Best Dining

Nikki's Tandoori continually takes first place in our Best Indian category, but the recently opened Ashoka Cuisine of India might make a run for the top slot next year. Vegetarians can rejoice here by loading up on Ashoka's unpretentious stews and purées that allow greenery to taste like greenery while pulsating with spices. Carnivores roam supreme with anything coming out of the restaurant's wondrous tandoor, and everyone can enjoy the naans, discs of leavened bread containing anything from greasy potatoes to finely pounded lamb. But the best thing Ashoka makes is its complimentary chutneys: a tangy tamarind, a mint version more scalding than fresh, and a pumpkin-orange onion chutney so furious it could double as bleach. 18041 Magnolia St., Fountain Valley, (714) 593-2968.


The conjunction within the name of the Lido Shipyard Sausage Co. and Sabatino's Family Restaurant doesn't serve to separate: that's the full name of the Lido Sicilian eatery, Orange County's longest-named eatery at nine (mostly long) words. And the food's good, too! 251 Shipyard Way, Newport Beach, (949) 723-0621.

SANDWICHES The real winner: Based out of San Jose, Lee's Sandwiches specializes in bánh mì, the Vietnamese sandwich that is an appetizing post-colonial amalgamation. The original Bolsa location was so popular that a second, 24-hour location opened in Garden Grove last year. That location received so much traffic that Lee's decided to open a third location in Fullerton about two months ago. Now North County crowds swoop to the Fullerton Lee's after catching a flick at the nearby Fullerton AMC 20. Though the always-endless lines at each spot seem imposing, Lee's service is so outstanding you'll quickly be savoring the most outlandish deal ($1.50 for a huge, nine-inch, delicious sandwich) in the world. 9261 Bolsa Ave., Westminster, (714) 901-5788; also in Garden Grove, (714) 636-2288; and Fullerton.. For the Americans:Philly cheesesteak houses dot the county like drunks at the nearly departed Veterans Stadium—I mean, they're ubiquitous—but John's Philly Grille is among the best, a squeeze of cheese and many peppers inside a firm loaf. If the meat were any juicier, it'd be a fruit. Thank owner John Carpenter for bringing along the cheesesteak's authentic zest from his native Philadelphia while leaving his city's beer stench back home. 1784 S. Euclid Ave., Anaheim, (714) 491-2733. Let's hear it for the Mediterranean:The pita's at Sophia are as esteemed as the Acropolis, stretched-to-its-limits bread encasing crumbly feta cheese, buttery lamb, fresh lettuce and cucumbers, and biting olives worthy of a Socratic riddle. 1390 N. Kraemer Blvd., Placentia, (714) 528-2021. And the Mexicans!The tortas at Q's Tortas barrel subtleness over with an onslaught of meat, repollo, onions, tomatoes, beans, and either salsa or jalapeños, all crammed into hard/soft bolillos (French rolls). The chorizo torta at this Placentia institution could comfortably feed a Brazilian soccer squad. 220 S. Bradford Ave., Placentia, (714) 993-3270.
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