10 Essential Fullerton Restaurants

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Eleonor Segura
From Leadbelly Barbecue in Fullerton!

There was a time in the eighties when Downtown Fullerton was a dead zone, when about the only thing noteworthy was the pawn shop at the corner of Harbor and Commonwealth, and what constituted a nightlife involved chirping crickets. But Fullerton is also a big and diverse city, a college town, and the spot where two now-ubiquitous chains were born. Here are 10 restaurants that make Fullerton great and an essential part of OC's food scene.

1. Burger Parlor

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Meranda Carter/OC Weekly

Ex-Bastide chef Joseph Mahon transforms the ordinary burger into something that isn't. The man clearly knows what to do with ground beef and a bun. These are the kind whose effects stay with you for days. You can tell they're good and greasy even before you touch them. The sweet, griddle-toasted buns are lacquered by that which spatters from his sizzling patties. Despite a long list of toppings, Mahon constructs all his burgers to fit snugly inside your grip and serves them on paper-lined pie tins with a thick pickle cut crosswise. His aren't the type to reach dizzying altitudes like those offered at the Counter. Mahon's restraint is his burger's virtue.

2. Kentro Greek Kitchen

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Kentro looks nothing like the typical Greek restaurant. There are no Hellenic-styled fonts or idyllic pictures of seaside Santorini. You'd swear you had stumbled into a newfangled yuppie gastropub or some sort of uppity wine bar. But then there's the small vestibule stocked with Greek goods and candy bars in this sit-yourself establishment, where the silverware is stored in tableside caddies and the tap water is offered in bottles. Orders are placed and paid for at the counter. There's an immense blackboard crammed with multisyllabic words you've no hope of pronouncing properly, such as melitzanosalata, a dip closely resembling baba ganoush that takes all that's good and sweet about an eggplant and concentrates it in a warm, garlic-intoned mush dribbled with extra virgin olive oil and a smattering of parsley. This is a restaurant that rewards those who go beyond the gyros, with a taramosalata that is one of the more advanced flavors offered. Made of carp roe, it's a fishy, overwhelming salt-lick of a paste you'll initially apply sparingly on bread, but then subsequently slather on everything as soon as you've warmed up to its charms. Full entrées include a char-flecked pork souvlaki with wild rice, a bigger plate featuring superlative lamb chops, a belly-stretching mousaka, a few vegetarian options, a steak, a roasted half-chicken, and two fish dishes. A simple pan-fried filet of sea bass is called psari tiganito and paired with an excellent roasted-corn side dish the Greeks dubbed kalamboki.

3. Kim Loan Restaurant

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Edwin Goei

There are few establishments that can defy trends, fickle tastes, and the passage of time. Kim Loan is one of those places. This Fullerton Vietnamese restaurant is the grizzled old bear in a tired asphalt parking lot once anchored by Alpha-Beta and Thrifty's. In the twenty years or so years of its existence, it has outlived them both, survived at least two fires, and stands proudly as one of the few Vietnamese joints to have succeeded outside of Little Saigon. The tables are worn, rubbed off by thousands of elbows, and the ceiling tiles are yellowed with age, but the owner's smile remains genuine even as his eyelids reveal more than just a hint of fatigue. But even as he commands an unseen kitchen crew and a familiar group of waiters, he will still manage to chat up one of his many Mexican customers in flawless Spanish, bark back orders in Vietnamese. This easy charm and accessibility translates to his food, which he offers at a low price and in ample portions. His meals are simple, honest, and aimed to please the proletariat, not the gourmand (who will rightly scoff that his pho is too sweet). Come around lunchtime, and you'll see guys in greasy overalls, women in pastel nurse uniforms, and an occasional office drone shoveling spoonfuls of rice and meat into their gullets. Try the thing they call Fried Salted Shrimp. First a saucer of squeezed lemon juice is brought out, sloshing its way up the shallow brim: a signal that the shrimp and all of its delectable deep-fried glory is about to arrive.

4. Leadbelly's Southern-Style Barbecue

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Eleonor Segura
From Leadbelly Barbecue in Fullerton!

The lighted sign just reads "Barbecue" because, well, what else do you need to know? Here, in this strip mall in a decidedly unhip part of Fullerton, you're not going bar-hopping at some trendy club; you're going for a tan under the sign that says "Tanning," a rubdown at the one that says "Massage" or, best yet, for no-frills-no-nonsense barbecue, here at Leadbelly's. You marvel that the modest, refrigerator-sized smoker pictured on the Facebook page is responsible for tri tips so pink, briskets so deep in flavor and sausages that melt like ice cream in your mouth. It's almost as surprising as the price you'll pay for a massive plate with all three: $15.95 as of this writing. Included are slices of bread you'll never touch, as well as a choice of two sides from a list of that boasts collard greens, creamed corn that slurps like chowder, candy-sweet baked beans, and a jalapeño macaroni and cheese that comes with not just crumbled breadcrumbs, but also crumbled bacon. Leadbelly's also offers burnt ends, those charred brisket trimmings that are one of the most coveted delicacies in the world of barbecue. Here, they're served steeped in an almost-too-salty sauce insulated with a thin layer of fat.

Location Info

Venue

Map

Kentro Greek Kitchen

100 S. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, CA

Category: Restaurant

Kim Loan Restaurant

1651 W. Orangethorpe Ave., Fullerton, CA

Category: Restaurant

Leadbelly’s Southern-Style Barbecue

711 N. Placentia Ave., Fullerton, CA

Category: Restaurant

Les Amis

128C W. Wilshire Ave., Fullerton, CA

Category: Restaurant

Pieology

516 N. State College Blvd., Fullerton, CA

Category: Restaurant

The Olde Ship British Pub & Restaurant

709 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, CA

Category: Music

The Pint House

136 W. Wilshire Ave., Fullerton, CA

Category: Music

Tranquil Tea Lounge

106 W. Wilshire Ave., Fullerton, CA

Category: Restaurant

Yogurtland

501 N. State College Blvd., Fullerton, CA

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help
41 comments
Chris Moran
Chris Moran

'Specially great if you want to eat that billy-club, whole, with a little Tazer™ on the side, a groin-kick garnish and an irresistibly crunchy dessert of your own teeth.

GrimJimCrowley
GrimJimCrowley

A few things:

1. Don't punish small business owners for the sins of the FPD. Keep shopping in Fullerton.

2. The chain locations mentioned are the flagship stores. That's what makes them significant. 

3. OK I wasn't that impressed with The Olde Ship, but interesting to see them on the list. 

Osvaldo Garcia
Osvaldo Garcia

Be careful cause a shady ass gang called the Fullerton Police deparment are out there beating people to death. And getting away with it.

Mylissa Graves
Mylissa Graves

it's also know for it's shitty police! BOYCOTT FULLERTON!

Liz Dandrea
Liz Dandrea

REALLY OC Weekly, are you just trying to piss off your readers....

Liz Dandrea
Liz Dandrea

take a chance in Fullerton, maybe you will make it home alive.

Gregory Soave
Gregory Soave

Mayumi Honda I think they deleted this and reposted it.

Xenia Galaviz
Xenia Galaviz

We will not be spending our money in Fullerton after today's verdict

Joey Rodriguez
Joey Rodriguez

Watch out for the Full-OF-Shit Police Department! They might kill you or your family members

Tuscanboy
Tuscanboy

Hard to imagine that Early Bird didn't make the list. Also I agree with other posters that Pizzeria Fuoco and Green Bliss are better choices  than Yogurtland or The Pint House (really?!). Layer Cake would be a good choice as well.

Steve Calderon
Steve Calderon

Be wise to stay clear of Fullerton California, just saying!

Whitney Weber
Whitney Weber

Fullerton is also the perfect place to be beaten to death!

Rick Hale
Rick Hale

Don't go to Fullerton. You can get beat to death by the police for no reason there.

Remy Merriex
Remy Merriex

Fullerton cops just got off scot free after beating someone to death in cold blood while he begged for his daddy to save him. Pretty sure that city is not going to be high on my tourism list.

Andrew Webster
Andrew Webster

Only bento the Olde Ship.....was pretty good ten years ago

TheRefriedMexican
TheRefriedMexican

Thank God El Camino didn't make it. That place and it's menudo are overrated. If you're a Fullertonian you have to squeeze George's Hamburgers in there somewhere.

Amy Lee
Amy Lee

Joanne Kim Jessica Wu

Carla Sanchez-Vinyard
Carla Sanchez-Vinyard

I went to high school with Ramos. Yuck!!! I still love Fullerton though, its my hometown.

Gary Hile
Gary Hile

Watch the Fullerton Police power trip in that city

Lucas Perea
Lucas Perea

Burger Parlor is probably the most overrated food place downtown.

Nicole Valles
Nicole Valles

I've only been out of Fullerton for 3 years and the only place that sounds familiar to me The Olde Ship!

leslieismyhoney
leslieismyhoney

I find that you chose The Pint House over Hopscotch somewhat baffling, as is putting in a chain yogurt store. Green Bliss would have made a lovely addition.

gottaknow247
gottaknow247

No Hero's? No Kimmie's?  No Big B's BBQ? No Rutebegorz?  Seriously, how can you discuss Fullerton institutions and leave out Ruta's?

Jeffrey Cruz
Jeffrey Cruz

Pretty good list but no twisted vine or fuoco?

reviews2
reviews2

I always have to point out that Yogurtland did not create the self-serve frozen yogurt concept. Great American Yogurt in Huntington Beach has been doing it since 1987. And maybe there was someone else before them.

-paulc-
-paulc-

Skip the Ole Ship in fullerton, Go to the Santa Ana location.

JBinOC
JBinOC topcommenter

Don't tell TMZ, but JBinOC will be having lunch at the exceptionally-good Burger Parlor *today* (Friday, Jan. 10).  I actually had breakfast at 6 a.m. so I could properly elicit sufficient saliva before consuming a burger and those heavenly onion rings.  Stick a Fork in It readers: don't place an order without including the onion rings. 


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