The following places employ guys and gals who remember your name after a couple of visits, refill your water without prompting and deserve a bigger tip than the measly 5 percent you leave, you cheap bastard.
DINNER FOR TWO:
¢ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Less than $10!
$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $10-$20
$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $20-$40
$$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ¡Eres muy rico!
I defy anyone to find a finer Friday night than the kind you get at Angelo's: a burger-fries-and-Coke combo for six bucks, nameless kids chucking pickles at one another, buxom waitresses skating without pause, and the half-Latino, half-white crowd communally willing another Vlad Guerrero horsehide bomb into the television sky. 511 S. State College Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 533-1401. $ARTHUR'S COFFEE SHOP
"Best Breakfast in Town," proclaims the sign out front, and they probably don't get too many arguments. While the food's good, the atmosphere is even better. Waitresses sport "OKIE SPOKEN HERE" T-shirts as they take orders from Korean War vets who have axle-grease stains on their well-worn Dickies. Arthur's serves real food for real people. 1281 E. La Habra Blvd., La Habra, (562) 691-7793. ¢DOSA PLACE
There are so many dosas at Dosa Place—dosas crammed with goat, stuffed with cheese, oozing with curried potatoes—you'll probably overlook the rest of the platters. Don't. Once in a while, scan over the South India 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. It seems the same handsome, soft-spoken Latino always delivers the said dosas to your table. 13812 Redhill Ave., Tustin, (714) 505-7777; www.dosaplace.com. $FRANCO'S ITALIAN RESTAURANT
This tiny Cypress restaurant is the kind of place where the tablecloths are checkered, the waiters earnestly smack their fingers against their 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. $$THE GYPSY DEN
Hipster Orange County's favorite place to ogle progressive waitresses. The menu is still filled with an eclectic collection of healthy post-hippie sandwiches, and the décor is almost identical, from the earthy walls to the funky art. 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 835-8840; 2930 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 549-7012; www.gypsyden.com. $KAREEM'S RESTAURANT
Seemingly half of Little Gaza visits Kareem's three times a day, taking comfort in one of the few Orange County Middle Eastern restaurants to offer distinctive breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Owners Mike and Nancy Hawari are the sole employees of the tiny place, and the waiters/cooks/hosts coddle their customers from entrance to exit with wondrous hummus and a smile rounder than a pregnant woman's belly. 1208 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim, (714) 778-6829. $LA PALMA CHICKEN PIE SHOP
It's pure comfort to know that the same waitresses will serve you the same chicken pot pies year after year. These pies are the size of large talcum-powder puffs and have a flaky, golden-brown pastry crust. 928 N. Euclid St., Anaheim, (714) 533-2021. ¢
When you want to throw caloric caution to the wind, there's no beating Mel's. The cooking is home-style, the portions huge and the waitresses friendly. Other than a hot cuppa joe (yep, that's here too), what more do you want? You'd be a knucklehead to leave without ordering one of the hubcap-sized, homemade cinnamon rolls topped with generous dollops of pure melted butter (served weekends only). 9430 Warner Ave., Ste. 1, Fountain Valley, (714) 963-2662. ¢
From her earthy navy-bean soup to voluptuous Naples-style pizza with homemade fennel sausage, Pina Ercolamento, a native of Italy, puts Neapolitan pride into all of the creations in her tiny Tustin trattoria. 640 W. First St., Ste. C, Tustin, (714) 730-5442. $$
Argentina lives in this tiny strip of Garden Grove's Westminster Boulevard, and the results are incredible: cheesy, fresh Argentine-style Italian pastas; gut-busting dishes of beef (the parillada alone has five different types); and more than 30 native Argentine wines. But the best part is gracious owner Elías Niquias, who will greet you by name the second time you visit. 11025 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 638-9595; www.reginaargentina.com. $$
One page is devoted to such Thai favorites as curries and noodles, another to Thai-Indian fusion dishes (my heart palpitates at the thought of their paper shrimp—fried shrimp rolls stuffed with bits of mango and peppers and balanced with a sweet mango chutney). The rest of the menu is given over to a wide swath of northern subcontinent foodstuffs, ranging from herb-laced lamb kebabs to Afghan rice dishes. Everything rocks. 1170 N. Tustin, Orange, (714) 771-9898. $$
At the bottom of Avenida Victoria, below a bed-and-breakfast and a short jaunt from the ocean, stands this stunning, cozy bistro, named for what the British call foam-crested waves. Every six weeks or so, owners Mark and Aileen Norris redesign everything. Menu. House breads. Appetizers. Everything. There's only one constant at White Horses, and that's that the Norrises are consistently spectacular in their epicurean experiments, as dependably memorable and adventurous as riding Trestles. 610 Ave. Victoria, San Clemente, (949) 429-1800; www.whitehorses.us. $$$.
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