10 Essential Tustin Restaurants
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
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
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
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.