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Sep 6, 2006 04:06 AM

Best Value Meals in OC

What places deliver the best value for your money? From the cheap to the expensive, where do you feel your dollars going a long way? I am still hunting for some mexican and middle eastern variety to add to my staples. I realize the list is missing Sushi Shibucho but I've yet to get there.

Some of my usual suspects are:

1. Oki Doki- $40 feeds two hungry people and gives them a few beers (or sake) to wash it all down
2. Thai Nakorn- Same deal as above but just so much spicier; Last time we went five of us pigged out and had lots of beers for $100
3. Banh Mi's at Banh Mi Che Cali or Zon's Baguette if I dont feel like driving
4. Costco's rotesserie birds (I dont care for the hotdogs)
5. Sam Woo (the culver/irvine center location)- more authentic than other locations, not to mention quick service (eat, pay, leave)
6. Baja Fresh's Baja Ensalata- Flame if you want but its a simple fresh salad piled on with juicy grilled chicken for $6.

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  1. MEalcentric, which of the Costcos near Irvine-ish have the rotisserie chicken?

    Here's one for your Mexican file, my favorite taqueria: El Toro Bravo. Great quality tacos & burritos postively loaded with meat. Double wrapped tacos with full sized, housemade tortillas are $2 each. A burrito the size of my forearm is $4.

    Dumpy. Hole in the wall. Brilliant food. Some won't like its looks. More for me. :)
    El Toro Bravo Tortilleria
    745 W. 19th St #G
    Costa Mesa

    Haveli has an $8 (lunch only) buffet of really good Punjabi food, not the usual crappy steam tray food.
    Haveli Fine Indian Cuisine
    13882 Newport Ave Suite G

    4 Replies
    1. re: Professor Salt

      Professor, the Costco on Technology Drive between Alton and Barranca has rotisserie chicken, as well as ready-made ribs (not good actually).

      The one in Tustin, on El Camino Real does not. By the way, the Tustin Costco's food stand is also under renovation.

      1. re: Professor Salt

        I've heard you trumpet El Toro Bravo and it is about time I check it out. It is moving to the top of my "to try" list. I will report back.

        1. re: MEalcentric

          Please do. If I may suggest some of my favorites here:

          carne asada, deeply flavored and cooked along with caramelized onion. When it's fresh off the griddle, it's brilliant. When it's been sitting in the steam tray, it's still pretty great.

          carnitas - of the soft, tender variety. If you like this style, you'll dig the flavors of this one.

          pollo - seasoned with adobo and roasted in a gas rotisserie. Although the skin is never crisp even right out of the oven, the flavor is consistently great.

          chile rojo: chunks of pork simmered in their spicy, housemade salsa roja. Brilliant, if you feel like sweating during your meal.

          chicharron: Most taquerias' "chicharron" is pork skin simmered and chopped to form a gelatinous, unctious stew. This is something entirely different. Here, large cubes of skin on pork belly are fried until the meat is dark brown, the skin crunchy, and the fat crisp. Not served as a taco, but in a combo platter w/ beans & rice. Decadent. Not to be confused with the sheets of crisp fried pork rind, or chicharron duro, which is also sold here.

          Don't: tamales and chile relleno. Costilla (ribs) are bland, fatty, and cut crosswise across the bone, which makes them hard to eat. Skip 'em. Also, the salsa verde comes out of a can and isn't anything special. Opt for the housemade salsa fresca or salsa roja.

          Man, now I gotta go here for dinner tonight.

          1. re: Professor Salt

            Professor, if I wasnt going to Mastros for dinner tonight, that Carne Asada had me halfway out the door. I actually need to run an errand over in that are next week, so I know what my lunch will be (and the pollo for dinner). Thanks again

      2. I was under the impression that all of the costco's have chicken.

        1. I'm pretty sure all Costcos have rotisserie chicken... at least, I've never seen one without, even past the Orange Curtain.

          I definitely agree about Thai Nakorn -- the first time I went, I was sure it was going to be $12 and $15 a dish, so when I got the bill it was a VERY happy surprise!

          I always feel like I've had a great value for my money at Carolina's in Anaheim, at Pizza d'Oro in Huntington Beach, at Robatayaki Shinsengumi in Fountain Valley, at Quan Hy in Westminster, and at Banh Mi Che Cali.

          I always feel like Merhaba should be cheaper due to the ghastly "decor", but it is a RIDICULOUS amount of food for the price.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            The COSTCO in Tustin doesn't have Rotisserie Chicken but all the others I've ever been to do.

            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              The Costco up here in Marin Co. didn't have the chickens last time I was there.

              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                Costcos without chickens?! Iz di gantseh velt meshugeh?? Oy, that I should live to see such tsuris.

              2. Most of those on your list are also on my regular rotation too. And you can't get a better value than Vietnamese Sandwiches!

                Some others I like:

                Waikiki Hawaiian Grill - their Mini meals aren't that mini at all. And at around $4.25, a bargain. My favorite so far is the chicken katsu...the best I've tasted in years.


                California Fish Grill - yeah, they're cheap, and can be inconsistent at times, (fries soggy once or twice), but you can't beat less than $10 for a meal King's Fish would charge $20 for.


                Noodle Avenue - Their House Special Soup Noodles...a meal under $5, and it's got about 4 or 5 different types of animal meats in it. Filling and satisfying.



                1. Haus of Pizza in Costa Mesa: Side order of small pizza bread ($1.80) plus toppings at $0.40 each.