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Monday, March 31, 2008

Tommy's Burgers Lake Forest

24310 Swartz Drive
Lake Forest, CA 92630

Good news! The Tommy's Burgers in Lake Forest is now open! No longer will us "South Countians" have to drive up to Fountain Valley to get a Tommy's burger. I headed over to the new location last Friday for lunch. It was packed! Even though it was crowded, the line still moved very quickly. They also prepared the food in a flash! There were tons of people there, but I think I still got out of the restaurant with my food in less than 5 minutes.

For those of you not familiar with Tommy's, most of their food items, including their burgers, hot dogs, tamales and even breakfast sandwiches all automatically come with Tommy's famous chili, mustard, pickles, tomatoes and onions. You can ask them to leave any of these items off if you prefer.

I ordered a cheeseburger and chili cheese fries ($5.05 together), a chili tamale ($2.90), and a chocolate shake ($2.00). I ordered my items without tomato. They were all fantastic. I only wish I had a bigger stomach so I could have actually eaten all the food. I know I ordered too much, but I couldn't help it. I was excited!


(Tamale....yes, there's a shredded beef tamale under there)

(Chili Cheese Fries)

Tommy's Original Hamburgers on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Memphis at the Santora - Santa Ana

Memphis at the Santora
201 N. Broadway
Artists Village
Santa Ana, CA 92701

Their hours are a little weird, so check the website to make sure they're open when you want to go.

Memphis at the Santora is located in the Artist's Village in Santa Ana. For those of you unfamiliar with the Artist's Village, it is a small oasis of galleries and trendy restaurants in the middle of so nice area. Don't feel too intimidated to go here though. There is a secure parking garage nearby and the block that you have to walk from the parking garage to the Santora building in the Artist's Village isn't too bad. Santa Ana seems to be making an effort to make this part of Santa Ana look better, so I anticipate this area will still get a little nicer over time.

I visited Memphis on a Thursday evening around 6:00 PM. Since they have a happy hour that runs Wednesday-Friday from 3:30 PM-6:30 PM, they brought us a special menu that had delicious looking specialty cocktails for only $5.00 and lots of different food items for only $4.00.

While we were perusing the menu, my wife decided to order one of the cocktail specials. She went with the Capputini. It was made with Stoli Vanilla vodka, espresso and Irish Cream. She really enjoyed it and said that is was well worth the $5.00.

Since the happy hour specials looked too good to pass up, we decided to make a dinner out of them. With the exception of a cup of soup, and a half rack of ribs that R ordered, everything else came from the happy hour menu. Here is what our order looked like.

(Cup of Tomato Soup $4.00)

(Half Rack of Ribs $13.00)

(Zuni Frybread with Pepper Jack Cheese, Corn Salsa and Chicken on half $4.00)

(Mini Meatloaf Sandwich $4.00)

(Crab Cakes $4.00)

(2 Goat Cheese and Beet Salads $4.00 each)

(Buttermilk Fried Chicken Wings $4.00)

(Cornbread-Free With Meal)

Even though most of the stuff here was pretty good, my favorite part of the meal was the free cornbread. It had the perfect flavor for cornbread with just the right amount of sweetness. My only complaint about the cornbread was how soft it was. If you attempted to do anything with it, like spread butter on it or even pick it up quickly, it disintegrated into a million little pieces in your hand.

Other than the cornbread, the only things I ate were the tomato soup and the crab cakes. I wasn't feeling that hungry. The tomato soup wasn't bad, it just tasted odd to me. I usually love tomato soup, but this one just had an odd flavor that I couldn't put my finger on. The crab cakes were just average. They were nothing special. The consistency of the interior of the crab cakes reminded me of canned tuna. They were nice and crispy on the outside though.

The beet salads seemed to be a big hit. They were served with warm balls of goat cheese that were rolled in finely minced pecans. The Zuni Frybread was described by those who ate it as a sauceless pizza supreme. The chicken wings were described by J as burned pieces of nothing. She was surprised how chicken wings could taste like nothing, not even chicken. I don't remember hearing any comments on the meatloaf sandwich, but this place is supposed to be known for their meatloaf.

R said that his ribs were a little dry and "less meat than you'd expect to get from Outback ribs." J said that they had a strong smoky flavor.

Despite what might sound like a lot of complaints about the food, I believe it was generally good. I enjoyed eating at Memphis and I do plan to return again. Maybe I'll check out their Sunday brunch sometime soon.

Memphis at the Santora on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tacos & Co Taco Eating Contest in Irvine!

18092 Culver Drive
Irvine, CA

I just got an email from the Tacos & Co. PR Department. They are having a taco eating contest for college students on Monday April 7th, 2008. Register now because space is limited. Don't forget to tell them that you saw this on GriffinEatsOC.Com! Below are the details of the event:

Calling all college students! Your hearty appetite can earn you or your organization a break from cafeteria food!

Tacos & Co., the Orange County eateries known for fresh and authentic Mexican favorites challenges you to stuff your face with all the tacos that you can eat.

On Monday, April 7, 2008 at 7:00 pm, Tacos & Co. will host a Taco Eating Contest at its Irvine restaurant. The first place winner or their organization will receive a Tacos & Co. $100 gift certificate while the second place winner will receive one for $50. However, Tacos & Co.’s tasty and delicious tacos are enough to make every participant feel like a winner.

Don’t forget to take advantage of Tacos & Co.’s phenomenal 50% off all food deal for students who attend area colleges every Tuesday and Thursday (with valid student ID).

To register for the April 7th Taco Eating Contest at Tacos & Co. at Irvine , please contact Tacos & Co. Irvine is located at 18092 Culver Drive (Culver & Michelson). Space is limited, so enter NOW!




Thursday, March 20, 2008

Masala Bowl - Tustin

Masala Bowl® - Tustin
14311 Newport Ave.,
Tustin, CA 92780
Ph: (714) 505 BOWL

Additional Locations:

Masala Bowl® - Irvine
6628 Irvine Center Dr.
Irvine, CA 92618
Ph: (949) 453 0088

Masala Bowl® - Brea
600 S. Brea Blvd.
Brea, CA 92821
Ph: (714) 529 BOWL

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER!! I have now visited the Irvine location of Masala Bowl for the first time. The prices at this location are about 50% higher than the Tustin location. You also get less food and it doesn't taste as good. Their naan was overbaked to the point that it was like a cracker. Avoid this location! I will only go to the Tustin location from now on!

Masala Bowl is one of the few fast food Indian places in Orange County. I also believe it is one of the best. Masala bowl makes fresh fast Indian food at an incredibly affordable price.

I visited Masala Bowl in Tustin a few nights ago with my standard party of four. This was not a first for any of us. All of us actually eat at Masala Bowl quite often and we all love the food there.

At Masala Bowl you order at the counter and they will either bring the food to your table or package it up to go. The Tustin location is very small with only three or four tables. I heard that the Irvine location is bigger, but I haven't been to that location. For the main meals on the menu, you choose your main ingredient and then you choose your style of cooking. Main ingredients include vegetable, potatoes, paneer (Indian cheese), chicken, lamb and shrimp. They have 7 different signature curry flavors ranging from mild to spicy.

I decided to order the Chicken Tikka Masala ($5.99). This was my first time trying this dish here, I usually get the Andhra Masala. I asked them to make my Tikka Masala extra spicy. My wife got the Paneer Andhra Masala ($5.99), Isabel got the Potato Andhra Masala ($5.99) and Tim decided to get the Chicken Tikka Masala as well. Tim decided to be a pansy though and just ordered his food "medium spicy."

Since we were using another gift certificate and needed to order more food to meet the minimum, we decided to feast like kings. We ordered three orders of Samosa Bites ($0.99 each), an order of Raita ($0.99) and six orders of Naan ($1.49 each).

After we placed our order, we moseyed on over to their "salsa bar." Yes, I know that "salsa" is Mexican, but I don't know what else to call it. Condiment bar maybe.... Anyway... They have various sauces, onion, cilantro (I think) and lemons. I don't really know all the sauces are called. We all seemed to like the green sauce though. It's spicy and I think it tastes like there is cilantro in it.

We sat down at the table and waited for our feast to be prepared. Since everything at Masala Bowl is made fresh and to order, not scooped out of a chafing dish, it takes a little while to prepare. After about ten minutes our food was ready.

The Samosa Bites were four little fried triangles of yumminess per order. They are stuffed with a slightly spicy mixture of potato and seasonings. The Raita, a yogurt made with spices, onion and cucumber was also very good. It's good for cooling down your mouth if you've eaten too much spicy food.

Our Naan was served fresh and hot. Even though Naan is a basic really plain flatbread, it always seems to be our favorite part of the meal.

I tried my Chicken Tikka Masala. Chicken Tikka Masala is chicken in a creamy tomato based sauce seasoned with Indian herbs and spices. Since Tikka Masala is not usually a spicy dish, I ordered mine extra spicy, but sadly it was still not that spicy. The tomato flavor was the dominant flavor in this dish to the point that I think it was underseasoned. It kinda just tasted like chicken in tomato soup. I should have stuck with the Andhra Masala that I usually get here. The meals here are served with basmati rice and salad. The salad here is really good. It's kind of like an Indian coleslaw that is slightly spicy.

My wife and Isabel, as always, really enjoyed their Andhra Masala. Andhra Masala is Masala Bowl's spiciest dish. It's made with hot chiles and Indian herbs and spices. It's full of flavor and usually spicy enough to make you sweat a little.

I really enjoy eating at Masala Bowl and I hope they continue to expand. The food here is fantastic for the price and it makes it so much easier to get Indian food on a whim.

Masala Bowl Indian Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tommy's Burgers - Olamendis Lake Forest Coming Soon!!!


The "Big 5" center, as I call it, once housed both a strip joint and a burger place that made a burger so big it had to be served to you in a cake box. These are sadly both gone. However, this center will now be the home to South Orange County's first Tommy's Burgers. So this is better, right? The address for the new Tommy's Burgers will be 24310 Swartz Dr, Lake Forest, CA 92630.

There will also be an Olamendis Mexican Food opening in this center soon. I can't wait for either! I drive by every week to watch the progress on both restaurants. I'll keep you updated when I hear of an opening date!

(Photo not taken by me. Photo is a sign of their current location)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Carousel Bakery aka Carrusel Panaderia y Pasteleria

1509 E La Palma Ave
Anaheim, CA
(714) 778-2051

In Mexico they have a treat called a "Raspado." When this was first described to me, I was told that it was like Mexican ice cream. I later came to find out that it is less like ice cream and more like a snow cone. The main difference between a Mexican raspado and a snow cone are the toppings. Snow Cones in the U.S. tradtionally come with super sweet, syrupy, artificially flavored liquid poured over the top of shaved ice. These are good....until you have a raspado. Raspado toppings are made with much better ingredients like fresh fruit and milk. The result is a decadent shaved ice that is just as cheap as the syrupy goop you grew up with.

My favorite raspado combination is Vanilla, "Nuez" (Nuts, I think it's almond and pecan) and "Coco" (Coconut). A medium set me back $2.50. Other available flavors include strawberry, guava, peach, plum, bubble gum, tamarind, pineapple, mango and more.

(My coconut, vanilla, nut raspado)

(Jugs of freshly made raspado toppings)

Carousel also makes fresh cakes and Mexican sweet bread or "Pan Dulce." These delicious treats are beaked fresh daily and are so cheap that you could easily buy a dozen for the same price as a cupcake at a fancy bakery like "Sprinkles."

The pan dulce here is very good, but the thing I drive 20 miles to get here for is their raspados. Carousel bakery has the best raspados in Orange County. I've taken a few people from Mexico there and they tell me that the raspados here are as good as you can get in Mexico and definitely better than anything else you'll find in OC, even Santa Ana.

Carousel Bakery on Urbanspoon

Wan Fu China Bistro - Rancho Santa Margarita

30642 Santa Margarita Parkway #E105
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688
(Across from City Hall)

I was down in Rancho Santa Margarita the other day running an errand during lunch time. After my errand I drove around RSM looking for a place to eat. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a sign that read, "Wan Fu China Bistro - Lunch for $4.95." I slammed on my brakes, spun my wheel to the right and pulled into a waiting space right in front of the restaurant. Then I noticed that it was 20 minute parking. I decided to leave my car there anyway because a $4.95 Chinese lunch can't really take that long, right?

My buddy and I walked through the front door of the restaurant. The decor in front is a little tacky, with things like a cheap toy parrot hanging over a small koi pond. The restaurant was only about 25% full so we were greeted and seated right away. The dining area of the restaurant looked much nicer than the entrance. A waterfall over a glass pane with their name on it added a nice element to the room.

I looked over the menu and saw that lunches here range from $4.95-$5.95. There were plenty of items at the $4.95 price. The lunches here include house salad, soup, a cream cheese wonton, an egg roll and your choice of white or fried rice. Since it was so cheap, and it also happened to be payday, I decided to be bad and order myself two lunches. Yes, I know I'm supposed to try and lose weight, but come on! It's only $4.95!

After careful consideration, I decided to get the Sweet and Sour Pork ($4.95) and the Szechuan Beef ($4.95). I asked for the Szechuan Beef "extra spicy." The person I was eating with decided to get Shrimp Lo Mein ($5.95). They offer the choice of either hot and sour or egg flower soup. I chose hot and sour. They told me that since I ordered two lunches, they would just bring me one large bowl instead of two small ones. I felt like such a fatty...

We started to munch on the bowl of fried noodles that was on the table already when we were seated. I started to wonder if they kept these bowls on the table all day and just refilled them when they were getting low. I looked around the restaurant. Some of the empty tables had noodles bowls on them and some didn't. I was wondering how many people's hands had been in this bowl before mine.... Before I could come to a decision, our soup arrived. The hot and sour soup was not the best I have ever had, but it was pretty damn good. Bold flavors most notably black pepper, made this soup a good decision. My only complaint was that it could have had a little stronger "sour" flavor.

After a few minutes, our entrees arrived, fresh and piping hot. I was happy to see that the portion size looked reasonable for the low price. The salad was your standard iceberg with a too strong ginger dressing. The cream cheese wonton was pretty good and the cabbage egg roll was strangely delicious. I also received two fried vegetables on each plate. One was a piece of broccoli and the other seemed to be a slice of potato. They were ok. Next I took a bite of the fried rice. If someone blindfolded me and fed me this fried rice, I would swear I was eating plain steamed rice. How do they do that? The rice is colored, so I know they must have at least put some soy sauce in. How do they take the flavor out?

Now on to the entrees. I took a bite of Sweet and Sour pork. It was fantastic. Now I'm not saying that it was gourmet, but compared to the sweet and sour pork that you'd get at a fast food Chinese place for $4.95, this was really good. The pork was fried and crispy and the sauce was just right. I would definitely order this again.

I moved on to the Szechuan Beef "extra spicy." This dish was bland, disappointing and not spicy at all. Limp pieces of beef were covered in a tasteless brown sauce and tossed with cooked carrots and celery. Blech. I didn't like this at all.

My dining companion seemed to enjoy his Shrimp Lo Mein. He said it tasted pretty good and would definitely order it again. I thought the Lo Mein portion looked a little small, considering that it's just noodles and it's $1 more than their other items. I understand that shrimp is more expensive, but I think they could have thrown some more noodles in there.

All in all the food was pretty good. If I return to Wan Fu, I will definitely order the Sweet and Sour pork again but avoid the Szechuan beef. We paid for our meal and I looked at my watch. It had taken a little over 20 minutes (probably closer to 30) but luckily there was no ticket on my car.

Wan Fu - RSM on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 14, 2008

Watson's Drug and Soda Fountain - Orange

116 E Chapman
Orange, CA 92866
Phone 714-633-1050
Fax 714-532-6531

I had a gift certificate for Watson's lying around, so I decided to go there for dinner last night. We arrived as a party of four around 6:30 on a Thursday night. There were plenty of people eating at Watson's, but there were also many open tables both inside and outside. Watson's is decorated in the style of an old time soda shop. It's actually been used as a set for many movies, including "That Thing You Do."

We found a nice large both inside next to the counter so we could watch some of the action. Two cooks were behind the counter whipping up dinners as fast as they could and there was a girl making the milkshakes and all the ice cream desserts. They were offering all you can eat spaghetti, as they do every Thursday night, but we could not order it since we were planning on using our gift certificate. They offer a different all you can eat special every night, but to keep their prices low they don't allow you to use any coupons or promotions when ordering them.

Watson's serves most of their breakfast items all day. They also have a section for both cold and hot sandwiches. They have a dinner menu as well, but it's pretty small. After looking over the menu, I finally decided to order the hot open-faced roast beef sandwich ($7.95) and a coffee malt ($4.95). My wife decided to go the breakfast route and ordered blueberry pancakes sans whipped cream ($7.50) and a side of homestyle fries ($1.50). the other couple we were with, "R" and "J" ordered the pork chop dinner ($10.95) and the hot open-faced turkey sandwich ($7.95).

J's dinner came with a salad and it appeared almost immediately. As she started to eat it though, she said "Ew, they just gave me all the yucky parts of the lettuce." The ice cream girl stopped by a few seconds later and asked "Who ordered the chocolate malt?" I told her that I had ordered a coffee malt. She apologized and went back to make the correct drink. Before she could return, our food arrived. I couldn't believe how fast the food was prepared.

My hot open-faced roast beef sandwich was basically a slice of white bread, covered in thinly sliced roast beef and gravy. It was served with mashed potatoes (most likely from a box) and previously frozen green beans that were sauteed with onion and bacon. The food was actually quite good as far as diner food goes. It was exactly as I expected it to be and I wasn't disappointed with it at all. Of course it wasn't gourmet, but that's not what you come to Watson's for.

My wife saw her blueberry pancakes and was afraid that all of the blueberry topping that was piled on would cause the pancakes to be too sweet. She was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't too sweet at all. In fact, she even poured some maple syrup over her pancakes. She thought they were average and a little too dense and heavy so she could only eat one of them. She felt the potatoes were on the bland side so she added a lot of salt, but at least liked that they were crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.

R seemed to enjoy his hot open-faced turkey sandwich. It was served with the same sides as my sandwich but also came with a little side of cranberry sauce.

J also seemed to like her pork chops. She said that they were nice and moist. She was afraid that they would be dry, like many pork chops are, but was happy to report that they were juicy and delicious.

I drank most of my coffee malt, but since they give you such a large portion here, I couldn't finish it all. Everyone took turns tasting some from the tin and seemed to think it was just as good as I thought it was. Watson's is definitely a fun place to go for a simple meal if you're in the area or have a coupon like we did. The staff were all very friendly and the service was lightning fast.

Watson Drug Store and Soda Fountain on Urbanspoon