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Lots of loving spices like chiles, gingery galanga root, lemongrass and garlic in Thai Wave's gourmet servings. The chicken Panang has a chile paste mix in a base of coconut milk that gives the mouth a unique zing! The seafood is also spicy, punchy and delectable. You'd be wise to try the catfish served with curry sauce or the whitefish filet dashed with chile sauce to make you sweat a little. The sticky rice with mango is utterly terrific. This cuisine is purifying and salubrious to the system!

Services: Takeout, delivery and catering available. Beer & wine only. Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sun., 4-10 p.m. All major credit cards accepted. Tropics Lounge8901 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 848-3886

Karaoke rules (Sun.-Thurs.) at the Tropics, so there's always entertainment while you dine on seafood or steak. Everything is made fresh to order, including the homemade Caribbean sauce and salad dressing that comes with most meals. There is something for everyone on the menu, from the heavenly ribs and salad bar to the blackened salmon with Cajun spice, served with a baked potato, rice and vegetables. Steaks come in petite or supreme cuts, and there's also a children's menu. The restaurant has multiple levels and big but quaint booths, or you might dine outdoors on the smoker-friendly patio.

Services: Takeout and catering available. Full bar. Hours: Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 9 a.m.-9 p.m. All major credit cards accepted. Parking available.University CenterCampus Dr. across from UC Irvine, (949) 854-3779

The University Center is the heart and soul of Irvine's night life. The proximity to UCI gives it a hip college vibe, which lends itself well to the famous Irvine Improv, Art House, and Dublin's Irish Pub. But entertainment is just the beginning of what the University Center offers. More than a dozen restaurants suit every taste, lifestyle and price range, from the simple perfection of In-N-Out's burgers to the fine cuisine of Sagami Japanese restaurant. Asia Noodle Cafť and China Town lend their continental tastes, and Noah's Bagels, Spoons and Mrs. Fields offer authentic American foods. Steelhead Brewery and the new Trocadero are great places for drinks and tasty food, but Diedrich Coffee delivers the caffeine. Z Pizza is also here for your casual dining pleasure. At the University Center, you can do it all.

Services vary by restaurant.Viva644 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach, (562) 435-4048

After a hard day's morning walking an art exhibit, Viva is a mandatory stop to recharge the intellectual batteries and the growling stomach. It's all about Latin American cuisine in a casual and stylish restaurant located next door to the Museum of Latin American Art. The moderately priced menu will periodically offer special dishes that reflect the changing exhibitions at the museum. For intimate conversation or budding romance, the outdoor patio is secluded, a perfect setting for an appetizer, coffee or dessert. The warm and cosmopolitan ambiance makes this a revolucion of the senses.

Services: Takeout and catering available. Full bar. Hours: Tues.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. AE, MC and Visa accepted. Parking available.Westcliff Plaza17th St. & Irvine Ave, Newport Beach

With its great variety of restaurants, you're sure to find whatever you crave at Westcliff Plaza. Pasta Bravo specializes in a variety of healthy, homemade pastas and pasta salads. All menu items are cooked fresh-to-order and can be quickly prepared and packaged to go or delivered. Pick-up Stix serves up contemporary Chinese cuisine. Don't miss their full "heart-healthy" menu. In the mood for Mexican? La Salsa uses only the freshest ingredients for all its meals and serves them at extremely reasonable prices. Although Mrs. Beasley's Muffins and Miss Grace Lemon Cake Co. are famous for their gift baskets and tempting treats, they also have lunch menus featuring sandwiches and salads. Don't forget the goodies at Helen Grace Chocolates, and top it off with the fresh-roasted coffees at Starbucks.

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