10 Essential Tustin Restaurants

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JC Vera
​Tustin is dense with great restaurants, having perhaps OC's most eclectic collection of eateries that include not just the original location of the preeminent (and now increasingly ubiquitous) izakaya known as Honda Ya, but also Cream Pan, one of OC's best bakeries practically next door. There are so many worthy places to eat in this city that I had to begrudgingly exclude some of my personal favorites from this list to keep it at ten. So start with these 10 great restaurants (listed in the usual alphabetical order) but know that there's more where they came from.

1. Aloha Hawaiian BBQ


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Edwin Goei
Aloha

Yes, this popular Tustin lunch stop is part of a county-wide chain, but the sheer magnificence of their "plate lunch" cannot be denied. The word "plate" is a misnomer, by the way, especially here. What you get in their Hawaiian BBQ Mix is more like a trough in which kalbi, hunks of chicken and a formidable hill of sliced barbecue beef are piled high with rice and mac salad--food designed to make new Hawaiian Islands out of the people who can finish it. They offer smaller portions called "mini meals" but you might as well just act like a man and do the full-on plates...and then quietly pack the leftovers to eat at home for dinner. If you think you ought to eat more fish, get the mahi mahi, a massive portion of the best deep-fried fish filets that requires not even a drop of tartar sauce. Is it healthier? Not even in the slightest.

2. Cream Pan

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Edwin Goei

Cream Pan makes many wondrous things. The potato croquette sandwich is kind of awesome for a meatless sandwich; the French bread crackles when you break into it; and heck, even their white bread is divine. But the best seller, the reason the bakery was put on this Earth, is the one thing you must order if you come here at all: the legendary strawberry croissant. This is a pastry perfect in conception, construction and execution. Nothing in its triangular, hand-holdable frame can be improved upon. The croissant flakes off in crisp, buttery sheets; the custard is as cool as silk; and the sliced strawberries are perkier than a giggly, doe-eyed anime schoolgirl. And of course, it's sprinkled with plenty of powdered sugar which will go up into your nostrils to choke you if you approach it with too much gusto as anyone who has tasted these beauties often do.

3. Gen Korean BBQ

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Meranda Carter

After a typical two-hour wait, you'll be ecstatic when your name is called. And when you enter a room that glows as blue as if you were boarding the Starship Enterprise, the intoxicating aroma of cooking meats hits you so thick it can be drawn apart like a curtain. Surveying a single-sheet list of things to sizzle, you now know what you didn't a few minutes ago: Gen may be slightly more expensive than other Korean barbecue AYCEs, but it offers cuts of Kobe (or at least something that's so well-marbled it passes as the costly breed). The prospect of bankrupting the restaurant with unending orders of the stuff makes your $20 and two-hour investment immediately pay off. You discover quickly, however, that while more forgiving when overcooked, the difference between the Kobe version of the brisket and the Black Angus is nominal. With that explored, you encounter the beef belly, strips of what is essentially beef bacon, striped with the same white fat, but a sanguine, crimson flesh instead of pink. It ripples and sputters like the pork belly does, and when you eat one, you swear you can hear your LDL level clack one notch upward.

Location Info

Aloha Hawaiian BBQ

2336 N. Park Blvd., Santa Ana, CA

Category: Restaurant

Cream Pan

602 El Camino Real, Tustin, CA

Category: Restaurant

Gen Korean BBQ House

13741 Newport Ave., Tustin, CA

Category: Restaurant

Habuya Okinawan Dining

14215 Red Hill Ave., Tustin, CA

Category: Restaurant

Haveli

13882 Newport Ave., Tustin, CA

Category: Restaurant

Honda Ya Japanese Restaurant

556 El Camino Real, Tustin, CA

Category: Restaurant

Kolache Factory

14091 Newport Ave., Tustin, CA

Category: Restaurant

Los Cotijas

642 E. First St., Tustin, CA

Category: Restaurant

Sutha Thai Kitchen

1161 Irvine Blvd., Tustin, CA

Category: Restaurant

The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar

2647 Park Ave., Tustin, CA

Category: Music


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20 comments
brawny13
brawny13

Rexmiller2012 said it perfectly. The list is good, the article is just poorly titled. Essential means the Brew Co would have to be listed. I'm not saying the Brew Co is the best restaurant by any means, but there is no denying the Brew Co is part of the City's identity. Cream Pan is awesome, as is the fish taco at Las Cotijas. Haveli has a lunch time buffet that is second to none, and Honda Ya deserved some ink because there is a wait outside 8 days a week. Sutha is awesome, but you have to take it to go unless you like eating in a phone booth. I'd like to have seen Peter's Gourmade Grill on the list. Pina's is good too, but the ambiance doesn't fit the price tag - although her delicious food does. Fun list.

Jessie Cater Beauchaine
Jessie Cater Beauchaine

What's the scoop on Creative Pizzeria opening at the corner of Newport Ave and Irvine Blvd? (Here's hoping the pizza is better than the name..)

rexmiller2012
rexmiller2012

This is a poorly titled article. A list of "essential" Tustin restaurants must include, whether you like the food or not, Roma d' Italia. Nieuport 17, Honda Ya, Tustin Brew Co, Tommy's Sushi, etc. should also be considered.

DanChmielewski
DanChmielewski

Pina's Bistro didn't make the list?  Shame on you.  It's one of the best Italian restaurants in OC not just Tustin.

Eric Jasso
Eric Jasso

Edwin is spot on with his comments on Haveli. Great food for a nice price.

Don Mexico
Don Mexico

Aloha Hawaiian over Honda-ya? What dumb fuck with no taste buds created this list? May as well put El Torito over something like Casa Oaxaca. SMFH

Camille Coronel
Camille Coronel

I've been to six of those and the rest are on my list of places to try, so yes, I'd say it's a pretty good list! We still need to take you to Gen one of these days... Maybe for your bday? :)

Marcelino Enriquez
Marcelino Enriquez

The only thing good from Honda Ya is the bill you get to signal the end of a meal jk

Vita Mrtz
Vita Mrtz

Marcelino Including Honda Ya?

Liza Hao
Liza Hao

Stephan and Camille do u agree ?

Marcelino Enriquez
Marcelino Enriquez

I can testify that they all suck with the exception of Creampan they all suck

Pamela J. Arterburn
Pamela J. Arterburn

Tustin's Loving Hut is the BEST vegan restaurant in the OC or just about anywhere. The Philly Cheesecake Sandwich looks and tastes better than the real thing, and eating there will make you live way longer! Please include at least one Vegetarian restaurant in your lists of "bests"!

BBAIN
BBAIN

What - no Taco Factory at Newport and Walnut!  Sacrilege!  I'll have to try Las Cotijas one of these days.

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