When you live in a pretty bland area of Orange County where everyone’s lawn is nice and artificially green and every house looks the same but is a different color (the neighborhood in “Edward Scissorhands” comes to mind), the food choices are much the same: chain after chain after chain.
Here, the Carl’s Jr seems almost as abundant as the Starbucks. There seems to be one in 5-mile radius. For sit-down restaurants, it’s much of the same. There’s a Cheesecake Factory, Dave & Buster’s, PF Chang’s, and blah blah blah blah blah blah.
However, there seems to be a food renaissance just outside the boundaries of Blandville. In downtown Santa Ana, a crop of enticing and non-chain restaurants exist. At the corner of 3rd and Broadway is where you can find this gem – Chapter One: the modern local.
As you can probably tell, the restaurant has a book theme. It feels like a library with bookshelves lining the wall, but a hipper, cooler version. A place you’d actually want to stay and hang out.
The first time I came here, I (unfortunately) wasn’t too hungry. So, I ordered a 1/2 order of Mac & Cheese. Me and Mac N Cheese haven’t had the best relationship. I associate Mac N Cheese with the “blue box.” But this is gourmet, so I thought it couldn’t be bad.
The thing is, it’s not bad. Far from it. It’s FANTASTIC! The macaroni has just enough white cheddar and fontina to add flavor, but not weigh it down. The bacon, onion and panko further entice your tastebuds. If I could have it my way, I’d probably have them put it in a feedbag tied around my neck. It’s the best Mac & Cheese I’ve had in this state.
Today, my husband and I stopped in for lunch. We shared a regular size Mac & Cheese to start. For my main dish, I ordered the Sticky Icky Pork Belly Buns. Pork belly is just one of the greatest things on earth. You are what you eat, right? 😉
Well, like the Mac & Cheese, the pork belly buns did not disappoint. The pork belly is flavored by a spicy (but not hot) glaze and kimchi and garnished with scallions (I think), all tucked into a sticky bun that is just a bit bigger than a slider bun.
It tastes so magnificent. Every bite is bursting with flavor. Even when I had my last bite – where there was no pork belly and barely any kimchi left), it tasted just as good as the first.
If you’re familiar with the Filipino steam bun siopao, it is kind of like that… but taken up several levels and made gourmet.
While it is possible (if you have a big enough mouth) to devour these in one bite, I don’t suggest it. Each bite should be savored and enjoyed.
The pork belly itself is cooked perfectly. It’s crisp yet meaty. The best of both worlds.
Bottom Line: Stop depriving your tastebuds and stomach. Be kind and treat yourself to one of the best meals you’ll ever have!