(credit: newsance/Shutterstock)

(credit: newsance/Shutterstock)

Fried cheese has quite the following. Not only is it a Tuscan foodie favorite, it is often a big hit at the Orange County annual fair. The Italians use fresh mozzarella to fry, and the Americans like to put it on a stick. Orange County bars, restaurants, food trucks and even a deli have put their own spin on fried cheese dishes. Know that each dish is different from the next, and when when you’re heading out for happy hour or want a naughty starter, these five restaurants have the best fried cheese in OC.
(credit: Antonello's)

(credit: Antonello’s)

Antonello’s Ristorante
3800 South Plaza Drive
Santa Ana, CA 92704
(714) 751-7153

Antonello’s Ristorante’s fried mozzarella is to die for. Passing on tradition from his Northern Italian roots and family, restauranteur and owner Antonio Cagnolo crafted a menu and ambience at Antonello’s that is considered one of the best Italian restaurants in Orange County. Mozzarella in Carrozza is an Antonello specialty. Fresh mozzarella is fried in European butter and served in a fresh marinara sauce featuring capers. This delight is on Antonello’s wine bar menu and served all day. It pairs perfectly with many of the Italian, California or French wines offered. The Ristorante’s wine inventory exceeds 10,000 bottles. Buon appetito.

(credit: Andrey Starostin/Shutterstock)

(credit: Andrey Starostin/Shutterstock)

Benjie’s Restaurant & Deli
1828 N Tustin Ave.
Santa Ana, CA 92705
(714) 541-6263

While this NY style delicatessen serves all the deli oldies but goodies, there are some fun surprises on Benjie’s menu. Always a favorite, the deli’s jalapeno poppers are mouth-watering with a definite kick. Deep fried, these spicy jalapeno peppers are filled with cheddar cheese and breaded – order them tableside or in Benjie’s bar lounge while catching the big game of the week (the lounge has several big screen TVs and the bar is full service). Since 1967, Benjie’s has been OC’s go-to for deli faves including brisket, matzo ball soup, knishes, Rueben sandwiches and so much more.

(credit: Bacon Mania Truck)

(credit: Bacon Mania Truck)

Bacon Mania Truck

Bacon Mania Truck is an Orange County based food truck making and taking bacon throughout town. For bacon lovers and cheese foodies, Bacon Mania elevates these two ingredients. Easy to devour (you may have to double your order), the truck’s bacon cheese crisps are a little tangy, a little bit smoky and a lot of fun to share. The Bacon Mania chefs combine sharp cheddar cheese with hickory smoked bacon crumbles and fry them to a crispy chip. Dip the thin fried cheese crisps into sour cream, which is served on the side. Follow Bacon Mania Truck on Facebook or Twitter for the essential wheres and whens.

Related: Best Food Trucks In OC

(credit: Cosmo's Italian Kitchen)

(credit: Cosmo’s Italian Kitchen)

Cosmo’s Italian Kitchen
23411 Aliso Viejo Pkwy., Suite A
Aliso Viejo, CA 92695
(949) 448-9040

Cosmo’s Italian Kitchen is a local family’s go-to for Italian. Try the restaurant’s golden fried Italian mozzarella served with freshly made marinara sauce. This dish is completely vegetarian, which is a great share item for the table or bar happy hour bite. Dick Fisher and Bob Quinn, the guys behind Cosmo’s, are friends to their community. Each week, the Italian kitchen hosts fundraisers supporting schools, churches and charity organizations. Families also enjoy the restaurant’s theme nights including “The Sunday Night Spaghetti Feast,” “Noodle Night” and “Ravioli Night.”

(credit: Erin S./Yelp)

(credit: Erin S./Yelp)

Joe’s Tavern
124 Commonwealth Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92832
(714) 879-2600

Kicking back is what you do at Joe’s Tavern. The bar and grill is a lively place to hang out and has just the right fare for indulging. First up on the starter menu is Joe’s “Fried Junk.” That’s right, nothing too healthy offered here. Fried Junk is a grouping of fried food items – cheese sticks, pickles and pepperoni chips. Meet up with friends or celebrate birthdays during the week or on weekend nights. DJ L-ROC appears at Joe’s every Thursday, and DJ Killshot performs on Saturday nights. Friday nights feature various DJs.

Related:  Most Exclusive Nightclubs In Orange County

Sheryl Craig is a writer with a passion for interesting finds and treasures in Los Angeles. She has a background in journalism and public relations. A mother of two daughters, Sheryl integrates her healthy lifestyle into raising her children. Her work can be found at Examiner.com