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Transplanted from LA looking for Best Cheap Eats in Irvine: aka save me from the irvine corp.

  • s

Dear CHer's.

I've recently moved to Irvine from LA, and have been having a lot of trouble trying to figure out where the good non-chain, hole in the wall places are around here. I realize that LA is a very unique and wonderful food place, and the Irvine Corporation has a lot to do with the lack of variety and mom n' pop style restaurants here, but I'm hoping there are some hidden gems out there, yes?

I know there are Chowhounders in Irvine. Do you guys all just travel outside of the city for good food? Other than some of the business travel threads I haven't been able to find much.

Anything good, cheap, and/or ethnic would be appreciated. No chain restaurant. Closer to UC Irvine the better. If I'm going to have to suck it up and go to Costa Mesa or Garden Grove to find food (I've found those threads), then I guess that's that.

But there must be some type of guerrilla foodie operations going on here, right? Anyone with any good places to check out? Or even just favorites--best of the worst--would be appreciated!!!

Yes, I do know about the various restuarants in the Diamond Jamboree shopping center--but is there more stuff out there?

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  1. You might want to try the various food trucks that gather off Michelson and Teller (every Wed 11:30-2p) and Michelson and Harvard (every W 5-??) for some interesting food. I like The Lime Truck and The Burnt Truck.

    Also in Irvine: The Counter (near Sand Canyon and Irvine Blv), Taleo (not bad for upsacle mexican but overpriced IMHO), near Walnut and Culver there are a number of asian eateries including Seafood Noodle House and Mochilato (desserts). Off Walnut and Jeffrey there are a number of asian eateries like Shik Do Rak for korean bbq.

    I hope these recs help. There are more but these are at the top of my head.

    Cheers!

    -----
    Mochilato
    1993 W Malvern Ave, Fullerton, CA 92833

    2 Replies
    1. re: Searching4Dunny

      "Closer to UC Irvine the better."

      Le Diplomat for their chicken sandwich. Get it with tomatoes and artichoke if possible.

      http://www.yelp.com/biz/le-diplomate-...

      1. re: Searching4Dunny

        got a pretty good whole fried fish at seafood noodle house ($7.95) and the lobster noodles ($9.95), which were really good--noodles were chewy, brown sauce was garlicky, coulda done with more bits of lobster though.

        the fried fish came with a nice dipping sauce.

        some people next to us had house special chicken, which looked awesome and a salt shrimp, also looked good.

        there seem to be some more interesting places in this plaza.

      2. I recently moved from West Hollywood to the OC and work in Irvine. I feel you pain. There is an ice cream place in one of the two mini malls on UCI campus called Stricklands. An Ohio based chain that makes fantastic soft serve. It's more like Frozen custard than soft serve. The green tea is fabulous as are most of their flavors. Milk shakes are amazing.

        Here are a bunch of good places that will remind you of LA closer to UCI. There really isn't much to choose from within 5 minutes of UCI. sorry.
        - Pizzeria Ortica, same owner as Comme Ca. Across the street from Mastros by South Coast Plaza. Not as good as Mozza but very good pies.
        - Chicken Maison, similar to Zankou but the skin is not nearly as crispy and the garlic sauce not the same texture. Good lunch deals.
        - Santouka in the Mitsuwa food court. Best ramen in SoCal.
        - DG Burger in Bloomingdales at South Coast Plaza. Good gourmet burger in the vein of a Umami or 25 degrees. The fries and dipping sauces are worth getting too. My only complaint is the size of the bun.

        The Saturday farmers market on the corner of Bridge and Campus is an excellent market with lots of vendors and great selection. Highly recommend.

        -----
        Santouka
        3760 S Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90066

        Pizzeria Ortica
        650 Anton Boulevard, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

        Chicken Maison
        3901 Pacific Coast Hwy, Torrance, CA 90505

        Mastros Restaurant
        2087 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, CA 91362

        12 Replies
        1. re: js76wisco

          I was really disappointed by Stricklands. While they don't say they serve frozen custard, they are -- at best -- ambiguous about it. Unfortunately their product contains no eggs, and is nothing like the amazing frozen custard I've had from Sheridans.

          On the other hand, Stricklands may be as good as it gets in Irvine.

          1. re: Peripatetic

            Never been to Sheridans but I'll give it a try. I thought the milk shakes were great at Stricklands. We have a group of people at work who prefer Han's and other who prefer Stricklands. I know they are very different products but I think Stricklands is worth a try. To each their own.

            1. re: js76wisco

              To be fair, there's nothing _wrong_ with Strickands. I guess I'm just disappointed that they market an inferior product as something resembling frozen custard. They use Ross frozen custard machines to make their ice cream, but their "commitment" to quality is clear from the ingredients:

              Milk, Cream, Sugar, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Whey, Mono &
              Diglycerides, Dextrose, Cellulose Gum, Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate, Carrageenan,
              Vanilla, Vanillin, and Annatto Color.

              http://www.stricklands.info/sitempowe...

              BTW, the nearest Sheridan's in just outside of Las Vegas, unfortunately. UPDATE: I just checked and this location has closed. :(

              1. re: Peripatetic

                Yikes that is not a great list of ingredients. Thanks for the heads up. I went to school in Wisconsin and got my share of great frozen custard. I think my standards have probably gone down since then due to the limited choices in SoCal

                It's a bit of a red flag anytime you see multiple ingredients you cannot pronounce.

                1. re: js76wisco

                  I only found out about frozen custard a few years ago from threads on Chowhound. Previously I didn't understand the distinction between frozen custard and soft serve. Finally I got a chance to try it at Sheridan's (in Vancouver, WA of all places!). It was a revelation of Michelangelesque proportions. I tried Strickands in misguided attempt to find something similar closer to home, and was totally bummed. Hence my zealotry about real frozen custard and vitriol towards Strickands.

                  Since you've had the real thing I hope you understand. :)

                2. re: Peripatetic

                  FYI: the Sheridan's in Henderson' NV changed names, but it is run by the same family! I had it about two months ago on a trip to Vegas, and it is still good.

                  1. re: rmb123

                    Thanks for the update. I guess it's now called Mr D's Frozen Custard.

              2. re: Peripatetic

                You should try the custard at Bruxie in Orange then. It has eggs in the mix, and is sourced from a Wisconsin supplier.

                1. re: Professor Salt

                  Thanks for the recommendation. Do you you know whether it's hard packed (like Lucky Devils frozen custard) or served soft?

                      1. re: Professor Salt

                        Thanks for the info. I've been meaning to get here to try their waffle sandwiches. There are some real gems between Bruxie and Filling Station in the area.

                        -----
                        Filling Station
                        201 N Glassell St, Orange, CA 92866

              3. Thanks guys! I'm going to try Seafood Noodle House for lunch now.

                Also, I'm well versed in the Wholesome Choice. Any other rec's for the Asian places off Jeffrey?

                -----
                Wholesome Choice
                18040 Culver Dr, Irvine, CA 92612

                3 Replies
                1. re: scuzm

                  Has anybody been to Liang's Kitchen? It was written up in the OC Weekly a few weeks back. Beef rolls, scallion pancakes, tendon beef noodle soup, fried tofu and some special pork dishes. Whenever I get to that area I usually hit up Chef Chen.

                  If you've been are there long lines during weekday lunch around 12:30?

                  -----
                  Chef Chen's Restaurant
                  5408 Walnut Ave, Irvine, CA 92604

                  Liang's Kitchen
                  227 W Valley Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                  1. re: js76wisco

                    I had the scallion pancakes there a while ago when I was in the mood for Chinese but had already had a full meal around the corner. There were quite good. Flaky, tasty. I don't have anything local to compare it to, since i just moved here a few months ago, but they were similar to some of the better ones I've had in NYC. I think they could have been just a bit saltier and a stronger onion flavor, but far better than most you get at take out joints. I got it take out and they didn't offer any dipping sauce, so i had to turn around and grab some soy...

                    I like the interior of the place. A cool air force kind of theme. I'm sure there's more to that story...

                  2. re: scuzm

                    A&J Cafe (Walnut & Jeffrey, in the square across the street from Ranch 99) is really good - beef noodle soup (with or without tendon), dumplings, thousand-layer pancake etc

                  3. Great, cheap and ethnic near UCI is tough. Lee's Sandwiches is the only thing that meets all three criteria, and it's not great, just adequate.

                    Head over the Wholesome Choice on Culver & Michelson. It's an international supermarket that you'll come to love. Get: sangak bread straight outta the oven. Cheap produce. Revel in the aisles. Head over to the food court and order from the Persian counter. It's the only section of the food court where things are cooked to order.

                    Good cheap and ethnic is on the other side of town, closer to the 5 freeway. Irvine Chinatown is centered on Jeffrey & Walnut, although you can expand that to Tri Village further north and Sam Woo further West on Culver & Irvine Center Drive. Easy favorites are Chef Chen's, China Garden, Chong Qing Mei Wei. I also like Thai Cafe, although it's not as cheap as some of the other places. Sam Woo Express is a steam table takeout restaurant adjacent to the sit-down Sam Woo Seafood. SWE is passably ok fast food, and you can get an enormous portion for like $4.

                    On Michelson & Univesity, there's a Pho Bac Ky, part of a local multinunit. It's just ok at best, but it is the closest pho shop to UCI. Personally, I drive to Little Saigon for my pho fix, or if I reallly need to stay south, then Pho Bo Vang in Lake Forest.

                    -----
                    Wholesome Choice
                    18040 Culver Dr, Irvine, CA 92612

                    Sam Woo Restaurant
                    15333 Culver Dr Ste 720, Irvine, CA 92604

                    Chef Chen's Restaurant
                    5408 Walnut Ave, Irvine, CA 92604

                    Tri Village
                    14121 Jeffrey Rd, Irvine, CA 92620

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: Professor Salt

                      instead of Lee's support Le Diplomat above.

                      1. re: ns1

                        New one on me. Thanks.

                        Also - for the OP. If you're working in that area, go to Franco's Pasta Cucina (it's a lunch-only place). Great pasta dishes, if you can get past the strip mall food court setting and the styrofoam takeout containers.

                        -----
                        Franco's Pasta Cucina
                        2222 Michelson Dr, Irvine, CA 92612

                        1. re: Professor Salt

                          I try to go to a place more than once before I write it off, when Franco was still cooking and later when he retired and some woman replaced him in the kitchen, and I never got the love for Franco's.

                          1. re: hobbess

                            It's been a while since I've been to Franco's. Perhaps things have changed?

                            The food is simple, but the pastas and sauces I think are very good, especially considering that the same level of food would pass muster in a more expensive Italian restaurant.

                            1. re: Professor Salt

                              I go to Franco's regularly, maybe twice a month, and the woman chef is there all the time now. For almost every time I've been there, the food is fantastic. Maybe only once in 20 visits was the food just OK.

                              On my last visit, I had the linguini combo, which was served with 2 types of fish (salmon and seabass, I think), and it was fabulous. Great deal for $9 as a lunch combo, that could easily be $18-25 at any sitdown Italian restaurant.

                              For the OP, SW Seafood is one of my favorites for Cantonese food, and is in the same shopping center as Chef Chen and Chong Qing Mei Wei.

                              The Chippy fish & chips place is in the same food court. I just alternate between those two places every week.

                              -----
                              Chef Chen's Restaurant
                              5408 Walnut Ave, Irvine, CA 92604

                              S W Seafood & BBQ Restaurant
                              5406 Walnut Ave Ste A, Irvine, CA 92604

                              1. re: Wonginator

                                what do you get at SW seafood? and what else is good at franco's pasta house?

                                thanks.

                                1. re: kevin

                                  At SW Seafood, I tend to stick to the basics, like won ton soup, chicken chow mein Hong-Kong style, and beef chow fun. They use some big shrimp in the won tons.

                                  At Franco's, I look at their daily specials list first. Went today and had the rigatoni with Italian sausages. Very tasty. They do lasagna every Tuesday, and I tried to get that today, but they were already sold out. A few weeks ago, when we went, a co-worker ordered the spaghetti and meatballs. The meatballs were almost the size of baseballs. Two were served with the dish, and they looked like too much meat for the meal.

                                  I don't think I've ever ordered off the regular menu at Franco's. Some of the daily special items are on the regular menu, but I always find something on the daily specials menu, which usually has 6-8 things listed each day.

                              2. re: Professor Salt

                                Franco's was okay for what it is, and its not like I was going to return the food because it was bad or something.

                                But, I mean the love for the place seems so disproportionate to the quality of the food. I work in the area and know there's not a lot of good options in that particular area of Irvine, but people rave about the place like it was the second coming of Mario Batali's Po.

                                I tried their linguine with clams, and it didn't strike me as particularly tasty or memorable. This was supposed to be one of the singular best dishes in all of Orange County? This place was better than more expensive Italian restaurants that used fresh clams instead of Franco's canned clams?

                                I tried the same dish again a few months later to see if I first tried it when they simply had a bad day, but I still thought that dish wasn't that great.

                        2. re: Professor Salt

                          I also recommend Chong Qing Mei Wei for Sichuan.

                          1. re: Professor Salt

                            I think the Pho Bac on Barranca in Irvine is better. Obviously, you can get better pho in Little Saigon, but this is really pretty good, and really cheap. Lee's at UCI has decent, but not great, sandwiches (bahn mi). Also, I think that Jerry's wood-fired hot dogs at the Irvine/Tustin Marketplace are pretty tasty. Not expensive, but for a few more bucks there are a few pretty good Persian restaurants in Irvine. I like the one at Culver & Walnut, the name of which I cannot recall.

                            -----
                            Pho Bac
                            4250 Barranca Pkwy, Irvine, CA 92604

                            1. re: josephnl

                              The Persian restaurant at Culver & Walnut you're thinking of is probably Caspian?

                              Caspian is set back all the way at the north end of that rather large strip mall, butted up right against the 5 freeway. The food is ok, not amazing. Nor is it especially cheap eats. You do get a ton of food for the money, but that's typical of most Persian restaurants.

                              1. re: Professor Salt

                                Thanks, Caspian is what I'm thinking about. Haven't been in a while, thought it was pretty good, and portions were huge and easily shareable.

                          2. I can't believe no one recommended Break of Dawn yet, even if it is a tad out of your search area. Taco Rosa is also good, though it is part of a (small) chain and the locations are Costa Mesa and Tustin.

                            The way OC is laid out, you do need to go to the neighboring areas for some good ethnic food. Honda-Ya in Tustin and Kappo Honda in fountain Valley are worth the drives, as is Shin Sen Gumi for Yakatori (it is next door to the Ramen place, but does not come up on its own). There is a lot of excellent Vietnamese in Garden Grove. Further out there is Korean enclave in Fullerton (I like Lighthouse Korean BBQ). There are some interesting African choices in Anaheim, and lots of really good sushi sprinkled about. Maki Zushi in Tustin may be the closest really good one for you.

                            -----
                            Shin Sen Gumi Hakata Ramen
                            18315 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708

                            Taco Rosa
                            22922 Los Alisos Blvd Ste P, Mission Viejo, CA 92691

                            Taco Rosa
                            2632 San Miguel Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660

                            Break of Dawn
                            24351 Avenida De La Carlota Ste N6, Laguna Hills, CA 92653

                            Kappo Honda
                            18450 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708

                            Honda Ya Japanese Restaurant
                            556 El Camino Real, Tustin, CA 92780

                            Maki Zushi
                            1641 Edinger Ave # 101, Tustin, CA

                            Taco Rosa
                            13792 Jamboree Rd, Irvine, CA 92602

                            Lighthouse Korean BBQ
                            1307 S Beach Blvd, La Habra, CA 90631

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: ocshooter

                              Break of Dawn is not cheap.

                              Taco Rosa's happy hour is a good deal.

                              Maki Zushi happy hour, or splitting a dinner bento box two ways is not a bad deal.

                              Honda Ya can be inexpensive if you order carefully.

                              -----
                              Taco Rosa
                              2632 San Miguel Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660

                              Break of Dawn
                              24351 Avenida De La Carlota Ste N6, Laguna Hills, CA 92653

                              Maki Zushi
                              1641 Edinger Ave # 101, Tustin, CA

                              1. re: jaykayen

                                "Break of Dawn is not cheap"

                                Well, maybe not cheap exactly but certainly not expensive (and for the quality and quantity of the food it's a deal). Ten or Eleven dollars for brunch and they have a 3 course menu for $17.

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  Although I sort of like Break of Dawn, it's not everyone's cup of tea. I've taken several people there thinking it would be a treat, and more often than not, I hear that "it's overly heavy" and nothing special. My "go to" place for a great breakfast either for ourselves or for guests is the Coyote Grill in Laguna. Tasty Mexican style breakfasts, reasonably priced and on a pleasant deck looking out on the ocean.

                                  -----
                                  Break of Dawn
                                  24351 Avenida De La Carlota Ste N6, Laguna Hills, CA 92653

                                  Coyote Grill
                                  31621 Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

                                  1. re: josephnl

                                    Is there another place in OC that has anything like it? I'm talking about both the quality of the ingredients and the creativity shown in the combining of those ingredients.

                                    1. re: Servorg

                                      I don't disagree that BoD serves unique breakfasts using high quality ingredients. I enjoy going there occasionally. Unfortunately, on more than one occasion I've gone there with guests who were not crazy about it, and I sort of agreed with themu that much of the food was quite heavy.

                                      1. re: josephnl

                                        And are these Chowhounds you speak of? I can't even begin to imagine such a thing. ;-D>

                                        1. re: Servorg

                                          We're talking about people who dine out frequently and know good food!

                                          1. re: Servorg

                                            i could see how it's heavy.

                                            when i went i did have the duck confit dish, which may not have even had any eggs. was it heavy? i think so, but it filled me up nicely on the way to SD.

                                            was it mind blowing or incrementally close to mind blowing? most definitely, my friend said it was one of the best joints he had ever been to.

                                            nuff said.

                                2. The best part about living in Irvine is the Saturday Farmer's Market. Great produce and bread, some fish, meat, and sausage options, great kettle corn and freshly roasted peanuts (still warm), and a few good tamales.
                                  If you are feeling lazy and don't want to get on a highway, Wholesome Choice is your best bet. Mags Donuts are not very good, so don't waste your time.

                                  -----
                                  Wholesome Choice
                                  18040 Culver Dr, Irvine, CA 92612

                                  1. Any gourmet food truck, make regular visits to OC?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: reality check

                                      Yes. See Searching4Dunny's post above for just a taste of what is available.

                                    2. Used to live in Irvine (originally from LA area as well) and I felt the same way. I liked Philly's Best for cheesesteaks on Barranca/Culver (great w/pizza sauce), although there are other ones around the OC. Also Thai Spice on Jeffrey (I think there's one in the Tustin Marketplace too). If you're around Costa Mesa, I'd recommend Super Corokke in front of the Mitsuwa on Paularino for cheap Japanese food, and Lil' Pickle on Fairview for sandwiches.

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: nomitai

                                        I believe Super Corokke has been closed for a few years now.

                                        1. re: Jase

                                          haha that just goes to show you how long it's been since I was there :p

                                          1. re: Jase

                                            say it ain't so, i kinda liked that place, it was on baker in costa mesa right? or nearabouts there.

                                            Is village bakery, still there in the camp or is the Lab? with it's amazing chocolate croissants? those were really really really great.

                                            at least i take it that cream pan is still there?

                                            1. re: kevin

                                              Yes, unfortunately Super Corokke is no longer there. It was the place on Paularino, same strip mall as the 7-11 and Ango Tei, next to Mitsuwa.

                                              No idea on the Camp and Lab, it's been a bit since I've wandered around there. Perhaps someone with more recent info can shed some light.

                                              -----
                                              Ango Tei
                                              675 Paularino Ave Ste 5, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

                                              1. re: kevin

                                                Village Bakery is long gone. Chef Shelly Register is baking at A Market in Newport Beach now.

                                                Cream Pan is still in Tustin and going stronger than ever.

                                                -----
                                                Cream Pan
                                                602 El Camino Real, Tustin, CA 92780

                                                A Markets
                                                3400 W Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, CA 92663

                                                The Village Bakery & Cafe
                                                3119 Los Feliz Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039

                                                1. re: Professor Salt

                                                  There was a French dude who used to work at Village Bakery also right? What happened to him? Patina also closed up its cafe/catering operation near there.

                                                  -----
                                                  The Village Bakery & Cafe
                                                  3119 Los Feliz Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039

                                          2. As pointed out, most of the good chow is outside of Irvine, in places like Fountain Valley, Tustin, and Costa Mesa.

                                            That said, when I'm in the area with friends, it's usually Albatros for cheap Mexican, or Peppino's for Italian. Both are in Lake Forest (I heard the other Peppino's branches (they're a small local chain, 5 restaurants or so) aren't as good as the original in LF).

                                            But since people are mentioning restaurants a fair distance from Irvine, I'll say that one of my favorites is Tsuruhashi in Fountain Valley for yakiniku.

                                            -----
                                            Tsuruhashi
                                            18798 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708

                                            Peppino's
                                            6460 Irvine Blvd, Irvine, CA 92620

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: mrhooks

                                              tusurhashi is awesome, may be the best around, though may be it loses out to Totoraku, though Totorak is about five times more expenisve.

                                              -----
                                              Totoraku
                                              10610 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                                            2. The pho at Pho Bac on Barranca is actually very good, imho. My only gripe is that it's almost twice the price of the places I go to in Westminster. It's hard to go from the late night "happy hour" at Pho Thanh Lich on Brookhurst, featuring $2.99 bowls of pho that are not the best I've ever had, but still pretty good, to $7 bowls of admittedly good pho in Irvine.

                                              Cream Pan is in nearby Tustin. v. good. So is Kean Coffee (also Tustin).

                                              Shik Do Rak, mentioned previously, is pretty good for Korean bbq, though it is technically a chain since there are several restaurants.

                                              The Counter does serve decent burgers, but then so does In & Out, imho.

                                              Le Diplomate is a decent choice for lunchtime sandwiches. I also like the pizzas at Gina's, which is also close to UCI.

                                              -----
                                              Kean Coffee
                                              2043 Westcliff Dr Ste 100, Newport Beach, CA 92660

                                              Pho Thanh Lich
                                              14500 Brookhurst St, Westminster, CA 92683

                                              Cream Pan
                                              602 El Camino Real, Tustin, CA 92780

                                              Pho Bac
                                              4250 Barranca Pkwy, Irvine, CA 92604

                                              Le Diplomate Cafe
                                              2112 Brea Mall, Brea, CA 92821

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: choctastic

                                                Good suggestions. N.B.: the Kéan in Newport Beach (on Westcliff at Irvine, where Westcliff turns into 17th) may be closer to UCI. There's a Counter directly across the street that is almost certainly closer to UCI than Sand Canyon and Irvine Blvd.

                                                1. The Ahi Torta at La Sirena is great!

                                                  -----
                                                  La Sirena Grill
                                                  3931 Portola Pkwy, Irvine, CA 92602

                                                  1. The India Cook House in the Heritage Whateveritis shopping center along Culver between Walnut and the freeway is a quite decent Indian restaurant without being as expensive as the Clay Oven down at Jeffrey and Irvine Center Drive. Others have mentioned The Counter, which is an interesting burger concept but suffers from buns that always fall apart before you're done. I've never been there, but folks speak highly of Zov's at Culver and Portola.

                                                    -----
                                                    India Cook House
                                                    14130 Culver Dr Ste M, Irvine, CA 92604

                                                    1. The food trucks are good, but here are a couple of other recommendations. Try Phans 55 off of Jamboree. They are located in the middle of a condo complex across from The Daily Grille. Susie, the owner, is fantastic and will take care of you. I go there for lunch quite a bit with friends and it is a favorite lunch spot of the folks over at Allergan.

                                                      At UCI - I love Britta's for lunch. They are next to Trader Joe's.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Rotobabe

                                                        Phans 55 isn't bad—it's gateway food for Westerners making their first baby steps into the welcoming pool of Vietnamese food—but I don't think I could even charitably call it cheap.

                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                          Agree...Phans 55 is neither cheap nor special in any way. Although not as good or cheap as what can be found in Little Saigon, Pho Bac on Barranca makes pretty decent pho and I think is overall a better choice than P55 for someone on a budget.

                                                          -----
                                                          Pho Bac
                                                          4250 Barranca Pkwy, Irvine, CA 92604

                                                      2. Thasos Greek Island Grill on the corner of Sunflower and Bristol right across form South Coast Plaza - one of my favorite restaurants - period. I go there once or twice month. Very inexpensive, but the best Greek food I've had outside of Greece. I've posted before about this place many times over the years, but their bifteki is addicting, and their meletzano salata is flat out the best I've had. Their hummus is excellent as well and the Santorini bowls are full of flavor and hearty - especially on a cool winter night. Oh, and they have the best Tzadziki around and a little known side of house made green hot sauce that you need to know about to order.
                                                        http://www.thewholepita.com/

                                                        1. Pho99 in Irvine near 99 Ranch, huge bowls of my favorite Pho anywhere, and very inexpensive to boot. On the corner of Jeffrey and Walnut.

                                                          -----
                                                          99 Ranch
                                                          17713 Pioneer Blvd, Artesia, CA

                                                          1. I second the rec for Thasos Greek Island Grill - very flavorful and decently priced. Makes a good lunch choice if not for dinner. I would chose Pho Bac over Pho 99 - I find the broth to have more depth and flavor than at Pho 99.

                                                            For Japanese/Udon noodles - Fukada off of Irvine Center Drive (not Fukada 2 Go next to Phans 55 which is closer to UCI) is a good bet.

                                                            For cheap sandwiches, Sprouts market off Alton and Culver does a daily special for $3.99. The sandwiches may not be the best ever but you get fresh grocery store styled deli sandwiches at a low price. In the same center, there is a Jalapenos that is not a bad option for mexican. The tortas are generally good (though not as good as the food at El Toro Bravo on 19th Street in Costa Mesa).

                                                            Also on Bristol (not Irvine), Onotria has good selection of lunch-only sandwiches (mortadella, tri-tip, bbq chicken, etc.). For even more sandwich choices, Broadway Deli on Michelson near Von Karman (Irvine) has good sandwiches with house made chips.

                                                            -----
                                                            Onotria Restaurant
                                                            2831 Bristol St Ste A, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

                                                            Fukada Restaurant
                                                            8683 Irvine Center Dr, Irvine, CA 92618

                                                            Pho Bac
                                                            4250 Barranca Pkwy, Irvine, CA 92604

                                                            Island Grill
                                                            4390 Katella Ave, Los Alamitos, CA 90720

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: Searching4Dunny

                                                              I hadn't considered sandwiches—there's Harry's Deli on Sky Park Circle in Irvine. Open weekdays, but everything—everything—is made from scratch, and it's great.

                                                              -----
                                                              Harry's Deli
                                                              17881 Sky Park Cir, Irvine, CA 92862

                                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                Looked at Harry's website. It looks wonderful. Had never heard of it before. Is it strictly takeout, or do they have tables? Do they have beverages?

                                                                1. re: josephnl

                                                                  There are a few tables, and they do have beverages, all of the non-alcoholic variety. It IS wonderful; if you ever see the ribeye sandwich, steel yourself against the $10 or $12 price tag and GET IT. It's astounding.

                                                                  When I say he makes everything from scratch, I mean down to the mustard and mayonnaise.

                                                                2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                  Harry's is terrific--last week, he also had some nice homemade soups. Although I doubt that they make everything from scratch, I think Sandwich World on Bristol does a good job as well.

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Sandwich World
                                                                  375 Bristol St Ste 10, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

                                                                  1. re: New Trial

                                                                    I also like Sandwich World. I think there is also a location at the Irvine/Tustin Market Center (close to Ruby's, Red Robin, et al.).

                                                                    Haven't tried Harry's yet but I plan to go for lunch this week! Thanks for the recommendation!

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Sandwich World
                                                                    2941 El Camino Real, Tustin, CA 92782

                                                              2. thanks for the links all. just wanted you all to know that i went to a place called LAS FAJITAS on barranca just east of culver. it's in a little strip mall, other places there are thai kitchen, some ramen place, a pho place that seems popular.

                                                                got some great nachos there. unlike some of the other places in town, they actually put a giant plate w/ real cheese (not cheese sauce) in the oven. 5.99 no meat, 7.99 w/ meat.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: scuzm

                                                                  Las Fajitas place link.

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Las Fajitas
                                                                  4250 Barranca Pkwy, Irvine, CA 92604

                                                                  1. re: scuzm

                                                                    No relation to Las Fajitas on the Newport peninsula in Newport Beach. I actually prefer the Newport LF and they have excellent mexican breakfasts.

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Las Fajitas
                                                                    3305 Newport Blvd Ste A, Newport Beach, CA 92663

                                                                  2. After living in South OC for more than two years, the best thing that I've found to do is:

                                                                    1) Buy cheap eats north of Irvine and freeze them or keep them in the fridge. Stuff that does keeps well in the fridge and freezer and that still tastes good after heating it up:
                                                                    a) Zankou
                                                                    b) Pho 79 broken rice dishes
                                                                    c) Ayam Kalasan from Java Spice
                                                                    d) Rice dishes from Simpang Asia
                                                                    e) thali from Udupi Palace
                                                                    f) Taiwanese sausage and rice combo from Sinbala
                                                                    g) sausages and kraut from Schreiner's in Glendale
                                                                    h) pasta dishes from Tarantino's in Pasadena

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Sinbala
                                                                    651 W Duarte Rd Ste F, Arcadia, CA 91007

                                                                    Simpang Asia
                                                                    10433 National Blvd 2, Los Angeles, CA 90034

                                                                    Udupi Palace
                                                                    18635 Pioneer Blvd, Artesia, CA 90701

                                                                    Java Spice
                                                                    1743 Fullerton Rd, Rowland Heights, CA 91748

                                                                    11 Replies
                                                                    1. re: misseatalot

                                                                      Just a note that Schreiner's sends sausage and kraut to the weekly Saturday farmers' Market across from UCI. If there's something you want that they don't bring, you can call the store and ask to have it sent down as a special order.

                                                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                        is this the same thread that mentioned an italian joint in an office park called Francoli's or something of that nature???

                                                                        also, is there a joint called Carms Coney's in Irvine? and is it good?

                                                                        lastly, does anyone happen to know the name of that higher-pricey, slightly more high falutin ramen joint in Irvine, is it called Mizuna?

                                                                        thanks.

                                                                        1. re: kevin

                                                                          Francoli Gourmet is in the Orange Circle.

                                                                          Carm's Coneys is closed.

                                                                          Mizuki is overpriced and a bad value but still open on Michelson if you want it. Still, why eat there when there are a dozen ramen-yas within 20 minutes' drive that are better?

                                                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                            i only had the tiramisu at the italian joint in orange, next toi the togos, called Roma d Italia, and it was great.

                                                                            Now i gotta try their meatball subs and other dishes hopefully soon

                                                                            what do you recommend there if you have been?

                                                                            1. re: kevin

                                                                              That's not the same part of Orange. At Roma D'Italia I love the linguini with clams.

                                                                            2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                              Carm's isn't actually closed. They moved and are now in the food court at the Spectrum. I like them, but they're a bit overpriced now, so it's a rare trip instead of a couple of times a month. I've actually found that I also really like Jerry's Dogs up at the Tustin Marketplace on Jamboree for hot dogs.

                                                                            3. re: kevin

                                                                              Franco's is the italian place in the office park on michelson. Last I heard, Franco was no longer there himself, but had someone else doing the cooking for him. See Wonginator's posts above

                                                                              1. re: I got nothin

                                                                                do you have a link to the posts on Franco's in the office park, is it still good without franco, there? do they serve a pretty good tiramisu too? thanks.

                                                                                1. re: kevin

                                                                                  Someone just posted that he was yelling at a customer, so if that person is correct then I reckon he's still there.

                                                                                  1. re: kevin

                                                                                    It's in this thread, about 20 spots up; in the Dec 2010/Jan2011 area. Looks like Professor Salt and Wonginator were talking about it, and then you asked a question too.

                                                                                    1. re: I got nothin

                                                                                      Haha no that was in reference to Vilage Bakery not Franco's, dude . . .

                                                                          2. I used to visit Irvine on the weekends. I remember the the Korean plaza (it has an H-Mart) was pretty good. The coffee shop over there, 85C, is interesting.

                                                                            1. Scuzm and other chowhounds, I am surprised no one mentioned the following places which are quite close to UCI. Pascal Olhat has a place called Pascal Epicerie. It's not Hole in the Wall, but it is a gem. It has French cuisine. Depending on what you order, it can be cheap, but you aren't going to bust your bank account. I do not mean Traditions. Also in the same shopping center is Pain Du Monde--which is a bakery cum sandwich shop. The time it takes you to drive to Diamond Jamboree you can be at Mitsuwa Marketplace or Marukai and their respective food courts. There are plenty of hole in the wall cheap good joints surrounding both. There is Sage Restaurant in the Eastbluff shopping center plus Bistro Le Crillon--they used to make great 20 inch pizzas--it started as a French pizzeria but it seemed like there was some NY in it. I see that they have 10 inch pizza appetizers now, but maybe if you ask. Try Rick's Atomic Cafe, they are good.

                                                                              Okay I am going to tell you some recommendations that were passed to me but I haven't tried myself and to be honest I probably won't try them anytime soon. They are all near you. I hope you can report back or others can enlighten us with more info: Inka Grill, Wafu of Japan, Kitayama, Durty Nellys, and Rooster Cafe which replaced Mitae Ramen. There is probably more. But looking over this whole thread you probably have plenty to tackle.

                                                                              -----
                                                                              Marukai Market
                                                                              2975 Harbor Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

                                                                              Kitayama
                                                                              101 Bayview Pl, Newport Beach, CA 92660

                                                                              Mitsuwa Marketplace
                                                                              665 Paularino Ave, Costa Mesa, CA

                                                                              Wafu of Japan
                                                                              320 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

                                                                              Sage Restaurant
                                                                              2531 Eastbluff Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660

                                                                              Bistro Le Crillon
                                                                              2523 Eastbluff Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660

                                                                              Durty Nelly's
                                                                              2915 Red Hill Ave, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

                                                                              Rooster Cafe
                                                                              750 Saint Clair St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

                                                                              Inka Grill
                                                                              260 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

                                                                              Pascal Epicerie & Wine
                                                                              1000 Bristol St N, Newport Beach, CA 92660

                                                                              Pain du Monde
                                                                              1000 N Bristol St, Newport Beach, CA 92660

                                                                              Rick's Atomic Cafe
                                                                              3100 Airway Ave #113, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

                                                                              Rick's Atomic Cafe
                                                                              3100 Airway Ave #113, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

                                                                              1. Jalapeno's in Irvine. The Persian or Middle Eastern joint near Godfather's in Tustin I believe, is one of the best, cheapest Middle Eastern joints I've EVER eaten, and I have a decent amt of Persian and Armenian friends.

                                                                                and I'm looking forward to eating and judging 5 Guys Burgers!

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: tenxtone76

                                                                                  The Persian restaurant near Godfather's is called Naan & Kabob. And I agree, it's good and cheap.

                                                                                  I work in the area and also have had a horrible time finding good places to eat. I've found Irvine to be quite boring and cookie cutter with choices on food and prefer grittier Costa Mesa, Tustin and Santa Ana. But to keep it strictly in Irvine, here are a few places off the top of my head:

                                                                                  1) Koba Tofu Grill - For Korean Soft Tofu. They now have 2 locations in Irvine, one of them being close to the campus.
                                                                                  2) Fukada - Soba/Udon spot near the Irvine Spectrum. They make their own noodles and is good. One of my favorite places to go.
                                                                                  3) California Fish Grill - for grilled fish plates and deep fried seafood platters.

                                                                                  -----
                                                                                  Fukada Restaurant
                                                                                  8683 Irvine Center Dr, Irvine, CA 92618

                                                                                  Naan & Kabob
                                                                                  416 E 1st St, Tustin, CA 92780

                                                                                  California Fish Grill
                                                                                  3988 Barranca Pkwy Ste B, Irvine, CA 92606

                                                                                  Koba Tofu House
                                                                                  14370 Culver Dr Ste J, Irvine, CA 92604