Best value dinners in OC for a working couple.
Cat and I have been working later and later nights lately, with no sign of any letup until Thanksgiving. Plus, classes at UCI are starting up again, which means Cat's schedule will become even tighter, since she'll be teaching again.
Bottom line? We rarely have the time or energy to cook anymore. However, man cannot live on TV dinners, ramen, and canned soup alone, so I'm looking for some high quality cheap eats closer to work or home (Irvine, Huntington Beach, Lake Forest, Westminster, Garden Grove, Fountain Valley, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach) to fill in the gaps.
Price range: Under $10/person, including tax & tip. We're on a tight budget. Most items on the menu should fall within this price restriction.
Examples of good food at great values:
Mitsuwa (Food Court) - Costa Mesa
Red Onion Cafe - Irvine
Wholesome Choice (Food Court) - Irvine
Yu's Garden - Irvine
Takaraya - Irvine
Ebisu - Fountain Valley
Pho Bac Ky - Irvine
Kaju Soft Tofu - Irvine
What are your favorite places for a quick, weeknight dinner or takeout?
Panda, you're talking my kind of places.
In the other Irvine Chinatown shopping center (NW corner of Jeffrey & Walnut), try: Ay Chung Noodle and New Shanghai. The former is a Taiwanese noodles & rice shop. I trust you'd know what sounds good at Ay Chung, seeins' how you're Taiwanese and all. New Shanghai has a lot of potholes on the menu. Stick to the Sichuan specials menu, and you'll do well. Dry fried beef is a favorite of mine here.
Ay Chung Noodle
5408 Walnut Ave #B
Then there's my usual Costa Mesa holes in walls. Besides El Toro Bravo that you know about, try the pupusas at San Sivar. For sure try a pupusa made with rice flour (de arroz) in addition to the corn ones. Writeup on my blog:
Pupuseria San Sivar
1940 Harbor Blvd
Although it's more than you want to spend, a quality bang for the buck is Tsuruhashi for yakiniku. They serve USDA Prime grade beef Japanese BBQ style. If you go during the week, they have a combo platter that's incredibly cheap for the quality you get. We usually get out for $25 per person, including beers. Here's my CH writeup from 2003:
re: Professor Salt
I hope the Irvine Cho Dang is as good as the one in Cerritos. Everything about that place was great. The combo dinner came with a tofu soup in a regular sized pot, chock full of meat, and a lovely broth. There's raw oyster in the kimchi. The kalbi melts in your mouth. And! There's an ice milk dispenser where you can have as much dessert as you want!
Mex: Taco Mesa on 17th in CM for value, Taco Rosa in NB for a splurge
Americana: Claim Jumper appetizers in the $10 range sometimes do the trick; Bristol Farms's Cafe, where you can eat anything from anywhere in the store including sushi for well below $10
Fresh Fishies: Cal Fish Irvine, Cypress & Anheim Hills for basic fresh @ $10 or less
BBQ: Blake's in Anaheim; Lou's Oak in HB
Deli & Such: Katella Deli in Los Al; Lawry's Carvery in SC Plaza, especially brisket sandwich
Rabbit Food: Soup Plantation's greenery is almost OK
Pizza: Cal Pizza or Z Pizza, split one
Indian: Punjab on Brookhurst
Holler if you need more