The Local List

Hungry girl looking for the next adventure.

Ragin’ Cajun in Santa Ana

things to do in orange county
In a little strip mall a few blocks away lies a mysterious place, unimportant from the outside but full of delicious flavor and excitement inside.  When I first walked into Ritter’s Steam Kettle I was blown away.  I expected a fast-casual, counter service, unassuming place.  What I found was a cute family restaurant full of steam kettles lining the brick walls.  Although nothing fancy or overwhelming, Ritter’s brings a sense of character and style I just wouldn’t expect in Santa Ana.  And the food was just as pleasant.

The Secret to Din Tai Fung

So if you haven’t heard of the place yet, you should probably dig yourself out of the hole you have surrounded yourself in.  Din Tai Fung has been in America for a while, but it originated from Taiwan (ya know that non-Chinese Chinese place).  The specialty here is Shanghai dumplings (ironic right?), which are small, soup dumplings usually filled with pork.
dumplings
Xiao Long Bao

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Finally Found my Heaven!

Pad See Ew (my fave Thai dish)
Madee Thai is a VERY small hole in the wall Thai restaurant on 17th street, tucked between a beauty supply store and a brick wall (literally).  For those that are scared off by hole-in-the-wall places, please don’t come here.  Because then it won’t be crowded when I show up.  This is one of the best Thai restaurants I have had in Southern California (yes the entire location), and I am afraid of spreading the word.  However, it’s too good not to share.

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San Francisco Must Haves!

stuffed french toast from Zazie

So my number one must eat when I visit San Francisco is San Tung.  It is by far my favorite Chinese food in the Bay Area and quite possibly my life.  The original dry fried chicken is the best thing on the menu.  Once you try it, you will crave it FOR-EV-ER. The dumplings are a big hit and any type of noodles.  This place is a little unique because it is a Korean-Chinese family cooking Chinese food so things are a bit different (and spicy), but they still serve beef and broccoli for us white people.

san tung
string beans, “crack” chicken and veggie low mein

As you know, I like brunch.  Like a lot.  So when we needed a spot to have our family reunion in SF we quickly chose Zazie.  As all brunch spots in SF, Zazie is ALWAYS crowded.  However, unlike other spots, it has an outdoor patio that is really cute and comfy and not super loud.  The best part is the food though.  First order yourself a custom mimosa (yes custom – you can add sherbet into it), then find five friends to help you share as many items on the brunch menu as possible.  I highly recommend the stuffed french toast (and this is coming from a girl who doesn’t eat french toast EVER).  If that’s still not your thing get one of the many types of benedicts available.  Tip: the front tables are first come first serve!

Zazie

There are so many other spots that I personally love in SF: Brenda’s in the Tenderloin, Guerras out in Sunset, Nick’s Tacos in Russian Hill, and Suppenkuch in Hayes Valley are just a few of them…can’t wait for my next visit!

Reverse Happy Hour is the ISH!

As we know, I have a big thing for sushi – HUGE.  So when my friends mentioned reverse happy hour and on a weekend nonetheless, I ran to Tomikawa as fast as my feet could get me there.
crunchy salmon roll with spicy tuna

 The fish here is very fresh, and they have fun rolls that fit every one’s choices.  Downside is that there is no sake/beer special, but this is a family place.  Don’t expect to do sake bombs here – it’s a classy joint.  And reverse happy hour doesn’t start until 8:30.

Alaskan Roll – skip this
The best rolls we had were the Rose Roll, the Lion King Roll, the Spicy Tuna Tempura Roll, and definitely get the garlic chili edamame to start.  Add a large Kirin, a great group of friends and possibly an uber (in case there’s more than one Kirin in your night), and you could possibly have the best night that Irvine allows.
Spicy Tuna Tempura Roll

4/5 for great sushi with a little bit of an uptight atmosphere.  But let’s remember its still reverse happy hour 8:30-close!

Gulfstream…heaven in my mouth.

I am a huge fan of the Hillstone Restaurant Group and quite frequently eat at Houston’s, R+D Kitchen and Bandera.  So when I was asked to choose a place for my birthday dinner, it wasn’t hard to pick Gulfstream – their “fish restaurant.”  I am so glad I did because I now dream about this meal…

Halibut and slaw: seems minimal, but mashed potatoes are hiding under the fish

The service alone is why you should go to Gulfstream.  I love restaurants where every server is your waiter, and you can get your water filled the second you put it down.  We were never left waiting, all our questions were answered and the food didn’t sit in the back waiting for someone to bring it out.

the most amazing shrimp almost creole sauce that goes on the halibut

We started with the biscuits – only two because it’s a marathon not a race.  HOLY HELL they were good.  Now other restaurants in this group serve jalapeno cornbread which is awesome in and of itself, but these biscuits, wow.  Obviously they were warm and flaky and they have honey on the table or a huge side of butter for fattening up the meal, but they were also herby and not greasy at all.  I ordered the halibut because the waitress said it was her favorite dish at the restaurant, and I HAD to eat seafood here.  My boyfriend, Phil got the fall off the bone goodness that are the ribs.  Both of us stuffed our face.  Needless to say, I licked my plate clean and was so satisfied.  We didn’t have any of the desserts because honestly they didn’t sound that appealing or mind-blowing (and because Sprinkles is next door and I had eaten cupcakes all day – what it’s my birthday!)

ribs, fries, slaw: find ONE thing you don’t love about this meal
4.8/5 food was excellent, service was amazing, hard to not feel out of place with all the older Corona Del Mar people eating around you and for that I ding it slightly.