Despite their restaurant's moniker, the chefs at Johnny Rebs' Southern Roadhouse aren’t averse to local ingredients. In fact, all their produce comes from California growers. But rather than recreate Southern flavors, they prefer going straight to the source, relying on Virginian and North Carolinian farms to send country hams and Delta farms to send catfish. Said catfish simmers beneath mountains of slaw in po’ boys, one among Johnny Rebs’ many housemade Southern staples, which range from creole shrimp over cheddar grits to pulled pork slow-smoked up to 12 hours.
Though steeped in traditional Southern cooking, Johnny Rebs’ critically acclaimed culinary team puts its own twist on Southern and American staples alike. To wit: grilled cheese made with pimento and jalapeños, as well as deep-fried apple pie, which bubbles in a deep fryer stolen off a Georgia windowsill. Complemented with “suds” and “squashed grapes”—Johnny Rebs’ speak for beer and wine—feasts unfold amidst a rustic dining space made to resemble a cozy, wood-paneled home. Before the table fills up with smoked and fried meats, guests can snack from a bucket of peanuts. They're free, but any quarters diners donate in return go straight to charities such as the Granite Mountain Hotshots.
At Maderas Steak & Ribs, kitchen commanders craft a menu with hefty steaks forged from Kansas prime Angus beef. To sustain flavor throughout meals, in-house pastry chefs fill crumbly crusts with pie or cheesecake swirled with fresh fruit and juices.
Neon lighting grants old-timey-diner appeal to the spacious tables and cushy booths of Maderas's big, kid-friendly room, through which live music occasionally wanders on Friday and Saturday nights and whenever forks happen to clang melodically against glassware or mom's glass chewing-gum dispenser.
When something is simply referred to as "the beast," there's probably a good reason. In the case of Blake's Place BBQ, The Beast refers to a monster of a sandwich: slow-smoked pulled pork, pulled barbecue chicken, chopped beef brisket, coleslaw, sliced red onion, and a dousing of Blake's BBQ sauce. All those ingredients teeter between an over-sized bun, and as a whole, The Beast weighs in at 2.5 pounds. If you devour it in 20 minutes or less, you earn a T-shirt and food challenge immortality, and if you make it disappear behind someone's ear you earn lots of attention for your party-magician business.
Of course, plenty of people come to enjoy the food, not just to defeat it. The original Blake's opened in Anaheim in 1996 and has since filled the bellies of more than one million customers. A second location in Los Alamitos was added in 2012. At both, chefs use high-tech wood-burning barbecue pits that are big enough to smoke more than 3,500 pounds of meat at one time?some for as long as 16 hours. The resulting menu features entire plates of baby back ribs, hot sandwiches, and even smoked wings. Homemade desserts round out the Southern-style selection, including peach cobbler and bread pudding. And none of this goes unnoticed: Blake's was voted The Best of Orange County and Best Barbecue in Orange County by the Orange County Register, as well as Zagat-rated in 2013.
For the pitmasters at Smokin' Jonny's BBQ, a successful barbecue is a three-step process. First, they must select the right meat, whether it be pulled pork, tender ribs, or brisket. Once they've rubbed it with a blend of herbs and spices, the cooks then need to pick the right wood?such as hickory or applewood?over which to slow-smoke it. Lastly, they whip up rubs and marinades, whose secret recipes are known only to them and kitchen spies disguised as six-foot-tall spatulas. Those final touches accentuate the already smoky flavor of Smokin' Jonny's meats, readying them to pair with timeless southern sides such as fried cornbread.
At Sura Korean BBQ & Tofu, meat and tofu put aside their differences in the name of cooperating to create savory Korean feasts. Bulgogi—sliced beef marinated in 12 flavorful ingredients—stars in many dishes, from japche rice-paper wraps to custom-made bibimbap served in a hot stone pot. Instead of sculpting faux turkeys from vatfuls of guacamole, vegans can build feasts from meat-free dishes such as tofu soup and sushi-like kimchi kimbap. The restaurant's popular korean tacos encourage meats and greens to hang out together, housing combinations of bulgogi, pork, chicken, veggies, or tofu. Outdoor seating invites patrons to dine amid verdant plants, whereas comfy indoor booths honor nature with sunny lights and bamboo wall coverings.