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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Down Home Mexican in OC

For down-home Mexican chow in OC, Super Antojitos is right on target. Really good meats–pastor, carnitas, carne asada, and barbacoa–plus posole and menudo on weekends.

Beans are creamy and lardy, and dishes like camarones rancheros and pasilla chiles rellenos are outstanding.

El Farolito is another top choice, a no-frills family-run place with an emphasis on Mexican classics.

Other good options nearby: Q Tortas and El Taco Sabroso Grill (for the tasty beef stew).

El Gallo Giro is another local chain with good food, especially carnitas and al pastor. Tortillas are made in-house, and the aguas frescas bar offers horchata, tamarindo, platano, sandia (watermelon) and more.

In San Juan Capistrano, check out Ricardo’s.

Super Antojitos [South OC]
1702 N. Bristol St. #D, Santa Ana
714-835-3619
Locator

Super Antojitos [South OC]
2731 W. Edinger Ave., Santa Ana
714-540-7385
Locator

Super Antojitos [South OC]
2307 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana
714-445-0076
Locator

Super Antojitos [South OC]
1130 W. Warner Ave., Santa Ana
714-662-2035
Locator

Super Antojitos Restaurant [South OC]
2510 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana
714-957-0994
Locator

Super Antojitos [South OC]
341 E. 1st St., Tustin
714-832-2252
Locator

Super Antojitos [South OC]
2949 Fairview Rd., Costa Mesa
714-437-1824
Locator

Super Antojitos Mexicanos [East LA-ish]
7518 E. Slauson Ave., City of Commerce
323-728-4944
Locator

Super Antojitos Mexicanos [East San Fernando Valley]
809 S. Victory Blvd., Burbank
818-845-0922
Locator

El Farolito [North OC]
201 S. Bradford Ave., Placentia
714-993-7880
Locator

El Farolito Jr [South OC]
1339 N. East St., Anaheim
714-533-6032
Locator

El Farolito [Koreatown]
2737 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles
323-731-4329
Locator

Q-Tortas [North OC]
220 S. Bradford Ave., Placentia
714-993-3270
Locator

El Taco Sabroso Grill [North OC]
214 W. Santa Fe Ave., Placentia
714-524-6716
Locator

El Taco Sabroso [Inland of LA]
1945 W. La Habra Blvd., La Habra
562-691-2144
Locator

El Gallo Giro [South OC]
1442 S. Bristol St. #B, Santa Ana
714-549-2011
Locator

El Gallo Giro [Central San Fernando Valley]
315 San Fernando Mission Blvd., San Fernando
818-361-9570

http://www.gallogiro.com

Locator

El Gallo Giro [East LA-ish]
7148 Pacific Blvd., Huntington Park
323-585-4433
Locator

El Gallo Giro [Central San Fernando Valley]
8309 Van Nuys Blvd., Panorama City
818-891-5533
Locator

El Gallo Giro [South LA]
3180 E. Imperial Hwy., Lynwood
310-609-1901
Locator

Ricardo’s Place [South OC]
32082 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano
949-493-4941
Locator

Board Links
In search of the most down home Mexican food in the OC…

Dago Mary’s – Just Like Rochester in the Seventies

What is Dago Mary’s? It’s part old-school Italian and part old-school Californian. The crowd is largely older, white, and male.

The place reminds david kaplan of all the Italian restaurants from his childhood in Rochester, New York, right down to bread dip made of pureed canned chickpeas and canned kidney beans, with olive oil and chopped garlic. It’s very 70’s upstate New York. What’s more, it’s located in an old bordello. “With the odd old-fashioned decor, and big windows looking onto the largely deserted construction site that is Hunter’s Point Shipyard, it felt like a colonial outpost holding on against the coming revolution.”

Spaghetti with meatballs is excellent. Spaghetti is perfectly al dente, and the meatballs are fantastic, well-browned and studded with onion bits and herbs. The sweet oniony insides contrast nicely with the charred meaty exteriors. Linguine with manila clams is also al dente, with a satisfyingly salty, garlicky sauce that’s rich, but doesn’t overpower the clams.

Desserts are forgettable.

Dago Mary’s [Hunter’s Point] 916 Hunter’s Point Shipyard, near Third St. and Evans Ave., San Francisco 415-822-2633 Locator: http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=9855040&ck=2889691906

Board Links
Dago Mary’s, Hunters Point Shipyard, report

Harshly, I Parley for Parsley. Parse Me.

Why, oh why, is parsley so neglected in our modern world? Its delicate fragrance, its green zippiness, its fresh splendor–we must celebrate parsley more. We declare this The Half-Week of Parsley.

To celebrate Parsley Half-Week, sample the following preparations:

Sea Salt makes grilled sardines with a parsley-intensive salsa verde. It’s excellent; parsley pairs particularly well with oily fish like sardines or mackerel.

Parsley lovers will be pleased by anything with salsa verde at Oliveto and Incanto, reports Robert Lauriston. Try anything with salsa verde on beef.

Look for gremolata, usually made with parsley, lemon zest and olive oil. This sauce also pairs well with beef. Eccolo serves it on their bollito sandwich.

Gilman Grill’s potatoes have parsley, but sydthekid boldly orders them with EXTRA parsley.

Chez Panisse Cafe sometimes makes pizza topped with Italian parsley salad.

Zuzu’s boquerones tapa comes on top of a parsley salad of whole leaves tossed with a garlicky vinaigrette.

Some parting words of parsley wisdom from frontzNskrontz : “I eat the stems! And raw celery! I am very regular!”

Sea Salt Restaurant [East Bay]
2512 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley
510-883-1720
Locator

Oliveto Cafe & Restaurant [Rockridge]
5655 College Ave., Oakland
510-547-5356
Locator

Incanto Restaurant & Wine Bar [Noe Valley]
1550 Church St., San Francisco
415-641-4500
Locator

Eccolo Restaurant and Bar [East Bay]
1820 Fourth St., Berkeley
510-644-0444
Locator

Gilman Grill [East Bay]
1300 4th St., Berkeley
510-524-2532
Locator

Chez Panisse [East Bay]
1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley
510-548-5525
Locator

Zuzu [Napa County]
829 Main St., Napa
707-224-8555
Locator

Soft Shell Crabs, Fried Every Which Way

Upmarket fishmonger Wild Edibles knows what to do with soft shell crabs when they’re in season, which is now. For $14, they fry up two good-sized specimens and tuck them into a po’ boy roll with tartar sauce. Fries are part of the deal.

Phenomenally delicious, raves jon.

Hounds also love their soft shell crabs flash fried at Sushi Yasuda, salt and pepper fried at Nha Trang, or deep fried at Mermaid Inn and Johnny’s Famous Reef on City Island.

Wild Edibles [Murray Hill]
535 3rd Ave., between 35th and 36th Sts, Manhattan
212-213-8552

http://wildedibles.com

Map

Wild Edibles [Grand Central Terminal]
89 E. 42nd St., in Grand Central Market, Manhattan
212-687-4255

http://wildedibles.com

Locator

Sushi Yasuda [Midtown East]
204 E. 43rd St., between 2nd and 3rd Aves, Manhattan
212-972-1001

http://www.sushiyasuda.com

Locator

Nha Trang Restaurant [Chinatown]
87 Baxter St., between Walker and White, Manhattan
212-233-5948
Locator

Nha Trang Restaurant [Chinatown]
148 Centre St., between Walker and White, Manhattan
212-941-9292
Locator

Mermaid Inn [East Village]
96 2nd Ave., between E. 5th and 6th Sts, Manhattan
212-674-5870

http://themermaidnyc.com

Locator

Johnny’s Famous Reef Restaurant [Bronx]
2 City Island Ave., near Belden St., City Island, Bronx
718-885-2090
Locator

Board Links
Soft shell crabs at Johnny’s in City Island
soft shell crabs–where to go

Hamburger Tips From Morris Park to Great Kills

Coals in Morris Park, which turns out hound-endorsed pizzas from the grill, also makes compelling hamburgers.

They’re done au poivre with toasted goat cheese on a focaccia roll, and they’re served only at night. “I am very picky about my burgers, and the burger at Coals blew me away,” declares femmefantastique. “My mouth waters and my heart races just thinking about it.”

On Staten Island, Duffy’s scores with a half-pounder on a toasted English muffin, reports Tony Z, who advises getting it with cheddar cheese. On the side, seasoned criss-cut or sweet potato fries are a good choice.

We also hear encouraging reports about the burger at Andrew’s Diner in the island’s Great Kills neighborhood. Fresh, delicious food, generous portions, and solid service, says Tay.

Coals [Bronx]
1888 Eastchester Rd., at Morris Park Ave., Bronx
718-823-7002
Map

Duffy’s [Staten Island]
650 Forest Ave., betw. Bement and Oakland Aves, Staten Island
718-447-9276
Map

Andrew’s Diner [Staten Island]
4160 Hylan Blvd., between Heinz and Walnut Aves, Staten Island
718-948-8843
Locator

Board Links
Phenomenal burger at Coals in the Bronx
Best Burgers in Staten island and Bronx

Going on a Carnitas Crawl

Craving carnitas, Robert Lu set out on a quest. Here are the notes from his top picks:

La Blanquita: Terrific carnitas taco, chunky instead of stringy, crispy outside, melt-in-your-mouth inside. Kind of a dive, but lots of aguas frescas and alambre too for those who miss Las Ruinas. Restaurant is separate from market/tortilleria.

La Pradera: Crispy and smoky, yet still moist. Solid. It’s a market only, so carnitas are sold to go.

El Gallito: Similar carnitas to La Pradera, maybe less smoky. Interior of this market (which holds a sizable restaurant) is more pleasant than most.

Pastor’s Meat: Haven’t tried yet, but friend swears they are the best carniceria around. [Adds Neta: you have to try the chicharron!]

Cinco Puntos is another great spot for carnitas, says K*, with great handmade tortillas, too.

condiment* prefers the great Antojitos Denise’s on Olympic, where they sell carnitas by the pound. It’s about as good as it gets–a party in a tray.

At La Azteca, carnitas + still-warm fresh tortillas = taco bliss, says Macdonald.

And of course, there’s always Carnitas Michoacan.

La Blanquita Tortilleria [East LA-ish]
11859 Valley Blvd., Garvey El Monte
626-579-1799
Locator: http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=9321267&ck=1839410855

La Pradera Market [East LA-ish]
3218 Santa Anita Ave., El Monte
626-579-2517
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=9322952&ck=864760269

La Pradera Market [South OC]
2801 S Bristol St., Santa Ana
714-662-1234
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=24076182&ck=816735867

La Pradera Carniceria [Inland of LA]
651 E. Arrow Hwy., Azusa
626-339-3000
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=14644943&ck=2485124216

El Gallito Meat Market [East LA-ish]
12242 Valley Blvd., Durfee, El Monte
626-442-1190
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=9320771&ck=1798802208

Pastor’s Meat [East LA-ish]
8922 Beverly Blvd., Rosemead, Pico Rivera
562-695-8714
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=9175158&ck=2447128281

Los Cinco Puntos [East LA-ish]
3300 E. Cesar E. Chavez Ave., Los Angeles
323-261-4084
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=9082568&ck=1124055037

Antojitos Denises [Thai Town]
4930 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles
323-661-8230
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=9049111&ck=801011488

Antojitos Denises [East LA-ish]
4060 E. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles
323-264-8199
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=9039903&ck=3338204706

La Azteca Tortilleria [East LA-ish]
4538 E. Cesar E. Chavez Ave., Los Angeles
323-262-5977
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=16128927&ck=1203164291

Carnitas Michoacan [East San Fernando Valley]
12911 Victory Blvd., Coldwater Canyon, North Hollywood
818-765-9356
Map:

http://maps.yahoo.com/py/maps.py?Pyt=Tmap&addr=+12911+Victory+Blvd&csz=North+Hollywood+CA

Carnitas Michoacan [East San Fernando Valley]
7206 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood
818-982-8660
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=22496154&ck=3131189738

Carnitas Michoacan [East LA-ish]
741 S. Soto St., Los Angeles
323-266-7188
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=9040318&ck=499682980

Carnitas Michoacan [Koreatown]
1605 S. Hoover St. #105, Los Angeles
213-748-1809
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=9009099&ck=2301381313

Carnitas Michoacan [East San Fernando Valley]
8729 Sunland Blvd., Sun Valley
818-504-9154
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=25945522&ck=178240713

Carnitas Michoacan [East San Fernando Valley]
15039 Roscoe Blvd., Panorama City
818-830-1196
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=19407056&ck=1257323505

Carnitas Michoacan [East San Fernando Valley]
14534 Brand Blvd., San Fernando
818-365-9044
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=16843382&ck=3413739990

Carnitas Michoacan [East San Fernando Valley]
13189 Gladstone Ave., Sylmar
818-367-3269
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=9256347&ck=3665692269

Carnitas Michoacans [West San Fernando Valley]
6764 Tampa Ave., Reseda
818-343-3240
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=9253868&ck=2827263188

Carnitas Michoacan [East San Fernando Valley]
13947 Foothill Blvd., Sylmar
818-362-7472
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=9256345&ck=3665692271

Carnitas Michoacan [West San Fernando Valley]
8556 Reseda Blvd., Northridge
818-576-0359
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=20037980&ck=2011223098

Carnitas Michoacan [West San Fernando Valley]
9101 De Soto Ave., Chatsworth
818-725-2612
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=9242656&ck=1468629959

Carnitas Michoacan [West San Fernando Valley]
9849 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Chatsworth
818-700-9776
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=9243962&ck=2970576526

Carnitas Michoacan [West San Fernando Valley]
492 E. High St., Moorpark
805-553-9340
Locator:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=13224666&ck=897949297

Board Links
Carnitas y Carnicerias

Horn of Africa Meets the Heart of O.C.

A mountain of outrageously tasty food awaits at Merhaba, an Eritrean restaurant nearly hidden in a dingy Orange County minimall, says Das Ubergeek. It’s the kind of place where non-East African customers may draw stares.

The menu lists the usual Ethiopian dishes, but in Tigrinya rather than Amharic. The traditional combo is billed as being for two people, but it would actually serve four. You get more than a cup each of doro wat (spicy chicken stew), yebeg alicha (mild lamb stew), a fiery Eritrean take on yebegsiga wat (spicy beef stew), and yellow lentils, collard greens and an orange paste that tastes of spicy carrots, all poured onto an injera-lined tray. The injera (a pancake-like bread) is properly sour here.

Unlike many other Ethiopian/Eritrean restaurants, the meats shine here, although the vegetables are also good. Doro wat can be dry, but emily, a fan of the restaurant, says despite some off days, it’s usually delicious.

Traditional combo, $20. Canned soda and bottled water are $1. Lunch and dinner prices are the same.

Merhaba Restaurant [South OC]
2801 W. Ball Rd. #5, Anaheim
714-826-8859

http://www.merhabarestaurant.com

Locator:
http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=14660309&ck=363215762

Board Links

Fried Chicken Salad?!?!

Bakesale Betty is justly renowned for fried chicken and coleslaw sandwiches. But they also make delicious fried chicken salad, says Morton the Mousse. Fulton chicken breast is butterflied and fried with a crispy batter, and served over house-made coleslaw. It’s a refreshing alternative to their sandwich.

Hot tip: you can always order it, even it it’s not on the menu.

Another tip: right now, they’re serving braised short rib sandwiches instead of their usual braised brisket sandwiches. These short ribs are seasonal, so get ‘em while they’re on. Also: don’t miss Betty’s lamingtons and lemon bars.

Townhouse Bar and Grill sometimes has spicy fried buffalo chicken salad, and it’s pretty good. It’s not on the current menu, but it’ll likely rotate back in soon.

Bakesale Betty [Temescal]

5098 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
510-289-550
http://www.bakesalebetty.com

Townhouse Bar & Grill [East Bay]

5862 Doyle St., Emeryville
510-652-6151
http://www.townhousebarandgrill.com

Links
Fried Chicken Salad anyone?
Fried Chicken and Cole Slaw Sandwiches in Oakland

Rhubarb Facts and Trivia

Rhubarb is a stalk of many colors, ranging from dark red to pink to bright green. Red rhubarb is most common, but you’ll also see green rhubarb (don’t suspect it’s unripe).

Here’s an interesting bit of rhubarb trivia, courtesy of Karl S: strawberry rhubarb pie wasn’t originally a combination of rhubarb and berries. Rather, it referred to strawberry rhubarb, a bright red variety! Other worthy pie pairings are rhubarb-apple and rhubarb-blackberry-apple.

See information on rhubarb varieties at: http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/rhubarb-varieties.html

Even more esoteric trivia: actors, to generate crowd noise backstage, murmur the word “rhubarb” over and over. Or at least that’s what we’ve heard…

Board Links
rhubarb questions

Summer – and Blueberries – Arrive in New Jersey

Blueberries have arrived in New Jersey, and Ellen pronounces the first pick outstanding. Val Ann C, who scored some nice ones at the Sunday farmers’ market in Red Bank, agrees. The growers expect last year’s very good crop to be followed by an even better one, maybe the best in years, Ellen reports.

Around Hammonton in Atlantic County, count on Glossy Fruit Farms for berries and the Red Barn for super fruit pies. In midstate, Emery’s grows organic blueberries and offers a pick-your-own option–but this season’s berries haven’t come around yet. Neither have those at nearby De Wolf Farm, but all in good time.

Red Bank Farmers’ Market [Monmouth County, NJ]
W. Front St. and Shrewsbury Ave., Red Bank
732-530-7300
Map

Glossy Fruit Farms [Atlantic County, NJ]
66 S Myrtle St., between Rte 206 and Middle Rd., Hammonton
609-561-8050
Locator

Red Barn Farm Market [Atlantic County, NJ]
51 S. Myrtle St., between Rte 206 and Middle Rd., Hammonton
609-567-3412

http://www.penzaspies.com

Locator

Emery’s Berry Farm [Ocean County, NJ]
346 Long Swamp Rd., near Pinehurst Rd. (Rte 539), New Egypt
609-758-8514

http://www.netpie.com

Locator

De Wolf Farm [Ocean County, NJ]
10 W. Colliers Mill Rd., near Archertown Rd., New Egypt
609-758-2424
Locator

Board Links
First Blueberries of the Season are Here