OC Fair 2019 Recap

Wow, I haven’t been to OC Fair in so long! The last time I remembered was when there was a threat of OC Fair ceasing to exist, fortunately, it is here to stay!

Not much has changed but it is surely a much different experience when you are an adult versus when you were an adolescent. The main contributor to this difference? Money! You now have money to spend on all the food and everything that may tickle your fancy.

BravoCado!
Many people in Orange County, California gather at the OC Fair & Event Center every year during mid-July for a month until mid-August to attend the OC Fair. Not everyone has the same agenda and the OC Fair caters to everyone’s main objectives. There is a lot to do at the fair and may include, but are not limited to, drooling from all of the fried food, thrilling over carnival rides, eyeing enormous plush doll prizes, enjoying entertainment shows, seeing the farm animals, and SO much more!
I attended the OC Fair on Saturday of the last weekend the OC Fair is opened. I loved my experience because I felt a sense of community, oddly enough. Everyone that I encountered, whether it be employees or other fairgoers, was super friendly, I did not encounter any issues for the venue or the people. Having partners and friends to split food with is key to a good time.

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Tip: There is free parking at OCC (right across the street from Green Gate) on the weekends!

FOOD

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Food is a great motivator for people to go anywhere. As long as there’s tasty food, people will come!
The term “fair food” consists of all the things bad for your health: fried, greasy, and enormous portions. Every year there are new food items invented that many fairgoers feast on. I typically like to go in bigger groups so I can sample many things, rather than getting full on 1 item.
Here are a few items I tried this year:

Papi’s Puffy Tacos

New to the OC Fair 2019! One of the better things we got at the fair because the puffy tacos had pretty good flavor. Two tacos will set you back $11.76, with your choice of meat. We got 1 Asada and 1 Al Pastor. You can see the taco shells fried in front of you. As you bite into the taco, the taco shell gives you a crunchy texture while the meat and pico de gallo give you a fresh and savory flavor. The two together are a perfect combination of a taco.

Pignotti’s Pasta

Lasagna nachos! The inventiveness is there. However, they sounded better than what it actually was: tortilla chips, marinara sauce, ricotta cheese and they ran out of parsley. Sadness. $14.

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I would skip the Lasagna Nachos and try one of their other food items like the fried ravioli on a stick or spaghetti donuts.

Tasti Burgers

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Pictured is the Green Acres Fire Burger which is supposed to be an “all-natural Harris Ranch beef, ghost-pepper cheese, lettuce, jalapeños, spicy mayo and avocado on a potato knot bun”. However, it was not really spicy. Not bad, but nothing special. $12

Chicken Charlie’s

Known for their ridiculous fair food creations that are intended to stop hearts. Our pick? The Triple Decker Cheeseburger, which is a triple cheeseburger sandwiched between 2 Krispy Kreme donuts. The verdict? Hard pass. They do not go well together and both of them tasted very separate. The patty was obviously a low quality, frozen one. $10.99

Dippin’ Dots

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With the tagline, “Ice cream of the future”, I always have to get Dippin’ Dots every time I see it. I don’t know what it is but it is always good, anytime and anywhere! At the fair, there are multiple flavors, this time I got Moose Tracks. For a small, expect to be spending a little over $5.

Juicys

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Oh man, for big appetites, stop by Juicys! Here, you can get a footlog hotdog or corn dog. These are “Texas-sized” portions that are not only big in size but also big in flavor. Delicious hot dog that did not disappoint and is literally the size of your arm.

Fresh Frys

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The Blooming Onion is a staple as far as fair food goes. The Blooming Onion is essentially an onion cut into a flower-shape and then deep-fried. You can get the fried onion by itself, starting at $9.28 or with toppings such as cheese, chili, and more fries for an additional cost.

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Not a fan of onions? There are other items such as fresh frys, ranch frys, cheese frys, monkey frys, chili cheese frys, garlic parmesan frys, deep-fried green beans, and chicken tenders available.

Chuckwagon

Brisket Mac ‘n’ Cheese Sandwich
To end our night, we got the Brisket Mac ‘n’ Cheese Sandwich, which we were surprised by how tasty the meat and the ingredients went well together. Meats are supposedly smoked for 8-10 hours. $12.76

Other Options

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There is an abundance of food stalls and food areas to find unique dishes you can try. Here are a few others to note:

Bacon-A-Fair

Eat all of the bacon to your heart’s content! One of the newest food item for 2019 is the bacon pupusas, which is a Salvadoran dish made of masa and cheese.

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Australian Battered Potatoes

Love potatoes? Get a whole bucket of it here! Top it off with your favorite sauce, cheese, sour cream, or ADD BACON!

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Dutchmen’s

Churros, lemonade, and funnel cakes. Any of those sound good to you? If so, you’ve come to the right place! You can start with a regular churro or a basic powdered sugar funnel cake and then get creative by adding on different toppings and flavors such as whipped cream, strawberries, Nutella, or Oreos. Change the batter to red velvet or try their newest Nilla wafer banana creme flavor!

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Squeezers

Wash down all of the fair food with an old fashion lemonade!

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RIDES

Feeling that adrenaline rush? There is a whole area full of rides you can hop on for a spin. Most fair rides often try to make you end up throwing up, but that’s what makes it fun … right?!


For those like me and aren’t adrenaline junkies, there are other rides such as the ski lift ride and Ferris wheels that are more family fun. You can oversee the fair lights and view everything from a bird’s eye view.

CARNIVAL GAMES

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Test your skills at these rigged carnival games and convince your significant other to win you an enormous stuffed animal to show everyone how loved you are. In my honest opinion, a big waste of money and space but hey, if that’s your thing, go for it!

ENTERTAINMENT

There are several shows that are scheduled throughout the fair day. One of which is the comedy hypnotist, Mark Yuzuik. Whether or not you are a believer, it is surely entertaining to watch. I have seen the show several times and still have fun watching it every time. Other entertainers include dancers and martial artists.

FARM ANIMALS

Interact and pet farm animals at the fair! When there is a fair, there will be animals. Although they may smell, it is fascinating to see a cow in real life. There is a petting zoo as well as demonstrations such as cow milking!

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The fun doesn’t stop there! There are also pig races throughout the day. Yes, you heard that right. Pig races! They are cute little pigs that run laps around the track. Catch a show with your friends and have a little friendly bet amongst each other!

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CONTESTS

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The fair is not just about animals and food, the competition is also fierce here! There is a contest for just about anything! From homebrewed beer to artworks, it is truly interesting to see the creativity of everyone in the community. There are also contests on who can grow the biggest vegetable as well as who can create the best looking cake or table setting. Walk around the promenade to get a glimpse of all of the winners!

… SO MUCH MORE!

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The possibilities are endless! There are different promenades for your shopping needs, whether you’re looking for candy, hot sauce, household items, beds, etc there is something for you to sample or look at. My friend purchased some olive oil while I was shooting the shit with the ADT guys in the next booth, they were such awesome guys (shout out to Mike and Matt).

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Feeling like you want to get a little loose? There are alcohol stands for you to get beers or cocktails such as margaritas. Feeling lucky? There is a CA Lottery stand where if you spend $20, you can spin the wheel to win more money!

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Want to interact with butterflies? There is a tent area to take those Instagram photos with them.

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The OC Fair is truly a fun experience if you go with the right people, you can spend a whole day there! I was only expecting to spend a few hours but ended up staying until almost closing time. In total, I was there for 7 hours and I felt like I could’ve been there longer!
There is just so much to see and do. I can’t wait until next year!

HAPPY OC FAIRING!

Orange County Study Spots

As I am studying for my certification, I am constantly in search of a place to rest my book and occasionally form study groups. Beyond your Starbucks, there are several other great places in Orange County for students studying for classes or to further their education. It’s difficult to decide whether or not a place is fit for you until you actually arrive and scope the place out.

Fortunately, I have already done the hard part for you and here are a few places I would suggest you check out:

 

Huntington Beach Public Library

Best things about libraries are that they’re free, a place where silence is golden, the library is the choice to hit the books and study. There are many areas of seating based on how you best study and what you are trying to accomplish. There are divided sections where you can eat, group study, and areas where it is ultimate quietness.

Volume Level: Low, it is a library

Seating: Very easy to find as there are multiple seating arrangements available. There are study carrel desks for independent, no distraction study as well as open desks for group study

 

Contra Coffee & Tea 

Coffee shop near Chapman University with a variety of coffees and teas on tap. Great place to get good drinks, however, there are no outlets available and the Wi-Fi is extremely slow and spotty. It would be ideal if you went old school and studied with a textbook, notebook, and pen.

Volume Level: Medium

Seating: Pretty limited as there is a community seating area in the middle with pairs of desks facing each other.

 

Phin Smith

A busy Vietnamese cafe located on Main Street of Garden Grove with delicious, high-quality and highly caffeinated coffee drinks brewed to fuel your study sessions. A shop you would not mind staying at for long hours at a time, but cannot because there is no food available to rejuvenate your energy. The customer service is top notch, as the baristas are welcoming and ensure you have a phenomenal experience.

Volume Level: Medium to Loud

Seating: Plenty of tables and outlets, however, it can get pretty packed during the afternoons and weekends

 

O.C. Mix 

Located in Costa Mesa, it is strange that I would recommend a shopping center as a study spot. However, O.C. Mix is a space with retailers, such as eateries, boutiques, and cafes. Portola, a seriously good coffee roaster, has several open tables and seating outside for you to enjoy your cup of coffee. There are also tables sprinkled throughout the building to rest your legs, eat, and study. Charge your laptops prior to coming because there are no outlets available to plug your computers.

Volume Level: Medium to Loud

Seating: Abundance of tables but can get really crowded

 

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

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Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (CBTL) is similar to Starbucks by the layout of their coffee shops. The offerings are similar but CBTL, in my opinion, is less basic, better tasting, and less crowded. This makes CBTL a better contender to get work done without too much of a distraction if you were to go to a bigger coffee shop chain.

Volume Level: Medium to Loud

Seating: A few tables and chairs with a few outlets available

 

Old Quarter Coffee 

A new coffee shop in Garden Grove that serves as an excellent study spot. Old Quarter Coffee has a peaceful atmosphere (sometimes with questionable music choices), great seating, outlets at every table, free Wi-Fi, and FREE PRINTING!

Volume Level: Low to Medium

Seating: Plentiful, although lately there seems to be a lot of odd characters that come here

 

Milksud

With chairs and tables filling up the entire space, Milksud is a fine contender for a decent study spot. This drink shop specializes in unique draft coffee and tea. For whatever your social needs, the table, and chairs are designed as a lounge to catch up with friends, play board games, enjoy your beverage, and study.

Situated in a plaza, parking is easy to find and the shop is not extremely crowded or loud.

Volume Level: Medium

Seating: The tables for group study are limited, but the individual study seats along the perimeter are plentiful.

Disclaimer: This place might be closing soon.

 

Know any awesome study spots? Leave them in the comments below!

 

6 Things You Must Do When Visiting Orange County, California

Orange County is the chillaxed surfer brother of the busy and overcrowded Los Angeles. Often times, Orange County is mistaken to be Los Angeles due to Los Angeles’s popularity. Although the O.C. is just south of L.A., the vibes, people, traffic, and parking situations are in their own world.

Here are 6 things you must do when visiting Orange County:

 

1. Slurp up Pho at Pho 79

As Orange County is one of the highest Vietnamese populated areas, Vietnamese food here will be some of the best you’ve ever tasted. The competition for Pho, especially, is very stiff as there are Pho shops at every corner of the Bolsa area.

For those who aren’t familiar with pho, it is a Vietnamese noodle soup, typically made with beef stock broth, noodles, and meat or chicken. On top, Vietnamese herbs and bean sprouts are usually added.

You can’t go wrong with most of the Pho restaurants in the Westminster area, the one that is most frequented is Pho 79 and is personally my favorite place to get a steaming hot bowl of Pho. Be warned though, there is regularly a wait, but if you take a look around you, there are mostly Vietnamese people waiting. You know you’re in the right place if you see people of that cuisine to happily wait for something they can get elsewhere.

Pho 79 is the first pho restaurant to be recognized with a prestigious James Beard Award. 

 

 

 

2. Bite into Spring Rolls at Brodard

All spring rolls are made equally, right? Wrong. Brodard spring rolls take it to another level with their Nem Nuong rolls and their delicious secret orange sauce. Their Nem Nuong spring rolls are filled with fresh herbs, pickled daikon, and carrots, perfectly grilled pork sausage, and finish it off with a crunchy fried onion eggroll. Leveraging off of the #1 on this list, Vietnamese food in Orange County is SO DELICIOUS. It would be such a shame to visit without trying at least a bowl of Pho, Bun Bo Hue, or the famous Brodard spring rolls.

Brodard used to be unassumingly behind Fortune Mall but now has made its way to a restaurant next to Miles Square Park. It is typically always busy here, despite their constant increases in prices. It may not look like much but it is packed with flavor, crunch, and savory goodness. I would recommend calling before and ordering for pick up if you are in a hurry.

 

 

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3. Eat Tacos at Just About Anywhere

Within Orange County lies the city of Santa Ana, highly populated with Hispanics. There is an abundance of taquerias, taco trucks, and taco stands to satisfy every taco craving. Not all tacos are made the same. There are differences in the tortilla, meats, size, how it’s cooked and seasoned.

I’ve traveled across the nation and I can say with confidence that Southern California is one of the best places to get legit tacos.

Some of my favorites are Tacos Manuel, Taqueria Los Olivos, and Taqueria Escalante. Check out my Orange County Tacos post for suggestions.

 

 

 

4. Visit Disneyland

Everyone should expect “visit Disneyland” to be the top of every Orange County list. After all, it is the biggest attraction to lure tourists into Orange County. There are no other theme parks that have such a large cult following, demand, and hotels built surrounding a theme park, as Disneyland does.

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Disneyland, a household name, is an empire infamous for its marketing on an intangible item that everyone is living their lives for, happiness. With the catchphrase of Disneyland being the “Happiest Place on Earth”, who wouldn’t dream about going to such a place?

Disneyland

Being at Disneyland is more than being at an amusement park, it is a place where kids can live their childhood while the adults can relive theirs. The Walt Disney Company has many cartoons, tv shows, movies, and characters that just about anyone could recognize.

 

Every day is a new day and a new experience at Disneyland to create your own adventure. It celebrates the most major holidays and has many new activities and seasonal events that only those who buy into their never-ending ticket price hikes can enjoy.

Paradise Pier at Disneyland
RIP Paradise Pier

Disneyland is always finding new ways to adapt to everyone’s interests. There are constant changes and renovations to make the park more exciting and up to date with the current hype. The food scene in Orange County is huge and Disneyland is continuously creating new food items to lure the foodies into their parks as well. The dining experience is interactive with a variety of culinary experiences and chances to meet your favorite Disney characters. 

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The possibilities are endless! Whatever your interests may be, you can’t say you’ve been to Orange County if you’ve never stopped for some rides and a churro at Disneyland.

 

 

 

5. Sunbathe with your Beaches

Granted, the Pacific Ocean isn’t as warm and the color isn’t as clear as other bodies of water, but it’s nice and peaceful to look out at the ocean and feel the sand between your toes.

 

It’s true, it’s (almost) always sunny in California! With Orange County being situated along the West Coast (best coast), it’s hard to avoid those warm summer beach day weather. The beaches are plenty. The best beaches to visit are Corona Del Mar, Crystal Cove, Thousand Steps Beach, and Laguna Beach. For Surf City and bar hopping next to the shore, go to Huntington Beach.

 

 

 

6. Indulge in a Double Double at In-N-Out

I do realize that most of the things on the list is majorly comprised of places to eat. Though, I don’t see a problem here. To no surprise, the last item is …. another food recommendation!

With the never-ending “best burger” debate set aside, In-N-Out is a burger joint you have to try when you are in California. It is California’s very own family-owned American burger chain filling the stomachs of hungry Californians and tourists. Here, you will expect to have a delicious meal at a great value.

The menu is short and simple, expect a quality meal cooked with care. You can customize it any way you like it, such as how you’d like your onions cooked: grilled, whole grilled, or raw. There is also “secret menu” items if you are tired of the 3 choices of hamburger, cheeseburger, and Double Double. Everything is fresh and made to order. No microwaves! Just make sure you eat it while it’s hot.

Although I am obsessed with In-N-Out’s burgers, I can’t speak much about their fries. These can be customized as well, with less/more salt, lightly fried, or well-done. All I can say is, don’t expect much from it, but they’re fresh! In-n-Out will always have a special place in my heart. #fightme

Look for the “X” shaped by palm trees to locate California’s state treasure.

Happy Exploring!

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Lunch Spots near John Wayne Airport (SNA)

On a typical 9 to 5 corporate job, the average worker is faced with a tough decision every day. And no, it’s not whether or not you should call out of work that morning. Rather, what you should eat during your favorite time of the workday, lunch.

Lunch is the most exciting time of the day and is something I am always looking forward to at work. It is when you know you are halfway through your workday. My work is near the John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Irvine, lunch options are not as abundant as the other areas of town, luckily, there are some pockets of restaurants and take-out places to fill my yummy needs.

Places worthy of your lunchtime period nearby John Wayne Airport:

Habuya Okinawan Dining

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My favorite lunch spot till this date. If it was a little closer to my work office, I would frequent Habuya more often. This little restaurant is serving up lunch special bento boxes only offered during certain hours of the day.

The Okinawa Bento Box was SO good and for a great value. It comes with sashimi of the day, kimchi, Soki, rice, Okinawa soba, and house special salad. If you add $1, you get ice cream! The Soki is a stewed pork rib that is cooked so tenderly that the meat falls off of the bone. Everything from start to finish was so delightful and exquisite. I practically licked my plate clean!

 

The parking is limited. Be sure to allocate enough time for lunch as it took me well over my lunch hour. Highly recommend! I never walked out of a lunchtime meal so in awe of my food as I did at Habuya Okinawan Dining.

Bottom line: Delicious food

14215 Red Hill Ave, Tustin, CA

TRADE

Sometimes eating as a group is difficult because everyone has their own preferences. Food courts, like TRADE, make it easier to go out with co-workers considering everyone can pick something they like.

There are 9 different food stalls to choose from, you may even order a little something from each one. Many vendors move in and out of Trade, check out their website for an updated list of the merchants and offerings.

Two Birds at Trade

When I go to TRADE, the two places I visit are Two Birds for chicken sandwiches and Center Hub for drinks. The chicken sandwiches at Two Birds are decent and there are tasty alcoholic specials at Center Hub. After work hours, Center Hub offers Happy Hour for beers and cocktails at a discounted price. 

 


TRADE has come a long way. It used to be a depressing, all-white food court with subpar choices. Though I worked across the street, I only visited twice before the renovation and open-air environment. Granted, TRADE is nothing you should go out of your way for as it is a no-frills food court but it is definitely a huge upgrade from what it was before. The downside is that parking can be quite challenging here when it gets busy.

Bottom line: Lunch with a group of co-workers

2222 Michelson Dr, Irvine, CA

Mess Hall Market

Mess Hall Market, named after a place military personnel eat and socialize, is a building filled with various eateries located in Tustin, off of Barranca Parkway and Flight. It offers plenty of free parking, seating, and restrooms, another perfect place for a lunch outing!

There is a variety of different cuisines based on your mood. You can get seafood at Slapfish, pizza at Big Parm, burgers at Vaka Burger, sandwiches at Sandwich Society, Pho at Saigon Kitchen and several more. View the complete list of vendors here.

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I have personally tried a cup of coffee at The Lost Bean and a chicken sandwich at Fowl Play. The Lost Bean Organic Coffee and Tea has a hipster vibe with a decent selection of drinks. Fowl Play is known for the Nashville Hot Chicken style of food but could use a tad more spice. There are 3 levels of spiciness: mild, medium and hot. The hot was no where near what some people might call “hot”. Overall, not a bad choice and a better value for your money in comparison to other food stalls.

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Bottom line: Plenty of choices, parking, and space for group lunches

KRISP Fresh Living

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In the same plaza as Trade Food Hall, KRISP is first known for being a coffee shop, but with their offerings of fruit smoothies, acai bowls, pastries, soups, wraps, bread boxes, and avocado/hummus toasts, it became a perfect contender for having a healthy lunch. KRISP is more geared towards healthy eating with cold-pressed juices and the focus of being “fresh”. In addition, there are fruit smoothies that are delicious. I suggest the Refresher as it truly is refreshing!

 

 

For coffee, I have tried all of their lattes and my favorite one is the Honey Lavender Latte; the Pistachio Rose Latte and Nutella Madeleine Latte are no match for it. My coworker swears on the Mayan Mocha. There is a drink for every coffee lover. Matcha and other teas are also available.

A concern some might have for jumping ship to KRISP for your morning coffee rather than the typical Starbucks is the rewards system. KRISP has a rewards program of their own.

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The salads displayed behind the glass cabinet is available for sampling, if interested. The bread boxes are made to order and a fun alternative to a sandwich. The pastries, from what I’ve been told, aren’t made in house. Overall, KRISP is a quick and healthy alternative to eating lunch.

Bottom line: Healthy food and delicious caffeinated drinks

2272 Michelson Dr., Ste 100, Irvine, CA

HiroNori Craft Ramen

HiroNori Ramen
Photo Credit: Leonard Ng

In the same plaza as Trade Food Hall and KRISP is HiroNori Craft Ramen, a small ramen shop with limited seating. It’s not the best for workers who have time constraint for lunch. It usually gets very busy during lunch and the parking lot is challenging. It might take you well over an hour to have lunch here. The service is a different style here than what many are used to. You get hurried in and out of the restaurant like herded sheep and will get cut off when they need to bring out someone else’s meal. It is more efficient but does not give the best experience. On top of that, mandatory gratuity is included in your bill.

As for the ramen, it is better tasting than the closeby Ajisen Ramen with prices ranging from $10-$13 a bowl. The noodles are thicker than your average noodle and the egg costs extra ($1.50). I’d be happier if HiroNori had a spicy ramen option. Irvine doesn’t have many ramen restaurants, so it’s safe to say that HiroNori is the best ramen in town.

Bottom line: Best ramen Irvine’s got

2222 Michelson Dr, Suite 234, Irvine, CA

Roll It Sushi & Teriyaki

Roll It Sushi & Teriyaki

Bento boxes are like adult elementary cafeteria lunches. They are one of my favorite things when it comes to food because of all of the different choices that are connected together to make one great meal. At Roll It Sushi, you get to choose between the main entree, salad, appetizer, and a 4-piece sushi roll. The entrees are chosen between the proteins: chicken, steak, salmon, or katsu. Aloha Maids are available in the fridge and I would highly suggest grabbing one as they are delicious. I got the Strawberry Guava and it goes great with the meal.

The bento box delivers a great lunch option whether you decide to eat it there or take it back to the office. Roll It can get a little crowded during lunch but the line moves quickly.

Bottom line: Efficient Bento box lunch

4221 Macarthur Blvd, Newport Beach, CA

Ike’s Love & Sandwiches

Ike's Love and Sandwiches

Making its way down from Northern California and spreading throughout Southern California, Ike’s prepares heavy, savory sandwiches for a big price. The list of sandwiches creations on their menu can be a little overwhelming but just remember to get it on the Dutch Crunch bread and you can thank me later.

If you don’t see a sandwich you like or know of one that isn’t on the menu, you can still order it! There is a secret menu sandwich called “Kryptonite” which consists of every meat and add-ons that they have and comes in 2 different sandwiches. I don’t recommend getting this unless you have 2 or 3 people to help you finish it. Ike’s is your place for lunch for delicious sandwiches

Bottom line: Tasty sandwiches

4221 Macarthur Blvd, Newport Beach, CA

El Torito

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Conveniently located next to the John Wayne Airport, El Torito offers lunch specials at a bargain price. Other than Lunch specials, they offer Taco Tuesdays, Happy Hours, and occasional food deals such as Buy 1 get 1 when you subscribe to their mailing list.

When dining at El Torito, free tasty salsa and chips will greet you at your table. Whether you are there for a quick lunch or hanging out after work with coworkers, it is a great place to do either. Now, don’t discredit me just yet for recommending El Torito. The prices are reasonable and I highly recommend the Chicken & Sour Cream Enchilada and Beef Crispy Taco Combo with refills of chips and salsa. The sweet corn cake always leaves me wanting more.

Bottom line: Affordable lunch specials

18512 Macarthur Blvd, Irvine, CA

Puesto 

 

 

Gourmet tacos at a premium price. Puesto has great tacos if you know what to order because not all tacos are made equally. Be sure to ask about their secret menu options that’s where all the good tacos are, off-menu! One of the secret menu items, a surf and turf taco or “Hero taco”, is definitely the way to go! This crowd pleasure consists of both lobster and filet mignon.

 

 

Taco Tuesdays are available so I wouldn’t go on a regular day unless it’s on someone else’s dime. Even better, catch their Happy Hour on Taco Tuesday from 3-6PM. That way, you can get tacos for significantly less than the normal price tag and also $6 classic or spicy margaritas! The perfect pairing.

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During lunch, it can get pretty packed with people, so expect to spend longer than an hour here.

Bottom line: Flavorful artisan tacos

3311 Michelson Dr, Irvine, CA

The Kebab Shop

The Kebab Shop

Typically, food that looks aesthetically pleasing in pictures make me skeptical, but The Kebab Shop delivers! This place has my stamp of approval for it being both pleasing to the eyes and to the tongue.

As you enter through the doors, you order your food at the cashier. First, you start with how you want your food presented, either in a wrap, fries box, rice box, panini sandwich, or a plate; followed by picking your proteins and sides. The sauces are self-serve with 3 different types available. The green, spicy cilantro sauce is my favorite!
The Kebab Shop, a chain famous for Mediterranean selections, is a healthier, quicker, and tastier option than a fast food joint most people choose for lunch.

Bottom line: Aesthetic and fresh lunch

17655-G Harvard Ave, Irvine, CA

Pier 76

 

 

 

A fast and casual seafood restaurant with great smoked fish tacos for $2 on Taco Tuesdays! Great flavors and value, perfect for a quick lunch. Happy hour is also available here.

Bottom line: Taco Tuesday

15080 Kensington Park Dr, Suite 330, Tustin, CA

Pepper Lunch

Pepper Lunch

Located in Diamond Jamboree, Pepper Lunch is an eatery specializing in food served on sizzling hot plates. It is a cool, simple concept that lets you know the food is piping hot.

You first pick what type of protein and flavor you like to be served, then add your sauces and MIX, MIX, MIX! There is usually a long wait here but you get your food fairly quickly since all they need to do is put it together and bring it out to you while it cooks on the hot plate. Be cautious when you eat, because it is HOT! The portions are just right because it is enough for you to feel content and not overly full or leaving you hungry.

Fun and tasty addition to Irvine’s ever-growing roster of restaurants for a decent lunch.

Bottom line: Sizzling hot plate lunch

2750 Alton Pkwy, Ste 101, Irvine, CA

Sgt Pepperoni’s Pizza Store 

 

What is a quicker, easier and a more delicious lunch option than pizza by the slice? You simply choose your flavor of pizza through the glass case display and the employee will heat up your pizza and bring it out to you after you pay and grab a seat. In addition to the delightful pizza, the pinwheels are also a great add-on option.

 

 

 

There are lunch special combos available for your convenience. I got the meatball ricotta and I would unquestionably order it again.

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Bottom line: Quick, delectable pizza

2300 SE Bristol St., Ste F, Newport Beach, CA

North Italia 

 

Delicious Italian food with handmade pasta made in-house and so fresh that you can peek through the window to the kitchen to see the pasta being made. It is no surprise that North Italia is a very popular lunch and dinner spot. You can taste the quality of the ingredients here and how everything on the dishes compliments each other.

 

I highly recommend the pasta here and not other items such as the pizza and salads. The appetizers are also divine. I would be surprised if you didn’t enjoy your meal from start to finish.

Bottom line: Handmade pasta

2957 Michelson Dr, Irvine, CA

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Happy hunting for a lunchtime spot to make your workdays a little more bearable!

Make sure to leave a comment if I’ve missed any of your favorite lunch spots near John Wayne Airport!

Bubbling Up the Tea While in the O.C.

Bubble tea, boba, tapioca, and pearl milk tea, whichever name you may call it, refers to the tiny black chewy balls of starch at the bottom of tea-based drinks. Originating in Taiwan, boba has become widespread, internationally accepted, and made its way to become one of my addictions.

Although Orange County does not have as many boba shops as Los Angeles, there still is a great number of them. It is my personal mission to try all of the local boba shops in the area and find a place to call my boba home. In the meanwhile, I will provide my input of each shop and possibly a recommendation for any drinks that I find to be pretty solid.

Omomo Tea Shoppe

Originating in Chino Hills, California and rebranding the name and design, Omomo Tea Shoppe made its way to Irvine and to the hearts of many, including mine. The hype is real, and it is apparent with their 30 minutes plus wait lines. The drinks are not just aesthetically pleasing, but they are also unique with the ability to customize your sweetness, ice level, and add-ons to your liking. Pick one of their many categories of Creamomo, which is capped with cheese or tiramisu, Milk Tea, Cafe, Fruit Tea, Fresh Tea, and Specials, fit for any type of boba drinkers.

 

Recommendation: Omomo Matcha with Creme Brulee (80% sweet) and Oreo Brulee Green Milk Tea

Lambada

A new addition to the many boba shops in Westminster with options of milk teas, slushies, and smoothies. Inside has a few picnic-looking tables and chairs, good to chat with friends or play board games but definitely not for long periods of studying since the chairs do not have any back support.

Lambada
Lambada

Food items are offered here other than the usual fried finger foods, such as pho. The plaza is crowded and it may be difficult to find parking. The cashier was very sweet and I had an overall great experience.

Lambada

Recommendation: Pistachio Luv’n with grass jelly

Sunright Tea Studio

Originally from Diamond Bar, Sunright Tea Studio expanded its way towards the coastal shore and made its new home at OC Mix in Costa Mesa. It is a step above par from the powdered boba tea drinks because of their higher quality drink menu. You can adjust sweetness and ice levels here!

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Sunright specializes in their cheese foam so it would be such a shame to go and not order that. One of the drinks that I had, the Matcha Red Bean with Creme Brulee (with no red bean because yuck) makes me reminiscent of Omomo. So come here if you want to avoid the long lines at Omomo! With no wait, comes higher prices though so be advised!

Sunright Tea Studio

Recommendation: Strawberry Cheese, Matcha Red Bean Smoothie (no red bean) & Oreo Brulee

 

Tan-Cha

When cheese foam was all the hype, many boba shops were created to jump on the new fad. Tan-Cha was aimed to fill the demand of many boba enthusiasts in Garden Grove and does a great job at it. Not only does Tan-Cha offer Cheese Tea, but also Tiramisu Milk Tea, Fresh Fruit Tea, Uji Matcha, Cocoa Drinks, Brulee Milk Tea and Milk Teas. It is different from your average tapioca drinks made with tea and flavored powder, however, it is on the pricier side as well. 

 

 

Recommendation: Tiramisu Milk Tea and Cheese Uji Matcha

Almond Haus

With 2 locations in Garden Grove, Almond Haus offers competitive pricing with a large variety of drinks to choose from. Coffee, tea, milk tea, smoothies, and juice are the main options. I used to frequent this place since it was one of the cheapest to get decent drinks. The first location is a small shop with only 2 tables available for seating. The 2nd location is a larger store with tables and chairs available for studying. Ice cream and a few snack items are available at this location.

Recommendation: Almond Haus Hazelnut Iced Coffee, Coconut Thai Tea Smoothie

7 Leaves

Originating in Orange County and now expanding to several locations outside of town and slowly making its way into other states, 7 Leaves has captured the hearts of its customers with featured drinks such as Mung Bean, House Coffee, and Sea Cream Jasmine Tea. What started in a small store of a very tiny plaza is now taking over the boba game and changing the way how drinks should be made; real tea leaves and none of that powder stuff. At 7 Leaves, there are a few snacks you could also order like popcorn chicken, fries, and macarons.

Each location has its own special accommodations. There are some 7 Leaves with drive-thrus, while others have a spacious area perfect for studying or meet-ups with a friend.

7 Leaves Japanese Matcha Soy

Recommendation: Japanese Matcha Soy with grass jelly

TeaArias

TeaArias is located in Huntington Beach inside a large shopping plaza with a closed down Toys R Us (RIP) and a neighboring Hobby Lobby. If TeaArias wasn’t so far from me, I would frequent it more often. However, I always make it a mission to drop by for Happy Hour when I’m in the area.

TeaArias

TeaArias is the only boba shop with a daily happy hour promotion (5 – 7 PM buy one get one free with Yelp Check-in). You can adjust the sweetness and ice level here. Quality is always consistent and the drinks are made fresh with tea leaves. They even have the tea leaves available for purchase.

TeaArias

For desserts, TeaArias carries the Mille Crepe Cake and Strawberry Watermelon, imitated from other well-known bakeries but for a cheaper price. The Strawberry Watermelon cake can only be ordered for pick up on the weekends. Be sure to put in your pre-order for the number of portions you want! I ordered a small, 4 portion Strawberry Watermelon cake and it set me back $21.

 

Recommendation: House Milk Tea with boba and Strawberry Watermelon Cake

ShareTea

One of the first international chains to make its way into the United States. Sharetea was established in Taipei, Taiwan, the country responsible for this bubble tea phenomenon. It has become a franchise and expanded to many countries, so everyone can “Share it, drink it – loving it!”.

You can adjust your sweetness and ice to just how you like it. I would suggest getting light ice so your drink doesn’t become watered down. Also, be mindful that some of the drinks already come with toppings.

One thing that sets Sharetea apart from other boba shops is that there are limited time offers for holiday drinks. I appreciate the creativity and having a special drink series for only a short period.

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Recommendation: QQ Happy Family (no red bean for me), Okinawa Pearl Milk Tea or Oolong Milk Tea

Ding Tea

Another boba tea shop chain coming overseas from Taiwan and has been popping up all over  Orange County with a new shop every few weeks. The menu consists of a variety of drinks including fresh tea, flavored tea, milk tea, fruit juice, Yakult based drinks, latte, and coffee. Ding Tea allows customers to customize the level of sweetness and ice to create a beverage most suitable for your taste buds. The milk teas taste very silky and the flavors are usually spot on. Please note that these stores are franchised and the quality of the drinks may vary. Most Ding Teas I have been to are not ideal for large groups or for a study spot.

 

Recommendation: Strawberry Milk or Winter Melon Milk Tea with Crystal Boba

Cafe 3 Blossoms

Matcha EVERYTHING! 3 Blossoms is best known for their matcha drinks and Guayusa teas, which are said to provide energy. You can’t find many places where you can get flavored matcha (Original, Raspberry, and Blueberry), flavored Guayusa iced teas and matcha affogatos. This is what sets 3 Blossoms Cafe apart from other tea shops. At 3 Blossoms Cafe, there are other things that they offer such as espresso, hot teas, immortality, Thai tea, fresh citrus, and jasmine iced tea.

Upon entering, if you catch the owner, he will give you a spiel of all the products offered, the health benefits, and the history of the teas. Samples are also offered here if you are indecisive.    

 

Recommendation: Blueberry Matcha with Crystal Boba

Presotea

Nestled in a busy shopping plaza across the street from Asian Garden Mall below Seafood Cove #2, Presotea is a boba shop that freshly brews the teas to order. The drinks are individually made from separate single satchels of tea bags. There are unique flavors you can choose from within their 5 categories of drinks: fresh tea, milk tea, latte, smoothie, and special drinks.

You can adjust the ice level and sweetness to some of the drinks, but be informed that some of the drinks cannot be adjusted. Pick your drinks wisely as some drinks come out tasting very watery. I got the Okinawa Brown Sugar Milk Tea, Wintermelon and Hojicha Milk Tea with bits of Wintermelon added at the button, White Peach Oolong Tea with Lychee Coconut Jelly at 70% Sugar, and Signature Fruit Tea with 50% Sugar. The coconut flavor was not distinct in the jelly, as it seems to be mainly just lychee jelly.

What makes Presotea especially unique is that they have soft serve available in two different flavors, Matcha and Tieguanying Oolong Tea. I have never seen Oolong soft serve before and I was pleasantly surprised. 

Presotea

Recommendation: Okinawa Brown Sugar Milk Tea & Mango Cloud

 

Lollicup / Tea Zone

A classic! If you were to ask me what was the first boba shop I’ve ever known, I would tell you Teazone or also known as Lollicup. It was the only tapioca shop to open around town when boba was still a new thing. Many years ago, it was almost a monopoly, similar to Yogurtland when frozen yogurt was the new fad. Drinks at Lollicup are made up of teas and flavored with powder. Snacks are also offered here and it consists of mostly finger food such as french fries, wings, and popcorn chicken.

Lollicup
Lollicup

Now that there’s more of a selection of boba and better quality teas, Lollicup is thrown to the back end and almost forgotten about. However, after all of the new boba shops appearing, Tea Zone still holds the throne of the best popcorn chicken. It is battered and fried to perfection, seasoned marvelously with basil, and served fresh right out of the fryer. Make sure to get it spiced medium or hot to add a kick to your taste buds.

Lollicup

Recommendation: Royal Milk Tea Snow and Popcorn Chicken (Spicy)

R&B Tea

A very popular tea shop across Asia with over 500 locations has now made its way into the United States. Locally, there is one location in Garden Grove and a second location has recently popped up on Bolsa Street.

The first time I had R&B Tea, I got the Strawberry Milk which tastes like Nesquik Strawberry Milk. It wasn’t bad but I would not choose to get it again. The second time I got the XL Hawaiian Fruit Tea which has large chunks of fruit inside with tea. The fruits take up a huge portion of the cup so the drink itself is very little. Overall, I enjoyed the flavor of it but I wish the fruit chunks were smaller and there was more liquid. The cups that the drinks come in are different than the usual plastic cups at other boba shops, it is a thicker plastic which you could possibly reuse. One downside of R&B tea is that they don’t allow you to order your drinks without ice. You have to at least get light ice, which I find to be kinda strange.

R&B Tea

Recommendation: XL Hawaiian Fruit Tea

Cha For Tea

Cha for Tea offers a variety of flavored teas, milk teas, coolers, and refreshers. They also offer snacks (appetizers), noodle soup, and entrees consisting of popcorn chicken, grilled chicken, teriyaki chicken and many more. Can’t decide on what you like? Samples are offered!

Aside from Lollicup, I used to frequent Cha for Tea and remember the times where I had to drive to Long Beach or Irvine just to get boba during late nights. What I like about Cha for Tea is that they barely put any ice in their drinks, so you don’t need to say light ice to get more of the drink. You can really taste the tea flavors in your drinks and it is not overly sweet. However, I haven’t gone to Cha for Tea in a while so I can’t comment on the quality now.

Cha For Tea

Recommendation: Mango/Peach Iced Tea or Iced Milk Tea with Lychee Jelly

A tea shop originally from Vietnam has found its home in one of the largest Vietnamese communities in the United States, Westminster. A small, yet inviting store with multiple tables and the wonderful scent of teas and boba greets you as you step foot inside.

Hok Tea

Hok Tea is one of many new boba tea shops opening on the same weekend in October. I was one of the ones that waited in line during the grand opening day with their buy one, get one free promotion.

The menu is divided up into 6 different categories: Taro Cream Tea, Tiramisu Milk Tea, Smoothie, Healthy Fruit Drink, Strawberries Series and Milk Tea. Flavors here are catered to people of Vietnamese descent with options such as Durian Cacao and Coco Smoothie, Durian Avocado and Coco Smoothie, and Red Guava Passion Fruit Green Tea. Among other unique flavors, I picked out the Tiramisu Green Tea which is similar to the new cream cheese craze but with tiramisu flavors. It is definitely unique and has the flavors of tiramisu in a cheese foam.

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Recommendation: N/A

Tastea

Tastea first originated and brewed in Southern California and is now expanding to other parts of California and the nation. It is best known for its “specialteas”, slushy freezes, and smoothies.

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Special teas on the menu have real fruit bits complemented with fruit juices and teas. There are also fries and Karate chicken served at 5 levels of spices. The popcorn chicken is not as crispy as Lollicup but will satisfy your cravings.

Recommendation: Peach Me Sweetea, Peach Me Freezie, Strawberry Bananza and Karate Chicken (insane), Watermelon Heaven

Spiritea

A boba shop located in the Tustin Marketplace in Irvine dedicated to being health-conscious by using all-natural ingredients and not having boba as a topping. Instead, they provide “healthier alternatives” to the traditional boba, typically made of starch. 

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Spiritea’s specialty drink is their “cloud tea” which are blended fruit slushies topped with creamy cheese foam. They use fresh fruits to make their drinks which can be seen as less flavorful than the typical artificial drinks. People have complained that it is bland and flavorless. However, I think the drink tastes better with the cloud part of the drink. Without it, I would not even bother with it as it tastes mainly like water.

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The price point is also high ($7- $8.50) justified by the quality of the ingredients. I would probably never have tried this spot if it wasn’t for their grand opening promotion (Buy One Get One Free) because, for that price, you can already buy yourself a meal. 

Recommendation:  Seasonal Cloud Teas, such as the Peach Cloud Tea

BooCha Taiwanese Bubble Tea House

Another new addition to Garden Grove’s overflowing boba scene, BooCha is a small shop located near the cross streets of Brookhurst and Chapman. Inside, there are a couple of tables and chairs to chat with your friends over the loud banging music.

Like most bubble tea shops, there is an LED display screen showcasing their top 12 drink menu items if you can’t decide what to order. The menu items consist of lattes, milk tea, cheese tea, slush, fruit tea, and coffee. Be prepared to spend $4-6 on each drink. Although the prices seem a little higher than the standard, the drinks at BooCha comes with toppings.

 

Recommendation: Blue Green Milk Tea

Eightfold Tea Shoppe

A cute little boba shop with creative drinks in hopes of winning over the people in Costa Mesa. Yes, the drinks are Instagrammable but the taste tells a different tale. Choose between loose-leaf tea, fresh milk, craft milk tea, fruit & flower, and blended. There are samples for some of their drinks upon request.

 

 

The Eightfold Signature is different than most basic house milk teas, whereas, the “pretty” drinks such as Raspberry Matcha, Deep Matcha, and blended Uji Matcha are either flavorless or leaves a weird taste in your mouth. I have given Eightfold Tea Shoppe a couple of tries to redeem itself but unfortunately, the attractiveness of the drinks is not enough for me to keep coming back.

 

 

Recommendation: Eightfold Signature

Roasting Water

Roasting Water is popular for its cute, reusable bottles that come with every drink. It is very aesthetically pleasing, perfect for those Instagram pictures. The interior is decorated very cutesy with many opportunities for pictures, occasional themes and mugs are placed around the store for purchase.

At Roasting Water, there are cold/hot teas, smoothies, coffee, and lemonades, but absolutely no food available for purchase. The prices are higher than normal boba shops but it’s because the price of the bottle is baked into the prices. However, the drinks itself is just okay, nothing to write home about.

Roasting Water

Recommendation: N/A

Boba Junkie

Located in Santa Ana in a fairly large plaza is Boba Junkie. At this boba shop, there is a very limited menu with a selective choice of teas, coffee, and slushies. I normally see a few items that I like to try everywhere I go but at Boba Junkie I was only interested in 2 items, their House Milk Tea and Matcha Latte. There are other off-menu items listed at the counter on a little board as their “specials” so make sure to give it a look if you don’t see anything you like on the board.

When I received my Matcha Latte ($4.50), it was in two layers.. the matcha on top and the bottom was milk. I appreciate the presentation but the drink was very uneven and clumpy, despite shaking the drink as much as I could. There were clumps of matcha swimming around in my drink that sometimes I would get a clump of bitter matcha and that leaves an unwanted taste. I was disappointed in my drink so I tried my friend’s Thai Tea Float. It was a tad better than my drink but it was also pretty sweet.

All of the drinks at Boba Junkie are as is. You cannot adjust your sweetness level and that’s where drinks could be overly sweet for some people. All of the drinks are available in one size only. Yelp Check-in for a free topping!

Based on its location, I think Boba Junkie will do well in this area since there is a shortage of boba shops. As for me, I will continue searching for my next boba location.

Recommendation: Not the Matcha Latte

Matcha Latte at Boba Junkie

Tai Tea

Very basic tasting drinks that would be okay if you were in a pinch, however, with the competition so high in Orange County, Tai Tea does not set themselves apart very well. There is a wide range of drinks ranging from fresh tea, build your own favorite tea, coffee, special milk tea, ice milk drink, and slushy. If you are indecisive, there is a list of top 15 items to help you decide.

Tai Tea

Recommendation: N/A

 

 

Know any boba shops worth mentioning and you think I might like?
Please comment below!

Orange County Breweries

It was my mission to try every brewery in Orange County. This was doable and I accomplished my bucket list up until mid 2017. Now, there are new microbreweries that I have not tried yet. Anyway, this is a compilation of all of the breweries in the OC:

  • The Good Beer Company
  • Cismontane Brewing Company
  • Native Son Alehouse
  • Barley Forge Brewing
  • Golden Road Brewing
  • Noble Ale Works
  • Backstreet Brewery
  • Karl Strauss Brewing Company
  • Valiant Brewing Company


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  • Old Orange Brewing Company (now called Black Cock Brewing)
  • Beach City Brewing
  • Four Sons Brewing
  • Bottle Logic Brewing
  • Tustin Brewing Co
  • The Bruery
  • Anaheim Brewery
  • Phantom Ales
  • Bootlegger’s Brewery
  • Hoparazzi Brewing Company
  • Riip Beer Company
  • Stadium Brewing Company
  • Newport Beach Brewing Company
  • Legends Craft Brewery
  • TAPS Fish House & Brewery
  • Towne Park Brew

  • Left Coast Brewing Company
  • Artifex Brewing Company
  • Evans Brewing Company
  • Network Brewery
  • BrewBakers
  • Unsung
  • Stereo Brewing
  • Bruery Terreux Tasting Room
  • Beach Wood
  • The Dudes
  • Ballast Point

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New Breweries that I Need to Drink At:

  • Docent Brewing
  • Lost Winds
  • Stone Church Brewing

Did I miss one? Please let me know!