Ask the Food Snob: The Birthday Conundrum

Ask the Food Snob: The Birthday Conundrum

Yo no soy comida crítico
Yo no soy comida crítico, soy capitán
Soy capitán, soy capitán...

Despite my non-food-criticness, I did get an email from loyal reader (merci!) Jon of Costa Mesa, asking the following:

Where should I eat dinner in Orange County for my birthday? Having the hardest time ever deciding. Just 4 of us. Not Mastro's-type expensive, but one step down price-wise. Any recommendations? Last year I did Ikko in Costa Mesa.

Since no e-mail address came through, Jon, I am posting your question publicly. Hope you don't hate me any more than you did previously.

While I love Mastro's, there are plenty of options in the area, and for less money than the $40-$50 main dishes at Orange County's favorite steakhouse. It all depends on what kind of birthday you want to have.

If you're like me and you want great food while you sit and talk, you'll need a place that's not too loud; if Vietnamese is acceptable, head for Xanh in Fountain Valley. If Italian is more your style, go down to Sabatino's down in the Newport shipyards (but bring a sweater, it's almost all outdoor seating). Another homey Italian would be Cucina Alessa, either in Huntington or Newport.

If loud and raucous is what's on tap for the evening, head for one of the yakitori-ya in Central County, either Shin-Sen-Gumi in Fountain Valley or Honda-Ya in Tustin. You could also start there and then have the wagyu beef at Tsuruhashi across the street from Shin-Sen-Gumi.

Finally, if you've got to have the steak but you can't abide the Mastro's tariff, head inland--deep, deep, inland--and have dinner at Trabuco Oaks Steak House. Wear a tie you hate.

Let's turn it over to the loyal Fork readers (both of you pay attention!): any other suggestions for Jon?

Xanh Bistro, 16161 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley; (714) 531-2030; xanhbistro.com.
Sabatino's, 251 Shipyard Way, Newport Beach; (949) 723-0621; sabatinoschicagosausage.com.
Cucina Alessa, 6700 W. Coast Hwy., Newport Beach; (949) 645-2148; cucinaalessa.com.
Cucina Alessa, 520 Main St., Huntington Beach; (714) 969-2148; cucinaalessa.com.
Shin-Sen-Gumi, 18315 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley; (714) 962-8952; shinsengumigroup.com.
Kappo Honda, 18450 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley; (714) 964-4629; no website.
Tsuruhashi, 18798 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley; (714) 593-8393; tsuruhashibbq.com.
Trabuco Oaks Steak House, 20782 Trabuco Oaks Rd., Trabuco Cyn; (949) 586-0722; trabucooakssteakhouse.com.


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