10 Essential Santa Ana Restaurants

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Edwin Goei
SanTana is home to OC's densest and greatest mix of Mexican cuisine and some of the most cutting-edge of OC's restaurants. It's also here that you'll find one of the most authentic bowls of mi nam vang in the county. Here is a list of this food writer's essential Santa Ana restaurants, some of which aren't actual restaurants. Don't see your favorite on there? Share them in the comments.

1. Alebrije's Grill

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Photo by the Elmo Monster...

Long before food trucking got all tied up with Twitter and Facebook, before it became fashionable, old-school food trucks such as Alebrije's Grill scratched out a living, going from to industrial park to industrial park, filling a simple but noble demand: to feed those who only have a precious 30 minutes for lunch. But even as it serviced these day toilers, it was called every name in the book, the tamest of them being "roach coach." You must wonder what it thinks of Kogi and the rest of its new-school kin. Alebrije's must regard the whole thing as silly. For one, Alebrije's doesn't even drive around, trying to find customers. Parked from morning to night at a secured spot in front of a Mexican grocery store, it might as well be a permanent part of the landscape. Discerning connoisseurs of chilango cuisine (that's Mexico City food) will find the tacos acorazados revelatory. This drop-everything amalgamation of Spanish rice, a hand-pressed rustic tortilla, grilled cactus, carrots, pickles and crumbled cheese all herald sliced rectangles of the greatest chicken-fried steak this continent has ever seen. It's called the milanesa, and it needs no Twitter.

2. Chapter One: The Modern Local

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Photo by Christina Bryson

Former Haven Gastropub partner Jeff Hall throws down the gauntlet with Chapter One, a challenge to not only his former colleagues, but also his neighbors at Santa Ana's burgeoning restaurant scene. The bar pours old-man drinks with equal jiggers of expertise and knowledge of the mixological arts. It's also up-to-date on the local beers. The original chef, a culinary raconteur in a city full of them, brought humor and lightness to dishes that were as fun to eat as they were to order. Now a new chef nicknamed "Chicken Wang" continues what he started. He's put a Filipino accent to things, too, like the sisig fries--pork jowl, pig ears and pulled pork on crisp fried potatoes, with pickled red onions and a fried egg.


Location Info

Map

Alebrijes Grill

E. Cubbon St & S Main St., Santa Ana, CA

Category: Restaurant

Chapter One: the modern local

227 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, CA

Category: Restaurant

The Crosby - CLOSED

400 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, CA

Category: Music

Memphis At The Santora - CLOSED

201 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, CA

Category: Restaurant

Mil Jugos

320 W. Fifth St., Santa Ana, CA

Category: Restaurant

The Playground

220 E. 4th St., Santa Ana, CA

Category: Music

Ritter's Steam Kettle Cooking

1421 W. MacArthur Blvd., Santa Ana, CA

Category: Restaurant

Siam Taste of Asia

3520 W. First St., Santa Ana, CA

Category: Restaurant

Shabu Shabu Bar

1945 E. 17th St., Santa Ana, CA

Category: Restaurant

Trieu Chau

4401 W. First St., Santa Ana, CA

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help
38 comments
BenDayhoe
BenDayhoe

All fantastic spots! The great thing about Santa Ana is that this list could go waaaay past just 10 restaurants :)

NoEastEnd
NoEastEnd

Thank you for highlighting restaurants that are not part of the soulless and tasteless spots crowding the faux east end. The drive to remake downtown Sana Ana into another brave new urbanist's vision is disturbing and riding this city of authenic food.

,,,,,,

NoEastEnd
NoEastEnd

Thank you for highlighting restaurants that are not part of the soulless and tasteless spots crowding the faux east end. The drive to remake downtown Sana Ana into another brave new urbanist's vision is disturbing and riding this city of authenic food.

Cesar Jaime
Cesar Jaime

I insist...the weeklys food writers"bloggers" NEED to be working in the food industry, also they gotta stop being so damb biased and stop crawling on the nuts of certain restaurants.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

East End Downtown Santa Ana will have a shabu shabu in 2014!

Antonio Venegas
Antonio Venegas

Shabu Shabu is bomb! Got to go back. On hipster Spots…. #BLEH I still don't know what the whole hipster look is about, but that also get's a double #BLEH

John Hald
John Hald

If its not about tacos I dont care

OC Weekly
OC Weekly

Owners are nice; food is so-so.

Larry Rivas
Larry Rivas

Vik Ta Mon Juan Palacios The taco truck I took you guys to is 1st on the list. :D

Sharon Maraj
Sharon Maraj

Hudson Warren Check out the second one on the list. :)

Keba Parker
Keba Parker

Mil jugos is amazing and non hipster. Love that place

OC Weekly
OC Weekly

Alebrije's is hipster? Tell that to all the chilangos who are there from morning to night.

Cesar Jaime
Cesar Jaime

Seriously...the weekly need to appoint someone else to write about food...someone who actualy works with food not some random yelp influenced prick...there are waaay better restaurants in santa ana...the only honorable mention is siam, the rest are just pretentious hipster spots with shitty food.

Johnny Payola
Johnny Payola

What's so cutting edge about tator tots? lol

Kit Hope
Kit Hope

What? No Fantastic Cafe?

Moses V. Arebalo
Moses V. Arebalo

Overly Expensive Snooty Hipster Restaurants, ....get out of my Home Town!!!

quepaso
quepaso

This pendejo!This list is a fucken slap in the face to all the restaurants in Santa Ana that have been here for decades.What about the tortas at Gallo Giro?Carne Asada at Mil Jugos?What about the hundreds of hole in the wall joints here with much better and cheaper carne asada and jugos naturales (Jugos Acapulco)?How much did these restaurants pay you? No seas Wey!!!You should get out of your hipster downtown Santa Ana comfort zone!

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

Someone sounds butthurt. Don't hate on the success of Downtown. It gets better every day! Micro brewery on 4th and Spurgeon has their sign up and will be up and running soon!

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

Shut you stupid tired mouth. Go back to your taco truck and stay out of the city.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

You know nothing.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

It isn't your city, it's everyone's city and guess what, Santa Ana was DEAD! Guess what, not anymore!

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

Another Santa Ana Unified idiot.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

Because those places suck.

holidaysin
holidaysin

@quepasoGallo Giro?  You're an idiot if you think a chain restaurant will be mentioned.  Why not say McDonalds while you're at it.

quepaso
quepaso

Gallo giro barely classifies as a chain and you want to compare to McD’s?Otro pendejo who probably has never been there!If you have you would know that their tortas and many others in SA are way better than any white washed torta at Crosby’s.Don’t get me wrong, the list is a good list but there are way better places to get a torta in Santa Ana or a decently priced jugo!Get the point, Pendejo?You hipster idiotas can stick with your overpriced crap!You’ll find us Mexicans at Jugos Acapulco where the good jugos naturales are at!  Alebrije's is not hipster and probably the only place on this list you'll find real Mexicans eating the food and cooking it.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

So then, go dine at the places you like. No love loss.

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