Saturday, May 31, 2008

Philly's Best - Santa Ana

Hi! I’m new here. The name is DanGarion and I run Eat in OC. I just joined up with Orange County Food Blogs and for me there was no better place to do my first review of than my favorite place to eat on Saturdays as I waste them away alone, while my wife is at work. That’s why I bring you my review of the Philly’s Best, located in Santa Ana on Tustin. Now I know the first thing you are going to do is groan and say, "This guy is going to review a run of the mill fast food chain!" But hear me out, this place has good food. I’d never eaten at Philly’s Best until I moved to Santa Ana, two years ago. I’d had cheesesteaks throughout the years and always enjoyed them, but I didn’t fall in love with them till I ordered my first one here almost 2 year ago.

Today I ordered a cheesesteak along with an order of onion rings. The wait was about 10 minutes, which isn’t that bad since they do make your food to order. The cheesesteak was piping hot when it got to my table; I actually had to wait a minute to let it cool off. One thing I’ve been happy with is the consistency from visit to visit with the taste and freshness of my food. Another thing I like is that the meat isn’t too juicy so it doesn’t drain all out into the bread; I’ve had issues with the bread becoming soggy from other places I’d ordered cheesesteaks from. The onion rings are good, but only in small quantities. They have a very different flavor than most people are used to because of the beer batter. My only problem with them (which is why I usually only ingest small quantities) is that they tend to give me indigestion, but it’s usually worth it. Normally they only have ranch dressing for the rings, but they actually had BBQ sauce as well today. Overall my meal didn’t disappoint and let me more than satisfied.

Other items on the menu include chicken cheesesteak, hamburgers, and various toppings for your cheesesteak. They also have some various Philadelphia famous drinks, chips, and pastries.

Now on to a couple other observations I’ve made throughout the two years I’ve been patronizing this specific Philly’s Best. There is a note for their employees that any uniformed police and fire employees get half off their meal, I thought that’s pretty cool that a business has that type of policy. They also have specials during USC Football, Philadelphia Eagles Football, and Angels Baseball games. For the USC games they have $5.00 cheesesteaks and $1.00 Bud and Bud Light. During Angels games they have $1.00 Bud and Bud Light. I’m not a fan of Budweiser so it doesn’t bring me in, but I’m sure that it attracts some business.

Lastly I’ve only gone to one other Philly’s Best, it was located in West Garden Grove, and it just didn’t seem the same while I ate my sandwich, there was just a different vibe compared to the Santa Ana location, so your miles may vary at other locations.

Philly's Best
1804 N Tustin Ave
Santa Ana, CA 92705
(714) 543-3311

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Waba Grill Teriyaki House - Lake Forest

24354 Muirlands Blvd.
Lake Forest, CA 92630

I recently visited the Waba Grill in Lake Forest for lunch. This is the restaurant that took over the spot of my beloved China Express. (Now New Panda in Coasta Mesa, but they're not the same.) Everything looks sleek and new inside the Waba Grill. The environment looks modern with a plasma screen tv on the wall showing CNN or something.

I looked at their menu board. Even though this is still a fairly new place, it looks like they recently raised their prices. Little pieces of paper with prices on them were taped over what I am assuming were their old prices up on the menu board. Their menu basically looked just like Flame Broiler. They even boasted that their food was super healthy. I wanted to try both their chicken and their steak, so I ordered the Chicken-Steak Plate ($7.09). It came with white rice, salad and some orange slices. If I had wanted all white meat chicken, it would have been an extra $1.25. Brown rice, and extra $1.00 and I could add avocado for $1.50.

It didn't take them long to make my meal and I took it to go. I grabbed a couple little cups of teriyaki sauce and hot sauce on my way out. I got back to my desk and opened the box. It looked exactly like Flame Broiler. I took a bite. It tasted exactly like Flame Broiler. I tried the sauces and they too tasted exactly like Flame Broiler. The meats were tender and juicy and the sauces tasted perfectly sweet. I devoured the entire plate.

I've been eating at Flame Broiler a long time now so it's what I'm familiar with. Looking at the back of the Waba Grill menu, I see that they have plenty of locations. I'm not really sure which restaurant came first, but in my mind they are exactly the same restaurant. The only difference is I think that Waba is more expensive.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Wasa Sushi, Irvine, open again!

Living in West Irvine, my choices for neighborhood sushi within a five minute drive are pretty much limited to Wasa in the Irvine MarketPlace and newcomer Ayame. When Wasa closed temporarily several weeks back, that put a severe cramp in my fresh fish diet, but, I'm happy to report that Wasa Sushi is again open!

Their website described their hiatus as a remodeling, and indeed, they did remodel during their down time. They were always modern themed, and have undergone an update that keeps them fresh. If anything, the mood seems darker, with darker shaded wood panelings on the walls, and darker paint colors. The wait area has been improved, with more seating near the hostess' podium. The really tall bamboo wall is still there, along with the gray smooth rocks that my son likes to grab while waiting for a table.

Also still there is the friendly Hispanic staffer who clears tables, seemingly handling the entire restaurant by himself efficiently, and still having time to high-five all the kids who come in. Less efficient is the chronic shortage of waiters and waitresses, who have difficulty keeping up, leading to longish waits for orders, and table service a little more infrequent than is my preference. I'd love it if they hired another one or two waitstaff, and I'm guessing those who are working now wouldn't much mind it either.

Food-wise, the tempura ice cream is as good as ever, as are the Wasa Treasures. Unfortunately, they seem to have cut my favorite (and my son's favorite)- the salmon with terakobu seaweed topped with caviar. I do like their new'ish rock shrimp tempura, kind of a mini walnut shrimp (the Chinese dish with fresh shrimps fried in mayonnaise, yum!) with a kick of sriracha. My wife has been eating the beef negimayaki almost every time we go in these days as well. It's several rolls of thinly sliced beef wrapped around green onions and asparagus, atop a plate of steamed vegetables with teryaki sauce.

I'm less pleased with the sushi than the cooked dishes and desserts there these days. I'm finicky, I admit it, but after eating uni at Sushi Wasabi and Makizushi in Tustin, it's tough to eat uni at Wasa. I don't eat the toro at all anymore. I think I'm happiest with the hamachi, hirame, bluefin tuna, and other fairly standard sushi selections outside the Treasures. I'm thinking maybe the clientele makes it harder to stray from the more popular selections and stay fresh.

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