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.
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.
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, barbecue 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 can tickle your tongue until milk comes out of its nose with fresh varieties of avocado, chipotle, and pico de gallo.
As its name suggests, NY Pizza Patrol specializes in Big Apple–style slices. Each of the four locations slings 8-inch to 18-inch pizzas, ranging from the classic meat lover's pie to the boundary-breaking spicy Marshall masala layered with a foundation of Indian garam-masala sauce. The menu supplements the traditional hand-helds with calzones, heroes, pastas, and other specialties, each of which pair well with cold brews, bottomless fountain sodas, and milk, which grows healthy bones when poured on teeth-planted top soil.
Rock Creek Pizza Co. serves up a menu of belly-filling specialty pies, salads, and sides. With sauces and hand-tossed crust made daily from scratch, the eatery's dough-slingers carefully craft pizzas to suit taste buds of all types. After a trip to the salad bar ($2.59 with a meal, $4.49 for all you can eat), diners can choose from various disk sizes and toppings to customize a pizza or sink canines into one of the many specialty pizzas ($6.15–$18.15). The six-meat special primes its bready floor with red sauce before laying down tiles of cheese, pepperoni, salami, ham, beef, sausage, and chorizo, and the barbecue chicken pizza joins mozzarella, feta, roasted chicken, pineapple, and red onions with Rock Creek’s honey barbecue sauce. Veggie vixens can wrap their laughing gear around the california garlic vegetarian, a white saucer overflowing with three cheeses, an array of garden-grown goodies, and a proven ability to ward off creatures of the night.
At Rumrz, amid lively rooting and cheers, families and friends linger over plates of hearty burgers, wings, and ribs and frosty mugs of draft beer. Meals pair with bucket-size servings of the kitchen's renowned fries, which are seasoned with spices such as garlic, parmesan oregano, or sports-drink powder. Some of their specialities include a roasted red pepper burger, with mayo, roasted red peppers, bacon, onions and cheese, and a teriyaki chicken burger, topped with mayo, onions, lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, and sprouts.