Renu Nakorn, Norwalk, CA.
Right off I-5, almost halfway between Los Angeles and Disneyland, is the best Isaan-style Thai restaurant in the country. You can sear your eyebrows off with the catfish larb or the jackfruit stir-fry salad, but you don’t have to: The sour sausage, crying tiger beef, and fried catfish are calmer but tasty. Must-try: The crispy rice salad called nam kao tod
. $; 13019 E. Rosecrans Ave.; 562/921-2124.
Pok Pok, Portland, OR (pictured). It wows the fooderati, but Pok Pok began as a shack, and it’s still road-food heaven to sit on the patio (or visit the to-go window) for chicken wings marinated in fish sauce and palm sugar. Must-try: Ike’s Vietnamese fish sauce wings; papaya pok pok. $$; 3226 S.E. Division St.; 503/232-1387.