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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.

                  1. Pizza by the slice at Al's Cafe in Costa Mesa is excellent thin crust with just enough yeastiness for $1.75 a pop.

                    1. Here are some very inexpensive meals:

                      Pho America in North Tustin/Santa Ana- generous and tasty beef, pork or chicken salads for $5.95 ($4.76 with the Entertainment card). A semi-teriyaki marinaded meat over a bed of mixed greens. Add a little red pepper or spiracha to the dressing before pouring it on the salad. Noodle soups are decent for $5 or so.

                      Tan Huang Huong in Orange- Generously sized chicken salad for $5.00. A serving of plain steamed chicken breast over a bed of mostly cabbage plus onion, carrot shavings, green papaya. Ask for the dressing on the side and add a little red pepper or spiracha to the dressing before pouring it on the salad. Mi wonton noodle soup is pretty good here also for about $5.

                      Carnitas de ??? on Tustin Avenue just south of Chapman Avenue on the east side of the street next to the laudromat. LARGE $.99 taqueria tacos, I usually can eat only two tacos for a meal.

                      Taqueria De Ande on Tustin Avenue in Orange. Terrific huge-mongous burritos for $3.99. I like the al pastor and carnitas.

                      Carl’s Jr on Chapman Avenue east of the 55 fwy in Orange.Two hard shelled ground beef tacos for $0.99. Much better than Del Taco. I’ve only seen this deal at this location so far. Nice sized tacos with fresh salsa bar to boot. I know, not taqueria quality but who can argue with dinner for $1.98.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: GrindzHound

                        not finding Tan Huang Huong in Orange in a Google search. Where is it?

                        1. re: corydon

                          Tan Hoang Huong
                          3132 East Chapman Avenue, Orange, CA 92869
                          (714) 997-2916

                        2. re: GrindzHound

                          Forgot to add the Nha Hang $1.99 Restaurants. I think there are three with the Fountain Valley location the nicest for those unaccustomed to hole in the wall places in Little Saigon. Every meal on the menu is $1.99 except the chicken ($2.99) which is also the best thing on the menu imo. The chicken comes with seasoned rice, pickles and a dipping sauce that starts out as "hmmm, that's interesting?" and turns into "oh man, that's addictive!".

                          1. re: GrindzHound

                            Nhà hàng is Vietnamese for "restaurant"... which restaurants are these?

                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                              Das Ubergeek, Yes, "Nha Hang $1.99 Restaurants" is kind of redundant, lol, but that is the name on their restaurant signage. Here are the ones I know of:

                              Nha Hang $1.99 Restaurants

                              11707 Edinger Ave.
                              Fountain Valley, CA 92708

                              12035 Garden Grove Blvd.
                              Garden Grove, CA 92843

                              7971 Westminster Blvd.
                              Westminster, CA 92683

                        3. Are you referring to Carnitas Los Reyes, GrindzHound? If so, I heartily second this rec.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: SouthOCHound

                            SouthOCHound, that's it! Forgot the name and I've been going there since they've opened. Great food.

                          2. Too bad Zubie closed...now that was a mass of food.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ML8000

                              ML8000, Which Zubie's closed? Now that would be bad news.

                            2. The origianl zubies in newport beach closed years back. But i thought that zubie's dry dock in HB was still around. At least, it was the last time i drove by [a few months ago]

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: SouthOCHound

                                Ah okay, didn't know about the HB one. Is is any good? Serve as much food? I grew up down there and went to the one in NB. Always a good value, but prices might have gone up.

                                1. re: SouthOCHound

                                  Did Zubie's Chicken Coop in Newport Beach close up? I thought it was still open, at least earlier this year. I haven't been there recently, though, so I'm not sure. Last time I went was sometime last year, had some fabulous broasted chicken.

                                  1. re: Wonginator

                                    Agree on the chicken at the Zubies on old Newport. They also have a combo platter with ribs and such that we've enjoyed many a time -- not earthshattering, but a good value, and it comes with nice service.


                                    1. re: doctom

                                      For those who haven't been in a while the name is now "The Chicken Coop" at the Newport location. "Zubie's" is not in the name anymore since the chef bought the restaurant from the Z family.

                                      At the Coop, the shrimp taco is terrific and a real bargain at $4.95. It is a large burrito sized flour torilla stuffed with sauteed shrimp, onions, peppers and cheese. Comes with a side of cabbage salad and pico de gallo. This taco is a meal.

                                  2. re: SouthOCHound

                                    The HB Zubies is indeed open because I see their newspaper ads almost every week. I'm embarrassed to admit that I have never been there, but will soon visit.

                                    1. re: HBfoodie

                                      I haven't had much luck with the seafood there (way over-cooked) but the porterhouse steak is good and the Thursday prime rib CAN be good. If you ask for rare, you'll get anything from well-done to medium-rare... and yet I still like the place. Salad bar is simple but pretty good.(Fresh hicama slices, potato salad and good funky ranch dressing with cottage cheese in it) Broasted chicken is good, just put a little salt and pepper on it because it has no seasoning. If the shrimp taco is as good as at the Chicken Coop then it is a bargain and very tasty.

                                  3. since i can't afford real sushi these days, i will admit that sometimes i go to mitsuwa after 5:30 on weeknights (weekends are too busy) and get their marked down premade sashimi plates. they're only marked down by a couple of dollars. with some rice from the food court and a passion fruit juice, that is dinner. it is the cheapest way to have my sushi fix where the fish isn't really rank though it's definitely not the best I ever had. sigh

                                    it's not just the premade sashimi plates, they mark down the sushi as well as some of the packaged fish at that time.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: choctastic

                                      I also take advantage of the price markdowns at Mitsuwa at 5:30 pm. But I usually get the cooked bentos.

                                      MITSUWA BENTOS:

                                      For sushi, I've been going (almost every other day now) to Maki-Zushi. It's inexpensive, decent and did I mention inexpensive! Especially during the promotional 20% off dinner.