When lunchtime comes, we Weeklings disperse to the same restaurants—one place for pho, another for pad Thai, and all the way to Tustin for ferocious southern Indian. So for those of you wanting to ask the Mexican, kiss the Commie or argue with the Trendzilla, hang around these joints—you're liable to see us getting a to-go order, then scurrying back to our moss-covered lair.
The yellow-curry selection is optimal for those who sport the same color on their bellies, so be brave and step up a spice level to the red curry. Its marvelous mixture of bamboo shoots, bell peppers and coconut milk will give you the sensation of having had sex for two hours in a sauna. 1520W.ChapmanAve.,Orange,(714)978-3905.$
The District Lounge's 'cue is serious, and Reverend Morton's Savory Bar-b-que Savior Sauce—a relishy, sweet glop the District crew administers judiciously to all meats—could score a ribbon in a Kansas City cook-off. The tri-tip's middle is pink, its skin charred yet juicy, and it arrives about eight lengths to an order. Ribs plop off easily, and enough chewy meat hangs off the bone to fill you and create a separate hamburger. The brisket is tough but smoky and gnarled. Chicken wings slap the tongue with their salty, mesquite burn and await a dunking into a thimble of great mustard-ranch dressing. 233W.ChapmanAve.,Orange,(714)639-7777.$$
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. 13812 Redhill Ave., Tustin, (714) 505-7777; www.dosaplace.com. $
The casamiento is a vegetarian's delight, combining black beans and rice with eggs, avocado and cream, plus a piece of really salty cotija cheese on the side. We suggest you chase that down with a big cup of Salvadoran horchata. 300W.FifthSt.,SantaAna,(714)973-0554.$
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. 2930 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 549-7012; 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 835-8840; www.gypsyden.com. $
Kaffa is a place where you can walk in for a pickup or lounge for hours, so its menu offerings are both elegant and portable. Paninis are the main attractions, and Kaffa crams them with a concentrated savor befitting the best Roman street vendors. For breakfast, you can choose from fresh pancakes filled with fruit on the weekends or a grilled-egg sandwich with Black Forest ham and tomatoes during the week. But whatever you may scarf down, chase it with a shot of Kaffa's rightfully renowned espresso: dark, earthy and lush, with berry caresses and a foamy, eye-popping top. 424 S. Main St., Ste. K, Orange, (714) 978-1992; www.kaffainc.com. $
If you've ever been to the South, then 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. $$
Oki Doki is a pan-Asian restaurant but primarily draws in folks for its chicken ramen, a refreshingly light anomaly in the pork-centric ramen world. Most of the toppings are typically Japanese: the chashu, hard-boiled egg, bean sprouts and scallions. The delicious, fried crunchy bits of garlic, though, are an atypical, probably Vietnamese influence that are more than welcome as they provide a great tweak of sweet bitterness. 3033S.BristolSt.,Ste.O,CostaMesa,(714)540-2066.$
There's not much glamour in the presentation at Pacific Coast Hot Dog, which is nowhere near the beach. Accouterments don't stray from the roll call of hot dog standards—saccharine relish, freshly sliced onions and tomatoes, even some sauerkraut for the Teutonic among us. But in this simplicity, there's a summer's worth of love, heat, fireworks and heartache. Try the namesake special, which features as many apparent conflicts as an episode of The O.C.: cumin-spiked chili fights with bitter mustard and zingy onions for domain over your palate. 300 Pacific Coast Hwy., Ste. 106-A, Huntington Beach, (714) 969-8799; 3438 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 744-1415. ¢
Near Chapman University, this is easily one of OC's best Lebanese places. The lamb-shawerma pita is an ungodly delicious bargain at $4.50. The almost-as-good falafel pita is $3.50. 421N.GlassellSt.,Orange,(714)633-3903.$
Though smaller than the monsters hawked at Jon's Philly Grille in Anaheim or Costa Mesa's Frank's Philadelphia, Philly's Famous's cheese steak surpasses the two in the most crucial cheese-steak factor: the cheese. It overwhelms your senses like a good cheese should, like the best quesadillas: sharp, comforting, gooey. The cheesy cheese choice marries Cheez Whiz, American white and provolone into a tasty, wonderful triad, each fromage strong and distinct. 648E.FirstSt.,Tustin,(714)505-6067.$
Pho Hien Vuong, supposedly the county's first restaurant to serve its eponymous beef noodle soup, does serve other things besides its namesake dish: bouncy goi cuon (spring rolls); rice domes towering over chunks of sautéed beef, chicken or steamed vegetables; and the fabulous chilled vermicelli salad known as bún. Best of the 18 pho choices is the pho dac biet (house special), a cow in a bowl rammed with envelope-thin slices of uncooked steak, skirt and flank coupled with tendon and tripe. (Those squeamish of offal can order pho containing only one cut. Pussies.) 2525W.17thSt.,Ste.H,SantaAna,(714)554-2696.$
El Rincón Chilango in Santa Ana is Orange County's best re-creation of Mexico City, and not just because the street-side restaurant features the megalopolis' iconic Angel of Independence statue as its logo, nor because its marquee screams, “100% D.F.” Mexico City favorites are in order here: wonderful potato tacos with the shells fried until they shine like the Stanley Cup; supersyrupy sodas such as Jarritos and Boing; and the tlacoyo, a foot-long gordita bloated with earthy bright-yellow fava beans and splattered with diced onions and a tangy green salsa on the outside—the heartiest meal you'll eat until Thanksgiving. 1133W.17thSt.,SantaAna,(714)836-5096.$
View our complete dining guide at www.ocweekly.com/food.