Scott and Nancy Litke opened a roadside food shack in partial tribute to Scott’s grandparents, Emmett and Ethel, who have quite a backstory: After a run-in with the law, Emmett disappeared in 1934, and the couple became a local legend. Just for fun, Scott challenges guests to a bounty game: any customer who brings in someone named “Emmett” will be rewarded with free lunch. The Emmett also receives a shirt and a place on the wall of fame. It’s one of a few challenges the restaurant offers to customers—there are also eating contests, including Man v. Emmett’s Burger and Man v. Ethel’s Sundae.
Since its opening, the “shack” has been updated to become a 2,800-square foot restaurant. The ethic is the same, though: Emmett’s and Ethel’s churns out fresh, homemade food, such as gourmet burgers, hot dogs, and baskets piled high with fish and chicken that has been hand-cut in the kitchen. In addition to traditional malts and shakes, guests can savor parlor-style ice cream sundaes with ingredients such as deep fried peach halves, toasted almond ice cream, and brownies.
Claiming a slew of awards, including Best Chicken Dinner by the Orange County Register, El Pollo Loco fills stomachs on the go with a menu of flavorful poultry inspired by Mexico's kitchens. Enjoy the rich tastes of a four-piece combo—including breasts and wings marinated in herbs, spices, and citrus juices—entouraged by two sides from an expansive selection, including spanish rice, BBQ black beans, corn cobbettes, and mac 'n' cheese ($8.99). For a more portable lunch during parkour breaks from the office, wrap your chicken in the warm tortilla blanket of a twice-grilled burrito ($5.99). El Pollo Loco's innovative salsa bar tickles tongues with fresh varieties of avocado, chipotle, and pico de gallo.
Between its bright-green and blue walls, Mia's Italian Ice has consolidated the freezer and the fondue restaurant. The venue honors its name by prepping 15 flavors of italian ice daily, all of which—with the exceptions of root beer, rainbow, and plain hail chunks—encapsulate fruits in chilly bites. Its signature Mama Mia dessert sandwiches italian ice between two velvety scoops of custard, which also fills cakes and cupcakes. Not everything inside the shop is frigid, however: Oreos, pretzels, gummies, and marshmallows dip into creamy pools of chocolate and caramel fondue.
Tokyo Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar creates a culinary celebration of Japan with mouthwatering sushi and seafood, flavorful steak house fare, and dazzling displays of teppan-style grilling. At each hibachi grill-top table, a talented chef chops, dices, and serves succulent steaks, chicken, and shrimp with the showmanship of a professional wrestler and the delicate knife skills of a hummingbird surgeon. At the sushi bar, guests can savor the rich textures and carefully selected ingredients of treats such as a five-piece sashimi plate or a specialty rolls named for bonsais, sunsets, and cowboys.
A waterfall cascades over a towering cliff. A few acres away, hundreds of thousands of tulips sway in the desert breeze where hay and barley once grew. Originally a dairy farm, the 55-acre Thanksgiving Point has bloomed into a museum complex and attraction with one-of-a-kind experiences, shopping, dining, and seasonal festivals. In Thanksgiving Point Gardens, trees and shrubs form divisions between 15 themed gardens modeled after a country estate, 13 acres of turf grass, and a 4,000-seat amphitheater beside a manmade waterfall—all of which flourish under the hands of 26 gardeners. Gardeners feed their plots using an intricate water-reclamation system, which harvests millions of gallons of runoff water and lizards' tears annually to transform the desert landscape into an assembly of global ecosystems.
The outdoor park is also home to Farm Country, a working farm where goats, pigs, and draft horses mingle with peacocks and wildlife photographers disguised as ostriches. Visitors delve into farm culture as they pet and feed the animals, ride ponies, and look in on the process of bottling milk. The Museum of Ancient Life explores life long before agriculture, exhibiting 60 complete dinosaur skeletons to a soundtrack of gurgling steams, insect chirps, and one jazz saxophonist. The museum also contains more than 50 interactive exhibits, including a simulated fossil dig.
Cafe Terrace celebrates its grand opening as a staff of crêpe-crafting wizards puts 14 sweet and savory spins on the French disk. Indulge in the banana-caramel crêpe or the savory SoCal, whose sunny disposition of avocado, roma tomato, and lemon aioli makes diners wish that all crêpes could be California crêpes. Six sandwiches transport their fresh cargo, and soups simmer in the kitchen's pots, awaiting the chance to warm bellies with flavors of butternut squash or tomato bisque. Italian sodas carbonated with air from Mediterranean breezes infuse culinary travels with more than a score of flavors, including mango, raspberry, and passion fruit. While enjoying café fare, patrons lounge in a casual environment strewn with chessboards, available for playing a round against a friend or merely admiring the checkered surfaces.