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Visiting Orange County (Costa Mesa) from South Carolina, never been out west, any and all advice appreciated!

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Hi Guys!

Making my way to the Orange County from June 17th through 23rd!! This is going to be my first California experience, actually my first time experiencing anything further west past Luisiana, and I want to make the most of it! I have a passion for food and I am just as excited to try all the cuisines as I am to see the sights but I definitely don't want to come back with any regrets so I've been trying to do some research the past few days to plan out my attack! I'm 24 and finishing up college so I don't have a ton of money to spend while I'm there but I have enough and if it were to call for it once or twice and it was a place I just HAD to try, that's reasonable. I've never even seen a food truck haha and from what I hear, I need to track a few of these guys down when I get into LA. I have a feeling most of my time will be spent in the OC area. I would like to be in LA more but since my transportation access is limited to nighttime and idk how else to get there other than a taxi which would cost a fortune, so advice on both the Costa Mesa area and LA would be awesome! And everything goes! I love all types of food from every culture so whatever is a "must try" is what I'm looking for, whether it's an tourist trap or not, doesn't matter to me as long as the food is worth the hype.

Things I'm definitely looking for (correct me if I sound like a food noob but this is what I associate with California being the best at):
Best food trucks
Best sushi/japanese
Best burrito/mexican
Best ethnic influences
Best pizza
No burgers

Thanks in advance guys and hey, if you're ever ANYWHERE in SC I'll return the favor haha.

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  1. Best Sushi- Kasen. Very traditional. No rolls. Highest quality fish. $80-$100pp for chef's choice (omakase)

    Japanese- Yamadaya for Ramen, Fukada for cold soba, hot udon, fried oysters, cooked Japanese dishes. ~ 10-20pp

    Best Pizza Crispy Crust- Pizzeria Mozza ~$50-100pp depending on how crazy you go on wines.

    Best Pizza Neapolitan (soft chewy) Crust- Pizzeria Ortica ~ slightly less than Mozza.

    Vietnamese- do a search. The options are limitless. Many options in the $6-10 range.

    101 Noodle Express for Chinese dumplings and noodles ~$10-20pp

    Kaju Tofu for Korean spicy tofu stew. You can also order grilled short ribs, chicken bulgogi, or spicy pork to supplement your meal. ~$20pp

    1. Darya Persian Retaurant has the best Shish Kabob..must try.

      1998 N Tustin St

      Orange, CA 92865

      (714) 921-2773

      http://www.darya.com

      Mitsuwa Japanese Market has a terrific 'gourmet' Japanese food court. Great comfort food at fab prices. Try the Santouka Ramen or the place next to it w the great big plate of curry and Tonkatsu. If you don't have place like this in SC, it'll be fun. Fast food but good eats Asian style.

      665 Paularino Avenue, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

      (714) 557-6699

      1 Reply
      1. re: googooR

        There are 2 Daryas, they are not related, and I have always found the Orange location to be inferior and the Costa Mesa One overpriced. You can try Naan and Kabob in Tustin for a good take on ME food, Afghani style, and it is pretty inexpensive.

        I really love San Shi Go on Main St. on the Balboa Peninsula for sushi. They do have rolls and the like, but they also have amazing fish. You are also right across from the Balboa Peninsula.

        For non-sushi, try Honda Ya in Tustin for pub style food or Shin Sen Gumi in Garden Grove for excellent Yakatori.

        Check out Thai Nakorn in Garden Grove for some of the best Thai food in So. Cal.

      2. If you lack a car, take a taxi or bus to the corner of Brookhurst and Westminster, bring along a few dining companions (maybe they can split the taxi cost?) and have yourself a seriously good Vietnamese rolling feast.

        Start with the nem nuong (pork and rice paper spring rolls) and the duck salad at Brodard (tricky to find, it's behind the 99 Cents store) then take a short walk south to Vien Dong for the bun cha ca thang long (sizzling herb-y catfish on greens and noodles), banh tom (shrimp and sweet potato fritters) and canh bun rieu (crab soup). In the unlikely event you're still hungry, there are good banh mi (baguette) and com tam (broken rice) places across the street.

        Another worthwhile experience with decent public transport access is El Gallo Giro, in Santa Ana. Open 24 hours, a bit chaotic (OK, maybe more than a bit chaotic) but tasty and great fun. They have their own bakery, pastry shop, juice bar, tortilla maker, etc., so you can stock up on whatever suits your fancy. Legendary torta cubana, plus tacos/burritos made with all sorts of fillings you probably won't find in SC.

        And as long as we're on the topic of "interesting experiences you probably won't find in SC", I should probably mention 85C in Irvine (Taiwanese bakery and coffee house). Chowhounds seem divided on whether it's great or overrated, but for out-of-towners interested in California 21st century culture, it's worth a visit. The taro bread, egg pastries, and squid ink/garlic rolls are all popular. Try to go during odd hours if you don't want to stand around waiting forever for your sea salt iced latte (or bring a good book).

        Enjoy your trip and have fun (and apologies for the parentheses abuse)!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Bradbury

          seasalt iced latte sounds pretty good, right about now.

        2. Mexican - there are a whole bunch of great places along 19th Street in Costa Mesa; El Toro Bravo has some great tacos (go to the carniceria/tortilleria in the back along the side of the shopping center, not the market).
          There also is the Taco Maria food truck that is usually at the SOCO market in Costa Mesa on Saturdays from about 10am-2pm, along with a decent farmer's market. Taco Maria serves some great potato taquitos, and a really intriguing, herb filled bone marrow quesadilla.

          1. Under Best Food Truck and Best Mexican, you have to try the Tacos Acorazados ("Battleship Tacos") at Alebrije's Grill Food Truck in Santa Ana. Santa Ana is the town next (East) to Costa Mesa.

            Review of Alebrije's Grill's Tacos Acorazados by Chowhound "Elmomonster:"

            http://elmomonster.blogspot.com/2009/...

            OC Weekly review:

            http://www.ocweekly.com/2009-07-23/fo...

            Alebrije's Grill Food Truck
            Cubbon and Main St
            (at Northgate Gonzalez Market -- Look for the Pink Food Truck).
            Santa Ana
            714 655-3253

            http://www.yelp.com/biz/alebrijes-gri...

            1. Since you are going to be in the area, def check out The Lab and The Camp, both on Bristol just south of South Coast Plaza. Younger crowd and plenty of good places to eat mixed in with stores. Very California. I like breakfast at Old Vine Cafe, the gourmet tacos at Taco Asylum are tasty and Ecco is good for Italian. They are all reasonably priced, especially for daytime eating.

              http://thelab.com/

              http://thecampsite.com/shops

              1. Well, I don't have any other points of reference because I"m vegan, but if you ever are near the Seabirds truck, you gotta have the fried avocado taco.

                Best pizza, hmm, I've been really liking Ortica, but I'm a fan of Neopolitan. If you only get the pizza, you'll get out of there for about $25 pp.

                I miss the days when I was young, hungry, and on a limited budget.

                1 Reply
                1. re: choctastic

                  http://www.yelp.com/biz/atomic-cafe-c...
                  Since I've been here Atomic Cafe has been the one place that has blown me away so far and since you mentioned vegan, he has a sandwich here called the Sputnik that I've heard a few locals claim it to be the best in OC. I will have to go back there while I'm here to try it after my experience earlier today, amazing and on my budget haha. Yeah, I think I was more interested in the novelty of food trucks..I didn't realize they were basically bar food vendors. Although, I have yet to see one :(

                2. Unfortunately for you, a lot of your options are better in L.A. Except for Vietnamese. We definitely got better VIetnamese than those LA folks.

                  1. Baja Fish Tacos, at 17th and Orange, Costa Mesa. Try the shrimp taco. It's like no other shrimp taco you've ever tasted.

                    For higher on the scale, the Golden Truffle, on Newport Boulevard, at 17th, also in Costa Mesa.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: oldusedcop

                      i like the golden truffle.

                      what's new there?

                      And what's great about the shrimp tacos at Baja Fish, what's so interesting about it?

                      thanks.