by Bob Deragisch
Since this is the first NewsNet issue since December, I want to start by saying "Happy New Year" to all COE members and NewsNet readers. I hope your 2014 has started off well, and you are already registered for our conference in April. However, just in case you still cannot decide upon attending, I thought I would review a couple of topics "near and dear" to myself and many COE members in this issue. Namely - places to eat and micro-breweries in Orange County.
You are coming to my back yard, so I will not bore you with the dozens of 'chain' restaurants available in Anaheim and throughout Orange County; instead, I will give you some ideas on unique eateries, from almost 'picnic fare' to 'formal' that are available in the area.
To start, there is probably no more unique experience than "The Playground dtsa" near (relatively) the conference in East Santa Ana. The opposite of the old "Burger King" commercial - you don't get it your way, you get it the way the Playground wants to deliver it, but they do an AWESOME job of providing great food at very reasonable prices. (The owner started out running one of the best food trucks in Orange County, and then competed on "The Great Food Truck Race" in 2011). They want to provide "the perfect burger", and I think they hit the mark. AND, they also feature the 'best of the best' craft brews on tap every week. (Several of the breweries listed below are regularly represented at The Playground).
In addition to the Playground, there are only about a dozen other restaurants I would recommend that are 'relatively close' to the Hilton Hotel and Towers, host site for our conference. For those of you that are in Anaheim longer than the 3.5 days of the conference (presuming you arrive on Sunday), the Hobbit (reservations ONLY) is a one-of-a-kind restaurant offering a 'seven course, prix-fixe' menu (think $$$$) on Wednesday through Sunday evenings only. Reservations are available at 7:00 PM only, and the meal is served over '3 acts' throughout the hundred year old Spanish architecture building (from the wine cellar to the garden). It is a great experience for those of you with time and money - once in a lifetime, at least. (I have only been there twice).
If I write up the details about all of the unique eateries close by, this issue of NewsNet will be the longest in history. So, let me summarize other 'mostly one of a kind' (a couple places have more than one location now) restaurants that you should visit if you get the chance. Keep in mind that I like burgers and beer, so many of these other locations will serve one or both of these items as a significant part of the menu:
One of my favorites is Haven Gastropub in Orange (I'll even eat their brussels sprouts, and I hate brussels sprouts). I think it is called 'new American', but it is ALL good. Shabu Shabu bar in Santa Ana (yes, you cook your own food, but that is part of the experience, and the food is FRESH), The Ranch in Anaheim, Crave in Santa Ana (organic, local meat and produce, vegan, vegetarian, gluten free - whatever your need, at great prices), Old Towne Diner in Orange, (not too far from Haven), Orange Hill in Orange (go at sunset for the best views in Orange County), Summit House in Fullerton (the second best views in Orange County), either of the two Ye Olde Ship locations (Santa Ana or Fullerton), and Original Mike's in Santa Ana (Mike is an old family friend - I have literally known him my entire life!) round out my tope dozen,
If you like Italian, or crave calamari, the best IN THE WORLD (in my humble opinion) is at Baci di Firenze Trattoria, in a strip mall in Anaheim Hills (far from the conference, however). But if you like burgers, and you like bacon - you can't go wrong with any of the Orange County locations of Slater's 50/50 (as seen on Bacon Paradise on the Travel Channel) - Anaheim Hills, Huntington Beach, and Lake Forest. Trust me - carnivores will LOVE Slater's. And beer drinkers will too. Besides, where else can you get a burger made with patties that are 50% bacon, a bacon milk shake, and bacon infused brownies for dessert?
On the other part of my promise - there are several micro-breweries in Orange County, most of which have tasting rooms open daily for your convenience, or are part of a restaurant (or vice versa).
My favorite, not too far from the conference, is Noble Ale Works - my favorite because it is walking distance to Angels Stadium and Honda Center (where the Ducks play), and because it was opened by friends of mine several years ago. And Evan Price is the Head Brewer; he knows his stuff, and produces some interesting ales. (Evan collaborated with the folks at the Bruery to produce "Everything but the Stick" - an orange 50/50 bar as an ale. Definitely a 'dessert ale'! As I said, some of what he produces is interesting). You may have seen Noble on the television show BeerGeeks in 2013. In addition to Noble, you can also visit Valiant Brewing, Old Orange Brewing (both in Orange), the world famous Bruery in Placentia, Taps Fish House and
Brewery (great seafood too) in Brea, Karl Strauss in Costa Mesa (or consume it at Disney's California Adventure), Bootlegger's in Fullerton, Huntington Beach Beer Company (in Huntington Beach, of course), Newport Beach Brewing Company (Newport Beach), Ocean Avenue Brewing (Laguna Beach), Pizza Port (San Clemente - a ways from Anaheim, but worth it), Oggi's Pizza & Brewing (Orange, Garden Grove, San Clemente), Left Coast Brewing (San Clemente - see a pattern there- three in a row in San Clemente), Tustin Brewing (Tustin), BJ's Restaurant and Brewery (Brea, Laguna Hills), Stadium Brewing (Aliso Viejo), Back Street Brewery (Irvine), Bayhawk Ales (Irvine), Cismontane Brewing Company (Rancho Santa Margarita) and JT Schmid's (Anaheim, across the street from Honda Center).
Or... to experience one of the largest collections of craft, micro, Belgian, and European brews in the United States, visit Hollingshead's Delicatessen at 368 South Main Street in Orange (about 3 miles from the conference). They carry something from just about every one of these other Orange County brewers, with 22 brews on tap plus about 500 (yes, 500) other types of beer available in bottles throughout the store. They have a small sandwich counter if you really need to eat.
Speaking of Honda Center and Angels Stadium - I'll talk about NHL and MLB opportunities in my next issue. See you in April!