By Matt Coker
By Keith Plocek
By Edwin Goei
By Edwin Goei
By Matt Coker
By Edwin Goei
By Dave Mau
460 Ocean Ave.
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Region: Laguna Beach
25571 Jeronimo Road, Ste. 8
Mission Viejo, CA 92691
Region: Mission Viejo
6959 Cerritos Ave.
Stanton, CA 90680
Fourth and Mortimer sts.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Region: Santa Ana
300 Marine Ave.
Newport Beach, CA 92662
Region: Newport Beach
23600 Rockfield Blvd.
Lake Forest, CA 92630
Region: Lake Forest
DINNER FOR TWO:
¢ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Less than $10!
$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $10-$20
$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $20-$40
$$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ¡Eres muy rico!
A sweet little restaurant perfect for l'amour. The food is billed as French/California hybrid, but that is selling it short. The baked halibut with macadamia nuts is easily the best seafood I had last year. 460 Ocean Ave., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-8903. $$
THE BLUE NILE CAFÉ
Blue Nile isn't just a place to soak up the spins with a sandwich or a great latte. It's like the best friend you don't deserve: stumble by late at night and get a sandwich so homemade (and healthy) you'll think of your fourth-grade brown-bag days. The (soon to be popular) chicken wrap—chicken, the usual veggies, whatever bizarre fetish items you wanna add—is great cold or warm, bulging like flexed biceps in its tortilla. 438 E. Broadway, Long Beach, (562) 435-6453; www.thebluenilecafe.com. $
You can imagine Bollywood goddess Aishwarya Rai filming some steamy-but-chaste dance scenes in the confines of Chakra's opulent set. But, thankfully, Chakra owners Ravi and Sunita Koneru invested money not only in the décor but also in chefs capable of embarking on a trek through India's major foodie regions not found in any other Orange County restaurant—Gujarat, Kerala and even Hyderabad. 4143 Campus Dr., Irvine, (949) 854-0009; www.chakracuisine.com. $$
LA COTURRA MARKET
The Cuban and Mexican proprietors, a husband-and-wife team, are friendly, and they run their spotless store with the precision of a naval vessel. Take my advice: come for the Lotto ticket, but stay for the steak sandwich. 156 Ave. del Mar, San Clemente, (949) 492-3663. $
Ah, the chicken chimichanga: seasoned (but not molten), tender chicken in a deep-fried tortilla with ample salsa, guacamole and sour cream flying atop the thing like a Mexican flag on a submarine. Cheap! 25571 Jeronimo Rd., Ste. 8, Mission Viejo, (949) 768-0401. $
The various entrées at Nory's speak of a Peruvian experience so wildly colorful and diverse it's understandable the country itself is in perpetual chaos. The Incan proclivity for potatoes is present, along with Spanish-influenced soups and other foods not of this planet. But the best is the Asian-influenced ceviche, large enough to qualify as a marine biology study and sour with splendor. 6959-63 Cerritos Ave., Stanton, (714) 761-3332; also at 933 1/2 S. Euclid, Anaheim, (714) 774-9115. $
RICAS TORTAS AHOGADAS
Ricas Tortas Ahogadas offers no seating except a shade-free street curb where it parks on Santa Ana's Fifth Street, next to a host of auto shops. But this lunch truck is a barrio culinary school: the guys inside slap out hellacious tortas ahogadas, the Guadalajara specialty involving luscious carnitas, crispy French rolls, cold onions and a pool of salsa: the best burn since Chris Rock ragged on his own kind. On the corner of Fifth and Townsend streets, Santa Ana. ¢
SHANGHAI PINE GARDENS
Originally owned by the parents of fish-taco maven Wing Lam, Shanghai Pine Gardens still draws in customers from beyond its Balboa Island base thanks to simple, elegant meals like the three-rice soup and mesmerizing kung pao chicken. 300 Marine Ave., Newport Beach, (949) 673-3802. $$
UGLY MUG CAFÉ
Funky coffee joint with hair-salon interior. Breakfast muffins and stuff to go with java. Open late, late, late for those Chapman kids next door. They've got bands at night too, and various desperate poets. 261 N. Glassell St., Orange, (714) 997-5610; www.theuglymug.com. $
View Orange County's best damn dining guide at ocweekly.com/food.
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