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!

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

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

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

ANAHEIM

369 SHANGHAI

This one excels by alternating between the familiar and the esoteric. The culinary cowards in your dining circle can seek comfort in delicious versions of orange chicken, egg rolls and shrimp fried rice; everyone else can savor entrées usually available only in the Middle Kingdom—or maybe the San Gabriel Valley—like the fish head casserole, a single head sticking out amongst a Sargasso Sea of noodles, with a flavor as sharp and pungent as its smell. 613 N. Euclid St., Anaheim, (714) 635-8369. $

AL-AMIR BAKERY

Al Amir Bakery in Anaheim's Little Arabia enclave attracts all sorts of eaters, but it works best as an old-style pizzeria, a place where young people step in for a quick bite and flirt. Its primary draw are the extraordinary sphihas, a kind of Lebanese New York-style pizza: thin, toasty, wonderfully crunchy crust with layers of such powerful Middle Eastern flavors as soujouk, zaatar and milky Palestinian cheese. 518 S. Brookhurst St., Ste. 3, Anaheim, (714) 535-0973; www.alamirbakery.com. ¢

INKA ANAHEIM

Groups eager to party will dig the décor of blacklight scenes of Peru's landscape. A good introductory dish to Inka menu is the casa—a rotisserie chicken, featuring one-quarter of the bird, white rice, brown beans and salad, plus an Inka soda to wash it all down. 400 S. Euclid St., Anaheim, (714) 772-2263.$

KAPIT BAHAY

Here are just some of Kapit Bahay's game pieces: about four or five different fish deep-fried until the bones become jelly; pork and chicken adobo marinated long into the day in a murky broth of soy sauce, ginger, vinegar and garlic; sweet-sour viscous soups bumpy with rice, cucumbers or baby squids; beef minced with vegetables and covered in raw onion hoops or stabbed by a skewer; purple eggs called balut that contain a two-week-old duck embryo you're supposed to slurp whole. Even better desserts! 615 N. Euclid, Anaheim, (714) 635-4400. $

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

BISMILLAH HALAL TANDOORI RESTAURANT

The karahi lamb will blow your mouth into a new orbit. Prepared with a dictionary's worth of herbs and spices, the taste is an unbelievable medley of flavors. And the nihara's beef is so tender it's like butter. 8901-D Knott Ave., Buena Park, (714) 827-7201. $

CORONA DEL MAR

CAFÉ JARDIN

Located at the tranquil Sherman Library and Gardens, the café?s menu is well thought out. The mushroom soup is the color of a spa mudpack with an earthy mushroom flavor, and all of the desserts are made on the premises. 2647 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar, (949) 673-0033. $$

COSTA MESA

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 afterwards. 1695 Irvine Ave., Costa Mesa, (949) 646-7944; www.lacaverestaurant.com. $$

NATIVE FOODS

Screw the hippy-dippy milieu: Native Foods is about chow as welcoming for your senses as it is for your health. Sure, Native Food's mission statement—"a prosperous lifestyle in harmony with the balance of nature and its energy through the wonders of food"—might be as hopelessly New Age-y as the menu and environs. Unlike most vegan mavens, though, Chef Tanya Petrovna doesn't ditch the flavor while thinking of invigorating ways to fool flesh fanatics or improve your aura. 2937 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 751-2151; www.nativefoods.com. $

OKI DOKI

Oki Doki is a pan-Asian restaurant but primarily draws in folks for their chicken ramen, a refreshingly light anomaly in the pork-centric ramen world. Chicken-based ramen is like a sharper version of the best midwestern chicken soups, though now laden with sturdy noodles. Most of the toppings are typically Japanese: the chashu, hardboiled egg, bean sprouts and scallions. The delicious, fried crunchy bits of garlic, though, are an atypical, probably Vietnamese influence that are more than welcome as they provide a great tweak of sweet bitterness. 3033 S. Bristol St., Ste. O, Costa Mesa, (714) 540-2066. $

CYPRESS

FRANCO'S ITALIAN RESTAURANT

This tiny Cypress restaurant is the kind of place where the tablecloths are checkered, the waiters earnestly smack fingers against lips when describing linguine, and Frank, Dino and Pagliacci roar without rest. Franco's has an extensive Italian menu all your major pastas, subs and even a surprising selection of veal dishes but leave space for the cheesecake, one of the best ever to grace this world: thick, almost like tiramisù, but so strong with cinnamon you can feel it sizzle on your tongue. 4453 Cerritos Ave., Cypress, (714) 761-9040. $$

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