Travel for Food: Eating Around California, O.C. (Part 1)

I have been going to California for a few months now for work. It has only been during a recent visit where I was able to venture out in orange county to dine-in at a few establishments. The lockdown kept everyone either preparing their own food or ordering take away meals. While I do miss the experience of eating my meals inside the 4 walls of a restaurant, I would be honest in saying that the few establishments I miss the most are restaurants followed by cinemas. It has been officially a year since I have been to the movie theater, I wouldn’t be honest if I didnt say that I missed traveling for food and the cinema the most. While in California, these are the three-place I was lucky enough to dine at and experience the new way of eating-out while keeping the pandemic in mind.

The Big Catch Seafood House

The Big Catch Seafood House is located in Huntington Beach, California, in a slightly upscale area sitting on a corner surrounding lush apartment complexes. By now, everyone knows that I love seafood and always willing to visit any establishment that coins itself as the best seafood restaurant in town. This place just happened to be within walking distance from where I was staying, so I had to test the waters. On my first visit to Big Catch Seafood House, I marveled at how simple the menu was. Sometimes you come across restaurants with menus just as extensive as an encyclopedia, and you wonder how the kitchen staff copes with such a large inventory of food. Big Catch Seafood House has an uncomplicated menu with something to love in each section. While this is a seafood place, they also have soups, salad, sushi, and meats. On my first visit, I had the crab wanton and the shrimp tacos for an appetizer. Then the crisp garlic clams and with the crispy fried lobster as my main course.

After the meal ended at Big Catch Seafood House, I could not get their grilled shrimp taco off my mind. While it was only a 2-piece appetizer taco, the flavor scores high for me. It was super simple with grill shrimp, fennel, red onion, and tartar sauce. It was so delicious and memorable that I had to have it the second time I visited this place.

La Parrilla Guacamole Grill

No one can visit California without trying Mexican food. I honestly didn’t Mexican cuisine as my introduction to this food genre came in my late teens with frozen meals and cafeteria food. I honestly use to think that Mexican food was the worse culinary genre ever. It was on the bottom of my list, but it was mainly because of how this food was recreated for mass consumption. Eating Mexican food at a school cafeteria really diminishes its true status. I honestly wish that Mexicans would sue the pants-off establishments that went around recreating their dishes poorly. For so many years, I use to think the basis of Mexican food was cheese, meat, beans, and corn. It wasn’t until I was forced into an authentic Mexican establishment, that I learned that I was being fooled by the taste of processed meats, cheese and corn; and that Mexican food is fresh and rich in culture.

La Parrilla Guacamole Grill is located in Stanton, California and is a delightful place. They have indoor and outside seating, but due to COVID-19, they were able to transition to outdoors sucessfully. On my first visit, I tried the beef soft shell tacos, which were fresh and well seasoned. The second time I tried the fried fish, I was then hooked on La Parrilla Guacamole Grill. Note that most dishes are served with complimentary chips and salsa. 

Mama’s Restaurant 

This is an American-style restaurant serving burgers, biscuits, chicken and waffles, wings, steaks, cocktails, and sandwiches. The story behind Mama is like that of Cheesecake Factory; it’s about a family who decided to dedicate a place to their beloved mother and grandmother who was known for cooking food that bought the family together. I guess you can say it’s like Soul Food and many other places that harp on nostalgic comfort food. I will be honest when I say I am not keen on eating at restaurants specializing in this style of American cuisine. It always seems overly decadent unless the establishment has a more modern take on these dishes. While many of these dishes are tasty, I noticed that they are very filling to the point of excess because the servings are too large or smothered in sugar, garlic, oil, butter, cheese, or dairy.

I will be honest Mama’s had that very element that I am not fond of. During my visit to this establishment, the only thing I really enjoyed was the BBQ wings’ appetizer. I ordered chicken and waffle and received a chicken that was so heavily breaded it was inedible. The waffles were also uniquely made, so instead of the usual milk-buttery waffles, I got a very brown colored waffle made with cinnamon. The cook added a heavy hand of cinnamon that was very overpowering. It’s safe to say that I didn’t enjoy my main course at Mama’s, but the person I dined with loved their burger sandwich. I have not totally written off Mama’s Restaurant yet, I will be back, but I will try something different.

Well, folks, I’ve come to the end of this sampling of eateries I was lucky to be able step foot in while visiting orange county California. I am unsure when things will get back to normal, but I will take whatever pleasures I get that reminds me of the good old days. Slowly as I come to visit California more, I will indeed find the need to see more places and have more travel for food advances.