PART ONE: OC Weekly Best Of Readers Poll 2012: The Good, the Bad, and the WTF?

The best food photo we've EVER run!

Today is the release of our annual Best Of issue, our fantabulous guide to all things wonderful about this infernal land. For the purposes of ustedes, you only care about the food section, and you can peruse it here. But what's always interesting to us is the Readers Poll: will our faithful fans be better than those of the Orange County Register, or will we pull our hair out again because ustedes voted pinche Javier's as the county's best Mexican restaurant?

Following is what our readers picked, along with my commentary. And the survey says...
Best Waterfront Dining
Duke's Huntington Beach, 317 Pacific Coast Hwy. Huntington Beach, (714) 374-6446;

Gustavo comment: Am surprised Las Brisas or Beachcomber Cafe didn't win this one. Have nothing against Duke's.

Best Bagels
Bruegger's Bagels, various locations

Gustavo comment: Meh.

Best Diner
Harbor House Café, 16341 Pacific Coast Hwy., Sunset Beach (562) 592-5404; also at 34157 Pacific Coast Hwy., Dana Point, (949) 496-9270;

Gustavo comment: I think this wins every year, and while I understand the nostalgic factor, this should win for best 24-hour place, not for diner. Norm's is better--and Norm's serves high-end grease.

Best Chinese Restaurant

P.F. Chang's, various locations.

Gustavo comment: Do ustedes not dine in Irvine's Diamond Jamboree? And if you're going to go for Chinese-American, have you not been to Hot Wok in Fullerton? And if you're going to go for fast-food Chinese, have you not heard of Panda Express? Very disappointed in this choice.

Best Dessert
The Cheesecake Factory, various locations.

Gustavo comment: Sometimes, I wonder if our readers realize we're the OC Weekly and not the Orange County Register. WTF???

Best Burger
In-N-Out, various locations

Gustavo comment: Not my choice, but a fine choice nevertheless.

Best Ice Cream
Rite Aid Pharmacy, various locations

Gustavo comment: Surprising choice, but another one I won't argue with, although I wonder if our readers have tried neverías...

Best Italian Restaurant
Roman Cucina, 1773 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 645-5550; also at 16595 Pacific Coast Hwy., Sunset Beach, (562) 592-5552 and 211 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton (714) 680-6000;

Gustavo comment: I do like this mini-chain, and THANK GOD we didn't pick Olive Garden.

Best Sushi
Sushi on Fire, 301 Main St., #103, Huntington Beach, (714) 374-8885;

Gustavo comment: Really? It's actually not bad, but we've done nothing but highlight the non-chain sushi masters over the years in OC.

Best Japanese
Matsu, 18035 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 848-4404;

Gustavo comment: Given the previous category, are we really to believe that the best Japanese food in OC is in Surf City? Um, no.

Best New Restaurant
Slapfish,  19696 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 963-3900;

Gustavo comment: HEAR HEAR. Slapfish was honored twice in our picks--good job, readers!

Best Restaurant When Someone Else is Paying
Mastro's, various locations

Gustavo comment: I don't mind Mastro's but I'm surprised the choice wasn't Charlie Palmer's or another South Coast Plaza place.

Best Thai Restaurant
Royal Thai Cuisine, 4001 W. Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, (949) 645-8424;

Gustavo comment: Am surprised it's not a Huntington Beach spot, because our Surf City crew LOVES to ballot-stuff this poll. I haven't been in years, but it's a passable choice given that this place is still run by the extended family of Jet Tila.

Best Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurant
Native Foods Café, various locations

Gustavo comment: No surprise at all. Nothing further.
So far, not TOO disappointing save for Cheesecake Factory--WTF? Tomorrow: Part 2!

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My Voice Nation Help

Dear Gustavo... if it weren't for all the advertising money you get for your "Best of" issue you'd have to kill it out of embarrassment. Maybe all the OC Registers read the Weekly now that the LA Times is no longer a liberal rag. Best ice cream is Rite Aid? Seriously? How about Joe's Italian Ice, how about Hans, how about Stricklands? Jeez Gustavo... can you please put some riot-girl russians or Obama on the cover for a few weeks and drive these people away. 


WTF don't be so mad about the cheesecake thing, I consider it a good thing, not the choice, it's all about the readers.....

JBinOC topcommenter

Brueggers is truly the worth of the bagel chains...even Einstein Bros/Noah's is (just slightly) better.  Das Ubergeek, I think you agree with me on this. 


Readers, get thee to Bagelmania (Adams Avenue near Magnolia, HB). 

It was great when it opened, then (for some reason) lapsed a little...

but after a few recent visits, Bagelmania definitely has its groove back. 

They're not 100% authentic NY bagels, but they're as good as you can get here in La Naranja. 

JBinOC topcommenter

Native Foods was the right choice by a country mile for Best Vegan restaurant. 

Not sure if it's technically the Best Vegetarian, as I'm sure whoever is writing "Life on the Veg" these days is more in tune with the best herbivore-ish but non-vegan eatery in our fair orange acres. 


But if Vegetarian and Vegan got lumped in the same category, Native Foods is still a worthy "Best" choice for its consistently reliable and at times innovative fare. 

Btw, NF expanded in the past year to Fashion Island, joining its more established locations at The Camp (Costa Mesa), the District (Tustin) and somewhere in Aliso Viejo. 


Cheesecake Factory's cheesecake isn't even the best cheesecake. How could they mess that up?? I really dislike seeing chains on the "best of" list.


Better than I was expecting frankly.  Slowly some progress is being made.


Cheesecake Factory does a good job of serving average food but somehow hypnotizing people into thinking they are getting amazing food. There might be a hallucinogen they are pumping into their air.


 @JBinOC Seriously? (Well at least you put the lapsed part in) The everything bagel at Bagelmania is about the saddest "everything" I've ever seen. It's like someone threw the toppings at the bagel from a car driving 60 mph about half a block away. The everything bagel at Big City Bagel on Brookhurst and Talbert kills your breath for hours... that's a bagel, but seriously everyone knows that the best bagels are at Shirley's on 17th in CM. That's a real bagel. 

JBinOC topcommenter

*meant to say  Brueggers is truly the worst of the bagel chains. 

It's worth repeating, anyway


 @reviews2 I've never really had anything I would consider good at Cheesecake Factory. It is one of the most overrated restaurants in the entire US.

JBinOC topcommenter

 @lipitorkid You had me excited about Big City Bagel right up until you praised Shirley's at the end.  I think Shirley's bagels are horrible, akin to Lender's frozen bagels in taste.  I think Shirley's has a lot of sentimental value for old-time OCers, but others have easily surpassed her below-average quality.


And you shouldn't be ordering an everything bagel, either.  Stick to the classics like plain, sesame, poppy, onion, salt, etc.  Get a balboa bar if you want something coated in toppings.  Bagels are as sacred as communion wafers...well, OK, that wasn't the best way to put it, but you get what I mean.  

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