Our Grub Guide will soon expand into a full-fledged dining guide. In honor of that, here are restaurants grouped together whose only shared attribute is that they're damn good.
DINNER FOR TWO:
¢ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Less than $10!
$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $10-$20
$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $20-$40
$$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ¡Eres muy rico!
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 is 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. ¢CHAMPS
Champs is stuck in the 1980s: faded pictures of Los Angeles Rams fans hang inside, and hot dogs bear the names of Dodgers icon Fernando Valenzuela and members of the Showtime Lakers. Its snappy Chicago dogs, however, are timeless—slightly crispy Vienna beef sausage, speckled poppy-seed bun and relish so bright it makes you blink. 12161 Seal Beach Blvd., Seal Beach, (562) 596-2555. $COUNTRY INN GARDEN CAFÉ
The Edenic sense of isolation you get here is due not only to the soothing waterfall and atrium-like patio but also to owner Kim Simpson's pleasing menu. She uses only the freshest ingredients and a home-style flair in her delicious (and reasonably priced) food. You gotta try her scones. And cobb salad. And don't think of leaving without some peach cobbler. 130 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 722-1177. $$ESTHER'S PLACE
Owner Esther Kim's sartorial elegance is topped only by her sandwiches, made from organic veggies and better than anything Mom ever packed for lunch. Make sure to top off your hoagie with one of her frosty health shakes. Don't know which one? Let her decide for you—she decides well. 6789 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 841-4266. $
LUCCI'S DELI AND MARKET
Lucci's offers more than 30 hot or cold sandwiches under $5, not counting the house-specialty torpedoes that go for $2.99 and $5.25. There is pizza. There are the standard Italian dinners like spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna and eggplant, along with classics like linguine with clam sauce and fettuccine alfredo—all between $6 and $10. Lucci's does catering too. They even bake wedding cakes. 8911 Adams Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 968-4466; www.luccisdeli.com. $$
MEMPHIS SOUL CAFÉ
If you've ever been to the South, you know what a po'boy is. Take a bite of this catfish po'boy sandwich, lean back in your patio chair, and close your eyes. You'll swear it isn't traffic along busy Bristol or Main Street you're hearing, but rather a lazy river. 2920 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 432-7685; 201 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 564-1064; www.memphiscafe.com. $$
PAPA'S WESTERN BBQ
Papa's specializes in Santa Maria-style barbecue, a tradition native to the coastal central California town that dates to the time when Mexico's rule over California wasn't just a MEChA dream. So, like the Californios of yore, the Papa's crew smokes folds of tri-tips and other meat cuts over red oak chips that impart a fragrant, salty flavor. This is also one of the last places in Southern California where you can order the spicy Portuguese sausage known as linguiça. 10900 Los Alamitos Blvd., Los Alamitos, (562) 594-9251; www.papaswesternbbq.com. $$
When fate or a bad date takes you to Little Saigon in the early morning, stop by this 24-hour dive to feast on steaming, massive bowls of pho. Pho Hoa's signature dish is great, not the best you'll ever taste but with the largest, softest steak slices, massive cuts almost as big as poker cards and chopped just as thin. 9211 Bolsa Ave., Ste. 101, Westminster, (714) 899-4886; www.phohoa.com. $
This ain't an intimate trattoria. Romeo's is a celebration space all about comfort food, and you'll be comforted by their specialty: pork chops, which come decked out in a reduction of shallots and peppercorns. It's a taste sensation. 249 Broadway, Laguna Beach, (949) 497-6627; 28241 Crown Valley Pkwy., Laguna Niguel, (949) 831-4131. $
Sisig Grill is perhaps the only county Filipino restaurant specializing in dishes from the province of Pampango, a cuisine so renowned that no less an authority than the Philippines Department of Tourism declares it "the culinary center of the Philippines." On Tuesday, order a couple of glistening longsilog (greasy-good sausages that taste like a more elegant chorizo) along with the chicken curry and ginataang kalabasa na sitaw, and you have a three-item combo for about five bucks. 2622 W. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, (714) 761-2258. ¢
Super Pollo is a Costa Mesa institution, a bit of quirky comfort wedged between a Kragen Auto Parts and a Tower Records. OC Weekly's premiere issue sang its praises as "five bucks of heaven on a plate," the same combo you can gnaw through for just 50 cents more nine years later. In addition to the wonderful chicken combos, they still fold one of the tastier non-Anaheim carne asada burritos in the county: beef mixed with creamy guacamole, lard-free refried beans and tangy pico de gallo. 1731 Superior Ave., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-7574. $
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