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Grub Guide

TACOS EL CHARITO
Here is Orange County's best deal: two tasty tacos for a buck, with free, unlimited pineapple juice. Who cares that this taco truck is in the middle of Surf City's notorious Slater Slums—two tacos for a buck with free pineapple juice! On Morgan Street between Slater and Speer Aves., Huntington Beach. No phone number. ¢

IRVINE

A & J RESTAURANT
A & J Restaurant is a bustling café that's part of a massive Beijing-based chain known for fast, hot, cheap, delicious northern Chinese food: heavy wheat noodles, meats in scalding soups, pork dumplings with broth inside their transparent casing. But it's the salted soymilk—a pungent, oily, viscous, pretty funky type of porridge—that brings in the customers. 14805 Jeffrey Rd., Ste. D, Irvine, (949) 786-3585. $

Location Info

Map

Matiki Island Barbeque

3070 W. Lincoln Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92801

Category: Restaurant > Hawaiian

Region: Anaheim

Hot Dog On A Stick

2153 Brea Mall Way
Brea, CA 92821

Category: Restaurant > Fast Food

Region: Brea

Filipino Express

4544 Beach Blvd.
Buena Park, CA 90621-1133

Category: Restaurant > Filipino

Region: Buena Park

Maggiano's Little Italy

3333 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: Costa Mesa

Proud Mary's Restaurant

34689 St. of the Golden Lantern
Dana Point, CA 92629

Category: Restaurant > Brunch

Region: Dana Point

The Wheel Of Life

14370 Culver Drive
Irvine, CA 92604

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: Irvine

Five Feet Restaurant

12017 Harbor Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92840-4001

Category: Restaurant > New American

Region: Garden Grove

Penguin Cafe

981 S. Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Laguna Beach

Corner Broiler

24301 Muirlands
Lake Forest, CA 92630

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Lake Forest

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

321 W. Katella Ave., Ste. 101
Anaheim, CA 92802

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Anaheim

Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine

453 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660

Category: Restaurant > Asian Fusion

Region: Newport Beach

The Filling Station

201 N. Glassell St.
Orange, CA 92866

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Orange

BISTANGO
California cuisine. When we're dining on someone else's account, we like the prix fixe. Key attraction: ambiance. A rotating art exhibit features contemporary artists of the West (for sale) and lite—we mean helium-filled—jazz on the weekends. Always a business buzz. 19100 Von Karman Ave., Irvine, (949) 752-5222; www.bistango.com. $$$

CHICAGO'S BEST
This tiny counter in a nameless Irvine food court serves all your Chicago faves—hot dogs, roast beef sandwiches and the fascinating Chicago tamale, a sweeter, fluffier version of the Mesoamerican standard stuffed with chili. Not bad at all—you could sneak one into a Mexican household come Christmastime and no one would complain. 2540 Main St., Irvine, (949) 757-1802. $

JIMMY Z GRILL
Don't be scared by the fact that the menu cover reads, "Jimmy Z Grill.com." Jimmy Z Grill is the hottest non-chain restaurant in Irvine, and Jimmy Z is a really nice guy. But that's not all—his menu is chock-full of delicious eats. 4517 Campus Dr., Irvine, (949) 737-6700; www.jimmyzgrill.com. $$

LA HABRA

CAFÉ EL CHOLO
First served up by Rosa Bórquez in 1923 in LA's original El Cholo Café (her grandson Ron Salisbury owns the restaurant group these days), the place's green corn tamales are a Southern California dining institution. On bites two and three, you'll find oozing sharp Cheddar cheese and Ortega chiles, which combined offer a snappy alternative to the sweet corn. 840 E. Whittier Blvd., La Habra, (562) 691-4618. $$

LA PALMA

JOHNIE'S JR.
It's ham, cheese, onions and green peppers—hold the nonsense—stuffed into a three-egg pillowcase; presented alongside a nest of crispy, lush, hashed-brown potatoes and two slices of sourdough toast; and gobbled down between a couple of cups of coffee. It's nothing fancy, which means it fits right in at this converted Taco Bell with decals of the Fat Boy—a too-close-for-comfort cousin of the late Big Boy—plastered across the table at every booth. 7811 Valley View St., La Palma, (714) 228-0464. $

LAGUNA BEACH

CASA OLAMENDI
Casa Olamendi is the sort of place in which you ask for a balcony seat for a sunny lunch or come later and watch the sun sink into the sea over the two T's: tamales and tequila. Tamales typically arrive on a combo plate, served without the husk and covered with a little cheese, with good corn masa and delicious, tender chicken chunks. 1100 S. Coast Hwy., Ste. 202, Laguna Beach, (949) 497-4148. $$

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. $$$

HAPI SUSHI
When we come here, we consume like Newport housewives armed with gold cards at Fashion Island. The best way to enjoy the sushi is to ask about the specials. Each time we've entrusted ourselves to their culinary knowledge, we've been rewarded with something tastily beyond imagination. 250 Beach St., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-9109. $$

PENGUIN CAFE
Whenever I visit Penguin Cafe, I always order the same item: the Penguin Burger combo, a half-pound burger sparsely decorated with lettuce, pickles, a tomato and a glorious patty. Thousand Island dressing is on the side; thin, crispy fries come as well. The Penguin Burger may seem unremarkable, something you can grill in your back yard, but this is the sweetest burger around: a luscious, massive pillow of juice, man's perfect burger. 981 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-1353. $

SAVOURY'S
Located in the La Casa del Camino Hotel in beautiful Laguna Beach, the restaurant is run by executive chef Brad Toles, captain of Team California in the International Culinary Olympics. He melds Asian and European cooking with a New Age flair. You can have your Brie and pad Thai here, and you'll like it. 1287 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 376-9718; www.savourys.com. $$$

LAGUNA HILLS

PALACE BAKERY
Palace Bakery is the county's second shop to specialize in Persian desserts, a sweet-tooth tradition similar to Arabic pastries in their sumptuousness but exhibiting bolder flavors. Palace's baklava is sweeter than what they hawk in Anaheim's Little Arabia—splashed with more rosewater and honey, the phyllo dough tougher and rolled around a dense almond filling so it resembles a miniature cigar. And every boxed purchase comes with a cool golden sticker! 24751 Alicia Pkwy., Ste. D, Laguna Hills, (949) 768-6252; www.palacebakery.com. ¢

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