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Best value dinners in OC for a working couple.

Hey all,

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?

- Chubbypanda

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  1. 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
    5406C Walnut
    Irvine
    949-651-6008

    New Shanghai
    5408 Walnut Ave #B
    Irvine
    949-733-3836

    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:
    http://professorsalt.com/2005/09/21/p...
    Pupuseria San Sivar
    1940 Harbor Blvd
    Costa Mesa
    949-650-2952

    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:
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

    Tsuruhashi
    18798 Brookhurst
    Fountain Valley
    714-593-8393

    3 Replies
    1. re: Professor Salt

      Hey Prof,

      I can't believe I forgot you mention New Shanghai. You're right, it's a great place. I'm very partial to their Fish in Wine Sauce, Seared Salty Pork Chops, and Beef Noodle Soup.

      I'll be sure to try the others you've mentioned.

      - CP

      1. re: Chubbypanda

        Oh yes - if you like Kaju, you should try Cho Dang, which I think makes the best soon tofu in Irvine. They're setting up at that international festival thing this weekend. I'll see you there!

        Cho Dang
        4790 Irvine Blvd #6 (SE corner of Irvine & Yale)
        Irvine
        714-544-4411

        1. 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!

          http://elmomonster.blogspot.com

    2. Oki Doki in Costa Mesa can be pretty cost effective and is open later! Especially with fall coming, their ramen can really hit the spot.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Dommy

        Yes, good choice! Tsuruhashi is also open late, I think last order is 12:30 am?

        Ramen House Mentatsu in Costa Mesa is also open like til 1am (?) but the food's not as exciting to me as the late hours. My blog report:
        http://professorsalt.com/2006/02/03/r...

      2. I finally tried Haveli Indian food in Tustin right of the 5 freeway. The buffet is one of the best I have had. I think the cost is 7.99. I believe this deal in only between 11am and 2:30pm, but it 7 days a week.

        http://www.havelifineindiancuisine.com/

        1 Reply
        1. re: cdmedici

          I would implore everyone to try their entrees..the chicken mehti and cumin chicken are superb

        2. 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

          1. California Fish Grill in Irvine is a bargain.