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Sangak technically isn't a meal, but the best of Iran's four native flatbreads, a sesame-crusted yard of wheat baked until the edges are as crispy as chicharrones. For $2.69 at Irvine's WHOLESOME CHOICE, you get a 4-foot-long sangak; for $1.50 more, you can purchase tangy cucumber dip. Add 50 cents to that, and a much-better shallot dip is yours. Take a hint from the typical 15-minute wait for the sangak—combining either of the yogurts with the bread creates a lunch/dinner better than 80 percent of Orange County's entrées. 18040 Culver Dr., Irvine, (949) 551-4111; www.wholesomechoice.com.

CHAMPION FOOD COMPANY sells something called ci fan tuan, which look like uncut sushi rolls kept in Saran Wrap. But while the latter is associated with expensive dinners, the former is a cheap, take-it-to-go $2.75 breakfast eaten like a burrito. Pick from two kinds—the savory selection filled with pork, or one as sweet as a bag of C&H. Regardless of selection, both contain a deep-fried cruller called yu tiao encased in a glutinous rice tube. 17090 Magnolia St., Fountain Valley, (714) 841-0398.

Persian restaurants tend to be the most expensive ethnic eateries in OC, so there are few cheap dishes found in this cuisine, with the grand exception of tadig: crispy, almost caramelized rice scraped from the bottom of a rice cooker, then drowned in luxuriant stews of pomegranate and walnut costing double figures when ordered by themselves. But at GREEN RICE, it sets you back $4.99. Don't believe the owners when they classify the tadig as an appetizer—it's enough to feed four. 17441 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 843-0655.

Depleting oceans one delicious fillet at a time at California Fish Grill
Jonathan Ho
Depleting oceans one delicious fillet at a time at California Fish Grill
Cheap, cheap chicken
Courtesy Boneheads
Cheap, cheap chicken

Location Info

Map

IKEA

1475 S. Coast Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Category: Retail

Region: Costa Mesa

Las Brisas De Apatzingan

1524 S. Flower St.
Santa Ana, CA 92707

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Santa Ana

Nha Hang 1.99

11707 Edinger Ave.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

Category: Restaurant > Vietnamese

Region: Fountain Valley

El Chinaco

560 W. 19th St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Costa Mesa

Banh Mi & Che Cali Bakery

15551 Brookhurst St.
Westminster, CA 92683

Category: Restaurant > Vietnamese

Region: Westminster

Lucia’s Tacos & Mulitas

16952 Beach Blvd.
Huntington Beach, CA 92647

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Huntington Beach

Al Sanabel Bakery

816 S. Brookhurst Blvd.
Anaheim, CA 92804

Category: Restaurant > Bakery

Region: Anaheim

Wholesome Choice

18040 Culver Drive
Irvine, CA 92612

Category: Restaurant > Middle Eastern

Region: Irvine

Champion Food Co.

17090 Magnolia St.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

Category: Restaurant > Cafe

Region: Fountain Valley

Saffron Grill

17441 Beach Blvd.
Huntington Beach, CA 92647

Category: Restaurant > Mediterranean

Region: Huntington Beach

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Only in Aztlán can teriyaki transform into Mexican cuisine, especially as prepared at any of the four locations of MOS 2. A small bowl will suffice (and for just less than $5): packed with glutinous rice, teriyaki-glazed chicken, beef or pork burnt to nubs, then mixed with green onions as if it were Carne Asada Sunday. Drizzle the complimentary teriyaki sauce alongside Tapatío, and you have the finest combination of East and Mesoamerica since the china poblana dress. 1008 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 772-8543; 221 S. Grand Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 835-8288; 1933 W. 17th St., Santa Ana, (714) 541-5997; 117 S. Western Ave., Anaheim, (714) 761-5283.

Two sandwiches in Orange County justify their price: any good bánh mì, and the $4.65 falafel pita at KAREEM'S RESTAURANT in Anaheim's Little Arabia strip. It seems simple enough—a warmed pita fat with lettuce, pickled radishes, onions and a couple of falafels, then smeared with tahini sauce—but the falafel's heartiness (the best on Earth—puffy inside, crispy outside) combined with roughage is simultaneously cooling and filling. One bite can fulfill your day's quota of happiness. 1208 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim, (714) 778-6829.

Vietnamese entrepreneurs are branching out from Little Saigon to other OC cities, leaving behind the enclave's low prices. Not so at PHO BAC KY; from 3 to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends, you can eat well for $3.99. Pick from either boiling-hot, anise-scented pho adorned with thin slices of raw steak or brisket, or yellow rice and fire-licked barbecued chicken pieces threaded through skewers accompanied by a bowl of beef broth with all the fixins. Two Little Saigon-quality dishes offered at even-lower-than-Little Saigon prices. 14207 Red Hill Ave., Tustin, (714) 573-1298.

Between 5 and 5:30 p.m. each day, you'll see a MITSUWA MARKET employee in the ready-made foods section take a red Sharpie and mark down prices faster than you can say, "Everything must go!" Discounts of up to 20 percent bless the bento-box section. The most coveted is the chicken karage bento for $3.99—fried chicken morsels, rice and veggies, more nutritionally balanced than anything associated with the Colonel's cartoon mug. Be prepared to fight through hordes! 665 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa, (714) 557-6699; www.mitsuwa.com/english/index.html.

Tasked with a potluck? Go to HUONG HUONG FOOD TO GO. Pick from party trays of crispy egg rolls fried into bite-sized stogies or grilled-to-perfection Vietnamese barbecue pork laced with lemongrass. But for everyday eats, there's the takeout combo deal for $4.75: a Styrofoam container filled with two home-style Vietnamese items—curry chicken, fish simmered in a funky-sweet red sauce—and plenty of white rice. It's like Panda Express, but cheaper and more compelling. 9262 Bolsa Ave., Ste. 3, Westminster, (714) 895-6551; 9892 Westminster Ave., Ste. 15, Garden Grove, (714) 534-4820.

The $4.99 mini-meal at WAIKIKI HAWAIIAN GRILL should only be attempted if you have a hungry friend in tow, or if you already look like an island. The price is what almost all Hawaiian joints charge for similarly portioned meals of protein, rice and mac salad, but Waikiki dances the hula around its competition with a moist, buttery chicken katsu cloaked in a breading that defies the laws of physics with its everlasting crunch. 13771 Newport Ave., Ste. 10, Tustin, (714) 731-7371.

• $5 to $9.99 •

Ah, MEMPHIS CAFE: the Weekly's eternal standby, where Southern cooking gets the gourmet treatment and gourmet prices—unless it's happy hour. During this time, a special menu lists entrées for $5—and they don't skimp on portions. The buttermilk fried chicken wings are essentially candy, while a bowl of their legendary gumbo—heavy with sausage and shrimp—will coat your stomach for the coming booze. Better yet, the perfect cornbread—sweet, steaming, salacious—is on the house. 201 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 564-1064; 2920 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 432-7685; www.memphiscafe.com.

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1 comments
Madilyn
Madilyn

Think about updating this list. It's a good read & useful still.

 
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