Asian-American Foodies Are Changing the Way Orange County--and the Nation--Eats

Portraits by Danny Liao and Dustin Ames
The 405 is slammed from the 55 to Long Beach. Harbor Boulevard is a parking lot. The industrial and office parks surrounding the South Coast Collection (SOCO) shopping center in Costa Mesa are emptying out, with thousands of employees resigned to spending the next hour or so in traffic hell.

Refuge is needed. At the Iron Press, on the northeastern edge of SOCO, the bar is already filled with people getting at the restaurant's waffle sandwiches and craft beers. Diners wear suits, pricy kicks, flip-flops and almost all the other fashions en vogue in Southern California. Three doctors, still wearing their scrubs after a day at work, relax with brews. At a side table, young friends look at their phones, framing the perfect photo of their food for Instagram or Snapchat.

Running around to make sure everyone's having a great time is Iron Press owner Leonard Chan. "What'll you have now?" he asks two patrons at the bar who had just finished their drinks. "I see two people and no beers."

One group obviously dominates the customer base: Asian-Americans.

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BurntZilla Throws A Party Tomorrow!

BurntZilla Facebook
Hot dog! Hot dog! Hot diggity dog!

Okay, it's considered a grand opening celebration. But if you're a faithful Forker, you'll know they rolled up doors on Valentine's Day. Party time is excellent in our book, so our ears perked up when words like "free" and "grand prize" were dropped.

Long story short: You can expect some family friendly enjoyment Sunday morning. Prepare for an early lunch with the following incentives:

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Now Open: Pie Dog and A Bite Café

Photo by AMP
Simple. Sexy.

Downtown Fullerton and SanTana have no shortage of independently-owned, trendy dining concepts. Yet we gravitate to all of them, because supporting local businesses is how we show respect. Some of the newest spots can be found a couple of blocks from the main road--you just gotta know where to look.

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Santa Ana's Fourth Street Market To Open Feb. 16, Preview at Savor Santa Ana Feb. 12

Anne Watson Photography
Fourth Street Market opens Feb. 16.

[Updated 2/3/2015 with the correct pricing for Savor Santa Ana tastes: $2. Still cheap.]

It's been a long time coming, but downtown Santa Ana's food hall is finally ready to throw open its doors to the public. The paper is down, the signs are up, and the tenants are buying their start-up ingredients. Fourth Street Market (4SM) is located at 201 E. 4th St., adjacent to Style World and across from the East End Marketplace. Monday, February 16, 2015 is opening day, though there will be a public preview during the Savor Santa Ana event on Thursday, February 12 from 5-8 p.m. where the vendors will sell small tastes for $1 $2 each.

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A Bite Cafe and Paninoteca Maggio To Open In Santa Ana

Paninoteca Maggio Facebook
It's been a very long road to get here

We're usually content with a single restaurant launch, but the new year has granted us two. Chefs Keba Parker and Sharron Barshishat confirmed their respective spots intend to open in the not-so-distant future. As soon as 30 days, give or take a dealbreaking permit. You restauranteurs know how it goes. Acting as both chef and owner has its share of benefits and headaches.

Forkers who aren't as familiar with either cuisine are in luck, as a reminder of their delicious concepts is definitely in order. Let's start with our local luxe lonchera done good.

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Seabirds Kitchen OPEN TODAY

Photo by Charles Lam

Seabirds Kitchen, the new brick-and-mortar headquarters for the venerable Seabirds Truck, is open for its first full day of business today. They'll be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. serving the vegan fare that we all know and love.

Located in the LAB near Gypsy Den, the interior is not quite finished, but already plenty pretty. And anyways, THE KITCHEN IS READY, and that's the important part. People were plenty happy to grub on Seabirds while standing around in parkings lots for goodness sake.

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Taco Maria Now Officially Open; Menu Changes to 4-Course Prix Fixe

Shuji Sakai
Ever wonder why the marquee food critics for a publication never review soft openings? It's because the point of a soft opening is to make final tweaks before the ravening hordes descend on a restaurant. In Taco Maria's case, it's less a change to the dishes than a change to the timing.

In an effort to make more efficient use of limited space, the restaurant is opening with a four-course prix fixe menu that will cost $42, with $24 for a wine pairing on a much more expansive wine list. Don't worry, the dishes from the preview are still mostly there; that arrachera we posted a photo of from the pre-opening festivities is still there; so are the mole, the jardineros, and the fish al pastor.

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Taco Maria Soft Opens Tonight--GO!

Dave Lieberman
Think back to when Taco Maria used to park at the SoCo farmers market every Saturday. Remember those arrachera tacos that had everyone swooning?

Yeah. That's them in the picture above. Except now, instead of being tucked into a little paper boat, they're arranged on a plate with an incredible salad of nopalitos with tomatoes, onions and bacon, and a linen napkin-wrapped plate of thick, fluffy homemade tortillas. Ask for a little salsa--can't eat tacos without chile--and realize that now Carlos Salgado has an entire kitchen at his disposal. He's got room for the things he wants, and that means he's importing olive oil from Baja California and has room for an oven and a fryer.

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2 Weeks Until Taco María Opens

Taco María's luxe lonchera is sold off, and the long-awaited restaurant at the OC Mart Mix is built out with a gorgeous dark-hardwood bar counter. Permits are long-completed; inspections are over.

Dave told you back in February about plans to open a fixed location. Then in June, we let you know you could Kickstart plans into action.

Now, there are just two more weeks until we can eat Carlos Salgado's crispy pork-belly carnitas with salsa borracha again.

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Taco Maria to Park Permanently, Become Bricks-and-Mortar Restaurant at OC Mart Mix

For the last eighteen months, we have been watching as Carlos Salgado's Taco María truck became the darling of the food community. People who refused to eat from a mobile catering truck lined up for Taco María's food, from burritos to chilaquiles, from ezquites to bone marrow quesadillas.

It's finally time; the truck is going to be parked and Taco María will move into the OC Mart Mix sometime this spring.

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