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Grub Guide

Tasty morsels from the 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

Dee Dee

311 S. Brookhurst
Anaheim, CA 92801

Category: Restaurant > Thai

Region: Anaheim

Catalina Fish Kitchen

670 W. 17th St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Costa Mesa

Anh Hong Restaurant

10195 Westminster Ave.
Garden Grove, CA 92843

Category: Restaurant > Barbecue

Region: Garden Grove

Brees' Quality Meats

11877 Valley View St.
Garden Grove, CA 92845

Category: Restaurant > Grocery

Region: Garden Grove

Seoul Oak Korean BBQ

8295 Garden Grove Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92844

Category: Restaurant > Barbecue

Region: Garden Grove

Aliso Beach Snack Bar

31131 S. Pacific Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Laguna Beach

Solomon's Bakery

23020 Lake Forest Drive, Ste. 170
Mission Viejo, CA 92653

Category: Restaurant > Bakery

Region: Laguna Hills

Volcano Burgers

3652 Cerritos Ave.
Rossmoor, CA 90720

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Los Alamitos

Charlie's Chili

102 McFadden Place
Newport Beach, CA 92663

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Newport Beach

Kitayama Restaurant

101 Bayview Place
Newport Beach, CA 92660

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: Newport Beach

Pescadou Bistro

3325 Newport Blvd.
Newport Beach, CA 92663

Category: Restaurant > Bistro

Region: Newport Beach

Q's Tortas

220 S. Bradford Ave.
Placentia, CA 92870

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Placentia

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

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

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

ANAHEIM

CAFÉ CASSE CROÛTE
This modest diner is the only place in OC to find authentic specialties from the Great White North. Try the tourtière: a mixture of slow-cooked ground pork and beef seasoned with garlic, onions and cloves that has been turned into a lidded pie crust and baked. 656 S. Brookhurst, Anaheim, (714) 774-8013. $

LA CASA DE FERNANDO
While this dimly lit nightclub specializes mostly in different versions of the national dish gallo pinto (black beans cooked with rice and eggs), stick to the weighty wonder that is the tamal tico. Wrapped in a canopy-sized banana leaf, this Costa Rican staple requires hiking boots to maneuver through its myriad flavors. Start at the pointy sweet end, studded with raisins and dates, then hack through the wet masa toward pork, red peppers, peas and carrots; a sprightly olive demarcates the sweet/spicy divide. 2500 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 527-2010. $

DEE DEE
A couple of Thai buffets offer Laotian soups and beef jerky, but the county's remaining Laotian diner is the curiously titled Dee Dee, where the roselle juice's narcotic spell reminds slurpers why Laos' inclusion into the Golden Triangle arose in the first place and the curries come garnished with peanuts and fat onion slices. 311 S. Brookhurst, Anaheim, (714) 956-2997. $

LA PALMA CHICKEN PIE SHOP
It's pure comfort to know that the same waitresses will serve you the same chicken pot pies year after year. These pies are the size of large powder puffs and have a flaky, golden-brown pastry crust. 928 N. Euclid St., Anaheim, (714) 533-2021. ¢

EL POLLO FINO
Though it's in an area long overrun by Mexicans, all races line up in equal numbers outside El Pollo Fino, a charbroiled chicken shop decorated with photos and paintings of fighting roosters, a bulletin-board collage of boxing cut man extraordinaire Chuck Bodak, and three portraits of Aztec nobles cradling naked, curvaceous damsels. The best spectacle, however, is in the kitchen, where the cooks scamper from freezer to butcher counter to grill to takeout counter in a ballet of hen preparation. 723 N. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 533-1160. $

BREA

RENAISSANCE BISTRO
As the name probably suggests, Renaissance Bistro serves primarily northern Italian fare, but the menu is dotted with just enough unexpected items to suggest the chefs aren't unduly locked into convention. 955 E. Birch St., Brea, (714) 256-2233; www.renaissancebistro.com. $$

BUENA PARK

FILIPINO EXPRESS
This tiny joint has restored the art of fast food to its original intention: serving grub as quickly and as tasty as possible. Choose from more than 20 different entrées like adobo and lechon, but all are so delicious it's really a matter of deciding which one you want spilling over the Styrofoam plate it's served on. 4544 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, (714) 739-4479. ¢

CORONA DEL MAR

GALLO'S ITALIAN DELI
The thirtysomething-year-old deli is little more than counters, chips and sodas""which is to say it's the perfect beach shack restaurant, even if it's on PCH. Request the Gallo's combo; the server will no doubt reply (as he once did to me), "Are you sure about that?" When he grabs sausages and begins hacking off massive slices, you'll understand his skepticism""the sandwich is bigger than most house cats. 3900 E. Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar, (949) 675-7404. $

COSTA MESA

AVANTI CAFE
While the Avanti menu is strictly vegetarian, with faux meats and even cheese, the steak-and-potatoes crowd will hardly notice or care. Every entrée, appetizer and dessert springs with flavor and heftiness; is there anything more mainstream than a morning cup of joe washing down crunchy waffles? 259 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 548-2224; www.avantinatural.com. $$

CATALINA FISH KITCHEN
Casual. Cheap. Terrific. This restaurant specializes in fresh fish, and you must try the gumbo: a spicy, cumin-scented stew of grilled fish topped with jasmine rice and fresh vegetables sautéed in olive oil. 670 W. 17th St., Ste. 68, Costa Mesa, (949) 645-8873. $

COSTA MESA OMELETTE PARLOR
Good job, Costa Mesans: when Vons Supermarket threatened to shutter the Omelette Parlor in late 2003, y'all rallied to save this blue-collar haven (you should've done the same for Kona Lanes, though). Now the rest of us can continue to scratch our bellies in bewildered satisfaction after eating one of the Omelette Parlor's fabulously stuffed omelets named after some long-dead Costa Mesa City Council member""give me the one with cucumbers. 179 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 645-0740. $

FRANK'S PHILADELPHIA
There are no frills at Frank's Philadelphia when it comes to their Philly cheesesteak: humongous loaf (even the small is ginormous), beef bits chopped into portions so teensy you can absorb them through your fingertips; grilled pepperoncinis that remain juicy and fleshy even after meeting cast iron; and the melted mozzarella that pours into your innards like milk. 2244 Fairview Rd., Costa Mesa, (949) 722-8725. $

CYPRESS

SWEETEE THAI CUISINE
Thai food has become so common in the Southland that memorable meals in this culinary genre are difficult to come by. Sweetee Thai is the exception. Try the spiral""long, skewered shrimps swathed in a swirl of soft bacon, accompanied by two orange dips: one hot, one not. 10557 Valley View St., Cypress, (714) 828-7371. $$

DANA POINT

BONJOUR CAFE & BISTRO
Despite the overhang that advertises otherwise, this cute, tree-shaded bistro doesn't do dinner anymore; it now offers only breakfast and lunch. The worthwhile offerings""quiche, crepes, omelets""are all served during the day anyway. Try the omelette de Provence with eggplant, black olives, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. Or la crepe bonne maman, filled with strawberry preserves and dusted with powdered sugar. 24633 Del Prado, Dana Point, (949) 496-6368; www.bonjourcafe.com. $$

DIAMOND BAR

ASIAN DELI
Asian Deli operated for years from a hectic Orange strip mall, a spotless Indonesian dive where patrons happily munched on vast rice dishes that resembled hail flurries along with satay skewers of sweet, spicy and smoky savors. Now based in Diamond Bar, it still saunters through the Indonesian cookbook""one of the world's most deliciously anarchic due to the country's archipelagic nature and position between various trade routes""as if bankrolled by President Megawati Sukarnoputri. 23545 Palomino Dr., Ste. F, Diamond Bar, (909) 861-1427; www.asian-deli.com. $

FOUNTAIN VALLEY

KHYBER BAZAAR
Khyber Bazaar carries 4,500 Bollywood videos, along with Pakistani dramas and Afghani movies. It also sells Hindi, Pakistani and Afghani music. Oh, and the Bazaar also packs in two aisles of Afghani/Pakistani/Indian/Middle Eastern groceries like eight types of lentils, numerous types of rice and hard-to-find Afghani snacks. 10810 Warner Ave., Fountain Valley, (714) 962-8879. ¢-$

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. $$

CHICAGO HARV'S
Most every county hot-dog cart advertises Chicago dogs, but Harv's is among the few places that do it better than the South Side. They ship in bulky Vienna sausages directly from the Windy City, stuff 'em into a poppy-speckled bun next to dill pickle slivers, and squirt the mess with stinky-but-super quarts of relish and mustard that'll leave your lips a yellow-green color as vibrant as a 1970s Notre Dame football uniform. 410 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-0491. ¢

LARRY'S PIZZA AND SPORTS PARLOR
The 32-year-old Larry's is a North County icon, a place where kiddie athletes celebrate after a victory""or, conversely, drown their losses in pitchers of pink lemonade""while their coaches knock back beers with parents and watch the big leaguers duke it out on television. Larry's pizza is utilitarian: pizza slices thick as pocket Bibles, prepared with fragrant mozzarella and provolone cheese, toppings sprinkled over the pie rather than baked in so that picky kids won't goo up their fingers trying to discard unwanted salami. 926 W. Orangethorpe Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-3484. $

GARDEN GROVE

ÃNH HONG RESTAURANT
Ãnh Hong Restaurant in Garden Grove claims to have invented bò bay món""the legendary seven-course Vietnamese dinner that remains the world's ultimate paean to red meat""at its original Saigon location in 1954 by combining the various beef appetizers native to South Vietnam and presenting them with French refinement. Whether that's historical fact or American-style hoo-ha is uncertain, but the classy restaurant does such a superb version of bò bay món and is so boastful of its star serving ("7 Courses of Beef," screams the massive billboard looming over Westminster Boulevard) that we'll take their word for it. 10195 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 537-5230; www.anhhong.com. $$

BREE'S QUALITY MEATS
Bree's is the last place in Orange County where you can take wild game to be, um, processed. You bring all of it in: claws, paws, hooves, snouts, horns, antlers and buckshot. You take it home in chops, steaks, rounds, sausages and other . . . cuts of meat. Good feral hog! 11877 Valley View St., Garden Grove, (714) 892-1115. $$

ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF ORANGE COUNTY
During Ramadan, Fatima Rahman (known to all as Auntie Fatima) lords it over the best religious-minded buffet in the county at Orange County's largest mosque, preparing $2 Styrofoam cartons of delicious Indian food and the stray baklava. The rest of the year, Auntie Fatima prepares it only during Friday services. Some of the tastiest Indian food around""and no faith in Allah required! 1 Al-Rahman Plaza, Garden Grove, (714) 531-1722. ¢

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 away from your breath. 8295 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 530-5388. $$

HUNTINGTON BEACH

BRAVO BURGERS
Bravo's Elvii and Marilyns can get annoying, but people return for the grub. Bravo's burgers are sticky with Thousand Island dressing and buttressed by toasted buns that hold a sublime grilled patty. It's messier (and better) when topped off with Bravo's monumental chili: cheesy, meaty and smoky. Other sandwiches are available""mayo-heavy club sandwich this, greasy bacon burger that, even a game attempt at a chicken gyro""but in this county's proud melting pot, few things approach that icon of culinary fusion, Bravo's pastrami quesadilla. 19102 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 968-9880. $

LOTUS CHINESE EATERY
Lotus is the county's second Chinese Muslim restaurant and does a fine job of preparing that cuisine's emphasis on meat, magazine-thick noodles, and sesame breads large enough to double as a Frisbee. Like almost every northern Chinese restaurant, Lotus trots out so-so egg rolls and egg-flower soup as appetizers; better to start with chilled ox tripe. 16883 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 848-4940. $$

PERUVIAN KITCHEN
The folks at Peruvian Kitchen don't dumb it down for the city's bros at all. In addition to their black-but-moist hen, they offer fried rice adorned with raisins, carrots and corn; sturdy French fries with snappy hot dog slices; and a fabulous mesquite-smoked yam. But go for the anticuchos: two skewers of dark-brown beef heart glazed with garlic. Chewy, intensely meaty""the best offal in the county. 17552 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 847-7555. $

IRVINE

6IX PARK GRILL
The creations of chef Yves Fournier at 6ix Park are fresh and memorable, a studied California approach to standards such as salmon, steak and pastas. Even more impressive, though, Fournier veers from the protocol of most county hoteliers and offers a full breakfast, lunch and dinner menu. Any day that proceeds from a luscious frittata to a perfect porterhouse and concludes with an apple-hazelnut cobbler with a ginger sorbet will be one of the better 24-hour cycles of your year. 17900 Jamboree Rd., Irvine, (949) 225-6666. $$$

CHINA GARDEN
The dim sum jockeys who patrol China Garden with their carts and filled plates want you to gorge immediately, but pace yourself: the visits will not cease, the goodness of the county's best dim sum will not end. Cha shu bao, filled with sweet red barbecued pork, is a perfect foil to a steaming cup of the sharp house oolong tea. So is the steamed chicken bun, a light, chewy thing filled with ground chicken meat, ginger and herbs. 14825 Jeffrey Rd., Irvine, (949) 653-9988. $$

KOCHEE KABOB HOUSE
Kochee Kabob might lack decorative charm and a relaxed ambiance, but its grilled meat is, well, hard to beat""eight kinds of kebabs, each paired with flurries of long-grained, nutty basmati rice and a salad that can't quite measure up. Kochee Kabob's meats are flavorful enough without condiments, but there are two available: sour chile powder and a green hot sauce that's a fusion of a mint chutney and emerald Tapatío. 4143 Campus Dr., Ste. 195, Irvine, (949) 854-0206; www.amazingkabobhouse.com. $

WHOLESOME CHOICE
Wholesome Choice is the most diverse supermarket in Orange County""maybe Southern California""a garden of produce delights where Armenian cherry preserves, Polish kielbasa, Middle Eastern cream cheese, organic eggs and Tapatío exist within a three-aisle radius. But its greatest treat is the sangak, crispy Persian flatbread as crucial to Iranian identity as Rumi and about four feet in length. 18040 Culver Dr., Irvine, (949) 551-4111; www.wholesomechoice.com. $

LA HABRA

GREAT WALL MONGOLIAN BBQ
In a culinary tradition that varies little whether you're chopsticking through Mongolian BBQ in Ulan Bator or Utica, Great Wall differentiates itself by offering grub more fiery, more nuanced and a bit more bountiful than other charcuteries. Their daily lunch special is one of the most rewarding in the county""$4.50 for a bowl of Mongolian BBQ, along with a better-than-average egg roll, a thimble of fried rice that tastes vaguely Mexican and a small tureen of unctuous egg flower soup. 1261 Harbor Blvd., Ste. A, La Habra, (714) 680-3569. ¢

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

ALISO BEACH SNACK BAR
This South Laguna landmark anchored Aliso Pier until the pier's 1999 demolition but remains unchanged since its 1972 opening, save for the prices""and a wooden menu dating back to the start shows that even that isn't dramatically different. The wait is always long, but don't hold it against owner Barbara Perry""she's usually the only person working. She no longer makes the funnel cake that seared itself into many a lingual memory years ago, unfortunately, so salve your disappointment with a sip of a powerful banana shake and a surprisingly tasteful chicken gyro. 31131 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 499-6811. ¢

EVA'S CARIBBEAN KITCHEN
Eva's occupies the same simple cottage that the dearly missed Drew's Caribbean Kitchen rented for many years. The best remnant from the Drew's days is an open kitchen that continues to flambé and sauté a cruise-ship tour of Caribbean cuisine, with stops for moist Bahamian conch fritters, a sweet St. Martin-style salad and enough varieties of rum to give Captain Morgan cirrhosis. 31732 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 499-6311; www.evascaribbeankitchen.com. $$

GAURANGA'S VEGETARIAN CUISINE
Gauranga's has outdoor, ocean-view seating where you can enjoy a large salad bar, spicy yellow-lentil soup and cauliflower fritters. Sweet hibiscus tea is Krishna hooch, and cardamom-scented rice pudding is tasty too. 285 Legion St., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-7029.$

SAVOURY'S
Located in the La Casa de 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) 376-9716; www.savourys.com. $$$

LAGUNA HILLS

SOLOMON'S BAKERY
At 3 a.m., when most Orange Countians are halfway through their slumber, Solomon Dueñas leaves Aliso Viejo and begins the 15-minute commute to his Jewish bakery he's made nearly every morning since 1988. Glass displays at Solomon's are clean, highlighting all the favorites of the Jewish-pastry galaxy""stomach-stuffing babkas; fruity hamantaschen; crumbly rugelach available in chocolate, raspberry and apricot. Even better is a Dueñas original that he calls an apple-raisin bran, a block of caramelized flour so decadent that customers drive in from San Diego and even Washington state just for a sniff. 23020 Lake Forest Dr., Ste. 170, Laguna Hills, (949) 586-4718; www.solomonsbakery.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

EMPANADA MAN
Empanada Man prepares its steaming eponym upon order, so it'll be a while before you can start debating whether to order a fourth or fifth one for the journey home. Chicken and beef empanadas are mini-stews of joy, the meats moist and accompanied by corn kernels in the former, hard-boiled egg slices in the latter. The spinach and potato selections are the edible equivalent of Argentina's gold-medal-winning Olympic soccer squad: rough, earthy, at first unimpressive but ultimately a winner. And the tangy dance the ricotta cheese empanada stomps upon your palate is worthy of a Gardel croon. 20761 Lake Forest Dr., Lake Forest, (949) 855-9257; www.empanadaman.com. ¢

LONG BEACH

BABETTE'S FEAST
Babette's Feast is a boulangerie/patisserie par excellence, laying out a spread of delectable, mouth-watering delights that makes you thank heaven above for the gift of taste buds and these ungodly desserts. 4621 E. Second St., Long Beach, (562) 987-4536. $

DIPIAZZA
Established in 1952, this award-winning Italian restaurant received Best Pizza honors in the Entertainment Book for five straight years. It offers a huge menu selection, including American dishes; you'll want to try the enticing chicken piccata, fettuccine Alfredo, lasagna, shrimp and pastas. The chicken Parmesan melt sandwich and the calamari steak will create lasting memories in your stomach. Plus, they sell Fernet Branca, which will cure your cholera. 5205E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Long Beach, (562) 498-2461; www.dipiazzas.com. $$

EGG HEAVEN
Egg Heaven would be Rockford's kind of place: plenty of wood paneling, a liquor store across the street and a big picture of Elvis next to the kitchen. They have anything you can make out of an egg""including more style of omelets than there are stars in the Andromeda Galaxy""except the chicken. Now that we think about it, they have chicken sandwiches and salads too. Truly is heaven here. 4358 E. Fourth St., Long Beach, (562) 433-9277.$

LOS ALAMITOS

VOLCANO BURGERS
A Tommy Burger tribute stand, but worth the wait in a teen-infested line that snakes all the way across the street to Los Al High. The chili is mandatory. 3652 Cerritos Ave., Los Alamitos, (562) 430-6004. $

MISSION VIEJO

ALOHA BBQ
Hawaiian staples such as manapua (steamed pork buns) and boiling saimin noodles are fine at Aloha BBQ, along with a Korean-skewed side menu filled with bimimbap and complimentary kimchi. As great as those are, the most impressive meat meal is the spicy pork ribs. Most rib places content themselves with giving patrons a couple of twigs, but Aloha BBQ carts over four massive things that appear to have been torn from a hippo. 24000 Alicia Pkwy., Ste. 4, Mission Viejo, (949) 581-0976. $

NEWPORT BEACH

CHARLIE'S CHILI
Perfect for kitschy late-night dining in booths covered in ancient nautical signs and models. The Wednesday night all-you-can-eat chili special is ideal: steaming bowls filled with a thick, sumptuous chili drowning in diced onions and cheese. 102 McFadden Pl., Newport Beach, (949) 675-7991. $

KITAYAMA
Kitayama's fans say it's as close to fine Japanese dining as you can get without flying to Tokyo. We're talking savory steak and seafood dishes and unbelievable sushi and sashimi. 101 Bayview Place, Newport Beach, (949) 725-0777.$$$

MASTRO'S OCEAN CLUB FISH HOUSE
Mastro's prides itself on an à la carte with gargantuan portions""think Claim Jumper, but three times the style and cost. So it's not a problem that an appetizer like vanilla-battered shrimp includes just three of the crustaceans: the shrimp are among the largest you'll ever see, about the size of a cop's blackjack. And any qualms over paying almost $30 for a fish fillet will disappear under the dense, buttery consistency of any of them. 8112 E. Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, (949) 376-6990; www.mastrosoceanclub.com. $$$

PESCADOU BISTRO
Despite its location""in a storefront across from Newport Beach City Hall""Pescadou manages to impart a south-of-France feel with vibrant colors and eclectic table settings. You'll find traditional French dishes""frog legs and coq au vin""as well as such bistro fare as rib-eye steak, bouillabaisse and a variety of fish dishes. 3325 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, (949) 675-6990; www.pescadoubistro.com. $$$

TACO ROSA
It's not just the wide swath of Mexico""Mexico City, Oaxaca, even the Yucatan""that makes Taco Rosa one of the few truly successful gourmet Mexican restaurants. Taco Rosa succeeds because its few tweaks are Mexican-based and surprising. Ask for the aguas frescas and instead of horchata, waiters will recommend a frosted, freshly squeezed cup of cantaloupe or melon""¡delicioso! 2632 San Miguel Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 720-0980. $$

ORANGE

LA BRASSERIE
The Orange institution looks, smells, tastes and sounds like the French eateries your grandparents frequented, the type of elegant dining experience that once required pearls, a dining jacket and an irony-free martini. All the French entrées Americans endlessly stereotype are here""duckling a l'orange, frog legs, pâté, escargot and the like. But La Brasserie also stays true to its rustic Alsatian roots by preparing nine different types of veal, each consisting of young cow slices cut into large portions, battered with egg and nearly floating over myriad tasty sauces. 202 S. Main St., Orange, (714) 978-6161. $$$

SHIKI
There are only two teppan tables at this modest place, but the chefs perform like kung-fu movie stars with a license to grill when they serve up tender chicken and steak with ginger, hot mustard and teriyaki sauces on the side. 1936 E. Katella Ave., Orange, (714) 633-1765. $$

TAQUERÃA MEXICO
Twenty-four hours a day, every day, you can get a taco (and only tacos) with steak, barbecued pork, chicken, carnitas, beef tongue, beef head or beef brains for under a buck. It's like having a warm tortilla security blanket. 108 W. Katella Ave., Orange, (714) 538-5772. ¢

PLACENTIA

Q'S TORTAS
Q's is unique because it's one of the few restaurants in la naranja exclusively devoted to the torta-making trade. And the local landmark, having been there for nearly a quarter-century, does not disappoint, turning out juicy monstrosities only slightly smaller than the King James Bible. 220 S. Bradford Ave., Placentia, (714) 993-3270. ¢

SAN CLEMENTE

IVA LEE'S
So authentically Cajun they hand out beads to patrons, Iva Lee's is a haute-cuisine take on the Big Easy. Crawfish cakes are topped with a dollop of saffron aioli, and the pan-fried pork chops are thick and juicy. The chicory coffee crème brûlée is so tasty it's like eating crack pudding. 555 N. El Camino Real, Ste. E, San Clemente, (949) 361-2855; www.ivalees.com. $$$

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO

CAFÉ MOZART
Café Mozart brews an impressive array of beers that ease its German-Austrian menu well down one's gullet. Bavarian bread dumplings""made of three different kinds of bread and flecked with bacon""come two per order, sit in a brown pool of wild mushrooms and exhibit the same luscious levity as Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. 31952 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 496-0212; www.cafemozart.net. $$$

SANTA ANA

BANGKOK TASTE
Thong "Chim" Johnson, owner of Bangkok Taste, knows how to pack heat into her torrid Thai creations, like her luscious green curry and her garlic shrimp; no other Thai place I know of makes its own ice cream. 2737 N. Grand Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 532-2216. $

COLIMA
Where else can you dine on tender barbecued goat in a smoky sauce and swaddled in steaming tortillas made on the premises? The only thing I like better is the house specialty: a mild white fish fillet stuffed with shrimp, mushrooms and mixed vegetables. 130 N. Fairview, Santa Ana, (714) 836-1254.$

NANCY PUEBLA RESTAURANT
Lurking within this seemingly mundane Mexican restaurant are delicious, complex rarities from the central state of Puebla, platters more familiar to an ethnography than an Orange County menu""dense mole poblano, pale goat menudo and guilotas, a chewy type of quail so region-specific that it's not even listed in most Spanish dictionaries. 1221 E. First St., Ste. C, Santa Ana, (714) 834-9004. $

PANGEA
We love Pangea best because it delivers. Do be sure to indulge in their sandwiches: a fresh Artist Village turkey wrap, or the Malaysian curry chicken breast sandwich""really, any of these fusion-style globalnesses, or the hibachi-grilled Atlantic salmon fillet served with a zesty ponzu glaze, which Pangea rocks out with its cocks out. 211 W. Second St., Santa Ana, (714) 834-0688; www.pangea-cafe.com. $$

YELLOW BASKET
Eighteen whoppers are flipped at this Santa Ana food-mark, but the best is a triple cheeseburger that could out-Carl's-$6-burger any day""and at only $4.60. 2860 S. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 545-8219; www.yellowbasket.com. $

SEAL BEACH

MAHE
Mahe offers a delicious meeting of sushi and meat as God and Stewart Anderson, in their mercy, intended. Besides the raw stuff, the house special is the filet mignon stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon. Kill you? Sure. But it tastes damn good. 1400 Pacific Coast Hwy., Seal Beach, (562) 431-3022. $$$

STANTON

PARK AVENUE
Gourmet American food in Stanton""who'da thunk it? The whole stuffed chicken, covered in pan drippings, is as fatty as a marbled pork chop and stuffed with a whipped concoction of creamy mashed potatoes and spinach you couldn't pay us not to eat. 11200 Beach Blvd., Stanton, (714) 901-4400; www.parkavedining.com. $$$

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; www.harborhousecafe.com. $

TUSTIN

DOSA PLACE
There are so many dosas at Dosa Place""crammed with goat, stuffed with cheese, oozing with curried potatoes""that you'll probably overlook the rest of the platters. Don't. Once in a while, scan over the South Indian portion of the menu and devote a lunch to the idli, two rice-flour dumplings touched with a molten chile powder, or an uttapam, a flour Frisbee the menu advertises as a pancake but is really more of a veggie-gorged omelet. 13812 Red Hill Ave., Tustin, (714) 505-7777; www.dosaplace.com. $

NOODLE AVENUE
Noodles. Lots of 'em. Thin. Thick. Stir-fried. In soup. Yellow. White. Thai. Vietnamese. Japanese. All heaps of long, luscious strands. 13816 Red Hill Ave., Tustin, (714) 505-9070; www.noodleavenue.com. $$

VILLA PARK
ROCKWELL'S CAFE AND BAKERY
This neighborhood café and bakery is an ode to Norman with Rockwellian gilt-edged plates and prints covering the bathroom walls. Besides the interior-design salute, Rockwell's serves seven great versions of eggs Benedict, all with hollandaise sauce made from scratch. 17853 Santiago Blvd., Villa Park, (714) 921-0622; www.rockwellsbakery.com. $

WESTMINSTER

CHEZ ROSE

The back-and-forth between French and Vietnamese décor at this vegetarian restaurant gets dizzying, even a bit annoying. But bickering soon dissipates under the brotherhood of great food, hybrids that you can imagine indulging in along the banks of the Seine or the Mekong. And as Edith Piaf begins to sing "La Vie en Rose"""for some serendipitous reason, the CD player always plays her torch song around dessert time""and you sip on a second order of coma-eradicating coffee, you can feel the world revert to a pre-Dien Bien Phu era, where French elegance and Vietnamese refinement waltzed tenuously. 7360 Westminster Blvd., Westminster, (714) 890-9711. $

DUONG SON BBQ

Chicken, duck and pork""these are the sole listings on the Vietnamese/Chinese/English menu at Duong Son BBQ, a smokehouse between a jewelry store and a skin-care center in Little Saigon's anarchic Cultural Court district. The pork features a ruddy, crisp skin; is nearly fat-free; and is roasted until it's as soft as a marshmallow. Duong Son's pork is a meat for eternity, one of the best arguments yet against PETA. 9211 Bolsa Ave., Ste. 115, Westminster, (714) 897-2288. $

Kim SU

A funky little place to eat lunch""traditional Chinese, great dim sum, but we usually go for lunch specials like sweet and sour pork, broccoli beef, and kung pao chicken. Weeklings like this place because you can mix and share food so easily, and because we're cheap bastards. 10526 Bolsa Ave., Westminster, (714) 554-6261. $

PAGOLAC

Pagolac will show you another side of beef""seven, to be exact. "Bo 7 Mon," the restaurant sign's subtitle, is Vietnamese for seven courses of beef, the restaurant's specialty. Ungodly slabs of sirloin are transformed into wisps of flavor-packed beef. 14580 Brookhurst St., Westminster, (714) 531-4740. $$

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

La Bettola

Delicious focaccia and a ramekin of butter-soft roasted garlic cloves glistening in olive oil arrive at your table when you sit down. Next, try the classic caesar salad (a better courtship tool than a dozen roses). 18504 Yorba Linda Blvd., Yorba Linda, (714) 695-0470. $$

MULTIPLE LOCATIONS

HATAM

If you have a hankering for Persian food, try the lamb shank, a huge leg of lamb complete with bone marrow and fat. It's served as a stew, and the meat rivals Jell-O for tenderness. Kebabs are good too! 1112 N. Brookhurst St., Anaheim, (714) 991-6060; also at 24000 Alicia Pkwy., Ste. 28, Mission Viejo, (949) 768-0122; www.hatamrestaurant.com. $$

JERRY'S WOOD-FIRED HOT DOGS

Not since Boogie Nights has a wiener garnered so much deserved buzz as the yearlong love-in for those steamed at Jerry's Wood-Fired Hot Dogs. Owner and Cleveland native Jerry O'Connell comes from the land where sausage-making is gospel, and his dogs show it: all-beef franks bursting from taut casings; X-rated kielbasas with a vicious, Warsaw Pact bite; and a jalapeño hot link that is proudly inauthentic, but nobody gives a damn as his whining-hole is deep-throating the eight inches. 2276 E. 17th St., Santa Ana, (714) 245-0200; also at 1360 S. Beach Blvd. Ste. C, La Habra, (562) 697-4644; www.jerrysdogs.com. $

JOHNNY REBS' SOUTHERN ROADHOUSE

With plastic flamingos and a stuffed catfish wall trophy the size of a walrus, the South lives on here. Delight in the Yankee cheese grits and fried green tomatoes, but don't forget to try the catfish. 4663 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach, (562) 423-7327; also at 2940 E. Chapman, Orange, (714) 633-3369; www.johnnyrebs.com. $

LILY'S BAKERY

Lily's primarily concerns itself with wedding cakes and pastries à la the original locale, but it also slaps out a fine bánh mì, layering meats and vegetables into an eye-pleasing sandwich. The best choice is the bánh mì jambon, thick slices of boneless pork leg cured with black peppercorns and a mild vinegar tang. The pork fat gels during curing, adding a curious, slightly rubbery textural contrast to the rich ham and sharp black peppercorns. 10161 Bolsa Ave., Ste. 109B, Westminster, (714) 839-1099; www.lilysbakery.com. ¢

MOTHER'S MARKET

This organic mini-chain is an Orange County institution: a place that, along with the Gypsy Den, hipped up vegetarian eating in Orange County years ago. They offer an extensive breakfast-through-dinner menu, but constant is their remarkable soyrizo""chopped up with onions, tomatoes and a bit of salsa instead of prepared in greasy, crispy cylinders hours after being removed from a pig""but this soyrizo is lean, hearty and even a bit spicy, and all-vegan. 2963 Michelson Dr., Irvine, (949) 752-6667; also at 225 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 631-4741; 19770 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 963-6667; and 24165 Paseo de Valencia, Laguna Woods, (949) 768-6667; www.mothersmarket.com. $

ORIGINAL PANCAKE HOUSE

The restaurant's massive mascot looming over Lincoln Avenue at Original Pancake House""a grinning two-dimensional cook in a poofy hat flipping flapjacks""is a city icon as reassuring to Anaheimers as the Big A. And so are the pancakes""wheels of flour soaked with any number of syrups and gobs of butter. Chase them down with coffee. Good morning! 1418 E. Lincoln, Anaheim, (714) 535-9815; also at 18453 Yorba Linda Blvd., Yorba Linda, (714) 693-1390; 26951 Moulton Pkwy., Aliso Viejo, (949) 643-8591; www.originalpancakehouse.com. $

Steer Inn

"Get the "˜small but mighty,'" my friend counseled. "It's the best." This steak is more mighty than small. The meat has enough texture to create a tooth-gnashing gusto reserved for Discovery Channel feeding frenzies, yet no steak knife is required to cut the beautifully seared surface. 801 S. Tustin Ave., Orange, (714) 639-2434; also at 444 N. Lakeview Ave., Anaheim, (714) 974-5321. $$

TAQUERÃA DE ANDA

Taquería de Anda makes fine tacos, but its real strength lies in its burritos. Especially alluring is Anda's beef tongue version, which the always-working cooks prepare so exquisitely you'll want to confess to your priest that you thought for a fleeting moment you were Frenching a cow and liking it. 308 W. Valencia Dr., Fullerton. (714) 871-4211; also at 1029 E. Fourth St., Santa Ana, (714) 558-0856; 1505 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, (714) 956-9359; 221 S. Magnolia Ave., Anaheim, (714) 821-4055; and pretty much any city with a Mexican section; www.taqueriadeanda.com. ¢

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