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Grub Guide

Orange County's best damn dining guide

Visit the rest of Orange County's best damn dining guide at ocweekly.com/food, where it says "Where to Eat Now" on the right side of the screen. If there are any bugs with it, e-mail Gustavo at garellano@ocweekly.com with your complaints!

DINNER FOR TWO:

¢ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Less than $10!

Location Info

Map

Blue Bayou Restaurant

1313 S. Harbor Blvd.
Anaheim, CA 92802

Category: Restaurant > Cajun

Region: Anaheim

Dream Cafe

830 S. Brookhurst St.
Anaheim, CA 92804

Category: Restaurant > Middle Eastern

Region: Anaheim

Win Thai Cuisine

1151 N. Euclid St.
Anaheim, CA 92801

Category: Restaurant > Thai

Region: Anaheim

The Bungalow Restaurant

2441 E. Coast Highway
Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

Category: Restaurant > Steakhouse

Region: Corona Del Mar

La Cave

1695 Irvine Ave.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Costa Mesa

Costa Brava

727 W. 19th St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Costa Mesa

Marukai Market

2975 Harbor Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Category: Restaurant > Grocery

Region: Costa Mesa

Lucky Chinese

18525 Brookhurst St.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: Fountain Valley

Amazon Churrascaria

1445 S. Lemon St.
Fullerton, CA 92832

Category: Restaurant > Barbecue

Region: Fullerton

El Camino Real

303 N. Euclid St.
Fullerton, CA 92832

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Fullerton

Al Waha B.B.Q. Family Restaurant

9562 Chapman Ave.
Garden Grove, CA 92841

Category: Restaurant > Middle Eastern

Region: Garden Grove

Joe's Italian Ice

12302 Harbor Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92844

Category: Restaurant > Ice Cream

Region: Garden Grove

$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $10-$20

$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $20-$40

$$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ¡Eres muy rico!

ANAHEIMANGELO'S
I defy anyone to find a finer summer Friday night than the kind you get at Angelo's: a burger-fries-and-Coke combo for six bucks, a girl/boy by your side, nameless kids chucking pickles at one another, buxom waitresses skating without pause, and the half-Latino, half-white crowd communally willing another Vlad Guerrero horsehide bomb into the television sky. 511 S. State College Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 533-1401. $BLUE BAYOU RESTAURANT
Disneyland for haute cuisine? When you're at the Blue Bayou, absolutely! The ambiance is strange, due in large part to the slack-jawed tourists passing by in the Pirates of the Caribbean boats, but the food is superb. The filet mignon is really juicy and comes with great vegetables and potatoes. 1313 S. Harbor, Anaheim, (714) 781-3463. $$DREAM CAFE
From the pretty hostess who greets you when you enter to the joint's spacious, brightly red-and-blue-colored walls and dining tables, the Dream experience is eponymous. There's Middle Eastern delicacies available, but who needs grub with hookah specials like the Dream Card (smoke six hookahs, get one free hookah and a drink) and Hookah Happy Hours from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily? 830 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim, (714) 502-9865. $WIN THAI CUISINE
You probably won't go to Win Thai for its cheesy Asian pop background music, but you would go for the deep sweat its notoriously spicy dishes stimulate. Win Thai offers more than 100 items, ranging from traditional rice dishes to more exotic fare, such as the spicy green mussel salad. 1151 N. Euclid St., Anaheim, (714) 778-0940. $BREABREA'S BEST BURGERS
The perfect non-chain burger, a quarter-pound patty all gussied up with the Thousand Island dressing, the lettuce, the onions, the tomatoes and the sesame-seed bun. Brea's Best also has sandwiches, hot dogs, tacos, burritos and breakfast fare. You could even eat healthy by ordering an ostrich burger—but why would you? A word of warning: the place gets mobbed during the weekday lunch rush, so plan accordingly. 707 S. Brea Blvd., Brea, (714) 990-2615. $BUENA PARKCHONG KI WA TOFU
The tiny Korean eatery offers nine different tofu-centric soups, ranging from tofu and oysters to their namesake house specialty. At your request, the server will crack an egg into your dish, giving the tofu a yolkier taste. You can order any tofu dish on a sliding spice scale to give it an even better seasoning, ranging from one (white, clear broth) to five (hydrochloric acid). 5238 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, (714) 562-8989. $CANYON CITIESIRVINE LAKE CAFE
When you get hungry in the backwaters of OC, turn that skiff around and motor over to this café. They offer supersatisfying breakfast burritos and always-fresh Farmers Bros. coffee that can be packed for boat or car. 4621 Santiago Canyon Rd., Silverado, (714) 649-9111. $

CORONA DEL MAR

BUNGALOW
The filet mignon at this steak house is round and plump—like a muffin. Its ideal cut, deep flavor and tender texture make it possible to eat the entire thing without encountering a morsel of fat or gristle. In essence, it's a tremendous piece of meat. 2441 E. Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar, (949) 673-6585. $$$

COSTA MESA

CAFÉ PASCAL
The creation of Pascal Olhats, whose Pascal Restaurant in Newport Beach is consistently rated among the best in the county, the café allows you to treat yourself to his signature light Provençal fare at a fraction of the restaurant price. The prosciutto panini—a flattened baguette stuffed with the aforementioned as well as cheese and tomatoes—is an effeminate calzone. It's terrific. 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 751-4911. $

LA CAVE
Open since 1962 (!), La Cave continues to be the county's place for a touch of romance and a hunk of meat. Their steaks, fine slabs of beef burnt or bloodied to your liking and as big as a school desktop, fill the innards. Their music—cheesy lounge, stellar jazz—fills the soul. And the ambiance will get you lucky afterward. 1695 Irvine Ave., Costa Mesa, (949) 646-7944; www.lacaverestaurant.com. $$

COSTA BRAVA
Slurping zinc-laden raw oysters at Costa Brava brings out the bravado in its loyal patrons. Try the super-popular coctel de camarones; the flash-fried whole catfish and red-snapper fillet with garlic sauce are also done up right. 727 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 650-8272. $

MARUKAI MARKET
Thanks to Marukai, your refrigerator can now be filled with tofu and cans of iced Kona coffee, your freezer stuffed with green-tea ice cream and frozen edamame, and your cabinets overflowing with wonton chips and wasabi-fortified rice crackers. POUND SEAWEED, TRAITOR JOE! 2975 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, (714) 751-8433. $$

CYPRESS

IRIE JAMAICAN RESTAURANT
This mom-and-pop place serves an excellent ackee and salt fish that is a must-have. But you might be remiss if you passed on some of the other fine dishes, including oxtail, cow foot, curry goat and jerk chicken. 9062 Valley View St., Cypress, (714) 484-0661. $

DANA POINT

JON'S FISH MARKET
The fresh, fried seafood offerings are tasty and reasonably priced, but the ambiance is about what you'd expect from a fish market. 34665 Golden Lantern, Dana Point, (949) 496-2807. $$

FOUNTAIN VALLEY

LUCKY CHINESE
Here, they set the standard for more-bowl-for-your-buck. A bowl of rice and one selection from the steam table will knock you on your ass for less than $3. The sweet-and-supple barbecue pork somehow stays tender under those harsh fluorescents. The kung pao chicken has kick, maybe even too much. Bitterly cheap gluttons, this is your place. 18527 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, (714) 962-4221. ¢

FULLERTON

AMAZON CHURRASCARIA
This Brazilian beef barn ignores the multicultural influences predominant in most Brazilian dishes for the straightforward flesh diet of the sertão. Impeccably dressed waiters serve 20 types of meat, everything from the Homer Simpson fantasy of bacon-wrapped turkey to well-charred chicken hearts to a great alligator sirloin. 1445 S. Lemon St., Fullerton, (714) 447-1200. $$

EL CAMINO REAL
For the best Mexican food in Fullerton for lunch, call ahead of time. The lunch lines are usually so long that they are reminiscent of the toilet-paper lines in the good ol' Soviet Union. Vegetarians can rejoice at the potato taquitos! 303 N. Euclid St., Fullerton, (714) 447-3962. ¢

SIDNEY'S VEGETARIAN CAFE
This charming café, right in the center of Fullerton's ever-expanding downtown bar life, might capitalize on the needs of the health-starved—it's a vegetarian joint, opening daily at 7 a.m. with an almost entirely vegan breakfast menu—but in a home-cooked, motherly, it's-good-for-you-because-I-say-so way. Owner Sandy Sauers excels with small touches, such as a feta cheese and sun-dried tomato dressing that sits lightly on the portobello mushroom burger, adding a freshness to the dusky fungus, or almonds and golden raisins on a surprisingly zesty coleslaw. 108 W. Wilshire Ave., Fullerton, (714) 525-5111; www.sidneyscafe.com. $

GARDEN GROVE

AL WAHA B.B.Q. FAMILY RESTAURANT
This is America at its most yummily raucous, as Asian, Latino and white families join Muslims in the clamor, united under the brotherhood of good Middle Eastern grub. The buffet is the most popular choice, but hidden under the daily specials menu heading are Middle Eastern regional specialties, unknown to other county Arabic restaurants, that trump Frommer's in giving insight to the Middle East. 9562 Chapman Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 539-0656. $

JOE'S ITALIAN ICE
A Pennsylvania-based chain, Joe's Italian Ice has just one West Coast location, this one in Garden Grove, from which the company has hawked its namesake product to the heated hoi polloi for two years. (They also offer such soda-shop standards as ice cream cones, sundaes and root beer floats.) You can order the Italian ice as is, but it's infinitely better as a Joe Latti: your choice of Italian ice crowned with a Babel-esque tower of velvety vanilla ice cream, each frosty product retaining its charm until uniting inside your mouth to create the most pleasant brain freeze of your life. 12302 Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 750-1076. ¢

SEOUL OAK
A Korean palace—beautiful tables, chandeliers, grand piano—where folks grill their meat or chow through cold noodles or seafood pancakes. Don't bother with ordering cake for dessert, though: the sweet hereafter is a wonderful cinnamon drink with floating pine nuts to rinse the garlic from your breath. 8295 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 530-5388. $$

HUNTINGTON BEACH

HABANA CAFÉ
Habana Café is the second restaurant of owner Martín Espinosa, who has operated a Cuban bakery in Downey for more than a decade. Espinosa bases recipes on his mami's cookbook, so in addition to Cuban standards such as the tart shredded-beef stew ropa vieja and a complimentary side of moros y cristianos (Moors and Christians, the deliciously un-P.C. name Cubans give to black beans mixed with white rice), Habana Café also cooks up specialties rarely found outside Miami: crab croquettes, a spicy oxtail stew with the bizarre name rabo encindido ("flaming tail") and veggie omelets that Cubans call tortillas. 18552 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 968-1672. $$

MARTINI BLUES
Everything looks great coming out of the kitchen of this bona fide supper club, and we can personally vouch for the Martini Blues Favorite—a rotelli pasta with chicken or shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and bell peppers in a spicy chipotle Alfredo sauce. Like all dinners, it comes with soup or salad; steamed vegetables; and a choice of garlic mashed potatoes, angel hair pasta or rice pilaf. 5874 Edinger Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 840-2129; www.martiniblues.com. $$

RED PEARL KITCHEN
Newport Beach chefs Tim and Liza Goodell are most famous for Aubergine, which we've called one of the best French restaurants in the county, a statement that even the fussiest foodies fear to dispute. Red Pearl, though, offers a strangely good Californian take on Asian cuisine, a sort of "It's a Small World After All" mélange of dishes. They make a mean bowl of jasmine rice. 412 Walnut Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 969-0224. $$?

IRVINE

BIN BIN KONJAC
Bin Bin Konjac is the county's first outpost of a popular Taiwanese chain trying to market konjac, a fibrous root health-food freaks know better as glucomannan that has the enema powers of a Metamucil milk shake. But Bin Bin Konjac, which roughly translates as "Icy Konjac," attracts Irvine's sizable Chinese community more for its refreshing confections than any intestinal-cleansing promise. Of the konjac-with-aloe smoothie, Bin Bin's menu gushes, "All the ladies out there do not miss this wonderful drink." 5406 Walnut Ave., Ste. C, Irvine, (949) 651-6465. $

CHAKRA
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 provinces not found in any other Orange County restaurant—Gujarat, Kerala and even Hyderabad. 4143 Campus Dr., Irvine, (949) 854-0009; www.chakracuisine.com. $$

RAY'S PIZZA
Ray came to the U.S. from Iran to learn engineering, but now he engineers simple, solid, blue-collar pizzas with one choice of crust, a sublime, Italianate, bready altar upon which the full-bodied sauce enriches otherwise standard ingredients. 4199 Campus Dr., Ste. D, Irvine, (949) 854-5044; www.rayspizza-ca.com. $

LA HABRA

ARTHUR'S COFFEE SHOP
"Best Breakfast in Town," proclaims the sign out front, and they probably don't hear too many arguments. While the food's good, the atmosphere is even better, like scenes from an unwritten Tom Waits song. Waitresses sport "OKIE SPOKEN HERE" T-shirts as they take orders from Korean War vets who have axle-grease stains on their well-worn Dickies. Arthur's serves real food for real people. 1281 E. La Habra Blvd., La Habra, (562) 691-7793. ¢

LA PALMA

HANNAM SUPERMARKET
The city says 1,500 shoppers file into this Korean grocery store every day. That's no surprise: this place is stocked with plenty of Korean squash—which resemble flattened pumpkins—frozen vegetable dumplings and corn buns for all your authentic Asian dining needs. 4941 La Palma Ave., La Palma, (562) 865-4116. ¢-$$

LAGUNA, LAGUNA, LAGUNA!

CAFÉ ZOOLU
If you're into seafood, go for the jumbo-sized swordfish. Expect to empty your wallet or purse—but Café Zoolu is one of the few places in OC worth every penny. 860 Glenneyre St., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-6825. $$

FIVE FEET
It's no secret why snazzy Ritz-Carlton guests in Dana Point head north to Laguna Beach each night. For more than a decade, chef/owner Michael Kang has ranked among the most creative in California. Particularly popular is the whole catfish in hot braised sauce or the pan-roasted scallops. Reservations are a must. 328 Glenneyre St., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-4955. $$$

HUSH
Hush is a wonderful eyesore, an anomaly among the run-down boutiques and faceless office buildings cluttering the southern portion of Pacific Coast Highway. Elegance also is prominent in Hush's menu, a New American take on standards such as rack of lamb, salmon and pork tenderloin that reminds me why people would ever plunk down $50 for a dinner. But when you have just gnawed on chicken from heaven, with port wine slowly soaking through your soul, racial and class warfare tends to dissipate like the sun into the Pacific. 858 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-3616; www.hushrestaurant.com. $$$

MOZAMBIQUE
It advertises itself as a South African restaurant, but Mozambique best excels in its preparation of meat—pork chops, steaks, seafood and the great Durban curry, a dusky lamb dish that will warm you up wherever you may be. 1740 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 715-7100; www.mozambiqueoc.com. $$

LAGUNA NIGUEL

THAI DINING
Start with their tom kah gai soup, a creamy, flavorful offering of the popular Thai chicken-coconut soup; then try the beef panang. It rates pretty high on the beef panang scale—and it'll make you sweat. 28051 Greenfield Dr., Ste. J, Laguna Niguel, (949) 643-5521.$

LAKE FOREST

UOKO
Typical sushi joint save for Tomo: a young Japanese surfer who can handle rice with seaweed like Kelly Slater can the Big Island. 23600 Rockfield Blvd., Lake Forest, (949) 837-7231. $$

LONG BEACH

COCO RENO'S
Coco Reno's, adjacent to its tattooed hipster sister bar the Reno Room, serves what can only be described as delight on a platter. Better known as carnitas, the cooks will even make 'em to order for those who are carb-challenged. Cancel the rice and beans, smother the succulent pork in cheddar cheese, slop on the sour cream and guac, and cheat just a little with a toasty tortilla. 3400 E. Broadway St., Long Beach, (562) 438-9381. $

LA CRÊPERIE CAFÉ
Someone once said, "Simplicity is the spice of life." Snicker all you want, but they must have been referring to the Bolero crepe at La Crêperie Café. This sorta-Provençal café offers perfection drenched in butter and sugar with a twist of lemon. C'est bon! 5110 E. Second St., Long Beach, (562) 434-8499. $$

ROSCOE'S CHICKEN AND WAFFLES
Put simply, everything is good. When He's just not up to creating anything, much less cooking, God orders the waffles here. If you're one of those chicken-skin eaters, you'll figure you've died and gone to heaven—where there'll be waffles. 730 E. Broadway, Long Beach, (562) 437-8355; www.roscoeschickenandwaffles.com. $

LOS ALAMITOS

KATELLA DELI
The place has a voluminous menu that spans matzo to mud pie, spinach salad to skyscraper sandwiches, knish to kippers—not to mention a full bakery that houses fresh rolls and bagels. Their Denver omelet is terrific. 4470 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos, (562) 594-8611. ¢

MISSION VIEJOMAYA INN
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. $

NEWPORT BEACH

BACK BAY CAFÉ
Located inside the beautifully kept Dunes RV Resort, this is an egalitarian waterfront-dining alternative. The New England clam chowder is one of the best in OC, rife with clams, tuna, shrimp and bacon. 1131 Back Bay Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 729-1144.$$

GULFSTREAM
Yes, Gulfstream is big, but you'll never be served an entrée that is outweighed by a power garnish, and no heaps-o'-chow that scream Claim Jumper either. Proportions are just right, as is the wine list. Desserts aren't a big deal at Gulfstream, but they make a fabulous hot fudge sundae with candied pecans. 850 Avocado, Newport Beach, (949) 718-0188.$$$

ROY'S
Roy's is all about Hawaii—from the "Aloha" you get when you come in the door and the Israel Kamakawiwo'ole playing over the speakers to the blah, blah, blah about Tokyo-born founder Roy Yamaguchi, whose childhood visits to Maui, we're told, indelibly shaped his palate (and his palette). Whatever: Yamaguchi has been fusing ever since, and with great success; he is now the Wolfgang Puck of some 31 eponymous restaurants in North America, with entrées such as rib-eye and wild Scottish salmon. 453 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 640-7697. $$$

ORANGE

BYBLOS CAFÉ
It's a drop kick from the historic traffic circle in the city of Orange, one of the county's best places for a leisurely summer lunch. "Fine Mediterranean Cuisine" (here, it means a mix of Lebanese and Greek cuisine) is the advertised fare. You are committing a crime if you do not have a cup of the lentil soup. 129 W. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 538-7180. $$

HOLLINGSHEAD'S DELI
It's a permanent tailgate at Hollingshead's, and not just because of the Green Bay Packers garb for sale hanging from the ceiling or the pickled eggs and pickles kept in chilled brine. Hollingshead's is one of Orange County's premier booze barns, stocking drafts, ales, Heifeweisen and other brands from across the world (with a special focus on the Deutschland and the former Soviet Bloc). The limited menu is stubbornly heartland: deviled eggs, boldly pungent macaroni salads and the sweetest baked beans this side of the Lambeau Field parking lot. 368 S. Main St., Orange, (714) 978-9467. $

PLACENTIA

MINI-GOURMET
The Mini-Gourmet is a Placentia strip-mall diner where adults wear T-shirts proclaiming allegiance to the football squad at nearby El Dorado High while sipping coffee alongside no-frill omelets. The Ortega omelet is all about the mild chili, ripe tomatoes and liquefied cheese awaiting its scraping up with toast. 1210 E. Yorba Linda Blvd., Placentia, (714) 524-1611. $

SAN CLEMENTE

CARBONARA TRATTORIA ITALIANA
If you appreciate Laguna Beach's renowned Ti Amo restaurant, you'll more than likely appreciate this slightly less expensive but equally tasty relative. Recommended is the tagliolini caprini or the veal sorrentino. 111 Ave. del Mar, San Clemente, (949) 366-1040; www.carbonara.com. $$

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO

ALDO'S SIDEWALK CAFÉ
You must try their paninis—fresh, crusty tubular rolls hold slim piles of turkey and salami, tomatoes fresh and bursting with red, and cheese melted into the bread. It's a pleasantly light, European-feeling sandwich. 31882 Del Obispo, Ste. 152, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 443-0423. $

SANTA ANA

BEBA'S RESTAURANT
Orange County's sizable Bolivian community packs Beba's for such hard-to-prepare plates as the divine ají de papalisa (beef simmered in an intoxicating ají sauce with three types of potato) and the addicting thimpú (a slab of lamb covered in a yellow sauce). Order at least one salteña, a meat pie that's more wondrous with each nibble. 630 S. Grand Ave., #102, Santa Ana, (714) 973-4928. $

BURRELL'S BAR-B-QUE
For years, Fred Burrell has smoked ribs, hot links, chicken legs and more in his beloved shack, his North Carolina-style 'cue still sublime, the pulled-pork sandwich as vinegary as a slow roast in Raleigh. No matter what time of year, lunch at Burrell's picnic-table seating is our communal Fourth of July party. 305 N. Hesperia, Santa Ana, (714) 547-7441. $

GREEN PARROT CAFÉ
At the Green Parrot, they know how to dish up hospitality instead of an endless bread basket and a maitre d's neglect. A prix frixe four-course tasting menu is affordable, comes with a not-teeny blood-orange salad with blue cheese and walnuts, and even a nicely crusted crème brûlée. Eat it outside in the twinkly-lighted patio or inside their beautiful dining hall. 2035 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 550-6040; www.greenparrotcafe.net. $$

PRODUCE WAREHOUSE
Though minuscule, Produce Warehouse offers more ethnic grocery options than a Brooklyn neighborhood: mango chutneys, Persian lavash flat bread, instant Croatian broccoli soup and a Middle Eastern section that looks like a museum of pickled products. But don't miss the alfajores, an Argentine cavity inducer that's a crumbly double-layered shortbread cookie with a center made from the caramel-like confection dulce de leche. You'll chomp through Produce Warehouse's alfajor selections with ardor, the tension between the dulce de leche and chocolate outside as intricate and intense as a couple dancing the tango on their silver anniversary. 1225 W. 17th St., Santa Ana, (714) 542-8111. $

EL RINCÓN CHILANGO
El Rincón Chilango in Santa Ana is Orange County's best re-creation of Mexico City, and not just because the street-side restaurant features the megalopolis' iconic Angel of Independence statue as its logo, or because its marquee screams "100% D.F." Mexico City favorites are in order here: wonderful potato tacos with the shells fried until they shine like the Stanley Cup; supersyrupy sodas such as Jarritos and Boing; and the tlacoyo, a foot-long gordita bloated with earthy bright-yellow fava beans and splattered with diced onions and a tangy green salsa on the outside—the heartiest meal you'll eat until Thanksgiving. 1133 W. 17th St., Santa Ana, (714) 836-5096.

SEAL BEACH

COACHES
The décor amounts to tables, chairs, some pictures of Babe Ruth and a few TVs. But the fish and chips is English-styled: hot and slathered in tartar and chased down with a cold beer. 1025 Pacific Coast Hwy., Seal Beach, (562) 431-5266. $

STANTON

MAD GREEK
Reasons to go to the Mad Greek: this place began the zucchini stick "craze"; the Greek salad comes in Herculean portions; uncouth vegetarians have proclaimed the falafel sandwich as "Fuckin' radness"; and anything on the menu above $6 you won't be able to finish yourself. 12120 Beach Blvd., Stanton, (714) 898-5181. $

SUNSET BEACH

HARBOR HOUSE CAFÉ
This 24-hour diner is a local institution that serves consistently good food. As it's incredibly popular with the late-night crowd, be prepared to wait for a table. 16341 Pacific Coast Hwy., Sunset Beach, (562) 592-5404. $

TUSTIN

CHRISTAKIS
Christakis' beautiful setting separates the eatery from its local Greek brothers-in-grub, but what truly catapults the place into Orange County's high-class dining strata are the platters of its late eponymous founder, Joanne Christakis Wallace. You'll find the standards of Greek restaurants: bitter spanakopita spinach pies, starchy moussaka casseroles, lamb prepared in more ways than there are actual lamb cuts and a thorough selection of seafood. More impressive is an array of pasta dishes that suggests an Italian influence at some point in Christakis' seven-year existence. 13011 Newport Ave., Tustin, (714) 731-1179. $$

CRESCENT CITY
Cajun purists will howl that there are no outposts of this rapidly expanding chain actually in the Crescent City, so therefore the food cannot possibly pass muster—hell, they don't even got gator! But Crescent City is no Disneyfied Big Easy. The shrimp po' boys are just the way they oughta be: a flaky French bread roll bloated with lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, spicy mayo and fried, bite-size prawns, and messier than a dip in the Mississippi. 2933 El Camino Real, Tustin, (714) 453-3555; www.crescentcitybeignets.com. $$

VILLA PARK

THE COFFEE GROVE
Villa Park's answer to Cheers, the Coffee Grove is a place where you can chat with the locals or read the paper while they whip up your favorite coffee drink. 17769 Santiago Blvd., Villa Park, (714) 974-2650. $

WESTMINSTER

DRAGON PHOENIX PALACE
Get your chopsticks ready for the weekend dim sum, because in minutes, you'll have a tableful of sizzling pork and shrimp pot stickers, savory dumplings, won-ton soup, and wonderful salt-and-pepper squid. 9211 Bolsa Ave., Stes. 201-208, Westminster, (714) 893-1976.$$

MÌ LA CAY
Mì rice noodles are actually Chinese, but many Vietnamese places have incorporated them into their menus. Funny how 1,000 years of colonization can do that. Mì La Cay is continuously one of the most popular restaurants in the genre of mì cookery. Bring your appetite, and order a heaping bowl of mì la cay dac biet (the house special). 8924 Bolsa Ave., Westminster, (714) 891-8775. $

SEAFOOD WORLD
Seafood World lives up to its name by wheeling out goodies like fried scallop rolls (large scallops in a flaky pastry served with mayo and a maraschino cherry!), crab and shrimp balls with peas (wrapped in rice paper), and very large, juicy and spicy deep-fried shrimp. 15351 Brookhurst St., Westminster, (714) 775-8828.$$

YORBA LINDA

BLUE AGAVE
A fantastically fabulous Southwestern place where everything on the menu—no, really, everything—is nothing short of orgasmic. Be sure to order the Montego Bay coconut-shrimp appetizer: big, plump prawns fried in shredded-coconut batter. 18601 Yorba Linda Blvd., Yorba Linda, (714) 970-5095. $$

MULTIPLE LOCATIONS

EL CARBONERO
Owner María de Jesús Ramírez ensures that El Carbonero #1 and #2 use the same recipes of her hearty native cuisine, the primary reason the county's pioneering guanaco restaurant persists while so many other Salvadoran restaurants have disappeared. Imitate the regulars and order at least one pupusa, the masa griddle cake that Salvadorans consume from crib to crypt. And El Carbonero's horchata, heavy with cinnamon and toasted rice, makes Mexican horchata taste like a Tijuana gutter. 803 S. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 542-6653; 9304 Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 527-4542. $

CEDAR CREEK INN
The various Cedar Creeks offer similar menus featuring prime rib, rack of lamb and homemade desserts. The Brie-and-pecan-stuffed chicken breast comes with a creamy pear-sage sauce that draws out the fine, nutty flavor of the pecans. The large butterflied scampi is served with capers and diced Roma tomatoes. And the pot roast is a tribute to hearty northern Midwest German-American cooking. 20 Pointe Dr., Brea, (714) 255-5600; 26860 Ortega Hwy., San Juan Capistrano, (949) 240-2229; 384 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-8696; www.cedarcreekinn.com. $$

THE CRAB COOKER
This is an institution you can take your out-of-town relatives to. There, you can sample moderately priced seafood cooked on skewers in cramped booths next to goofy fishing-themed artwork. But first you have to stand outside and wait for your table because this is a first-come-first-served place. 2200 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, (949) 673-0100; 17260 17th St., Tustin, (714) 573-1077. $

QUAN HY
Quan Hy serves country-style Vietnamese—a lot more flavor and eccentricity than food like pho. With the country stuff, you taste a lot of different things. They sell a lot of mixed bowls—one is like a seafood medley, an assortment of pork and beef and shrimp and fish and vegetables. 9727 Bolsa Ave., Westminster, (714) 775-7179; 10212 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 636-1652. $$

RUTABEGORZ
According to lore, four hippie entrepreneurs opened this joint in 1970 with a menu of "health-conscious" salads, soups, sandwiches and meatless entrées. Get a delicious full day's worth of vegetable action with a bowl of vegetarian delight. 211 N. Pomona, Fullerton, (714) 738-9339; 158 W. Main St., Tustin, (714) 731-9807; 264 N. Glassell St., Orange, (714) 633-3260; www.rutabegorz.com. $

STUBRIK'S
A steakhouse that co-owner Craig Voorting says is "all about the steak." With the best damn steak this side of a factory town and a pretty decent selection of white meat and seafood. 118 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-1290; 28241 Marguerite Pkwy., Mission Viejo, (949) 218-0790; www.stubriks.com. $$

TK'S
Where else can you get fine ground turkey and fresh purple onions on a bouncy egg bun, breathe in salt air, and listen to the waves for less than $4? The burger is so fine you'd never guess it's good for you. The locals aren't quite sure what's in it, but they agree it's the secret sauce that makes the bun-and-turkey combo shred. 110 Pacific Coast Hwy., Ste. 10, Huntington Beach, (714) 960-3238; 2119 W. Balboa Blvd., Newport Beach, (949) 673-3438. $

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