Hot California

Global Cuisine in the OC

There has been some recent discussion about a Dutch girl, Zilla van den Born, who fooled her friends and family by faking a trip to Southeast Asia via social media. Some people got really heated, calling her stunt a scam. I however, I thought it was rather brilliant. Through manipulating photos on her social media accounts, she was able to fake a whole vacation! I actually, thought about this before while looking at people’s terrible travel photos and selfies with no perspective, no points of reference, or landmarks, just jumbo faces on a screen, bad lighting and half-eaten meals. I made a joke to HotDaddy that it would be funny to fake a European vacation through ambiguous photos. Well, Zilla took it a step further by putting to use her photo-editing skills, faking souvenirs and even snorkeling in her own pool for the purpose of her social experiment. Very clever.
Photo-editing skills aside, this got me thinking about travel and our experiences. There is no doubt that actual travel enlightens the mind and feeds your body and soul, but what if you could travel by merely feeding your face?

One of my favorite things about traveling is eating. It’s not weird. It’s delicious.

But, for many of us we just don’t have the time or money to fulfill all our travel goals at any given time. Luckily, we can eat like we’re on some exotic vacation without straying far from home. So in honor of traveling without actually traveling, here are my favorite options for Global Cuisine in the OC.

Global Cuisine in the OCLebanese/Armenian:

Rosine’s in Anaheim Hills has been a local favorite since 1995 and is the recent winner of the Golden Foodie award for best Mediterranean cuisine in Orange County. I will go as far as to say that not only is it the best Mediterranean food in the OC, but the best food in general in the OC. There is just nothing like Rosine’s homemade dishes and desserts. My family (yes, even my kids) have become huge fans of dishes we had never even heard of before two years ago, like Luleh Kebab, Tabbouleh, Djadjikh, Shawourma, and I’m simply addicted to Muhammara. They have a fantastic wine selection, bomb craft cocktails and a totally awesome bartender (wink). Rosine’s popularity speaks for itself as this restaurant is packed every day and night.

Rosine's in AnaheimThai:

I love Thai cuisine, but it’s hard for me to find venues I really love! Thankfully, I found an amazing place in Orange called Thai Chili. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside it has a wonderful atmosphere with chandeliers, table clothes, a peaceful waterfall feature and warm décor. With the ambiance on point, we were excited to try some food. Let me tell you, it was delicious!!! Lunches come with soup, salad, rice, a fried wonton and a spring roll. The Panang Curry was out of this world and Cuddle Bear devoured the Pad Thai.

Thai ChiliJapanese:

I am a bit of a Ramen freak and I have found that the best ramen houses are in Costa Mesa. I just love Kitakata Ban Nai. The environment is cozy and great for families going out together and the ramen is just too yummy for words. Firecracker loves the juicy chicken bowl and Cuddle Bear loves to slurp noodles all night. I also really like Zetton in Costa Mesa, but the restaurant is extremely teeny tiny, holding only six tables. I love it, because the ramen is amazing and it is open late.

Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai Ramen ZettonI love sushi, I crave sushi, I need sushi…and hot sake, of course. There are great places for sushi here in Orange County like Orange Roll and Ohshima in Orange, but I also like a deal and I’m going to honestly say that I love Benihana’s sushi! My family and I are regulars to the Anaheim and Newport Beach locations, especially during happy hour. Sometimes we even cut Disneyland days short to make happy hour! My kids will try rolls, but they really love the onion soup and go off on edamame! I love the bar’s cozy atmosphere, although a drunk guy named June did take a liking to our family and tried to sit with us the last time we visited. Haha. Whatever. Just order another round of hot sake and some more rolls and it’s all good.

Benihana sushiKids love EdamameGlobal Cuisine in the OC:

I just LOVE the Anaheim Packing House. It has a little bit of everything! The Indian food is amazing. In the mood for sushi, ramen, pho or shabu? What about seafood or soul food? They got that too. Smoothies, ice cream, cocktails and beer; Packing House has it all. I could and have literally spent an entire day eating my way through. There is live music on the weekends and it is just a perfect place for the community to gather to enjoy life.

Anaheim Packing HouseCuban/Spanish/Caribbean:

Located within the historic Orange Circle is a number of fantastic restaurants, but when I am feeling international, I have to visit Felix Continental Café. Specializing in Cuban, Spanish and Caribbean dishes, this place hits the nail on the head. Everything from the crusty bread to the Tres Leches Cake is on point! Just order a nice bottle of Rioja and work your way through the menu! It is all muy delicioso!

Felix Continental CafeVietnamese:

Firecracker has made getting Pho an after-gymnastics tradition. After class she’ll state that it is time for Pho. We have two places we frequent regularly, Pho Vina and Pho 2012 Bistro. You can’t really go wrong with noodles and kids. Plus, Firecracker really loves the Vietnamese egg rolls! I love the versatility of Pho. You can make it spicy, slightly sweet with hits of citrus; you fill it with veggies or seafood or meat. Everyone can create their perfect bowl. My kids love to add their own ingredients and sauces, it makes them feel like they are in control of their dish and more likely to eat it. I love how much veggies they add. It’s amazing what kids will eat when given the option to choose.

Kids love PhoVietnamese Egg Rolls at Pho VinaMexican:

Okay, this is California, so great Mexican food is never too far. Kind of like a Starbucks. With a million options to choose from, I’m going to give a shout out to El Farolito in Placentia. It has been a family favorite for years. It is where we celebrate major family events, such as graduations and baptisms. I even, had them cater my baby shower with Firecracker. I’ve never seen food clear out at a party like it did at my shower. Crazy.

El Farolito in Placentia FarolitoOn the list next:

Orange County is huge and there are so many great establishments to try. I have am still working my way through, but I do have a few on my short list to try next.

Jagerhaus German Restaurant: Supposedly the best German food in the OC. HotDaddy has been begging to try it and with its convenient location to Disneyland, it looks like I’ll be stopping by soon. Can’t wait! The only German cooking I’ve ever had was from my Great Grandma and that hasn’t been for years.

The Hobbit: Not only fantastic French cuisine, but a fantastic fine dining experience as well. This will have to be saved for a date night out with HotDaddy, as it is a single-seating-seven-course dining event. I’ve heard amazing things and have had the pleasure of meeting the owner. I made him a Black Manhattan once, that he said was beautiful (pat myself on the back).

So, I don’t have to fake a trip around the world, but a can taste my way around the world in my own backyard. Exploring food is a great way to conveniently explore the globe, especially if you have children. I usually prep for trips by getting my kids used to the flavors of more exotic cuisine. There is a world outside of mac n cheese and chicken nuggets! I discuss this more in my post Developing Kids’ Culinary Palette. Even if you can’t book a ticket on the next flight out of town, book a reservation at a restaurant outside your culinary comfort zone and have some delicious fun! Bon appetite!


I am a busy mama with 3 delicious babies and a serious itch for travel and writing (when I am not bartending, that is)! After graduating from Cal State San Marcos with a B.A. in Communications, I decided to start a family and pursue a career in freelance writing. I created HotMamaTravel as an outlet to do what I love while sharing useful travel tips and inspiration with others. Our mission is to show parents how to master travel with kids, while keeping your Saturday-night selves. We call it "Family travel...with a twist".

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