by quicker and quicker as you get older. Enjoy every moment that you are given, and find something that you love to do. Okay, that is the end of my old man rant.
One thing that I really love to do is eat, and that is the reason why I started this blog in the first place. I love sharing what we think of restaurants with you all. I hope that you find it informative, and that it has helped some of you find some good food, right in your neighborhood. We all become creatures of habit, but there is always something good, just right around the corner.
This is first time in the history of our blog that we have not increased the number of restaurants we have eaten at. This year we posted 106 reviews, which works out to one every 3 and a half days. It's still feels like a lot of eating though. We never did get to the three remaining cities that we need to hit in OC, before we can say that we are truly eating our way through OC. I promise that we will make it to La Palma, Cypress, and Seal Beach soon. We actually had plans to go to all of these cities, but something always popped up at the last minute. 2014 will see us complete our quest of eating in all 34 Orange County cites.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone that has made this year so great for me and the blog. First, I want to thank all of my fellow bloggers. We have such a fantastic group of OC food writers here, and I really do take the time to read all of their stuff. You guys are not only great writers, but an awesome group of people. We love hanging out with all of you at events. Speaking of events, we are always honored that publicists would consider inviting us anywhere. These publicists are incredible at what they do, and the restaurants are all the better by having these hard working people getting their name out there.
I would also like to thank all of my table mates this year. Thanks for allowing me to take a million pictures of your food, before you dig in. Almost all of my friends and family are conditioned on this, except for my Dad and Katie's Dad. Must be a dad thing to want to eat real quick. We not only have had some wonderful food, but some great conversations as well. I also need to thank my partner in crime, Katie. I could never imagine writing this blog, without you by my side. In fact, I could never imagine you not by my side for anything, and that is as sappy as I will get on that subject.
Lastly, I would like to thank all of you, our readers. Thanks for taking the time to read the blog. Thanks to all of you who have given me tips on places to eat, left comments, liked us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and any other new thing that will come along in the future. It is so nice knowing that people actually like what we are doing here, and I am not just writing this blog for me and my Mom. I wish you all the most joyous of New Years, and hope that we all have a terrific 2014.
Enough of the thank yous, let's get to our list. Usually we do a best and worst list of all the restaurants we have eaten at during the year. This year for some reason, we did not eat at too many awful restaurants. The only two that scored less than 2.5 stars was Pasta Connection in Orange, and the Elephant Bar in Laguna Hills. Both of these restaurants received 2 stars, and I definitely vow never to go to an Elephant Bar ever again. Just awful.
So that leaves us with just a best restaurant list this year. I have narrowed it down to ten OC restaurants. The top 3 restaurants that we ate at, not in Orange County were Bludso's Bar-B-Que in Los Angeles, which still gets my mouth watering when I recall what I think is the best barbecue in Southern California. Just over the county line, was a reader recommended burger and barbecue restaurant that has got us looking for reasons to make another trip to Bellflower, so we can try Fronk's again. Lastly, we made a trip to Vegas, and could not believe how great the Thai food was at Lotus of Siam. Even if you don't win gambling, you can still be a winner if you eat at this legendary Thai restaurant. Now on to our top ten OC restaurants of 2013.
#10 Taco Adobe This is the only Mexican restaurant that makes our top ten list this year. Just a few streets over from the Orange Plaza, this homey Mexican restaurant served up some real solid food, along with a great habanero salsa that you have to ask for. I almost finished the whole bottle they gave me. Nice and hot.
#9 G Burger I was over the moon when I heard that one of my favorite burger spots was expanding. Cutting my drive to their La Habra location in half, G Burger opened a new outpost in Irvine. Right off the freeway, and we were happy to report that they serve the same great burgers here, as their original location. Now the rest of the county can see what people in La Habra have known for years, that G Burger is one of the best burgers around.
#8 Cucina Enoteca Italian food is pretty traditional, and not much has changed with it for awhile. That is until Cucina Enoteca came to Irvine. Here they do Italian, with a California inspired feel to it. Gone are the heavy sauces and sausages, in are the stuffed squash blossoms and a short rib pappardelle that is not to be missed. A very welcome addition to the Irvine Spectrum.
#7 Slapfish This seafood darling of OC foodies is another restaurant on the verge of a big expansion, and we could not be happier about that. Started as a food truck, they recently opened an outpost in of all places, the Middle East. Fear not seafood loving fans, they are planning on opening 500 stores in the next ten years, so we won't have to make the long trek down Beach Boulevard to have their lobster dog or their clam chowder much longer.
#6 C4 Deli: The Cure for the Common For people that lament that there are no good delis on the west coast, I tell you to head to Downtown Santa Ana. This place comes to us from the two guys that run Chapter One, and they are doing things the right way here. Curing their own meats, preparing innovative salads, and their muffuletta sandwich can not be beat. If only they would put a Cuban sandwich on their menu. Hint, hint.
#5 Little Sparrow Another new Downtown Santa Ana restaurant cracks our top five restaurants of the year. The Little Sparrow has been getting a lot of press, and it is well deserved. The menu might seem limited to some, but I assure you that almost anything you get here will be cooked well, and blow you away. I still am salivating thinking of the pork chop I had here.
#4 Hapa J's I had not reviewed a Hawaiian restaurant on the blog until this year, and after eating at Hapa J's, I can not get enough of Hawaiian food. A lot cheaper than a plane ticket to Hawaii, the Kahlua pork here is legit, and when placed on top of a heaping pile of fries, cheese, and a teriyaki type sauce it makes up a dish I have not been able to forget since I had it. You should definitely try their Hapa Fries Man Style, well worth a drive from anywhere.
#3 The Capital Grille We do not really have the resources to go to fancy steak restaurants all the time, but we tried Capital Grille this year for Katie's birthday. We may have found our new special occasion restaurant. My bone-in kona crusted sirloin was fantastic, and tasted like a steak should when you are eating in an upscale steakhouse. Also not to be missed, is their version of lobster mac and cheese. So good, and they were not stingy with the big hunks of lobster in this.
#2 Early Bird It's crazy that our second best restaurant of the year, is a breakfast place. I always think breakfast is the hardest meal to put your own spin on it. People have preconceived notions of what they want for the first meal of the day, and it's hard for restaurants to tweak it too much. The guys at Early Bird tweak it the right way. The breakfasts are recognizable here, but Early Bird puts their own delicious spin on them. Duck confit hash, carnitas chilaquilles, and a Frank Floyd Benedict were notable during our visit.
#1 370 Common The best restaurant we ate at this year is this Laguna Beach hot spot. We ate at 370 Common on a Sunday, when they only serve a prix fixe menu, and even with such a limited menu, both Katie and I fell in love with the food from Chef Ryan Adams. I had a pork chop that I still dream about. The sides were all fantastic, and for dessert, a berry pound cake that even made this non-berry eater leave happy. We look forward to coming back here again real soon to try their regular menu.
So there you have it, our top restaurants of 2013. What restaurants will be on this list next year? Only time will tell. I am sure looking forward to doing the eating, and finding out. Have a great New Years, and I hope you enjoy the blog, as much as I enjoy doing it.
Thursday, December 26, 2013
El Sol Mexican Restaurant
1112 W. 6th Street
Corona, CA 92882
It had been a while since we had made plans with Sabrina and Anthony on their home turf of Corona. We needed to distance ourselves a little from Sabrina's constant chirping about everything under the sun. Man, that girl can talk. Poor Anthony, he must have some good earplugs, or he just tunes her out. Anyways, another trip out to Corona means I get to select another restaurant for the four of us to go to.
I've introduced Sabrina and Anthony to some pretty good places right in their neighborhood, and this time I came armed with three choices. Two of them were Mexican places, and another was a restaurant and bar that I have been looking forward to trying out. True to form, they went with a Mexican restaurant that is right down the street from their house, but they have never been to it. Sabrina and Anthony usually head to Miguel's for Mexican food, a restaurant that I have never really been too excited about on my visits.
El Sol has been around for close to a year and a half now. They are located in the same shopping center as Superior Market and Ace Hardware. Not a big place, they have maybe ten tables or so, but ordering is done from a waitress. The wallpaper is red and reminiscent of the wallpaper at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor, it could be the same exact one. The menu here is pretty standard for a Mexican restaurant in Southern California. They feature combo plates, enchiladas, and fajitas. We settled in, put in our order, and waited for the food to come out. Let's see if El Sol will be able to become Sabrina and Anthony's favorite neighborhood Mexican restaurant.
As is the tradition when eating in a Mexican restaurant, we were given a basket of Chips and Salsa to start with. The chips here are pretty standard. Nothing too fantastic. The salsa was a little on the runny side, but I did like the chunks of onion in this. Not spicy, but it had some decent flavor.
When we go out with Sabrina and Anthony, we almost always get way too much food, and that was the case here at El Sol. We started with their largest appetizer, the Fiesta Del Sol ($11.35). This large plate came with taquitos, crispy chips with beans, buffalo wings, cheese quesadillas, guacamole, and sour cream. It was nice that there was four of each item here, to help prevent Sabrina from hogging all of the buffalo wings. All of these items were pretty good. The taquitos were fried nicely, and you could actually taste the shredded beef inside. The quesadillas were not greasy, and tasty when paired with the smooth guacamole. Probably the most average thing on the plate was the buffalo wings. They were hot temperature-wise, but flavor-wise they were a little on the bland side. They also did not have a lot of meat on them. Not a bad appetizer platter to start with.
Sabrina called these, "some of the best enchiladas I have ever had". Wow, such an over the top statement. I tend to believe her, as she is usually pretty picky when it comes to trying new restaurants. What got her so excited? The Enchiladas Del Sol ($10.95). These green enchiladas came filled with tender chicken and were covered with a very flavorful green sauce. Sabrina felt that the green sauce is what made these enchiladas so great. They also came with rice and beans, which she ate sparingly. I did not get to try these enchiladas, because Sabrina is notoriously stingy about giving bites away from her food.
A good majority of the time, Katie will almost always order fajitas in a Mexican restaurant, and at El Sol, she was true to form. The Fajitas De Pollo ($10.95) was a pretty traditional style fajita. They came out of the kitchen on a cast iron plate, with all of the sizzling and steam you would expect when ordering fajitas. Katie used her standard line when describing almost any plate, "these were flavorful and very fresh". I tried a few bites of chicken, and it was pretty tender, the veggies were not overly abundant here, and the portion size for this was more than generous.
Lately, when we have gone out with Sabrina and Anthony, both Anthony and I get the same thing, which helps me cut down on my writing, which I am sure that you all appreciate. This time we both got Combo #4, which includes; a chile relleno, a tamale, a crispy taco, and a soft taco. Both Anthony and I liked this plate. The tamale was pretty solid, and not as dry as some tend to be. The tacos were not stuffed with meat, but both were okay. I am not much of a chile relleno guy, but this one had a good heat to it, and the cheese did not overpower here. This plate was good, but we both agreed that it lacked the wow factor. The beans were a lot better than the rice, which kind of was plain tasting.
I'm not sure how it came up on the car ride over, but both Katie and I were shocked to find out that neither Sabrina or Anthony had ever had Fried Ice Cream ($3.95) before. This version at El Sol was like every other version we have had. A large scoop of ice cream rolled around in corn flakes, then deep-fried. I did like the presentation here. The cinnamon coated tortilla strips and the chocolate drizzle were an added bonus. It was great being here when Sabrina and Anthony came into their own by having fried ice cream. Very proud of these kids.
I was a little less enthusiastic about El Sol than the rest of my dining companions. I thought everything was good, but nothing really blew me away here. In contrast, hard to please Sabrina was over the moon with her enchiladas, and Katie liked her fajitas enough to call them excellent. So maybe I am just a hard to please food blogger, who has eaten in a lot of restaurants in the past four years. I thought that the prices were on the fair side, as nothing on their menu approached the fifteen dollar mark. The service was excellent during our visit. The waitress came over to check on us numerous times. I will leave you with this. If you are in the area and feel like Mexican food, give this place a try. Glad I could add another restaurant to Sabrina and Anthony's repertoire.
Out of five buses, (because there is a bus line that serves East LA, which is called El Sol), five being best to zero being worst, El Sol Mexican Restaurant gets 3 buses.
For more information about El Sol Mexican Restaurant, head to their website here: https://www.elsolmexicanrestaurantcorona.com/
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Michelle Haut Chocolat
3313 Hyland Ave.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Think about chocolate for a moment. What came to your mind? If you are like me, maybe you suddenly had a slight smile stretch across your face. Or maybe you had a memory of going to See's Candies at the mall as a kid, and remembering that smell of chocolate hits you as soon as you walked in. Or maybe you flashed back to reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and wishing you were Charlie taking that tour of the candy factory. Okay, you got me, these are all of the things I think of when someone mentions chocolate to me.
Like almost everyone, I love chocolate. So when I was recently invited to the opening of Michelle Haut Chocolat, I was pretty excited. This new store is located at the OC Mix Mart at SOCO. For the three of you reading this that have not been to SOCO yet, this shopping center is quickly becoming the culinary capital of OC. If you hear about a great new restaurant that has recently opened up, it more than likely is located at SOCO in Costa Mesa. My list of restaurants that we want to eat at is peppered with restaurants that are located at SOCO, (Arc, Taco Maria, Shuck, and the Iron Press to name a few). We will eventually get to all these, but tonight it was all about chocolate.
I must confess, I had never heard of Michelle Haut Chocolat before. That probably puts me in the minority, because they have been seen at some high profile events. The Oscars, the GLADD Media Awards, and even Teri Hatcher's Celebrity Yard Sale Event. Yeah, I would say those are some pretty big events. Because of Michelle Haut Chocolat being involved in these events, this chocolate company has grown quite the following in LA and OC, to the point that the demand for a retail location was imminent. That time has come, with the opening of Michelle Haut Chocolat at the OC Mix Mart.
This retail space is not huge by any stretch of the imagination, but they have plenty to offer. The chocolate is handcrafted daily at their Laguna Beach Chocolate Kitchen and Tasting Room. Michelle Haut Chocolat uses a custom blend of 73 percent bittersweet chocolate from Belgium. There are no artificial ingredients or preservatives used. Even the packaging is special here. The packaging for their truffles is sourced directly from Italy, while their chocolate bars are wrapped in Nepalese paper, made from a renewable plant in Nepal. With all of the care that is put into this chocolate, I was very excited to give it a try.
For this grand opening party, Michelle Haut Chocolat had a lot of samples laid out for us, starting with this Tahitian Vanilla Bean Truffle. Not to ruin the rest of this post, but this was my favorite of the night. This had a great combination of hand-ground vanilla bean pods and white chocolate. I definitely ate my fair share of these. As Katie was talking to everyone, it allowed me to slip away unnoticed for more of these. Thank goodness that girl likes to talk.
Next up was the Glace Orange, which is orange slices dipped in Michelle Haut Chocolat's Belgian Dark. I used to think that orange and chocolate didn't go together so well, but it surprisingly works. The dark chocolate kind of deferred the sweetness to the orange, which makes this combination work out.
At this grand opening party, Michelle Haut Chocolat was showing off their creativity by sharing their custom creations, which were inspired by their fellow tenants at the OC Mix Mart. These Ethiopian Heirloom Chocolate Tasting Tiles used Portola Coffee Lab's Ethiopian heirloom beans as the centerpiece of their Belgian dark chocolate. Even for this non-coffee drinker, I enjoyed these tiles a lot. This was definitely Katie's favorite of the night. No surprise, since she has to have her coffee fix almost every day.
Another orange and chocolate combo, this Blood Orange Balsamic Truffle was pretty unusual. Here they used We Olive's all-natural balsamic vinegar, mixed in with their creamy, dark chocolate ganache center. Even typing this it seems like it would taste odd having vinegar and chocolate together, but I would have never known the difference if I wasn't told about it. I did not really get any vinegar taste, but instead, I got a heavy orange presence.
Even though my eyes were bigger than my stomach when it came to my night at Michelle Haut Chocolat, there was only so much chocolate that I could eat, I still was pretty impressed with everything I tried. I was especially excited by their creativity. On my next visit, I am definitely going to be trying an Exotic Chile Cardamom Chocolate Bar, which promises a hot and spicy finish. Another one that caught my eye was the Toasted Coconut and Black Lava Sea Salt Bar, which sounds fantastic. I love sweet and salty together. Michelle Haut Chocolat and the OC Mix Mart seem like such a natural fit. I am sure that they will be making OC Mix Mart shoppers very happy, for many years to come.
If you would like more information about Michelle Haut Chocolat, go to their website here: http://www.michellehautchocolat.com/
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Richmond Bar and Grill
145 Richmond Street
El Segundo, CA 90245
A lot of people ask why we take our good friends Chuck and Stephanie to the airport so often. The simple answer is that they get a lot of vacation time, and head off to South Carolina to see their grandson. For most people, taking someone to the airport is one of the worst things you can ask them to do. It's right up there with asking someone to help you move, or asking a good buddy for money. Both, very unpleasant experiences.
For Katie and I, taking Chuck and Stephanie to the airport is never a chore. With all of our busy lives going on, it is one chance that the four of us get to talk. Joking about Chuck's advanced age is enough to take us from south OC, all the way up to Long Beach alone. Our payment for all this, besides the great conversation, is that Chuck takes us somewhere for dinner. I always get to choose, and Chuck has to pay. It works out pretty nicely for all of us, except Chuck's wallet. On trips where we have to drop them off at LAX, we usually hit up a place that's just south of the airport. That's what we did on this night when we made it to Richmond Bar and Grill.
For those of you unfamiliar with El Segundo, it is a beach city, that is located just south of LAX. The city is known for its aerospace industry and its petroleum-related business's. The few times we have been here, it can be characterized as a sleepy, little beach town. The downtown area has a long ago, kind of Mayberry type vibe going on here. Lots of independent businesses and restaurants. As with many beach cities, we had a hard time finding parking here, but we almost always get lucky and find a spot that is not too far from our desired restaurant.
Richmond Bar and Grill is located one block west of Main Street. This is not a big restaurant. They have eight tables and bar seating. They have been here since 1976, which just happens to be the same year that Chuck turned 80. Sorry Chuck, couldn't resist. Anyways, this was a very local crowd the night we were here. The USC game was on TV and brought about some spirited cheers from the Trojan fans in attendance. Even with the local crowd entrenched here, the patrons and servers seemed warm towards us outsiders from OC. The menu is typical bar food; burgers, wings, hot dogs, and sandwiches. We were given ample time to put our order in, and this is what we ended up with.
I was really hungry and very eager to spend some of Chuck's money, so I ordered two items, the first of which was this Bad Dog ($7.95) This is a hot dog smothered in five-alarm chili, cheese, and onions. I promise there is a hot dog under all that chili somewhere. I was pretty pleased with this chili dog. The chili had a nice spice to it, there was plenty of onions, and the hot dog was definitely all beef from what I could tell. This is definitely a knife and fork hot dog, which usually goes against my principles, but I did not want to make a mess of myself in front of Stephanie. Predictably, the bun did get a little soggy under all of the weight dumped on top of it. For a side item, you get Richmond's Famous Chips. These are chips, that are cut and fried right here on the premises. To be honest, I give them credit for making these here, but I was not a big fan of these. Some were fried crisp, but others were kind of soggy, or not fried enough. They were seasoned with salt, but I would have rather of had fries.
Katie kind of threw me for a loop here, when she ordered this Tuna Melt ($8.25). This tuna melt was made with albacore tuna, jack cheese, and tomato. Katie did not know what to expect with this, but she was pleasantly surprised. The cheese did not overpower, it was not greasy, and the tuna was definitely the star of this sandwich.
The rest of the entrees we got on this night were burgers. Let's start with Chuck's selection, the Pastrami Burger ($8.75). The burgers here are not massive. They are a third of a pound, so it was no problem for any of us to put these away. Included on Chuck's burger was of course pastrami, lettuce, tomato, and jack cheese. Man, they sure do love their jack cheese here. Chuck felt this burger was pretty average. He's a butcher by trade, so it takes a lot for him to be impressed when it comes to meat. He felt the pastrami used here was pretty lean but did not offer much else to say about it other than that. He did get fries, instead of the chips, which was a good call. They are of course cut and made here, and were fried a lot better than the chips. These are the way to go here.
Chuck's much better half, Stephanie likes things spicy, (that always makes me wonder why she likes Chuck so much, but I digress). The Fiesta Burger ($8.95) appeared to be right up her alley. This burger had jalapeno pepper jack cheese, avocado, and grilled Ortega chilies on it. This burger left Stephanie wanting more heat. The chilies were not spicy, and the jalapeno jack cheese did not provide any punch. She felt the rest of the burger was kind of just average, (like her husband).
I was not going to be satisfied with just a chili dog, so you better believe that I had something else as well. The Blue Cheese Bacon Burger ($8.75) would be that other thing. This burger included crisp bacon, lettuce, tomato, and crumbled blue cheese. Like everyone else, this burger left me wanting more from it. The patty was juicy enough, but I needed some mayo or maybe a blue cheese dressing on this to make it moister. There was definitely enough lettuce on this for me to make a salad out of it. I liked the fries, better than the chips, although some could have been a little crisper.
Thoughts on Richmond Bar and Grill? It was not awful, but none of us left here clamoring to come back anytime soon. Most of the food was pretty average, with the chili dog being a highlight for me. I was pretty impressed with the service, as local bars can get a little clicky, but that was not the case at Richmond Bar and Grill. We felt like we were regulars during our stay. I also thought the prices were on the fair side. A burger and fries for under $10 in a restaurant are about what you are going to pay for a value meal at a fast-food place. Of course, since Moneybags Chuck was paying, money was definitely no object. We look forward to their next trip, not just because Chuck will be out of town, but also because we look forward to taking them to the airport and getting to try a new place for dinner.
Out of five buckets of pine tar, (because El Segundo was home to George Brett, who had a famous home run taken off the board due to the use of pine tar, in a game against the Yankees, and came flying out of the dugout to protest), five being best to zero being worst, Richmond Bar and Grill gets 2.5 buckets of pine tar.
For more information about Richmond Bar and Grill, go to their website here: https://www.richmondbarandgrill.com/
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Tulsa Rib Company
220 E. Katella Ave.
Orange, CA 92867
Some might call the city of Orange the barbecue capital of Orange County. The city has what I consider to be a plethora of barbecue restaurants. They have the Rib Trader, Famous Dave's, Smoqued, Smokey Fred's BBQ, Rancho To Go BBQ, Lucille's, and Johnny Reb's, along with the place we are reviewing, Tulsa Rib Company. Nine barbecue restaurants may not seem like a lot to you, but when you consider that I live in Mission Viejo, a city that is just a little smaller than Orange in area and only differs by 40,000 people, and Mission Viejo does not have one barbecue restaurant in its city limits. Okay, we do have a Hawaiian BBQ restaurant and a Mongolian BBQ restaurant, but we are talking traditional barbecue here. My point is maybe a few of these barbecue restaurants can spread the love, and open up near where I live. They would have no competition, and I would be forever grateful.
Okay, enough of my pleading, and back to our review. I had been to Tulsa Rib Company when they used to be located off of Tustin Avenue. It was a long time ago, way before I started this blog. Tulsa Rib Company has been around a long time as well, since 1981. They moved to this new building that used to be home to another Orange barbecue restaurant, Scottie's Smokehouse BBQ. Tulsa opened for business in this new location in March, and from the looks of things, people have definitely followed them here.
We got to Tulsa Rib at about 6PM on a Friday night. We had no problem getting seated right away, but the restaurant filled up quickly after we were here for awhile. The new Tulsa Rib is a lot lager than it was before. The barbecue smell definitely hits you when you walk in. Light woods dominate the color scheme, and the restaurant kind of has a coffee shop kind of vibe to it. They had nice plasma TVs hanging on the walls, which were showing hockey on the night we were here. The menu at Tulsa is a little larger than most barbecue restaurants. All the staples are here, ribs, chicken, and sausage, but no tri-tip dinners. We were pretty hungry, and the quicker the food got here, the faster Sabrina could eat, and that would mean less talking from her. So let's see what we thought of Tulsa Rib Company.
We were pretty hungry, so while we were waiting for Sabrina and Anthony to get to the restaurant, Katie and I took the liberty of ordering the Fried Mac and Cheese ($7). A lot of places are doing this appetizer now, as we see it all over. This version at Tulsa was pretty good. The breading had a nice crunch to it, and the inside was very creamy, with just the right amount of cheese. I might be spoiled by the version at Slater's 50/50, as I wished this had a bigger burst of flavor, like maybe with some bacon added. Still a solid version of fried mac and cheese.
With entrees at Tulsa you get the choice of dinner salads, Cole slaw, or tabooli. I was surprised that out of the three of us that got entrees, none of us got a dinner salad. Sabrina went with the Tabooli. This is Tulsa's take on this Middle Eastern salad. Besides the changed spelling of this salad on their menu, this version featured tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumbers, bulghur wheat, parsley, mint, and an olive oil dressing. Sabrina seemed to have liked this unique salad. She thought the flavors intertwined with each other well, and the freshness of the produce were evident. Both Anthony and I went with the Cole Slaw. I really enjoyed this mayo based slaw here at Tulsa. There was plenty of dressing, while the cabbage still retained a crunch. Not a Cole slaw that is going to blow you away, but a decent version of this classic side item.
With our entrees we also got Cornbread, and they also brought Katie some, even though she only got a sandwich. Guess they did not want her to feel left out. I have a funny relationship with cornbread. Most of the time I feel that it is too dry, and rather bland tasting. This was not the case here. This cornbread was moist, but still firm enough that it did not crumble like some versions do. It had a nice sweetness to it, and would have only been better with some whipped honey butter. This is one cornbread that I could get along with.
Since I already let the cat out of the bag about Katie's dinner, we'll start with her sandwich first. She had the Grilled Tri-Tip Sandwich ($9.95). The french roll was filled with tri-tip, and topped with jack cheese, and their spicy BBQ sauce. Katie really liked this sandwich, calling it one of the best barbecue sandwiches she has had in recent memory. The meat was tender, there was plenty of it, and she liked the inclusion of the jack cheese. Katie was the only one of us to get the potato salad as her side item, and she could not have been happier. This salad had a real creamy texture, but still had the presence of tender potato chunks. It was seasoned well, and she liked the excess paprika sprinkled on top.
Sabrina was quiet for just the right amount of time when she was digging into her Barbecue Chicken ($12.95). We all enjoyed the peace and quiet as she ate this tender chicken. The barbecue sauce did not overpower the poultry, but rather enhanced it, as a good sauce should do. This was served with a pretty good creamed corn and your choice of potatoes. Sabrina went with the Tulsa potatoes, which reminded me of these breakfast potatoes we used to have as kids at this restaurant in Anaheim Hills, called Betsy Ross, and later called MacArthur's. These potatoes brought back instant memories of me being a kid again, which was long ago.
Both Anthony and I got the same thing, which helps cut down on my writing. Thanks Anthony. We both opted for the Tulsa Triple Combo ($17.95). The menu claims that this is for hearty appetites, and they are right. We both left here very full after conquering this plate, which included; a half pound of chicken, baby back ribs, and a choice of sausage. Both Anthony and I thought the highlight of this plate was the sausage. He had the Chicken and Apple, while I had the Hot Link. The snap of the casing was good, while the inside had a nice meatiness to it, with a good flavor for both. The chicken was tender, and was probably our second favorite part of the meal. The baby back ribs were not bad, but some of the ribs were on the fatty side, and these were pretty small. Good flavor though, and the extra sauce came in handy.
We did not really want dessert, but there were a number of items on their dessert menu that we could not resist, including this Peanut Butter Pie ($5.75). This pie starts with a graham cracker crust, the filling is peanut butter cream, and is then topped by a chocolate ganache, chopped peanuts, and whipped cream. This pie was surprisingly light. The peanut butter taste was kind of subdued, and I would have liked the chocolate to be a little more prominent with this dessert. You can never go wrong with the combination of peanut butter and chocolate. Not bad, and splitting this between the four of us was a great way to end the meal.
So, what are our final thoughts on Tulsa Rib Company? I liked our visit, but I was not blown away by it. It's true that the barbecue here is very solid, but it was kind of pedestrian. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Tulsa Rib is kind of an old school barbecue restaurant that does not take too many chances with their meats. If you have a craving for barbecue, Tulsa will definitely fill that craving with decent barbecue at an affordable price. The service during our visit was on point. We were very well taken care of, and the food came out in a timely matter. We hope that someday one of the many barbecue restaurants in Orange realize that there is great potential down in south county, hopefully Mission Viejo.
Out of five oil rigs, (because one of Tulsa, Oklahoma's nicknames is, "oil capital of the world"), five being best to zero being worst, Tulsa Rib Company gets 3 oil rigs.
To get more information about Tulsa Rib Company, go to their website, here: http://www.tulsarib.com/index.html