the comforts of home at Georgia’s

Last week, we visited a new restaurant located at Anaheim Packing District. A friend of a friend introduced us to Nika Shoemaker Machado and Marlon Machado, a husband and wife team who owns Georgia’s. We were lucky enough to have Nika sit down with us while we ate to listen to her story.

Georgia’s is a tribute to Nika’s mother who owned a catering business with her father, but gave it up when Nika’s father passed away many years ago. Even though the business was no longer, the love of home-cooked meals remain a fixture within their family, which eventually turned into the birth of Georgia’s.

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Nika was born and raised in southern California and insists that the menu at Georgia’s is not southern soul food by any means. She calls it southern-inspired comfort food, the kind of meal friends would enjoy if they were visiting her home.

In order to do that, Nika uses her mother’s recipes as the bulk of the restaurant’s menu. It is a family affair with Nika, her mother, Marlon, as well as Nika’s daughter who works the front of the house.

We began with some complimentary corn bread muffins, a delicious morsel with good textural bite. It isn’t overly sweet and a smear of butter gives it a hint of saltiness I do love.

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I want to point out that none of the photos depict the a la carte portions. Thanks to Nika, we were able to taste a wider variety of menu items in small bite-sized portions. To give you an idea of what you will get, I have a photo or a full size sandwich as guidance.

Chicken Wings ($8.95/6pcs) come in four flavors: BBQ, hot, mild and lemon pepper, we tried the latter two. I definitely preferred the buffalo sauce flavor even though it is mild. I was told the hot is nice and spicy — definitely for next time.

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There are four sandwiches available and we were able to taste three of them. Grilled Chicken ($9.45) has nice flavors and I like its simplicity with just tomato and lettuce and a little aioli.

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The BBQ Chicken ($10.45 — full portion shown) is topped with onion straws which gives a wonderful textural contrast. I think when you’re very texture-oriented like I am, this will appeal to you a lot more, however, I liked the flavor of the grilled chicken itself over the BBQ. I forgot to ask if we could add onion straws to the grilled chicken sandwich, but that would be perfect!

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I’m not usually a fan of pulled pork so I wasn’t all that excited about the BBQ Pulled Pork ($10.95) sandwich, but surprisingly, I enjoyed it. The barbecue sauce is not sweet and does not overwhelm the pork — a very important thing in my book when eating this style of cuisine.

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Of course, if you’re a fan of barbecue, the BBQ Ribs ($13.95) are not to be missed. These incredibly delicious ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender and not smothered with sauce. There is just the right amount to season the meat, while still keeping the integrity of the natural flavors of the pork. The barbecue sauce — like the pulled pork — was not overwhelmingly sweet. My son will love these ribs!

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Of course, I always prefer Fried Chicken ($11.45) over ribs and these are definitely worth eating. The chicken is first brined which means you will taste seasoning all the way inside the chicken and not just on the surface. I was delighted to find how moist it was on the inside. The exterior is coated with a cornmeal crust, giving it an extra crispy crunch that is different to the usual batter fried chicken is usually covered in.

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The same cornmeal crust can also be found on the Fried Catfish ($11.45). Again, the fish is very moist and flaky, which makes for really enjoyable eating. With the chicken, catfish and ribs, there is also a choice of two sides which comes with the plate.

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My favorites are always the sides and the Collard Greens are pretty good and I don’t say this lightly because I make it at home.

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Other sides which I really enjoyed was the Hoppin’ John ($7.25) which is black eye peas and rice. There is also Red Beans and Rice ($7.50) but I am partial to the Hoppin’ John for sure.

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The Mac and Cheese was also delicious! It is creamy and decadent! I brought a tub home for my son and when I went to pick him up from school he couldn’t even wait until we got home, he ate it in the car!

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If you have some room for dessert, try the Peach Cobbler. It will definitely end your meal on a sweet note.

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While you’re dining, if you happen to see Nika roaming around the restaurant, make sure you say hi. She is the heart and soul of the restaurant and will be happy you stopped her. And ask her how she met her husband! It’s one of the cutest stories you’ll ever hear!

Georgia’s
440 S Anaheim Blvd
Anaheim, CA 92805
Tel: 714-906-1900

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even my son likes fish at Spike’s Fish House

My feelings towards Spike’s Fish House is this — even if I didn’t like them, I would LOVE them simply because my son, who never eats fish, ate everything we ordered. But then again, if it wasn’t good food, my son would not have eaten it in the first place, so that was a moot point.

The restaurant is casual and serves well for both lunch and dinner. The best part is the freshness and variety of fish available daily. You order at the counter and when your food is ready, they bring it out to you. The setting feels like quasi fast food, but don’t let that fool you, the taste is anything but that.

One of my favorites are the Lettuce Wraps (range between $2.95 and $3.50 depending on fish) which are crisp lettuce cups filled with your choice of fish — my favorites are the snapper or mahi mahi — topped with a slaw and the Spike’s special sauce made with Greek yogurt. Each wrap is less than 150 calories but so packed with flavor you won’t be able to stop at one. My son at first didn’t want it, but after a bite of mine, he wouldn’t give it back.

Fish Tacos ($2.95) are always a hit and when you can choose basa or snapper, essentially, you can have a different taco every time you eat here.

Delicious Sliders ($2.95) with fresh lettuce and Roma tomatoes are a great snack to tie you over between meals. I like mahi on the sliders.

On one occasion, I was not wanting to consume a lot of carbs so I ordered the Swordfish & Mahi Skewers ($10.99) over vegetables with a side of coleslaw instead of rice. So awesome!

The Coleslaw ($1.99) is very tasty, a tad too sweet for me, but I added a squeeze of lemon to it to balance out the flavors.

If you like nachos, you will like these Nachos with ahi poke ($6.49) or with ceviche ($5.99). During happy hour, you can get Basa Nachos for only $3.95! The basa is panko crusted and served with chips and pico de gallo.

I find the Fish House Plates (between $9.99 and $12.99) the best thing when I’m eating alone. You get a plate of white or brown rice with seasonal vegetable and a 1/2 pound of fish. You can choose panko crusted tilapia, cajun or panko basa, salmon, yellowtail, snapper or even shrimp. 

If you’re a chowder fan, the house Chowder ($3.49 cup/$5.99 bowl) is pretty good, but I always tell them I want it scorching hot. It’s a mixed fish chowder and my son devoured an entire bowl on his own. I like mine with some fresh lemon juice spritzed over it.

Fish & Chips ($9.99) were so delicious my son ate one order and wanted another. I’m just tickled because he never eats fish when I cook it. I prefer the sweet potatoes over the regular fries, although the fries aren’t bad.

And last but not least, here’s a tip for you. Order one of the Bowls (ranging between $7.99 to $12.99 depending on fish) and substitute soba noodles (add 50 cents) for the rice. The soba noodles are tossed in their poke sauce and I can eat these alone they’re THAT tasty.

Five dipping sauces are available: Spike’s Sauce, Pico de Gallo, Chimichurri, Poke Sauce and Lemon Pesto Aioli. You can request any of these to be served with your fish. I highly recommend the Spike’s Sauce, Chimichurri and Poke!

There are currently two locations, one in Rancho Santa Margarita and another in Laguna Niguel. If only they would open one closer to me, then I can get my son to eat fish twice a week. Yeah, wishful thinking.

I have a $25 gift certificate to Spike’s Fish House to giveaway to one lucky winner. Leave me a comment with your full name and email address telling me what your favorite fish is and how you like it prepared for a chance to win. Double your chance by, “liking” diary of a Mad Hungry Woman’s Facebook fanpage. Entries close at midnight Sunday, March 25. Winner announced Monday, March 26.

Spikes Fish House
30465 Avenida De Las Flores
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688
Tel: 949-766-3382

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27020 Alicia Parkway
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Tel: 949-448-8488

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Kappo Hana is a hidden gem

I know I’ve griped a lot about not having the luxury of finding good authentic little Japanese restaurants in Orange County, but truth be told, I keep forgetting about this hole-in-the-wall tucked away in a strip mall off the 5-freeway in Laguna Niguel.

It’s been about five years since I visited Kappo Hana and I remembered I enjoyed it very much, what I obviously failed to remember was its proximity from my home. For some reason, I thought it was a lot farther than it really was. In reality, it was only about four or five exits away and the most convenient part was its proximity to the freeway exit.

What stood out in my mind was this rice dish which, when explained to my friend, a native Japanese speaker, was quick to blurt out “kamameshi“, a dish traditionally cooked in an iron pot over an open fire with different types of meats and/or vegetables placed on top.

After a quick look at the menu, I couldn’t help but once again order the kamameshi, this time opting for the chicken and seafood (my first time was a clam kamameshi).

It takes about 20-30 minutes for the kamameshi to cook so if you’re in a lunch-time rush, don’t order it. I will always wait for good food so this is a must for me!

The kamameshi comes with a side of tempura and a bowl of miso soup. Quite frankly, this meal is very satisfying and will fill you up — I can only eat half of the kamameshi and have enough for later.

My friend’s saba teishoku (mackerel set lunch minus the agedashi tofu) was simple yet elaborate, an oxymoron if there ever was one.

The piece of mackerel is generous, perfectly prepared and served with fresh lemon and grated daikon on the side.

Side dishes are delicious as well. A simple simmered spinach with mushrooms is light and gives you something green.

Soy braised lotus root is my favorite. Flavorful sliced lotus root has a slight crunch and is completely infused with the flavors of soy and mirin.

We also ordered agedashi tofu which is done perfectly. The dashi is strong and the tofu is fried just right.

I love eating here, but I do suggest at least an hour for lunch. During dinner they can get very busy and often there is a wait for a table and service might be slow too because this IS a family run business with the husband and wife cooking in the kitchen.

Kappo Hana
25260 La Paz Road
Laguna Hills, CA 92653
Tel: 949-770-7746

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Elbows Mac — comfort food in a jiffy

I didn’t want to go to Elbows Mac with my friends when it first opened. As usual, I wanted to wait until they get over any opening hiccups before trying them out. Now that they’ve been opened a few months, when my friend Austin asked me to accompany him, I wholeheartedly accepted.

I was really curious how the owners came about opening Elbows Mac so I asked. I was told they had eaten at a similar place while on a trip to New York City a couple of years ago. They accosted the owner of said restaurant regarding opening up a franchise in California but he wasn’t interested. That didn’t dampen their spirits though, they found someone to work together with them in creating recipes, and voila, Elbows Mac was born.

The restaurant is small, located in a strip mall in Cerritos and isn’t exactly a sit-down restaurant. You order from the counter and get a number and food is brought out to you when it is ready. You would think that it would be a simple task ordering mac n cheese, but there were many choices making it hard for me to decide.

Austin informed me about a tweet that morning stating their Monday special: a regular sized mac n cheese, a 22oz drink and soup or salad for $8.95. What a bargain! We even started by ordering a couple of appetizers to share.

Green bean fries ($3.95) are breaded and fried a crispy golden brown. Two sauces, Elbows signature cheese sauce and a ranch dressing came with it. I liked both. The cheese sauce was rich and not overly salty, while the ranch’s slightly tart flavor gave it a nice contrast.

Breaded Lasagna Squares ($4.95) sandwiched a blend of cheeses, fresh herbs and sauce between lasagna pasta, coated with bread crumbs and fried a golden brown. I really enjoyed the piquant marinara dipping sauce it came with.

Soup of the day was corn chowder and I was surprised at how tasty it was. Thick chowder texture with chunks of potato and corn kernels make this a hearty choice on a cold day. I really shouldn’t have finished the entire bowl because I was pretty much full by the time the mac n cheeses started arriving.

Masala ($6.75/$9.95) didn’t taste neither here nor there for me. I didn’t detect masala per se, and since the menu stated that it was a blend of exotic Indian spices, it could’ve been anything really. Or perhaps the pepper jack and sharp cheddar overpowered the masala mix? Either way, this needed a spice kick for me.

Classic mac n cheese ($5.95/$8.95) in a four cheese sauce was average. I expected a cheesier taste, but it was almost bland needing a little more seasoning. The creamy texture was perfect! I would’ve added a touch of sea salt perhaps to lift its flatness.

Truffle mac n cheese ($6.95/$9.95) though tasty didn’t really have much of a truffle flavor at all. I like the blend of mushrooms mixed in, but it definitely required more truffle oil for it to resemble a truffle mac n cheese without actual truffle shavings.

The best of the lot was Swiss style mac n cheese ($6.95/$9.95). Its description of creamy Alpine cheeses with crispy applewood smoked bacon was spot on. Creamy, salty, gooey goodness, exactly what an awesome mac n cheese is all about. This was hands-down the winner!

Although our meal was a hit and miss, it’s still a great concept of offering comfort food that is loved by all. I wish they were closer. Maybe they will consider opening a location down my way soon? Now that’s a thought!

Elbows Mac
11405 South Street, Ste C-6
Cerritos, CA 90703
562-865-9999

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