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Oct 11, 2006 04:15 PM

Looking for a special evening on a budget (Central/South Orange County)

Hey all,

My fiancee's birthday is this Friday (Yeah, the 13th, I know), although we'll be celebrating it next weekend due to scheduling constraints. As I've mentioned in my previous posts, we're on a very strict budget right now. Still, I'd like to take her somewhere nice for something special.

Not including her present and (maybe) flowers, my total dinner budget for the evening is $60. She likes most cuisines, but prefers simple American or West Coast fare. She's not a big fan of sauces, fondues, or huge slabs of meat. For our anniversary dinners, she likes going to 6ix Park Grill for the Risotto or the Beach House for the Chicken Marsala (I think it's been taken from the menu) and lobster bisque. She loved the Ravioli di Aragosta at Florence Italian when it was still open. She wasn't impressed by Park Avenue.

We're located in Irvine, although any recommendations within a reasonable driving radius would be greatly appreciated.

- Chubbypanda

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  1. steaks, but American or Western fare. Tough, but let me try.

    Mastro's Ocean Club (I still haven't been, but it topped the "Ultimate" OC List last year).

    Bandera, Gulfstream, Wildfish, and Houston's. Only been to Houston's, but contrary to what some may think, they do more than steaks.

    2 Replies
    1. re: elmomonster

      All of those would be WELL over $60 total.

      1. re: torta basilica

        Oops. I missed that part of the requirements. Torta is right. You'd be lucky to get out of most of the ones I suggested for $60 per person. Total bill will most likely be in the triple digits.

    2. I went to Shenandoah at the Arbor in Los Alamitos for my birthday during the summer, and had a wonderful meal. Entrees were in the $15-25 range, so it might just fit your budget.

      Here's a link to an earlier review and my replies to it:

      Also a review on the Elmer Dills website:

      Another place to consider is Cafe Hiro in Cypress. The setting isn't as nice or romantic, but the food is awesome.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Wonginator

        I think it goes without saying that I second Cafe Hiro. Very casual. But great food for very reasonable prices.

        Some things are better than others, and sometimes there's a slip-up or two, but I keep coming back. This is one of those places that is close to my heart.

      2. Not particularly romantic, but Duke's / Beachfront 301 / Red Pearl Kitchen in Huntington Beach may fit the budget.

        Good luck!


        1 Reply
        1. re: AquaW

          If you get a window table at sunset, it can be quite romantic... and the prices will be in your range.

        2. If you're careful ordering, Boardwalk at Crystal Cove - the setting is certainly romantic, being right on the beach. Sneak a bottle of wine down to enjoy as you wait.

          1. Thanks guys!

            Some of the recommendations sound great. I should have mentioned that romantic is also a requirement, as is a non-emphasis on seafood. She's normally quite flexible about what she eats, but she was raised on terrestrial meat and potatoes, so that's where her comfort food zone lies. Also, I'd like to not have to take her someplace where we have to be super careful about ordering. The last thing I want to do on her birthday is tell her she can't have something.

            Sorry I'm being so picky. =(

            You've all been a big help, and I appreciate it very much. If anyone has any other recommendations, please add them to the list.

            - Chubbypanda


            1 Reply
            1. re: Chubbypanda

              Let us know where you wound up going! (OC is a tricky spot for finding inexpensive romantic places)

              and following up on my earlier comment, Duke's can be romantic if you can get outdoor seating around sunset; it's also within budget and though they do have a bit of seafood, I liked their land grub too.