|Danny Godinez: El Rey|
For about the past three months, I've been telling anyone within earshot that we are truly living in blessed times, culinarily-wise, in Orange County. I've been reviewing restaurants for this infernal rag for a decade now, and never have I been more excited about the Orange County dining scene than today. Oh, our hole-in-the-wall scene was always there, but no young chef dared set up shop in Orange County outside of the MILF grounds--and there, they were stymied by the fact that coffin-dodgers and MILFs didn't care for experimentation. In other words, every new restaurant wanted to be like the Ritz (or whatever was going on at the Ritz-Carlton), and while that food has a time and place, it simply didn't interest me.
Fast-forward to the past couple of years, when an army of Young Turks (and even actual Turks!) have pushed cuisine to heights never before seen in Orange County. Sure, we're still behind our eternal big bully of a brother, Los Angeles, in many ways--as I said during a panel earlier this year with Jonathan Gold and Evan Kleiman, we always seem to be five years behind what they're doing--but we're catching up fast. In other words, we're the Mexicans to LA's uppity gabachos, so better watch out, City of PENDEJOS!
2012 was a great year for dining, but 2013 is going to be even better--and the great thing is that those in the business already feel it. And the kids who'll make my honorable mention list this time around--Taco Maria, Soho Taco, Golden Truffle, Mick's Karma Bar, Broadway by Amar Santana, the totality of the OC Mart Mix, anything involving Anaïs Tange--have big plans for the coming year which we'll detail mucho once we're allowed to talk.
But to pick a Top 5 for 2012? Easy for me--a mix of the old, new, and forthcoming.