For no reason other than quality, and in simple alphabetical order, I offer 15 fabulous restaurants. Please let me know what you think.
Also, KCRW-FM's frequency is 89.9, not 88.9, as I reported last week. My apologies!
DINNER FOR TWO:
¢..............Less than $10!
$$$.........¡Eres muy rico!
AMAZING KABOB HOUSE
Take the advice of this tiny restaurant's name: try the kebabs of lamb, chicken, ground beef and even shrimp sizzling between bell peppers, tomatoes and onions on skewers. But make sure to also order the Kabuli palau—basmati rice cooked with lamb, carrots and currants—and a bowl of aash, a noodle soup with hefty portions of potatoes, chicken and tomato that would sell well in Iowa. 3209 N. Glassell St., Orange, (714) 282-1228; www.amazingkabobhouse.com. $
Small and claustrophobic, but they clear all the red tape as far as authenticity. There's lots of off-the-menu specialties: conch, tuna cheeks, abalone—you know their shit's good when they got abalone. 675 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa, (714) 557-2696. $$
Fancy, fancy, fancy but good, good, good. 3201 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar, (949) 673-3524. $$$
BEACH CITIES PIZZA
There's sweet spaghetti, wonderful bread sticks and a terrifyingly powerful sauce with thin, crispy strands of garlic that will actually numb your lips. But order one of the gourmet pizzas. I like the Newporter, a sweet mix of meaty prawns, juicy sun-dried tomatoes and a tangy pesto sauce glued onto a thin crust by a milky cheese. 34473 Golden Lantern, Dana Point, (949) 496-0606. $$
CAFFÉ IL FARRO
Spelt is the ancient grain on which half of Caffé il Farro's pastas and risottos are based, but if you prefer the kind of pasta that gives your blood glucose level a boost, try the homemade heart-shaped ravioli. 111 21st Place, Newport Beach, (949) 723-5711.$
Open since 1962 (!), La Cave continues to serve as the county's place for a touch of romance and a hunk of meat. Their steaks—fine slabs of beef as big as a grammar school desktop—will fill your belly. Their music—cheesy lounge, stellar jazz—satisfies the soul. And the ambiance will get you lucky afterward. 1695 Irvine Ave., Costa Mesa, (949) 646-7944; www.lacaverestaurant.com. $$
From the pretty hostess who greets you when you enter to the spacious joint—brightly red-and-blue-colored walls and dining tables—the Dream experience is indeed dreamy. Middle Eastern delicacies are available, but who needs grub with hookah specials like the Dream Card (smoke six hookahs, get one free hookah and a drink) and Hookah Happy Hours from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. daily? 830 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim, (714) 502-9865. $
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HARBOR HOUSE CAFÉ
Besides Denny's, this is one of the few 24-hour joints in the area and thus a popular hangout for high school kids. After the one in San Clemente closed something like a decade ago, this became the clubhouse for San Clemente High School students too. Rightly renowned for its wide selection of omelets and thick shakes. 34157 Pacific Coast Hwy., Dana Point, (949) 496-9270. $
Last year, the Nation's Restaurant News enshrined Mr. Stox in its Fine Dining Hall of Fame. But the venerable spot—one of the county's first serious haute cuisine emporia—is so much more than scintillating steaks, poached salmon, and a duck sauced with a sweet, luring glaze. Where else can you spend a couple of hundred for Mom's birthday dinner and get a complimentary photo? Awww . . . 1105 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 634-2994; www.mrstox.com. $$$
MOONLIGHT CHICKEN AND PIZZA
Moonlight's soujouk pizza—graced with the spicy Armenian beef sausage—is grander than mere foodstuff: it's an ambassador for that mythical melting pot, for the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation of owners Vazgen Akoyan and Karine Karpetyan. Add pineapple, and you have the best retort to the anti-immigrant crowd since the Statue of Liberty. 9895 Warner Ave., Ste. G, Fountain Valley, (714) 963-4488. $
NANCY'S PUPUSERÍA RESTAURANT
Customers at Nancy's wait with patience, and so should you—as Sunday school taught, patience is a virtue, and its reward is the pupusa. Owner Nancy Funes' namesake Salvadoran pupusas are grilled discs o' plenty, bubbling with slightly salty cheese and not too greasy, as they are in so many other county pupuserías. Her pupusas de calabasa—brimming with fresh zucchini bits within the pupusa's cheesy morass, which somehow doesn't compromise the vegetable's natural, juicy snappiness—is a minor miracle—maybe not on the level of Fatima but at least Medjugorje. 8511 Knott Ave., Buena Park, (714) 995-2086.¢
Unlike other posh joints, where the idea of comfort is to make average folks feel uncomfortable, Pinot is nothing but inviting. The French-Californian cuisine and atmosphere manage to be classy without being stuffy, and the roasted lamb noisette is one of the best cuts of lamb I've had. The Westin South Coast Plaza Hotel, 686 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa, (714) 444-5900.$$$
EL POLLO NORTEÑO
El Pollo Norteño whole-cooks chickens on a spit with an occasional squirt of lemon and chili powder. What more could you ask for? 1525 W. First St., Santa Ana, (714) 541-9097; 202 N. Grand, Santa Ana, (714) 542-0779. $
Though it bills itself as a tribute to Route 66, Roadside is more than a theme restaurant. Its burgers—well-wrapped and slightly bigger and tastier (and more expensive) than your typical burger dive—are a tad too gourmet for true shack lovers. Still, the nostalgia at Roadside is all about the location: across the street is the historic Fox Theater. When that majestic building opens its doors anew, patrons will likely cross the street to share a malt with their beloved, and the curtain will rise on another scene in our American drama. Onion rings are extra. 513 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 871-0040. $
View Orange County's best damn dining guide at ocweekly.com/food.