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Fun, inexpensive dining in Orange County?

Although I've been a Chowhound reader for a couple of years now, I've never actually posted. But after two months of searching, I still haven't found a place to have my birthday dinner. (My birthday was in mid-January.) So I've decided to turn to Chowhound and plead you for help. :)

I'm looking for a place where fifteen people can have a fun dinner in Orange County, preferably in North County (Tustin, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Orange), although I'm not opposed to other areas. Sit-down, although it would be okay to order at a counter and then sit.

I like places that's more than just sitting, ordering, and eating, like fondue or revolving sushi. (I decided not to do sushi because several people in the group are allergic to fish. And fondue is a no, because the only place I can think of is the Melting Pot, which is ridiculously overpriced.) Somewhere with character, or a bit different.

Ethnic food is okay.

We're students, so we're looking for some place relatively inexpensive. Definitely nothing more pricey than say, Macaroni Grill, although we're aiming for the price range of Pat and Oscar's.

Thank you!

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  1. Check out Lizzaran in Fullerton for tapas.

    1. Korean BBQ at Lighttown House in Garden Grove

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      Lighttown House
      8902 Garden Grove Blvd, Garden Grove, CA 92844

      2 Replies
      1. re: I got nothin

        I have not tried Lighttown House, but Lighthouse is my favorite Korean BBQ.

        Other options are yakatori at Shin Sen Gumi (only the ramen place links here, but the yakatori place is next door), Japanese pub food at Honda Ya or Kappo Honda, Ethiopian at Merhaba or Tana.

        The Ethiopian places you can get by for less that $20pp. Shin Sen Gumi is probably more than that, especially if you are drinking. You can do it for about $20pp if you get combo plates or don't go overboard at Honda Ya/Kappo Honda (sister places). Of these, I think yakatori is the most fun, but the Ethiopian should be very interesting and unusual.

        It is not North County, but Tapas near the airport used to have 1/2 off tapas one night a week. I uesd to go with a group of guys from work and we would order most of the menu and it was a great deal. I don't see the same special on the web site, but there is a paella special on Thursdays and a $10 entree special on Sundays.

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

        Tana Ethiopian Restaurant and Market
        2622 W La Palma Ave, Anaheim, CA 92801

        Kappo Honda
        18450 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708

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

        E A Merhaba Shop & Coffee
        2801 W Ball Rd # 5, Anaheim, CA

        Tapas Restaurant
        4253 Martingale Way Ste A, Newport Beach, CA 92660

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

      2. Caspian, if you don't mind a side of belly dancer with your Ghormeh Sabzi.

        http://www.caspianrestaurant.com/

        1. You might try Yardhouse's Happy Hour (check for days/hours)--great prices, solid food. They have locations in Brea, Costa Mesa and Irvine.

          1. I'm sorry to contradict JAB, who is a great Hound, but I have watched Lizarran do an awful, awful slide lately. It's just warmed-over-tasting and uninspired.

            As for suggestions:

            Johnny Reb's in Orange (the secret here is that portions are ridiculously huge, so eat it family-style and you can bring down the bill).

            The Crosby in Santa Ana, especially during Happy Hour.

            El Rincón Chilango in Santa Ana—get them to turn up the music.

            Olive Tree in Anaheim, and don't forget to ask what they have as specials. You could even order a whole lamb (3 days' notice, $300, includes huge amounts of 17-spice rice and herbed yoghurt, and feeds 20-30). Alternatively, Victory Bakery is not as sublime but is a buffet and you could sit outside in the hookah tent.

            Concur on Light Town House and would add Cham Sut Gol, which has an AYCE option.

            Seven courses of beef at Thien An or Pagolac would run you $13-$14 a person exclusive of drinks.

            Thai Nakorn in Garden Grove for family-style Thai done great and cheap. Shouldn't run more than $10 a head; even the amazing specials menu is pretty cheap.

            Hope this helps.

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            Thai Nakorn Restaurant
            12532 Garden Grove Blvd, Garden Grove, CA 92843

            Johnny Rebs
            15051 7th St, Victorville, CA 92395

            Light Town House Restaurant
            8902 Garden Grove Blvd Garden, Grove, CA

            Pagolac Restaurant
            14580 Brookhurst St, Westminster, CA 92683

            Thien An Restaurant
            13518 Harbor Blvd, Garden Grove, CA 92843

            Olive Tree
            512 S Brookhurst St, Anaheim, CA 92804

            Cham Sut Gol
            9252 Garden Grove Blvd, Garden Grove, CA 92844

            Victory Bakery and Restaurant
            630 S Brookhurst St, Anaheim, CA 92804

            2 Replies
            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              Das, thanks for the update on Lizarran. It's been some time since I made my way up there. It came to mind because of the OP's inexpensive request and at Lizarran, you can control the expense according to how many tapas you order.

              1. re: JAB

                A good suggestion, they're just not up to the usual quality (and not up to the quality of their Spanish locations).

            2. Gyu-Kaku is a fantastic option! Japanese style korean bbq, you cook your own at your personal charcoal grill in the table, very interactive and a lot of fun. the bibimba rice dishes are fantastic as are the rest of their items. Harami miso is a best seller!!

              1. Thank you so much for all of your suggestions!

                The dinner is set for next Friday, so I look into all of your suggestions this weekend.

                My friends have heard great things about Boiling Crab. Is the praise well-earned, or just hype?

                4 Replies
                1. re: butteredsunshine

                  Ehhhhh... it's nice tO dobonce but deafening and I always get a headache from all the salt.

                  1. re: butteredsunshine

                    Boiling Crab is fun, relatively inexpensive, and great for groups. The line might be an hour or so, but it's an experience for sure: bibs, taking the shells off crawfish and shrimp smothered in the whole sha-bang sauce... If you do go, see if you can pick up a loaf of bread of a nearby Vietnamese bakery to absorb some of the sauce.

                    1. re: terramassu

                      They no longer allow "outside" bread. A friend got yelled at and left for that about a month ago.

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        Bummer. Sorry to hear. That's a shame!

                  2. We went to Boiling Crab last week, and it was a lot of fun.

                    The perfect atmosphere for my group, and the food was pretty tasty, too. I've had better crawfish in Louisiana, but this was the best I've had here at home. I'm going to try and recreate it this weekend!

                    Gyu-Kaku looks like a lot of fun, and we'll definitely try it out sometime when we're not abstaining from meat for Lent!

                    Thank you so much for all of your wonderful suggestions.