Creations Pizzeria in Tustin

Written By: Aaron Morris - Apr• 26•14

There was a time I could enjoy mass-produced pizzas with the best of them, but I suppose my tastes have matured. I think the end came when we went to a friend’s pizza party, where everyone made their own thin crust pizzas from fresh ingredients and really good sauce. That was when I discovered what a truly good pizza could taste like. Even the pizza from California Pizza Kitchen, which is certainly leagues beyond other pizza-chaines, pales in comparison to what we created at that pizza party.

That pizza party has arrived at Creations Pizzeria, at 13041 Newport Ave. in Tustin. Just as with the pizza party, you select the sauce, cheeses, meat and vegetables for the pizza, and it is baked and ready in just five minutes. I’m tempted to compare the process to Subway or perhaps Chipotle, but that minimizes the truly amazing variety of toppings available for your creation.

When you enter, you are greeted with a large board that displays many pre-determined pizza combinations. If one catches your fancy, then go for it, but I have always been happier with my own creations. (Or you can start with one of their suggestions, and then add whatever you want.) All for one set price ($8.95), there is no limit to the number of toppings you can select (no 2-topping pizza for $10 here).

I had to ask the General Manager, “does anyone abuse the unlimited toppings?”

He confessed that some get carried away and make a game of how big they can make the pizza, but that really doesn’t make for the best pizza since so many ingredients won’t fully heat in the five minutes through the oven. So go crazy, but play fair.

Since you create the pizza yourself, how could it help but be the best? When was the last time you exclaimed “oh my God” when you tasted a pizza from Pizza Hut?  (The Cinnamon Sticks and Chocolate Dunkers don’t count.) When you bite into a pizza from Creations Pizzeria, that reaction is as automatic as closing your eyes when you sneeze.

Show this place some love. This is the one and only Creations Pizzeria; it is not part of a chain. It is located in Lafayette Plaza at Newport Ave. and Irvine Blvd. The location is great and the business has high visibility, but this spot within Lafayette Plaza has gone though a lot of businesses (the most recent being Saladworks). Let’s support this one, because I don’t want these delicious pizzas to go away.

Creations Pizzeria
13041 Newport Ave.
Tustin, CA
(657) 218-9088

Hours: 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. (7 days)

Taqueria Los Grandes

Written By: Aaron Morris - Apr• 15•14

It’s a bit of a drive, but we discovered a little hole in the wall place deep inside Santa Ana, at 1736 W. Fifth Street.  Taqueria Los Grandes is not much bigger than a Taco Bell, and like a Taco Bell you order the food at the counter and pick it up when called.  In other words, not an upscale place.  Indeed, we went there on a recommendation, but based on the way my car’s navigation system steered us there, I thought I must have entered the address wrong because we were in a residential neighborhood.  But as I peeked around the front of a building facing Fifth Street, it turned out to be the restaurant.

We picked some things at random, and sat down to wait for our food, a bit skeptical that this would be worth the drive.  That skepticism continued even as we picked up the food.  The portions were large, always a bonus, but the presentation wasn’t much.  Both orders came in those aluminum foil containers and, oddly, the napkins were from Bagel Me.

But the food was insanely good.  My nachos were fantastic, with a large quantity of beef on top.  My cohort ordered the carne asada burritos, which were served with Mexican rice.  She insisted that I take a bite of the rice, which looked like plain old Mexican rice to me.  Again, the taste was amazing, and she explained that was only the second time in her life that she had experienced authenticate Mexican rice at a restaurant, all other instances having come from home cooking.  It was almost comical that such fantastic tastes could be coming from what was sitting in those unassuming aluminum containers.  This is no Taco Bell.

Other reviews of Taqueria Los Grandes:

OC Weekly

Taqueria Los Grandes
1736 W. Fifth Street
Santa Ana, CA 

30 Cent Cocktails at The Cellar on September 11

Written By: Aaron Morris - Sep• 10•13

The Cellar in historic downtown Fullerton will debut its new signature list of classically crafted cocktails, Wednesday, September 11, from 5:30pm-7:30pm in the lounge. In celebration of the menu launch, The Cellar is also rolling back the calendar on prices offering guests their first featured cocktail at only 30 cents. Guests will also enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres. There will also be a drawing held for a chance to win a seat at one of The Cellar’s monthly winemaker dinners.

Created by mixologist Rich Ohtsuka and Tommy Newcomb, the menu includes 12 classic cocktails which celebrate the origins of handcrafted cocktails dating back to the 1800/1900s, including drinks such as Mint Julep, circa 1803, Orange County Pride, late 1800s, and the Vieux Carré circa 1932. This event will have limited capacity and guests are encouraged to arrive early.

The Cellar is located in the heart of historic downtown Fullerton at 305 N. Harbor Blvd. Fullerton, CA 92832. Open for dinner service Tuesday through Sunday from 5:30pm with cocktail service until 2am. Wine Wednesdays feature half off pricing with every bottle. Reservations and private bookings at 714.525.5682. For more information, visit

Sutha Thai Kitchen

Written By: Aaron Morris - Aug• 02•13

This tiny restaurant, tucked away in the shopping center at the intersection of Irvine Blvd. and Old Irvine Blvd. (across from Michaels), appears to be designed primarily for take-out and delivery.  There are just five or so tables lined up in a small area in the front.  But that is one of the charms of this place, if you opt for sit-down dining as opposed to taking it home.  Typically there are just a few people there, so the service is amazing.  Our beverages never got below the 3/4 mark before they were instantly refilled.

On this latest visit, we ordered the Seafood Fried Rice, Mongolian Beef, Pad Thai and the Spicy Seafood Platter.  All were very good, with fresh, crispy vegetables.  I especially liked the Seafood Platter, which included fish, shrimp, mussels, squid and crab, all sautéed with the house spicy curry sauce.

Most dinner entrees are $8, and the lunch specials are around $6.50.  The lunch specials come with soup, and the sweet and sour soup is amazing.

Sutha Thai Kitchen
1161 Irvine Blvd.
Tustin, CA  92780
(714) 734-6100

Jersey Mike’s Subs Opens in Tustin

Written By: Aaron Morris - Jan• 18•13

Jersey Mike's Subs ReviewIn the mechanized, never-changing world of Subway and Quiznos, Jersey Mike’s Subs is a pleasant surprise. It has some similarities to the aforementioned establishments, but it’s closer to an old-style deli.  You go to the counter and order, and out comes the meats and cheeses to be sliced fresh for your sandwich, wrap or salad.

I have nothing against Subway or Quiznos.  Both offer a greater selection of bread (white and wheat only at Jersey Mike’s) and you won’t find a $5 footlong at Jersey Mike’s, but you get a really stuffed, delicious deli-style sandwich.  Also unlike Subway and Quiznos, a hot sandwich at Jersey Mike’s is cooked on an honest to God grill, not warmed in a flash oven. I tried the Chipotle Cheese Steak (also available with chicken) and got the giant size. Delicious! It’s a $12 sandwich, but it fed two of us — twice.  Their menu can be found here, and on-line ordering is available (but they really need an order app).

jersey-mikes-subs-deli meatsSo show some love to the new Jersey Mike’s on Newport in Tustin, between the Soup Plantation and Kéan Coffee, or visit one of the other ten or so locations in Orange County.

Jersey Mike’s Subs
13681 Newport Ave.
Tustin, CA  92780
(714) 505-1515

Open 10 am to 9 pm seven days a week.

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Hopscotch Fullerton — Great Craft Beer and Whiskey

Written By: Aaron Morris - Nov• 24•12

Hopscotch Fullerton Review
We got a chance to attend the soft opening of Hopscotch at 136 E. Commonwealth in Fullerton on Wednesday.

The old line from the movie is, “If you build it, they will come.” But after visiting Hopscotch, I could only conclude that the current saying should be, “If you build it, and create enough buzz on social media, they will come.” I was amazed by the turnout. The plan had been to open on Sunday, but the owners put out the word via social media that they were running behind and were shooting for Wednesday. I happened to be in Fullerton on Wednesday, so I dropped by at 5:00 p.m., and the place was still under construction with tools and workers everywhere. I asked if they were still planning to open that evening, and got different answers, ranging from 6:00 to 8:00. At 7:00 p.m., I got word from one of the bartenders that we could head over. There were perhaps 20 people when we arrived, but by 9:00 the place was packed. Understand, this isn’t a chain business like Lazy Dog, where a new location is pretty much guaranteed a nice turnout because people are already familiar with the concept. This was a new, untested business, which achieved success on its first night.

The success is justified, because Hopscotch is a great place. There is a very nice selection of craft beers, both on tap and in bottles, and no price-gouging. With the popularity of craft beer, some places are starting to treat it like fine wine, with prices to match. Over at the Pint House, for example, an 11.2 ounce bottle of Delirium Tremens is $12.50. I like the Pint House, and Delirium Tremens is a great beer, but that price is about a 200% mark-up. At Hopscotch, a number of 22 ounce bottles of great craft beer sell for $10 or less. Both the beer and whiskey selections need some work (no Blue Label on the blended list?), but it is a very good foundation to build on. The mixed drinks are also very creative and impressive, and all are $10. For the soft opening, no food was offered, but the food was described to us, and I anticipate some very good comfort food based on what I heard.

Although not yet available, one item on the list caught my eye. It is called the Blue Collar Special, and consists of a craft beer, a shot of whiskey and a cigar. James, one of the mixologists, informed me that this was inspired by a place that offered a beer, shot of whiskey, and a cigarette for five dollars.

The decor seems perfect for the nature of the place, with a bar made of whiskey barrels, dark woods throughout and beer and whiskey related quotes printed on the walls. The layout consists of the primary bar area, a separate room of about the same size with a number of booths, a large patio area and a smaller patio area. Even though the bar area and patio were packed the night we visited, there were still a number of available tables in the separate room. You’ll probably have a good shot finding a place to sit unless you visit at the busiest times.

If craft beers and/or whiskey are your thing, be sure to visit Hopscotch. It is open Mon-Fri, from 11 am to 2 am, and Sat-Sun from 9 am to 2 am.

Hopscotch Fullerton

Hopscotch Fullerton Review

Menu from Hopscotch Fullerton

Bar Area -- Hopscotch Review

Laguna Canyon Winery — Why Drive to Temecula?

Written By: Aaron Morris - Aug• 17•12

Laguna Canyon Winery

You don’t need to go all the way to Temecula for an outstanding wine tasting experience at a winery. I was planning a trip to the Sawdust Festival, and thought I might as well add some other activities while I was in Laguna Beach. I settled on Asada for a place to eat (outstanding!), and also added a stop at the Laguna Canyon Winery.

Laguna Canyon Winery Wine Bottles

What a find. The Laguna Canyon Winery is the real deal; a winery tucked away in Laguna Canyon. True, the grapes are grown in the Sonoma and Napa Vaslley areas, so you won’t be able to take a walk in the vineyards, but the wine making process occurs right there in Laguna Canyon. I will definitely visit the winery on a future visit, but for today we visited the Downtown Laguna tasting room at 380 Glenneyre Street, and were helped by the very entertaining and knowledgeable Ashley.

Unlike some wineries, where you may be limited to whatever selections they are pouring that day, we were offered their full complement of wines, from white to port (with the exception of one, limited quantity reserve). Between the two of us, we sampled most of what was available, and the 2009 Lodi Petite Sirah was the only one that didn’t impress us. The rest were all good, and we especially liked the 2009 Thief Red Blend. Indeed, Laguna Canyon Winery won seven medals at this year’s Orange County Fair, including four gold medals.

Laguna Canyon Winery Downtown Wine Tasting Room

Here is a tip. If you buy a bottle of wine at the Laguna Canyon Winery, ask for the list of local restaurants in the area that won’t hit you with a corkage fee. This is a very cool (and frugal) process I intend to make standard procedure when we are dining in Laguna Beach. Select a wine at Laguna Canyon Winery, then enjoy it with dinner without the restaurant’s usual 300% mark-up.

As it turned out, Asada was on the no corkage fee list, so we shared a bottle of Thief Red Blend at Asada while enjoying the Mexican food and the sunset over the ocean. Tommy Bahama’s and Nick’s are two other restaurants that waive the corkage fee for a bottle from the Laguna Canyon Winery, and there are many more.

If you’ve ever wanted to start your own winery, Laguna Canyon Winery can help you with that also. Well, not really, but they do offer a custom label program, enabling you to offer your own private label wines to your friends. “Oh, do try my Cabernet made only from grapes grown on the South facing hills of Northern Napa Valley. I think you’ll find it quite precocious.” You know you want to be able to say that.

The downtown location is open seven days a week, 2-8 Thursday through Saturday, and 3-7 Sunday through Wednesday. The main tasting room, just a short distance away at 2133 Laguna Canyon Road, is closed on Mondays, but open 11-6 the rest of the week. For more information, be sure to read this additional article about the Laguna Canyon Winery.

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El Pollo Norteno and

Written By: Aaron Morris - Mar• 01•12

Great Home DeliveryTwo reviews for the price of one, because I found a great restaurant through a great delivery service.

I’ve seen a number of food delivery services come and go, so I almost hate to write about, given the likelihood of its demise. But for what it’s worth, at least for the time being really has it together, with a very easy to navigate webpage. In the interests of full disclosure, my exposure to is thus far limited, so what follows is a little speculative. It appears that other services like Restaurants on the Run used a business model whereby their own drivers were going to the restaurants and picking up the food for delivery to the customer. To make that work, they need to charge a pretty stiff delivery charge. appears to be just a central order point, with the restaurants still doing the delivery.

Anyway, I had some friends over, we got hungry, and wanted food. I was not in the mood for pizza for the millionth time, so I searched for “food delivery” and found The website provided a list of restaurants that deliver to my area, and selecting one of the choices takes you to an order screen. That’s the other thing I like about GrubHub — I won’t have to go through a separate log-in and order process for various restaurants, I can order from the one location.

And that brings us to El Pollo Norteno in Santa Ana. I never heard of the place, but glory to the heavens I didn’t have to order pizza, and instead was shown delicious choices of Mexican food. I ordered three types of wet burritos, some quesadillas and guacamole. I was able to pay for my order with Paypal, so I didn’t even need to go in search of my wallet. That makes it really nice because I just add the tip at the time of order and when the food comes, the only thing I give the driver is a hardy hello.

The time estimate for delivery scared me a little bit, because it showed that the food would not be delivered for an hour, and my friends were already hungry! As it turns out, GrubHub, or more likely the restaurant itself, gives a very conservative time estimate. In reality, the food arrived crazy fast, and I have since ordered from them three more times and that has been the case each time.

So the food was easy to order and arrived fast, but how was it? Outstanding. (Why do you think I’ve already ordered three more times?) The wet burritos were about $7.50 each, come with rice and beans, and are available with a number of meat choices (even tongue). The restaurant also included tortilla chips, some kind of sauce and a big container of delicioso (a little Spanish lingo) pickled onions. The quesadillas were only $4.99 and were stuffed with cheese. The guacamole is available in several different sizes and was very tasty and chunky.

I give my highest recommendation for ease of ordering and delivery, and El Pollo Norteno is going to be my go to place when I want something delivered and am not in the mood for pizza. They apparently have a wide delivery area, so give them a try, but you’ll need to be in a group or very hungry, because there is a minimum $25 order. Just know that you’ll get a lot of food for that $25.

Four Great Non-California Wines Under $10

Written By: Aaron Morris - Feb• 06•12

Wine Glasses

I happened to mention to a friend that I had spent a day touring some wineries in the Temecula Valley, and I was met with attitude. Turns out my friend was a closet wine snob, and he pronounced that Temecula does not offer any wines he would drink. He buys wines only from the Sonoma Valley or France.

It doesn’t take much to motivate me into a wine tasting, so I threw down the gauntlet and planned a party around a blind wine tasting, to prove to my putative enologist that just about any wine region can generate a great wine. I kept it fair by selecting only 90 or better rated wines from various regions, throwing in one of the wines I had purchased in Temecula.

The education of my friend could not have gone much better. He, along with the group, rated the French and Sonoma Valley contenders dead last (they were still good, just not by comparison). The Temecula wine did not win, but it came in second. The winner was from Australia.

From then on, I have always made it a point to have wines from areas that guests may never have tried before, in my humble effort to stamp out preconceived notions that good wine can only come from certain locations. To that end, here are four very good wines that are not only from places you may never have tried, but which cost less than ten dollars. (more…)

Space Invaders Professional Organizers

Written By: Terri Green - Feb• 06•12

I didn’t think I had a need for a professional organizer, I just thought I lacked the will to clean. Boy, was I wrong. I thought I’d start with something simple like my walk-in closet.

Professional Organizers Space Invaders

After four frustrating hours of hanging sweaters a variety of ways and lining up shoes by heel, color, and style, I started my search for an expert. I just couldn’t get that professional look that I wanted. If I couldn’t make my own jeans look organized, how was I going to tackle the garage?!

My search revealed many overpriced, snobby companies that made me feel like it wasn’t just my garage that needed organizing, but my whole life. I wasn’t looking for life coaching, or some convoluted, full feng shui remodel. I just wanted a clean garage.

One company did not reveal their prices online, but told me over the phone that they had a six hour minimum. How much per hour? A cool $160. My garage was going to cost me just over $1000 after tip and perhaps lunch for the organizer. I didn’t know how long my garage was going to take, but what if I had a smaller size project as well? Would I have to find a different company then and let another group of people into my house? (more…)