Monday, April 30, 2018

Hoping La Choza Will Be a Good Choice


La Choza
7402 Edinger Ave.
Huntington Beach, CA 92647

I love restaurant lists. Half of my saved bookmarks on my web browser are restaurant lists. I can't resist a best of Chinese food in OC or a top ten most romantic restaurants list. I quickly save these and use them for later. This is what brought us, and our good friends Scott and Cynthia to La Choza in Huntington Beach.

In the middle of last year, OC Register restaurant critic Brad A. Johnson published his list of the 20 best full-service Mexican restaurants in OC. I had been to fifteen of the restaurants on his list, and some I agreed with, (Gabbi's Solita, and Sol Agave), while others I was not so keen on, (Puesto, Carmelita's, and one of the most overrated, Javier's). Lists are of course subjective, so I gave Mr. Johnson a pass on the clunkers that populated his list, and decided to give some of the ones I have yet to eat at a try. La Choza was one of those.

La Choza comes to us from Enrique Haro, who opened the original La Choza in West Los Angeles in 1976. After a remodel, he renamed his Olympic Boulevard restaurant Tia Juana's and updated the menu a bit by adding some seafood dishes. It stood there until 2007 when they had to move to make way for a Walgreens. For the move to Huntington Beach, Enrique brought back the La Choza name but kept the Tia Juana's menu, and kept a lot of the employees, including his mother, Alicia, who has run the kitchen since the first inception of La Chozza all those years ago.

Now sitting across the street from an apartment complex, and a block west of the always busy Bella Terra Shopping Center, La Choza brings to mind the old school Mexican restaurants I'd sometimes visit with my family. When walking into La Choza there's a lady making tortillas, behind a glass partition, who counts out the number in your party, and then the server sends over the freshly made tortillas. The whole restaurant feels pretty old school with its brightly painted walls and the pretty extensive menu which features plenty of combo plates, seafood, burritos, and regional specialties from around Mexico. We could only talk so long to the always charismatic Scott, so let's find out if La Choza belongs on the list of best Mexican restaurants in OC.



As always, I like to share what the Chips and Salsa look like when we are dining at a Mexican restaurant. These were run of the mill tortilla chips, but I did enjoy the choice of having the red and green salsa. Both were pretty solid flavorwise, with the green being a tad spicier, but I missed having some chunk included in these salsas. Some chopped up tomatoes and onions would have made these a bit better.



I usually do not partake in alcohol when we are out, I usually try to focus on the food instead, but since Scott was going on and on about his love for his future bride Cynthia, I felt the need to dull the pain of listening to this lovesick puppy by partaking in a Margarita on the Rocks ($8.75). Cynthia must have been feeling the same thing, as she had the Blended Margarita ($8.75). Both were pretty solid, with a good balance of margarita mix and tequila, which was evenly distributed once I stirred it up a bit with my straw. This was a little more tart than I usually like, but it did the trick of helping me forget what Scott was talking about. Man, that guy can be a real chatterbox.


Both Katie and I have really gotten into Queso Fundidio ($7.75) since we started this restaurant blog, and with the fresh tortillas served here, we definitely felt we needed to give this one a try. This was not the best version of this delicious starter that we have ever had. The menu claims that this had chorizo in this, but if it did, it was just a tiny bit, and I did not detect any. I did get a little of the shredded chile strips, but not enough to make this anywhere close to average. Not only was the flavor lacking, but the consistency of this was off, and it ended up being very oily. Not even La Choza's very good tortillas could have helped this out.



As is her usual tradition in a Mexican restaurant, Katie always gets an appetizer of Guacamole ($7.95) to start off with. I think she learned this from her dad, who I have seen do this many times as well in the almost decade that I have known him. This was a pretty average guacamole. A little on the runny side, I like my guac the same way I like my salsa, with some chunk to it. This runny green puddle was splashed with a  little tomato sauce (why?) and sprinkled with a few shreds of cheese, which did little to save this from being anything other than mediocre guacamole.


Most meals at La Choza include your choice of soup or salad, which I always appreciate. We all picked the salad, which did kind of fit in with the theme of our meal so far, very lackluster in looks and taste. The iceberg lettuce was very pale and only garnished with a tiny amount of shredded carrots and very thin salad dressing. Up until this point, La Choza was very consistent with their food; bland, thin sauces, and not very photogenic. I was hoping for a turnaround once our entrees came out for us.


The first plate to make its way out to us was Katie's, and she had the Two Taco Combination Plate ($14.95). The menu states that these are hard shelled tacos, but they let her have one soft shell chicken taco, along with their hard-shelled version. She felt this was an okay plate, nothing special. The highlight of her meal was the tortillas, but even they could not hide the fact that the chicken was dry and bland. Not one of her favorites.


Mr. Personality, AKA Scott selected this Carne Asada Burrito ($9.95) as his meal on this evening. This wet burrito was topped with red enchilada sauce and cheese, while the inside contained broiled steak, beans, and salsa ranchera. This was a very large burrito, but our good friend Scott finished it like a champ. He was not too impressed with it though, as the beef inside was a little bland. He'd probably get something else the next time he was here.


Scott's way better half opted for the simple Carne Asada Taco Combo Plate ($10.95). Cynthia chose to have this taco soft instead of crispy. She agreed with both Katie and Scott that this taco was nothing special, and she'd try something else next time she was here.


When I'm new to a Mexican restaurant, I usually gravitate towards Carnitas ($14.95) on my maiden visit. The carnitas at La Choza was listed under the regional section of their menu, with Michoacan being listed as their area of origin. I had heard that this was where this pork dish was created, but I had never had the pork prepared this way, in little cubes. They were okay, but I missed the crispy ends that you get when the carnitas are shredded. The beans and rice were adequate, but a little more guacamole would have been nice. Kind of an awkward plate and I'm in agreement, I'd probably get something different on another visit here.


I should have snapped a picture of the tortillas earlier, but I got this one before it was snapped up by Katie. The tortillas are probably the best thing about this restaurant, and to their credit, they were not shy about getting you some more when you scarfed down each round that they'd bring.

It kind of baffled me how La Choza could end up on the list of top 20 Mexican restaurants in the OC Register. Our experience was nothing close to top list material, but as is the case with all of these lists, they are subjective and restaurant reviewers do have different tastes depending on their visits. Even though the food that we ordered failed to impress, the tortillas were great and made us wish that more Mexican restaurants would offer freshly made tortillas, even though it's a time-consuming process. None of us would probably return to La Choza, but if you have a different experience, please let us know.

Out of five pizzas, (because choza translates to hut in Spanish, and the most famous hut is probably Pizza Hut), five being best to zero being worst, La Choza gets 2 pizzas.

For more information about La Choza, head to their website here: http://lachozahb.com/

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Punching Our Passport at North Italia


North Italia
2957 Michelson Dr.
Irvine, CA 92612

It was time once again to meet up with our good friends, and fellow foodies Tom and Daniele. Most of the time when we see each other we head to an all you can eat sushi restaurant, or we try to take turns picking a place that we all want to try, which can be a challenge with all of us having such strong feelings about restaurants. On this particular double date night, we all selected four restaurants we wanted to eat at and decided to make our selections based off of these lists. That's how we ended up at North Italia in Irvine.

Katie and I had scored an invite to North Italia when they were having their friends and family event when this location opened back in late 2015. We really loved our visit, but I did not feel this special sneak preview was fair to write about because it might not be indicative of their true restaurant experience. I also knew that the friends and family event had impressed Katie and me, so I knew we would eventually make a return visit to do a proper review, and that brings us to the present.

North Italia is part of Fox Restaurant Concepts, which is based out of Arizona. North Italia is their largest and probably most successful of their restaurants. They are now located in 8 states and have 17 locations open or coming soon. At North Italia, everything is made from scratch every day. The pizza dough, pasta, and sauces are all prepared in their open kitchen, which you can see through the huge window at most tables.

This is the building that used to house the old California Pizza Kitchen, although it is now unrecognizable from those days. Parking has always seemed to have been a problem in this Park Place Shopping Center, but Katie and I got a good spot near the Mother's Market, which was a short stroll to the restaurant. Wait times of an hour plus are not uncommon at North Italia, but I made a reservation two days beforehand, so we got sat right away, and waited for the always perpetually late duo of Daniele and Tom. He's worth waiting for, her not so much.

The menu at North Italia has plenty of small plates to choose from, and six to seven salads, pasta dishes, pizzas, and main entrees to select. I'd describe the food here as farmhouse Italian. Not too many big heavy plates drenched in cheese and big red sauces, which I'm more than happy with, but what North Italia has here is lighter Italian dishes, made with a little more finesse. Let's take a look at what we encountered on this evening.


Since we were waiting patiently for Daniele to peruse the menu at her leisure, we thought we might as well start with one of their starters while we waited. Fried Cauliflower ($13) was so much more than I thought it was going to be when I read it on the menu. Green and white cauliflower is the base for this starter which is served in an iron skillet and is then topped with some baby asparagus, toasted bread crumbs, lemon, pancetta cream, and a fried egg to tie it all together. A very hearty starter, without being too heavy. Cauliflower is quickly becoming one of my favorite vegetables as of late since we had this, along with a great version at Lido Bottle Works, and a deep-fried version at a Mediterranian restaurant recently. A very versatile veggie that I could not stand when I was a little kid. It's crazy how tastes can change over time.





After Daniele's lengthy ordering process, in which she bombarded our poor server with tons of questions, we got to the green portion of our meal. The top pictured salad was the Arugula and Roasted Fennel Salad ($10). Katie surprisingly got this salad, which came with plenty of arugula and fennel and was dressed simply in lemon, extra virgin olive oil, and grana padano, which is a close relative to parmesan cheese but is produced exclusively in the Po River Valley of Italy. See you can learn some stuff by reading this restaurant blog. I had my usual Caesar Salad ($10) which I enjoyed. It came with chopped romaine, shaved radicchio, more of the grana padano cheese, and croutons. This salad was lightly dressed, which allowed the cheese and the produce to be the star of this show. A very fresh and satisfying Caesar, although a few extra croutons would have been appreciated. The last salad in the picture sequence above is their Simple Salad ($9). This is North Italia's version of a dinner salad, with greens, baby tomato, gorgonzola, pine nuts, and a vinaigrette. No complaints from Tom about his salad selection.


Entree time, and let's start with Katie's pick, Strozzapreti ($19). This would have been my dinner pick had Katie not ordered it ahead of me. The sacrifices I make for a peaceful marriage. This pasta dish comes with roasted mushrooms, pine nuts, chicken, spinach, and a parmesan cream to tie everything together. The little-used strozzapreti noodle, which means priest chocker in Italian was a great vessel for this rustic dish. The noodle was dense and allowed the delicious creamy sauce to cling to the pasta. The chicken was tender, while the mushrooms added a depth of flavor that helped balance out this dish. Very well done, and Katie left here very happy with her meal.


Pizza would finally be Daniele's choice on this evening. She hemmed and hawed for a good long period over getting this Margherita Pizza ($14). Of course high maintenance Daniele had to customize this by having them add mushrooms to this, which they did without even blinking an eye. The fungi were joined by the traditional mozzarella, basil, olive oil and red sauce that usually comes with this pizza. There were no complaints from Daniele about this pizza, but after having a bite of Katie and mines food, I kind of think she was a little envious of the pasta on our plates.




One of the more common Italian staples on American-Italian menus is probably Chicken Parmesan ($21) and that would be my meal on this evening. This was easily one of the lightest versions of this classic dish that I have ever had. The chicken was pounded thin and fork tender. It was not drenched in cheese and sauce, which allowed the very well done breading coating the chicken to break through. Nicely done. The parmesan rigatoni was a nice accompaniment that showcased their freshly made pasta. This was made even better when our server sprinkled fresh parmesan over the pasta, which gave it an added layer of flavor. Nice and light, this meal did not leave me feeling bloated like I do most of the time after I have Italian food. 


Tom had all sorts of problems at dinner on this evening. First, he had to eat rather light because he was going to be having a blood test for his physical at the start of the next week, and second his meal would be delayed well into our last couple of bites due to what our server called a computer glitch. He finally received his Grilled Branzino ($29) after a 15 to 20-minute delay. This fish comes with cippolini onion, fennel, farro, broccolini, and a lemon-butter sauce, which Tom asked the kitchen to use with a light touch because of his impending blood test. This fish was okay, and I'm not sure whether it was because of the lack of sauce or if that would have helped it out at all. This plate was kind of boring and lacked any kind of pop of flavor. 





Due to Tom's dinner arriving late, our server was more than apologetic and also made up for it by making these four desserts complimentary. The winner in my eyes was the Hazelnut Torta ($9), which was not what I thought it was going to be at all. It was a hazelnut cake topped with a very generous scoop of salted caramel gelato, then topped with a hazelnut toffee and a streak of Nutella across the plate. Sweet, salty, warm, and cold all in one dessert. My only complaint would be that the Nutella could have been incorporated a bit more into this, but it was a standout for sure. The Bombolini ($8) gets a lot of love online and for good reason. These Italian donuts come out hot and are so addictive that they don't last too long, and have no chance to cool down. I'm not really a big lemon fan, so I'm not all in with the Meyer lemon curd these sit atop of, but the vanilla mascarpone helps dull the citrus vibe just enough for my taste. Salted Caramel Budino ($8) is always a winner, but with Daniele hogging most of this, (and why are all budinos always so small?), I did not really get to have too much of this, but I liked what I tried. Lastly, the Tiramisu ($8) was probably my least favorite of the desserts, not surprising since I'm not too keen on coffee, and this had a strong coffee flavor running through it with its heavily drenched Kahlua soaked ladyfingers. I did like the little crunch from the balls on top of this though. 

Yes, there were some minor misses at North Italia on this evening, but they were kept minimal. This restaurant does not really have the look or feel of a chain restaurant. All the food was fresh and light, the service was polished, and this is the kind of restaurant that can help change Americans perception of the Italian food that we grew up with, which is heavy on the cheese and sauces. A more upscale, and modern take on Italian, getting away from the red and white tablecloths and the stereotypical mustached chef mascot. We will definitely be back, but we'll maybe leave Daniele at home. Just kidding D!

Out of five ski poles, (because some of the best skiing in the world takes place in Northen Italy, and of course you need ski poles if you want to get down those massive hills in one piece), five being best to zero being worst, North Italia gets 3.5 ski poles.

For more information about North Italia, head to their website here: https://www.northitaliarestaurant.com/

Friday, April 20, 2018

Hoping Chimney Cakes Isn't Just a Smoke Screen


House of Chimney Cakes
173 West Center Steet Promenade
Anaheim, CA 92805

After meeting my parents for an epic lunch nearby, we did not want the good times to end, so I did a quick search of nearby dessert places on Yelp and turned up a bunch of results. One of the most promising was about ten minutes away, so we hopped in our cars and headed to the House of Chimney Cakes.

I had not been to this part of Anaheim for quite some time. The closest I have gotten was the Anaheim Packing House, but this Center Street Promenade area, which is situated across the street from the Anaheim City Hall had a pretty cool, big city vibe going for it. There were some restaurants I have wanted to try here; Pour Vida Latin Flavor, Cervantes Mexican Kitchen, and others, but those would have to wait for another day since we had just eaten a big lunch. This trip was all about itching those sweet cravings we were having.

I had never heard of chimney cakes before this afternoon. Looking at the pictures on Yelp, they kind of looked like the cones were made like churros, with ice cream inside of them, and crazy toppings making them Instagram-worthy. After arriving at this small shop I learned that these are not churros, but a Hungarian sweet bread, traditionally called a kurtoskalacs, which is cylindrical in shape, with a crunchy outer shell and a softer inner core. Their website claims that the chimney cake is like a cross between a donut and a churro. I was intrigued.

Opened since November of last year, the House of Chimney Cakes is owned and operated by a Szandra Szabo, a Hungarian fashion model, who moved to the US to share her love of chimney cakes with the foodies in Southern California. Along with her business partner, she serves as founder, CEO, and head pastry chef at the House of Chimney Cakes.

We arrived here at the awkward hour of 2pm on a recent Tuesday, found parking right away in the adjacent parking structure, and ordered our chimney cakes. The menu here features seven signature creations, which are ready-made options like Oreo Overload, Matcha Madness, Apple Pie, and others. These are perfect for people that don't want to come up with their own creations. You can also build your own chimney cake with the ice cream, toppings, and sauces that you desire. You also have the option of forgoing the chimney cake altogether and getting the soft serve in a cup, like my mom ended up doing. Katie and I wanted the full experience, so let's see how our first chimney cake encounter went over.



Katie went pretty basic here, with her Build Your Own Chimney Cake ($7). She opted for the chocolate soft serve ice cream, a cinnamon-sugar chimney cake cone, and some coconut flakes sprinkled on top. She felt this was good, but not great. She liked that it was not overly sweet, and the soft serve ice cream was of a better quality than most she's had. A pretty basic ice cream treat.



I went a little more crazy, getting their Oreo Overload ($7.95). This signature creation starts with a chimney cake rolled in Oreo cookie crumbs and is filled with vanilla and chocolate soft serve, then more Oreo cookie crumbs are added and then finished off with chocolate sauce and an Oreo cookie. This was just okay, as I was expecting a bit more. Truth be told, I'm not really partial to soft serve ice cream, as I like real deal ice cream better. This was better than average soft serve though. The chimney cone was not what I was expecting either. The outside was crunchy, and I thought the inside was going to be softer, but maybe because the ice cream made it too cold, it was a little harder than I imagined it was going to be. The Oreo experience was lessened even more because they do not have cookies and cream ice cream, which might have helped this out a bit. Thanks for the hand modeling mom.

Much like a lot of these Instagram-worthy foods, the Chimney Cakes were very photogenic, but when it comes to eating them, they do not live up to the hype. These were not awful, but this is more of a place you come once, post your pictures online, and then probably don't return to, unless you are in the area again and want to get some extra likes for your IG account. The chimney cake needed to be sweeter, and with more ice cream flavors available. Very decorative, but not much else going on here.

Out of five falcons, (because the Saker falcon is the official bird of Hungary, the country where chimney cakes originated), five being best to zero being worst, the House of Chimney Cakes gets 2.5 falcons.

For more information about the House of Chimney Cakes, head to their website here: https://www.thehouseofchimneycakes.com/

Monday, April 16, 2018

Meatball Mission Continues at Cortina's


Cortina's Italian Market
2175 West Orange Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92804

I know I've hit a winner when I can't wait to write about a restaurant we have just recently visited. Another sure sign of hitting pay dirt when it comes to eating out is when I can't stop gushing about a sandwich, or whatever else I happened to have consumed at a certain place. That's what I have caught myself doing since we ate at Cortina's in Anaheim.

I did not even have Cortina's on my list of restaurants that we need to visit. No need to write it down since I knew we would eventually make a trip to this iconic Anaheim restaurant. They have another location in Orange, which is closer, but they are only open on weekdays, and even then they are only open until 3pm. The Anaheim spot is open until 8 and even open on Saturdays, which makes them way more convenient, even though they are farther away from where I live in South OC.

Cortina's has been around since 1963. They had to withstand a fire back in 2013 that saw them close for six months, but they are back and better than ever serving their very ardent supporters. One of those customers just happens to be Gwen Stefani, who has deep roots here, as her brother and sister in law both worked here, and she visits Cortina's when she's back in town to visit her parents.

There would be no Gwen sighting for us on this Tuesday afternoon, but I was fine with that since this was going to be all about the food. Make sure to take some time to visit the market next door, as they have one of the best Italian markets around. I got some Italian baked goods and brought them to poker, and my good friends Cosmo and Carmela loved them, and they are really picky when it comes to Italian baked goods. They know their stuff, and they said the Italian cookies here are legit. Also legit was the variety of Italian groceries that Cortina's carries. If you need an Italian item that your local grocery store does not carry, I'll bet that Cortina's carries it. A pretty impressive little grocery store here, but I really wanted to give their food a try, so we headed next door, put in our order, found a table, and waited for our food to come out. Here's how everything went for us at Cortina's.



My parents ordered before we did, so we'll take a look at what they had first. My dad is really picky about pastrami, always asking if it is sliced real thin. He seemed really pleased with this Pastrami Sandwich ($7.70) from Cortina's. They use Boar's Head meats for their deli sandwiches, and they must have had the pastrami sliced to his liking because we did not hear a peep from him about it being too thick. This sandwich also featured some melted Swiss cheese, mustard, and a sliced pickle on the side. A very solid pastrami sandwich, one that rivals some of the best in OC. I loved the way that the Swiss cheese and pastrami complimented each other. I'm not usually a big fan of mustard, but it did not detract from this wonderful sandwich, although I'd like to have tried this with thousand island next time. It made me happy to see my dad enjoy this sandwich so much.



My mom is a pretty basic eater. She likes to eat simply and does not like a lot of big flavors to contend with. This Turkey Breast Sandwich ($6.90) satisfied her immensely. Sliced turkey, provolone cheese, light mayo, and red onion stuffed into their very good homemade Italian roll. My mom was over the moon about the bread here, which was very sturdy, but yet had a softness to it at the same time. The guts of this sandwich were very fresh, but what made this sandwich for her was the bread.


Here's an overview of what Katie and I got on this early afternoon. I had every intention of only eating half of my three items, and taking the rest home, but that, of course, did not happen since I have no willpower when it comes to food. Just looking at this picture still makes me happy reliving this meal. Let's take a closer look at what we consumed.


Even though my mom only finished half of her turkey sandwich, she nearly ate a whole slice of this pizza by herself. This was part of the Pizza By the Slice Special ($9.40) which also includes a salad and a drink. Sorry no picture of the salad, as I was sidetracked by the spread I had laid out in front of me.  The pizza here is hearty. This is not a thin crust pizza, as it had to support an evenly spaced and hefty amount of cheese, and the pepperoni on this was some of the best I have had on a pizza. It's not that processed stuff we have all become accustomed to at inferior pizza places. I'm surprised I haven't seen this pizza on more top 10 lists in OC.



One of the most popular sandwiches online at Cortina's is this Cortina's Special ($6.50) and that's what Katie went with after much debate. This sandwich came with a cavalcade of Italian cold cuts; Cotto salami, mortadella, capicola, dry salami,  and was finished off with provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and Italian dressing. Katie exclaimed after finishing this sandwich that this was the best Italian sub she has ever had. She loved the fresh produce and bread and called the Italian meats first class. The Italian dressing tied everything together wonderfully, and she would not hesitate to get this again.



The first of my two sandwiches was this Rocky Balboa ($6.80). Just like what the fighter would do to me, this sandwich knocked me out. Sliced porchetta is the star here, tender and flavorful. Then its topped with melted provolone, broccolini, garlic chili oil, and then as if there were not enough flavors included here, they also provide you with an au jus for dipping. If it wasn't for the next sandwich I'm going to share with you, this would have been one of the best sandwiches I've had in years. The insides were excellent, with the melty cheese, the crunch from the broccolini, and the chili oil which gave this a fantastic flavor boost. The au jus added some moistness, even though it was not needed here.


I only took one picture of my Meatball Sandwich ($10.20) because I was very eager to dive into it. After my first bite, I did not want to come back up for air. The menu says this sandwich is world famous, and it really should be. The meatballs here are tender as all can be, taste like an Italian meatloaf, and they provide you with plenty of them, so you get meat in every bite of this. The blanket of cheese is excellent, and they do not over sauce the sandwich so you can taste that the meatballs are the star of the show here. Like the rest of the sandwiches we tried, the bread on this was sturdy and a great vessel for the insides of this sandwich. Quite simply, the best meatball sandwich I've ever had.

If you have read up until this point, you kind of have to know that I am in love with Cortina's. Everything that we had on this afternoon really shined and my quest for the best meatball sandwich in OC might have ended with this visit. Even a few weeks later, my mom is still raving about the pizza here and has already made plans to come back to get a whole pie so the whole family can experience it. That's a big step in the advancement of my mom's food cred. Prices were more than fair, with a sandwich this good I almost felt like I was stealing from them, as I would have paid more for this sandwich experience. My only complaint is that Cortina's is not very convenient for me location-wise, but I will definitely find reasons to come back very soon.

Out of five curtains, (because cortina in Italian translates to curtain, and after trying this restaurant out, you'll definitely think they deserve a curtain call), five being best to zero being worst, Cortina's Italian Market gets 4 curtains.

For more information about Cortina's Italian Market, head to their website here: http://cortinasitalianfood.com/

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Hoping for the Holy Grail of Breakfasts at Arthur's


Arthur's Restaurant
240 North Tustin Avenue
Orange, CA 92867


It was another date with my sister on a Monday morning. I have loved that she has been available to have breakfast with me recently. Since my schedule at work has changed, I do not have much of an opportunity to try out breakfast joints around OC, and the first meal of the day is usually one of my favorites. As is our custom, we usually pick a place that is centrally located between the two of us, and on this recent Monday morning that meant we would be meeting at Arthur's in Orange.

I had been here one other time, but it was definitely over 20 years ago, well before I started writing this restaurant blog. Arthur's is located not far from the Chapman and Tustin intersection. The building housing this restaurant looks like it was plucked right from the ghost town at Knott's. The marquee above the restaurant, along with a sign on the front of the restaurant proclaims that they serve the best breakfast in town. I know there's a connection between this and Arthur's Coffee Shop in La Habra, but neither of their websites acknowledges the other, even though the signage and menus are basically the same, but with different pricing.

I have never been to Cracker Barrel, but the inside of Arthur's is what I imagine it to be like. Very down to earth, maybe even folksy. Comfy worn booths, plenty of knick-knacks scattered around the restaurant and walls, and servers that know most of their customers by name. I've heard that the wait can be pretty long during weekends, but we got right in when we arrived here for our breakfast date to catch up on all of our family happenings.

We were presented with a rather large specials menu that is available during weekdays. Speaking of large, the regular menu is pretty massive, with lots of breakfast selections offered all day until they close at 2pm on weekdays and 3pm on weekends. For those that are not partial to breakfast, Arthur's Restaurant also offers plenty in the way of sandwiches, burgers, salads, and even a few Mexican inspired plates. Let's see what we ended up with off their menu on this late morning.





Ladies first, so we'll start things off with my sister's breakfast, the Chicken Fried Chicken Special ($9.14 with the cheese added to the eggs). I'm always partial to traditional chicken fried steak because I figure if you are going to eat something that's not particularly good for you, you might as well go all out and eat the real deal chicken fried steak, but apparently, my sister does not feel the same way. I thought we were close. Anyways, she ended up loving this very comforting dish. I got my chance to try a few bites of this and it was very tasty. Arthur's gets a lot of love for their gravy, and it was very good. Thick and peppery, just how I like it, but it kind of detracted from the taste of the chicken fried chicken. My sister did finish all of her scrambled eggs, which had a nice blanket of cheddar cheese covering them. The bread was toasted well and the fruit cup contained nice cubes of fresh fruit. A very solid meal to start our stint at Arthur's.





It's hard for me to resist a scramble, mainly because I don't like to miss out on much. I figure if I get a scramble, I have a better chance to try more of the items they have in the kitchen, and that was the case with this Arthur's Scramble ($15.75). What clinched me getting this was the fact that it came with two kinds of sausage, Polish and Italian, along with onion, bell peppers, three scrambled eggs, and topped with plenty of cheddar and jack cheeses. This plate was massive, and I took half of it home for later. Really filling, and delicious as well. The use of the two sausages was excellent. The balance between the eggs, cheese, and potatoes was spot on. Maybe because the flavors had a chance to mingle more, but this was even better the next day for lunch. With this scramble, you get to pick your favorite breakfast bread, and at Arthur's, they get a lot of love for their biscuits, so that's what I ended up with. This is going to sound like a dis, but the biscuits here look just like the Pillsbury Grands that are so popular during the holidays at my mom's house. They taste like them as well, but fresher and a bit airier. Again, not an insult, because I like the store bought biscuits, but that's what they reminded me of. I also got a Side of the Okie Country Gravy ($1.25) which went well with the biscuits, and also the leftovers of my skillet. This was a meal that kept me satisfied well into the dinner hour.

The marquee for Arthur's proclaims that they serve the best breakfast in town, and in a city that boasts Anepalco's, Orange Cafe, Sammy's Stack House, Paul's Place and more that I'm probably forgetting, that's a pretty big proclamation to make. Not sure they are the best, but Arthur's is in the conversation as one of the most satisfying breakfast joints in Orange. Big portions of food that will keep you full throughout the good majority of your day. Their down home appeal and good, honest food is the reason that they have long wait times on weekend mornings. Another factor is probably the staff here. From the owner on down to our server Rachel, everyone was so nice and made us feel welcome during our stay. My sister and I will definitely visit Arthur's again when we need to catch up with our crazy family. 

Out of five top hats, (because whenever I hear the name Arthur, I think back to the 1981 movie and its lead character Arthur who was often seen wearing a top hat), five being best to zero being worst, Arthur's Restaurant gets 3 top hats.

For more information about Arthur's Restaurant, head to their website here: http://www.arthursfamilyrestaurant.com/