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Merlin's is a night of magic and comedy, whimsically done up in a Renaissance-themed show. It's all hosted by Merlin the Magician (remember him?) while you dine in an intimate showroom, your meals served to you by costumed "serving wenches." Merlin performs his signature magic, telling tales and delivering jokes, not to be outdone by the "wenches" who whirl around telling their own humorous side of things. It's an eat, drink and be merry sort of evening, with the food always being prepared by the Rib Trader restaurant, where Merlin's showroom is located. The adult menu features plentiful barbecued ribs and chicken with cornbread, coleslaw and baked beans. Dinner shows are Thursday through Sunday evenings.

Services: All major credit cards accepted. Reservations are essential for all shows. Adults, $19.95; children 12 and under, $11.95. Group, senior and student discounts are available. Newport North CenterMacArthur Blvd. & Bison, Newport Beach

Whether you're there for a healthy meal or fine cuisine, Newport North offers the perfect atmosphere for both. Champagne's Market & Deli is an upscale New York-style deli market, featuring Boar's Head meats and cheeses; fresh salads; a fine selection of beers, wines and champagnes; and a Diedrich Coffee bar. For tasty, guilt-free enjoyment, visit Cathay Newport Restaurant—Chinese food for the health-conscious! For a morning treat, Mag's Donuts & Bakery specializes in high-quality donuts, croissants and muffins. Marco Polo Pasta House has fine northern Italian cuisine in a casual yet stylish atmosphere. The menu features fresh pastas that are made on the premises and gourmet pizzas in wood-burning brick oven.

Newport Pier Seafood & Bar1 Newport Beach Pier, Newport Beach, (949) 675-9771

For unmatched ocean ambiance, you'll want to enjoy a superior dining experience on the sunset patio. The view is spectacular as you sit over the water at the end of the Newport Pier. This restaurant offers seafood at its best. Prefer to eat inside? Try the upstairs, window-walled lounge area, where varnished wood and nautical décor create an inviting, comfortable mood. The bar features live music every night from 6-9 p.m., and yes, there is a sushi bar where you'll find the yellowtail or the tuna spice roll to be superb. From the regular menu, the live crab or lobster will exceed your expectations. If you're an early riser, Newport Pier opens for breakfast at 8 a.m., or enjoy brunch over the ocean on a Sunday afternoon.

Services: Takeout available. Open Mon.-Sat., 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-10 p.m. All major credit cards accepted. Reservations suggested. New Orleans Café seafood steak & pasta18552 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 593-9080

Let's say you are an aficionado of seafood and Cajun cuisine, but you are picky about atmosphere and like to keep things quaint. Well now there is relief at this fabulous and fun café, where all the dishes are served up New Orleans-style. Specialties include the bounteous blackened Chilean sea bass and seafood gumbo, and get festive with Mardi Gras pasta; but the stuffed filet mignon and lobster is paradise found. Feel like ending it all? Then you must try the Suicide Chocolate Cake; it's to die for. The café also offers a children's menu and features blues and jazz on most weekends to enliven your visit.

Services: Takeout and catering available. Open Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11a.m.-11 p.m.; Sun., 11a.m.-10 p.m. Rafi's Cuban Cafe425 El Camino Real, Tustin, (714) 505-4071

Fortunately, getting a taste of authentic Cuban cuisine is a bit easier than getting an authentic cigar; all you have to do to get the real thing is stop by Rafi's in old-town Tustin. The chicken in sofrito sauce and steak with garlic and onions are spicy Caribbean masterpieces. The congri—a confection of black beans and rice—adds zesty flavor to every dish. With large servings of great food at reasonable prices, Rafi's has everything you could ask for and can actually make Tustin feel like Havana.

Services: Takeout and catering available. Beer and wine only. Open Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs., 5-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 5-9:30 p.m. All major credit cards accepted. Reservations suggested. Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery71 Fortune, Irvine, (949) 453-0777

Located in the Irvine Spectrum, Rock Bottom produces 3,120 barrels a year in-house. Tasty brews include Cryin' Coyote Pale Ale, Regatta Red, Bogie Brown and Sticky Tongue Stout to name but a few. Besides the full service bar, live music and billiard tables, the Brewery offers a fine food selection, from interesting pizzas, bountiful salads, to hearty meats, ribs, chicken and other favorites. Try the adler smoked salmon, the Mediterranean pasta or the sizzling shrimp salad. Larger than life desserts include carrot cake, cheese cake and deep dish apple pie. The atmosphere features a Colorado mountain feel with rich woods, high ceilings, and bright open seating.

Services: Takeout available. Beer and wine only. Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11-1 a.m. All major credit cards accepted. Valet parking available. Romeo Cucina249 Broadway, Laguna Beach, (949) 497-6627; Rancho Niguel Center, Crown Valley Pkwy. & Greenfield, Laguna Niguel, (949) 831-4131

For a taste of southern Italy, visit Romeo Cucina, a family-owned restaurant run by a clan of four brothers and two sisters from the Cambria region of Italy's boot. The siblings adhere to Italian traditions and view cooking as an art form. Fire flashes from the open-hearth oven against the warm woods and brightly colored ceramics as romantic Italian music is performed live. An assortment of pastas, vegetables and fresh seafood are among the delectable items offered on the menu. The interior of this ristorante is warm, personable, and reflects the artistry of the cuisine.

Services: Takeout, delivery and catering available. Laguna Beach location open Thurs.-Sun., 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. & 5 p.m.-late; Mon.-Wed., 5 p.m.-late. Laguna Niguel open Mon.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 4:30 p.m.-late. All major credit cards accepted. Reservations accepted. Free parking available. Santa Monica Seafood154 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 574-8862; 1700 N. Main St., Orange, (714) 921-2632
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