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Apr 5, 2008 08:27 AM

OC and LA cheap eats - MUSTS?

Hey all. I"ll be in LA and Newport Beach for 10 days. I need to find cheap eats MUST places...Preferably in Newport. Anything from burritos, taco trucks, to cool bakeries, ethnic foods, donuts, junk food...Anything I cant get on the East Coast. No Korean, Chinese, or Japanese, please.

And any good food markets/grocers to wander?


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  1. Newport Beach is hardly the ideal place for cheap ethnic, Mexican or junk food type places. You are better off taking a very short hop to Costa Mesa (19th/17th Stree or Bristol) to find what you are looking for.

    9 Replies
    1. re: cdmedici

      If you enjoy Vietnamese food, I think it would be worth it to go into Little Saigon or Westminster area and have some really cheap but great Vietnamese food. Some restaurants to visit are Brodard, Quan Hy, Banh Mi Che Cali, and some Pho places.

      1. re: Tony

        Tony's on the nose. It's hard to find a better point in the good food/different/price matrix than Little Saigon's eateries. It's Orange County's equivalent (for Vietnamese) of LA County's San Gabriel Valley (for Chinese). For more info on Vietnamese, you can also look up Das Ubergeek's postings. He's one of the most serious hounds whose words are gold, and is based in the OC.

        1. re: bulavinaka

          *blushes furiously*

          Unfortunately -- sacrilege!! -- I really spend almost no time in Newport and Costa Mesa. If the OP would be willing to come inland a bit, I can absolutely provide some "musts", beginning with Little Saigon, where you could eat in a different restaurant three times a day for two months and never pay more than $15 each.

          To the OP -- I don't really know where on the East Coast you're coming from or what they might have there, nor what "cheap eats" to you means. I'll put a note next to any of the places that have meals (meaning an entree and a non-alcoholic drink) above $10.

          First, your question about markets: the very best farmer's market in Orange County is the Saturday morning market at Campus Drive and Bridge St. in Irvine, across from UCI (that's the University of California, Irvine). It is open from 8 AM to noon. If you come in April, the Peet's Coffee in the adjacent plaza (next to Trader Joe's) is giving out free drip coffee for the next few Saturdays to celebrate their opening. A great breakfast is coffee from Peet's (or Vietnamese iced coffee from Le Diplomate in the same plaza), and then a sweet pastry from Blackmarket Bakery in the farmer's market. Currently we've got the last of the citrus, a boat load of insanely good strawberries from Carlsbad (San Diego County), cherimoyas, Asian pears, dates... I assume you don't care about vegetables since you probably won't have a cooking facility. In a few weeks we'll get the first loquats and maybe the very first figs, quickly followed by apricots.

          Near the farmer's market is Wholesome Choice, which is a Persian market with a great Persian food counter (takeaway, but there are tables elsewhere), but beware of sometimes abrupt service. You can wander the market and just bask in the multi-ethnicity of it. If you want a taste treat, buy a jar of your favourite preserves and then buy sangak (this is an enormous Persian bread that is baked to order for you and costs something like $2.50 -- you order at the entrance to the store, more or less). Eat the preserves with the hot sangak.

          In Little Saigon, then:

          Pho Thanh Lich -- pho with rare filet mignon is $6.99. Get it on the side so you can swirl it to doneness in the hot soup.

          Vien Dong -- two things to get here: bun cha Ha Noi, which is cool rice noodles and various herbs, and a bowl of grilled smoky pork and a pork meatball in a watery papaya-based sauce. You put what you want into an eating bowl and eat it. It's astounding. The other thing is cha ca thanh long, which is catfish grilled on a fajita platter with turmeric and dill, served the same way. The bun cha is $7, I think, and the fish is $14 but enough for two.

          Slightly over your price limit is Pagolac, which has the traditional Vietnamese "bo bay mon", seven courses of beef, for $13.

          Com Tam Thuan Kieu has com tam, which is "broken" rice, for between $5 and $8 depending on how many toppings you get. You can choose from pork chop (suon), shredded pork tossed with rice flour (bi), Chinese sausage (lap xuong), egg-and-pork cake (cha, by far the best), grilled beef (bo nuong), grilled pork (thit nuong), tofu stuffed with shrimp paste (dau hu ky) or chicken (ga). Four toppings will be in the $6 range; seven toppings, which is a ridiculous mountain of food, is $8.

          By far the cheapest great eats in Little Saigon are Vietnamese sandwiches, called banh mi. These are rolls or baguettes with garlic mayonnaise, your choice of filling, cilantro, chili peppers, pickled carrots and daikon radish, and Maggi seasoning. Fillings range from grilled beef (banh mi bo nuong) to meatballs (banh mi xiu mai) to banh mi with curried chicken (banh mi ca ri ga) to the house special, which is more or less the same everywhere and contains various kinds of charcuterie (Viet ham, for example, and pate). They're typically $2 for a 10-inch sandwich. Banh Mi Che Cali, which has several locations, has a deal where the sandwiches are $2.25 each but if you buy two you get a third free (for the kind on rolls only, not on the baguettes). These places are EVERYWHERE and it's hard to go wrong, except don't go to Lee's because it's more expensive and not as good. These places are usually take-out only. If you go to the Banh Mi Che Cali in the plaza at the SW corner of Bolsa and Magnolia, you can wander down the plaza and go to a Vietnamese flower and produce store where you can buy cheap pitahayas (dragon fruits). Also, at BMCC you can buy che, which is a Vietnamese dessert involving various sweets floating in coconut milk. There are several kinds, you just point and shoot, and the cost is $1.50 each, but buy 2 and get 1 free (this is marked as "mua 2 tang 1").

          It is not, however, all about Vietnamese food, though I love Vietnamese food. You can get good fresh Mexican food at Taco Mesa in Costa Mesa. Its sister restaurant in Newport, Taco Rosa, has a $15 Sunday brunch buffet that's incredible for the price.

          Let me know if you want things a bit more inland, or search for my posts and you can see reviews I've written.

            1. re: bulavinaka

              And Thai Nakorn -- how could I *possibly* have left out Thai Nakorn, where the most expensive thing on the menu is still under $10?? Best Thai food in OC -- and it's not just my opinion, it's a strongly-held tenet of the OC Chowhounds. :)

            2. re: Das Ubergeek

              Das Ubergeek,
              Been to Pho Nguyen Hue (on Bolsa & Ward)? Just wondering your opinion of the place, as we often drive 20+ miles for their awesome free-range chicken pho. The flavor & texture of the chicken is noticeably better than other places.

              1. re: pharmnerd

                Never been... I normally don't like chicken pho but next time I'm in the area without a destination I will definitely check it out. Is it bone-in or bone-out?

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  I know they have w/ skin, and would imagine it's avail bone-in. I usually order skinless boneless. Worth a try IMO, as the free-range chicken is their specialty. And cheap, of course (typical $4-6, depending on size).

        2. re: cdmedici

          Yup, hit the Mexican taquerias on Costa Mesa's west side. Here's a few of my longstanding favorites:

          El Toro Bravo Tortilleria (19th Street), this is a place I've touted many times

          Pupuseria San Sivar (Harbor Blvd north of 19th Street)


          Grilled fish tacos Taqueria El Granjenal (19th Street at Monrovia)

        3. Sorry I don't have Newport recs, but...

          If you happen to be in West LA/Santa Monica area, try Monte Alban for Oaxacan. For tacos, try Tacos Por Favor or Tacomiendo. Also, Bay Cities for sandwiches. If you happen to be in SM for happy hour time, try Warszawa for Polish happy hour.

          In Venice, 3 Square isn't too expensive, and has great bakery items.

          In West LA, try an almond or chocolate croissant at Amandine. Or a buttermilk bar at Primo's.

          1. No one has really given you Newport Beach locations, so I will get the ball rolling, Laventina's Big Cheese Pizza, cheap eats, and open very late on the weekend . . . I sort of think that s/he does not want Vietnamese food recommendations. There are plenty of other cheap places especially by the beach, there is a really cool bakery called Pain Du Monde that has great sandwiches also, and croissants, etceteras . . . Chronic Tacos is burritos and tacos that is fairly cheap, 2 fat tacos for less than $3. Wahoo's Fish Tacos are fairly cheap also and very popular. I am not a donut eater so I do not really even notice them . . . no one has really gone into the great places in LA, but check out King Taco, cheap and excellent food--tacos and burritos, and others . . . there is a great ethnic market in downtown LA I just forgot what it's called, the Farmer's Market on 3rd and Fairfax in LA is also pretty good . . . I am tired of writing so that's all you get, until someone else adds or I decide to add some more, heh . . .

            1 Reply
            1. re: apple7blue

              I recently had an al carbon torta at Chronic Tacos in San Clemente and was very much impressed. I usually have tortas at El Molino de Oro in San Juan Capistrano (a non-chain, authentic local place), but found Chronic to be just as good if not a little better. Chronic looks like my new 'go to' place for a while.

            2. Check out Pasta Connection, across from Triangle Square. Killer homefries at breakfast, very good Argentine/Italian stuff for lunch and dinner. Very reasonably priced and very good food. They also have an extensive Argentine deli section.

              5 Replies
              1. re: GroovinGourmet

                I was gonna mention that but technically it's in Costa Mesa

                1. re: GroovinGourmet

                  What street is Pasta Connection on? My wife's family is Argentine, and I've never heard them mention it, so I'd like to check it out...

                  1. re: lawdog262

                    Pasta Connection is on the corner of Harbor and 19th street in costa mesa, across the street from Triangle Square. I thought I heard a rumor that they were going to close the Costa Mesa location. They also have another location in Orange. Here's the website:

                    1. re: I got nothin


                      According to this article, the Costa Mesa location for Pasta Connection will be closing on April 21.

                      1. re: Wonginator

                        Pasta Connection's other location in Orange is staying in business for Mrs. lawdog262 to check out.

                        Pasta Connection
                        2145 W Chapman Ave, Orange, CA 92868

                2. Newport Landing Restaurant has cheap happy hour specials (take the ferry from Balboa Island). See the bottom of the oyster bar menu.


                  In the college days there was Charlie's Chili.

                  There are also those classic frozen banana places.

                  I don't know if they qualify as chowish but they are in Newport Beach

                  Newport Landing Restaurant
                  503 E Edgewater Ave, Newport Beach, CA 92661

                  Charlie's Chili
                  102 McFadden Pl, Newport Beach, CA 92663

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: mlgb

                    I think it is worth the $2 for a terrific experience and nice view of the Harbor, but you can drive a few miles down PCH and enter the Balboa Peninsula that way.

                    The OP was looking for eats that he can't get on the East Coast. I think an East coaster is used to much better oyster bars than Newport Landing.

                    If I had to come up with cheap good Mexican in Newport I would have to say Chronic Cantina on PCH and Balbo. It is mostly a take out. The food is flavorful and fresh. I love the Al Pastor and usually have it in a burrito. I go there often because it is walking distance from my house, but if I am craving a great taco I drive to 19th St in Costa Mesa.

                    1. re: cdmedici

                      I first mentioned Chronic, but am confused as to what you mean about it being mostly a take out?

                      1. re: apple7blue

                        Because it is the size of a closet and there are only like four stools in the whole restaurant.

                        1. re: cdmedici

                          Well Laventina's is a takeout even more so because there are no seats but you go there Saturday evening and Friday evening and there are plenty of people sitting around

                      2. re: cdmedici

                        I posted the menu for the Newport Landing upstairs bar (which they call the Oyster Bar), because it lists the happy hour specials. I've never actually had any oysters at Newport Landing, nor did I suggest them.
                        I included it because it's cheap and it's in Newport Beach and not much had been posted for NB. They have $1 Tacos on Tuesday, btw.

                        Have they raised the ferry price? Last summer it was 60 cents each way, I think.

                        1. re: mlgb

                          $1 tacos are Thursday At Newport Landing. $1 tacos at Great Mex next to Theater on Tuesdays. ( food there in general is very good at any time ) Also what about TK burgers near to Newport Pier.
                          A hot Ham And Cheese Croissant from Seaside Donuts is also a tasty treat.
                          Harborside has great deals ( Wednesday buy 2 drinks get dinner for a dime etc ) Also a great happy hour deal on the bar menu. Just avoid the Shorehouse.
                          And yes Laventinas everyone who lives here has that phone number in memory.

                          1. re: stuartmm

                            Coffee and baked goods at Kean Coffee. Coffee roasted on site and dee-licious. The coffees are truly excellent - you might want to buy a bag to take home.

                            My favorite coffee bar item is the Turkish Latte which has a bit of cardamom in it and is to die for.