grub 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

Merhaba Restaurant

2801 W. Ball Road
Anaheim, CA 92804

Category: Restaurant > African

Region: Anaheim

Taps Fish House & Brewery

101 E. Imperial Highway
Brea, CA 92821

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Brea

POFOLKS

7701 Beach Blvd.
Buena Park, CA 90621

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Buena Park

Gallo's Italian Deli

3900 E. Coast Highway
Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

Category: Restaurant > Deli

Region: Corona Del Mar

Greek Town Grill

279 E. 17th St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Category: Restaurant > Eclectic

Region: Costa Mesa

Franco's Italian Restaurant

4453 Cerritos Ave.
Cypress, CA 90630

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: Cypress

Harbor House Cafe

34157 Pacific Coast Highway
Dana Point, CA 92629

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Dana Point

Ebisu Japanese Noddle Reataurant

18924 Brookhurst St.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: Fountain Valley

Chicago Harv's

410 E. Chapman Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92832

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Fullerton

Kaju Soft Tofu Restaurant

8895 Garden Grove Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92844

Category: Restaurant > Korean

Region: Garden Grove

Brewbakers

7242 Heil Ave.
Huntington Beach, CA 92648

Category: Music Venues

Region: Huntington Beach

Bukhara

7594 Edinger Ave.
Huntington Beach, CA 92647

Category: Restaurant > Indian

Region: Huntington Beach

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ANAHEIM

MERHABA RESTAURANT

If you’re non-African, the owner will be extra-attentive and repeatedly ask if you enjoy her East African recipes. You will. East African cuisine sticks mostly to stews: chewy cubes of tibisy beef; lamb ribs battling with furious peppers for control of your tongue; the famous Ethiopian doro wat, spicy chicken cooked in butter, hot like the pits of hell. The vegetarians in your party will content themselves with the shiro, an Eritrean chickpea mush similar to hummus. 2801 W. Ball Rd., Ste. 5, Anaheim, (714) 826-8859. $

BREA

TAPS FISH HOUSE & BREWERY

Located in the desperately fine-dining-deficient Brea, this place has everything—from steaks, chicken and pastas to an immense oyster bar. Gorge yourself with abandon on such appetizers as tropical-shrimp quesadillas or French Quarter Egg Rolls. 101 E. Imperial Hwy., Brea, (714) 257-0101; www.tapsbrea.com. $$

BUENA PARK

POFOLKS

PoFolks is a rustically eccentric restaurant—tin and wooden agricultural-company signs on the walls, a working train that chugs the perimeter—specializing in Norms-style home cooking with a Southern bent, the kind of place where fried chicken livers with red beans and rice is a daily special, and peach cobbler isn’t some ironic/iconic treat but rather what’s for dessert. 7701 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, (714) 521-8955. $$

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

GREEK TOWN GRILL

You can sing the praises of Greek Town Grill in Costa Mesa’s happening East 17th Street District for its sleek décor (ceiling-to-floor windows, mosaic counter, sexy lighting and chairs), delicious takes on such Greek-American classics as pitas and dolmades, and the fact that owner Jim Marutsos works with fresh ingredients. But also hum some bars for the pear salad, a glistening hill of leaves, candied walnuts, long pear slices and melted gorgonzola. 279 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 515-2788; www.greektowngrill.com. $

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. $$

DANA POINT

Harbor House Café

Besides Denny’s, this is basically the only 24-hour joint in the area, and thus a popular hangout for high school kids. After the one in San Clemente closed something like a decade ago, this became the hangout for San Clemente High School students, too. As far as eats go, it’s known for its wide omelet selection and thick shakes. 34157 Pacific Coast Hwy., Dana Point, (949) 496-9270. $

FOUNTAIN VALLEY

EBISU JAPANESE NOODLE RESTAURANT

This restaurant is a sleek ramen mecca that serves miso ramen, a curative soybean-flavored elixir, poured over a tangled cake of supple noodles rife with bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, hard-boiled-egg halves and scallions. 18930 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, (714) 964-5993; www.ebisuramen.com. $

FULLERTON

CHICAGO HARV’S

Most every county hot-dog cart advertises Chicago dogs, but Harv’s is among the few places that does 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 lips a yellow-green color as vibrant as a 1970s Notre Dame football uniform. 410 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-0491. ¢

GARDEN GROVE

Kaju Soft Tofu Restaurant

This is an idyllic eatery that specializes in a soft and spicy tofu soup. Depending on what you want to put in the soup, it becomes a sort of paella, except that with paella, the waitress doesn’t drop a raw egg into it as it’s being served. The bulgogi—thinly sliced, seasoned beef with sweet caramelized onions served on a fajita-like skillet—is a good complement to the soup. 8895 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 636-2849. $$

HUNTINGTON BEACH

BREWBAKERS

Part fraternity, part bakery, part miniature brewery, Brewbakers is as much a bonding experience as an eating establishment, a gustatory amusement park in the midst of chain-heavy Huntington Beach. While the personal beer-making process is the main attraction, owner Dennis Midden maintains that baking is his first love, and a chomp through his pretzels—chewy loops with a perfect crustiness and enough salt to enhance the taste but not cover it—confirms it. 7242 Heil Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 596-5506; www.brewbakers1.com. $$

BUKHARA

Bukhara—Indian for “strip mall”— is situated in, of all things, a Huntington Beach strip mall. It’s an intimate and superb representation of its genre, featuring healthy food, an extensive menu and, most important, many vegetarian choices. The assault on one’s taste buds is breathtaking from start to finish. 7594 Edinger Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 842-3171. $$

THE CHICKEN CO.

If it wasn’t copyrighted, we would tell you they do chicken right. So we’ll just say they do chicken correctly. They turn lowly poultry into buttery works of art. Forget chicken soup: This is what your soul is craving. 9017 Adams Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 963-0500. $

IRVINE

DARBAND

All Persian restaurants feature shirin polo: basmati rice mixed with shredded chicken and fragments of orange peel, pistachios and almonds. Darband outdoes them all by including half a chicken instead of chicken strips. And instead of mixing it into the shirin polo, the Darband cooks bring out the bird simmering in a bowl of chicken broth. The result was a chicken so succulent and tender, I was able to eat it with a spoon. 14210 Culver Dr., Ste. H, Irvine, (949) 857-8265. $$

DIHO BAKERY

The Japanese are the creators of nikuman, the world’s cutest sandwich, which consists of a candied, spongy flour wrapped around gingered meats and vegetables. At Diho Bakery, nikuman-type sandwiches are elevated to an art form on par with calligraphy. The taro, in particular, is a pleasant surprise—not your tiki party’s dull, watery poi paste, but instead a jam waiting to be copyrighted by See’s. 14130 Culver Dr., Ste. J, Irvine, (949) 857-6415. $

Gulliver’s

Gulliver’s prime rib is the primest of prime. ¡El Primo de Ribbie Ribozo! Un Primen de Ribentrop! What else is there to say? It’s succulent, it’s pink, it’s thick, and it’s delicious. You’ll be saying, Voulez-vous le Ribby de Prim! I surrender. 18482 MacArthur Blvd., Irvine, (949) 833-8411. $$

LA HABRA

IMPERIAL BURGERS

Imperial Burgers serves many more things besides its Cheddar cheese-heavy pastrami burritos—its namesake, for instance, a charbroiled marriage of meat, soft bun, sweet cheese, girth and lettuce. Or standard breakfasts of pancakes, hash browns and sausage. And always sip on ultra-sweet Orange Bang whenever you find this increasingly rare beverage. Everything is good here, really. But La Habra is so far away, and the pastrami burrito is so good—why would you ever order anything else? 241 E. Imperial Hwy., La Habra, (714) 525-1611. $

LA PALMA

PAESANO’S

You probably slap together half of Paesano’s menu at least once a week for dinner: sauce-drenched entrées such as mostaccioli, spaghetti and lasagna that aren’t so much Old World as they are Hoboken. So why bother visiting this 26-year-old eatery? Meatballs that are lacy, herbed and delish. And good subs. 5440 Orangethorpe Ave., La Palma, (714) 521-4748. $

LAGUNA BEACH

LAS BRISAS

Sometimes you’ve gotta choose: the kid’s college education, or another round of margaritas? Ah, but at Las Brisas—perched above Laguna Beach’s Heisler Park, granting you a luxurious after-dinner view of the sun setting over Catalina—the seafood and booze are so good as to make temptation irresistible. 361 Cliff Dr., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-5434. $$

THE LITTLE LAGUNAS

ONAMI SUSHI & SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

Here, you can partake of as much sushi as you want. You can gobble down transparent globules of ikura (salmon roe) like popcorn, or tiny particles of masago (smelt egg) as if they’re, well, tiny particles of masago. 24155 Laguna Hills Mall, Ste. 1301, Laguna Hills, (949) 768-0500. $$

LAKE FOREST

MANILA FOOD MART

Every Filipino joint offers the same meals; Manila Food Mart differentiates itself by hawking various products, from such Filipino garb as handbags and barongs (an ornate, light long-sleeved shirt similar to the Caribbean guayabera) to a freezer stocked with ready-to-eat meals such as bags of plump, sugary longansina pork sausages. 24601 Raymond Way, Ste. 10, Lake Forest, (949) 461-0113; www.manilafoodmart.com. $

LONG BEACH

AlegrÍa Cocina Latina

The Spanish-styled brocheta vegetariana isn’t like any bruschetta we’re used to. The bread is replaced with corn tortillas and topped with skewers of grilled vegetables in a light sesame sauce on a pile of Peruvian corn, fresh-chopped tomatoes and tofu. That’s right—tofu! 115 Pine Ave., Long Beach, (562) 436-3388. $$

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 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

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. $$$

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, each with such entrées as rib-eye or wild Scottish salmon. 453 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 640-7697. $$$

ORANGE

EL PORTAL DE VERACRUZ

Most people pick their El Portal meal from a buffet that surprises hourly. Sometimes you’ll find fried bananas sidling against pork ribs slathered in a citrusy green salsa spiked with smoky cactus strips. Or you can go veggie and load up on grilled jalapeños, cheese-sprinkled refried beans and moist rice. But no meal at El Portal is worth eating without at least one masa-based Veracruzan snack: potato-y garnachas, lightly fried picaditas or fluffy chicken tamales. 4530 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 538-1660. $

PLACENTIA

REMBRANDT’S BEAUTIFUL CUISINE

Rembrandt’s claims to do “beautiful food,” but for them, that translates to hearty, plain fare done to nostalgic perfection: a Brown Derby for our county minus the starlets but without that whole wrecking-ball thing. This is truly the little steakhouse that time forgot. It looks like what the Velvet Turtle would be if they’d redone it Spanish-style in the ’80s: stark, white walls; huge paintings; chandeliers; and filet mignon to the hilt. 909 E. Yorba Linda Blvd., Placentia, (714) 528-6222; www.rembrandtsrestaurant.com. $$$

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

CARNICERÍA EL CAMPEÓN

All things being equal, we find that the less we comprehend of a menu, the higher the odds we’re going to get authentic food. “Tamale” at Carnicería El Campeón was arranged on the menu near some other foods that only a Mexican mami could recognize. Unlike other joints, El Campeón’s tamales are unencumbered by frills—just cornhusk, moist masa and chicken. 31921 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 240-3141. ¢

SANTA ANA

EL GALLO GIRO

Leopaldo Gonzalez cranks tortas out in seven excruciating seconds, but they’re worth the wait. The tortas are delicious and filling beyond description. The bread is warm, and the fresh meats are savory and perfectly complemented by the condiments. 1442 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana, (714) 549-2011; www.gallogiro.com. ¢

SEAL BEACH

NICK’S DELI

Nick Zampino has no evidence, no proof, no corroborating facts or photographs, but he swears he knows in his heart that his family originated that most delicious and conveniently held of early-morning victuals: the breakfast burrito. After tasting these apotheoses, you’ll be inclined to agree. 223 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 598-5072. ¢

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 “Fuckin’ radness”; and anything on the menu above $6 you won’t be able to finish yourself. 12120 Beach Blvd., Stanton, (714) 898-5181; www.themadgreekrestaurant.com. $

SUNSET BEACH

Captain Jack’s

Opened June 25, 1965, this steak and seafood restaurant supposedly serves 53,000 pounds of Alaskan king crab per year—more than any other restaurant in the U.S. It prides itself on consistent quality and hearty portions. The bar is one of the few that still use the “Super Well,” meaning that if you order gin, you get Bombay, and if you order vodka, you get Absolut. 16812 Pacific Coast Hwy., Sunset Beach, (562) 592-2514. $$

TUSTIN

INDIA SWEETS AND SPICES

It’s a sweet shop and a produce vendor, a place to rent videos, buy Urdu-edition newspapers and get a home-style meal in a pop-culture mini-bazaar that caters to your taste for Indian soul food. 14441 Newport Ave., Tustin, (714) 731-2910. $

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 caffeinated drink. 17769 Santiago Blvd., Villa Park, (714) 974-2650. $

WESTMINSTER

Peking Restaurant

The jellyfish salad is quite tasty, and if you think of it as Chinese pasta, you won’t squirm. The family dinners are fabulous and feature such interesting choices as an entire steamed fish. 8566 Westminster Ave., Westminster, (714) 893-3020. $$

YORBA LINDA

THAI BISTRO CUISINE

Orange County’s Thai curry king will surprise you. This saffron-colored, porcelain-plated place offers an incredible eight: gentle red, sweet pineapple, musky eggplant, and a masman curry that combines Buddhist cuisine’s austerity with the heartiness of Islamic food to create the best interreligious mixer since the Nicene Council. 21560 Yorba Linda Blvd., Yorba Linda, (714) 693-2888. $

MULTIPLE LOCATIONS

COSMO’S ITALIAN KITCHEN

The restaurant is actually named after a family friend of the owners—no relation to Cosmo Kramer. Try the homemade, meat-filled ravioli topped with pesto sauce; it has more flavor than anything Chef Boyardee could ever dream up! 23411 Aliso Viejo Pkwy., Aliso Viejo, (949) 448-9040; 28562 Oso Pkwy., Rancho Santa Margarita, (949) 216-9029. $

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