I might've said this before, but one of my favorite anecdotes of Orange County history comes from Dennis Bateman's 1997 book, Anaheim Colonists Football—A Century of Tradition. In it, he shares the story of when Anaheim High played Brea Olinda High during a 1996 Orange League football game, and the Colonists bewildered the Wildcats by shouting their plays, formations, audibles—everything—in Spanish. The Colonists went on to womp the 'Cats, winning the Orange League that year.
I remember that tale because I was on the sidelines as a yearbook photographer during that game. Back then, we Mexican kids saw Brea as the ritzy, muy gabacho place where we—okay, my friends—made out with its white girls at Craig Regional Park (technically in Fullerton, but who's paying attention?) while their parents and brothers called us wabs. But that Brea no longer exists; the city is more diverse now, and its races get along far better. If you don't believe me, check out the scene at Choice Burgers.
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Talk about scraping back the layers of history. The building is an old Taco Bell adobe; the menu offers steak dinners and fish sandwiches as if it were 1973. A large part of the menu is Mexican, and it makes a great breakfast burrito. Plus, it has Orange Bang! on tap, as any respectable Mexican-leaning restaurant would. But go in there during lunch, and nearly every table—from the Latino construction workers to the white retirees to the Korean businessmen and the teens who never think about race—is chowing down on one of the best non-chain, non-gourmet OC burgers I've ever had: an ideal mix of pickles, jalapeños (if you get the jalapeño burger—and you should), cheese, onions, lettuce and Thousand Island dressing, all wrapped in a strong sesame bun. Simple, yes, but nothing else is needed. After you eat this, you'll never want a runny egg on your steamed ham again.
Last time I went, I spotted next to the register a photo of last year's Wildcats football team—with more than a few Latinos. You've come a long way, Brea—now, if only you could get better cocktails besides those at Tempo Urban Kitchen. . . .
Choice Burgers, 442 S. Brea Blvd., Brea, (714) 255-9942; www.choiceburgers.net.