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Best lunch in Costa Mesa/Irvine/Santa Ana for under $10

Pie Not + Sidecar Donuts
- I dont have many comparisons to pie not but the crusts are buttery and flakey. The filling range from good to very good. Most of them are very rich but contrast nicely with the crust. Sidecar donuts is amazing. My favorite is the huckleberry which seems like a regular among the rotating cast of donuts.

Surfas Cafe turkey panini (Tuesday only when paninis are 35% off)
- Dietsel turkey, raclette cheese, roasted tomatoes, onion marmalade on whole grain bread with a side salad. A very good deal at $7 with the 35% off.

Taqueria 2 Guys
- any meat filled quesadilla, 3 tacos and a drink will get you under $10. The horchata is wonderful, cinammony and just the right level of sweetness. The best meats are the el pastor off the spit and chorizo. I have yet to try the lengua as it hasn't been on the menu all the time.

Anybody else? I'm looking for a good Lebanese place.

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  1. +1 on Taqueria 2 Guys and Surfas.

    Not Lebanese, but off the top of my head before tax/tip...

    Spicy garlic chicken at Chicken Maison. Get a 1/4 chicken and two sides with a drink or have water and get a 1/2 chicken with two sides;

    Roasted garlic chicken (again, you'll have to drink water) at Bella Cuba. Comes with rice, beans and plantains;

    Karma Burger Combo at Mick's Karma Bar. Burger, fries and a drink;

    Bun with charbroiled pork and egg rolls at Pho Tasia on Jeffrey/University and Michelson. Probably not the best rendition of the dish, but their charbroiled pork is like crack to me for some reason.

    Beef Noodle Soup at A & J.

    9 Replies
    1. re: OCSteve

      OCSteve nailed the Chicken Maison and Mick's Karma recommendations. Both are really good.

      1. re: OCSteve

        Is Mick's Karma burger in the same building complex at El Torito? I've never heard of this place but it looks great.

        +1 on Bella Cuba

        1. re: js76wisco

          Yes. It's right behind the parking structure for El Torito and McCormick & Shmick's on the ground floor of one of the high rises there.

        2. re: OCSteve

          Recently discovered Chicken Maison myself. Great stuff. The breast meat is a bit dry but the chicken kebob skewer is moist and delicious.

          At Bella Cuba, Chicken and yellow rice is also good and under $10.

          In Santa Ana, house special noodles at Trieu Chau is a strong contender for "best" and $7.45 all in.

          Ramen at Ramen Zetton is also under $10. I think the lunch combo with a rice bowl may be under $10 also.

          1. re: Porthos

            I agree on the breast meat. I usually get the leg quarter.

            1. re: OCSteve

              I get the quarter leg combo and then add the breast kebab skewer. Puts one over the $10 mark though.

              Be warned, lines are literally out the door 12-1pm.

              1. re: Porthos

                I never go after 11:30. I've never had more than a couple of people in front of me.

            2. re: Porthos

              You inspired me, Porthos. Went to Bella Cuba today and tried the chicken and yellow rice. The rice was really flavorful, and the chicken was done perfectly. I finished every bite. Thanks for the rec!

              1. re: OCSteve

                I didn't realize I ordered it with such frequency until this past Monday. They had a new trainee come take my order. She smiled when she took my order and told me one of the regular waiters bet her that I would order the arroz con pollo. Whatcha gonna do?

          2. le dipolmat, UCI village (or w/e)

            garlic chicken w/ tomato

            as good as it was 10 years ago. Almost the same price too. Picture is half of the $6 or $7 sandwich.

            9 Replies
            1. re: ns1

              Totally agree. The Chicken Dijon is also great there. Same garlic sauce, but with the addition of a mayo/mustard.

              1. re: OCSteve

                yeah I was eyefucking that sandwich too, but I only go to LeDip like once every other year, and when I go I pretty much know what I'm craving...

                1. re: ns1


                  Watch your fucking language. :)

              2. re: ns1

                The Le Dip garlic chicken is legendary. Definitely worth a try

                1. re: set0312

                  I hope the OP has gone to try this. it beats the shit out of the chicken wrap I got @ Hayat's yesterday.

                  1. re: ns1

                    It's on my list now. The only place I regularly go to in that plaza is Berkeley Dog and the farmers market on Saturday. That sandwich looks very good.

                2. re: ns1

                  That garlic mayo and sriracha and that bread....so many memories

                  1. re: ns1

                    Did you go to UCI back in the day ????

                    1. re: kevin

                      nope, but any asian kid who lives in OC knows at least 5 people who go to UCI.

                  2. If you can venture out a little farther, I've been recommended Zena's lebanese in orange and Zait and Zataar in Anaheim. I just went to Zait and Zataar last night and I was very impressed.

                    Bear Flag in Newport (five minutes from Costa Mesa!) has a good fish burrito that can be had for under ten.

                    Ramen Zetton has my approval (and the approval of lots of people with much more culinary knowledge than me) Dinner bowls are about 7.50, but I would not be surprised if lunch is cheaper.

                    Santouka ramen is also very good, but I think the prices are pushing the $10 dollar range.

                    There is a place called East Borough in Costa Mesa that serves pretty darn good bahn mi in my opinion. The problem is East Burough's bahn mi is 7.50 while the banh mi at Lee's is 2.79.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: set0312

                      Bear Flag is great but usually a special occasion lunch because I have to get some poke for an appetizer and I'm usually staring at a $25 lunch.

                      If you get the special pork small ramen at Santouka I think you get in just under $10. The udon place at the front of the market has a tonkatsu broth udon. It was actually very good and you can also add on some tempura.

                      1. re: js76wisco

                        I agree. The burrito that I suggested is by no means my meal of choice there. Haha, but it does fit the criteria. You ever had the poke tacos? I'm a big fan.

                      2. re: set0312

                        Bear Flag is dope.

                        TK burger is swell.

                        Tomato in the Mistuwas is nice.

                        And so is Santouka there.


                      3. El Toro Carniceria
                        2 tacos is just over $4 and it is plenty big. The carne asada and cabeza are the best meats. Never had the al pastor since they always run out every time I go there.

                        Paninoteca Maggio
                        Sandwiches are just under $10. I like the Toscana which is porchetta.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: A5 KOBE

                          Carnitas and lengua are also really good there. Never had the cabeza, but I'll be trying it next time I'm in there.

                        2. Not the locations mentioned but La Palma Chicken Pie Shop & Bakery in Anaheim is a hidden treasure. The best chicken pot pie I have had in a long while. You can get a dinner with soup and salad and entree and dessert (get any of the fruit pies) for less than $7.00. Their lunch items are even less expensive the least expensive being chicken giblets at $4.80 and the most at deep-fried scallops at $6.15. It's on the corner of La Palma & Euclid. It has been there since 1953 so they must be doing something right.

                          1. I know Irvine a little bit:

                            I like going to Ha Long (Barranca/Culver) for their Bahn Mi. $4.50 for I think a 9 inch Sandwich. The meats are BBQ (i.e., Korean BBQ style is how to advertise it in the restaurant) and have lots of flavor. I like to pay the extra $2 dollars and get double meat, since I like a lot of meat on my sandwich. They also have Vietnamese dishes available for order and take out.

                            Mr. Sandwich near Barranca and Jamboree is really good. The sandwiches are big and well under $10.

                            Inka's is right across from Blizzard's campus (Alton/Laguna Canyon) and you'll see a lot of Blizzard employees there having lunch. Food quality was down a little bit a few years ago because they changed cooks, but I think it's gotten better.

                            I've also heard Harry's Deli is good too, but I've yet to go there.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Jennerstein

                              Harry's deli was closed for the most part of last year for renovations, opened for a few months before closing again after a fire. There is no word on re-opening.

                              1. re: Porthos

                                That's sad, the guy can't catch a break.

                                1. re: Jennerstein

                                  Depending on insurance arrangements, maybe he just did!

                              2. re: Jennerstein

                                I went back to Ha Long last night, it looks like the Bahn Mi are now $4.95. Still way better than Lee's in my opinion, even though Lee's is quite a bit cheaper.

                              3. El Toro Bravo Tortilleria in Costa Mesa has the best cafeteria style Mexican food I can remember...juicy fatty carnitas, great rice and beans, and of course amazing tortillas (they do not skimp). It's a delicious authentic gut buster that redefines siesta

                                1. If you can get over the fact that it costs 7.50, I really like the bahn mi's (specifically the meatball one) at East Borough in Costa Mesa. Definitely worth a shot--at the very least it is a good sandwich under ten bucks.

                                  1. Try Jalepenos (Alton Pkwy/Harvard in Irvine). I love their huevos rancheros.

                                    1. There has been a management/ownership change to a greek place on Brookhurst (next to Arby's) in Huntington Beach. I was there for lunch before and after the change. The gyros improved a whole lot. The sandwich is now huge. It is slice a little too thick for my taste, but I can live with it for the quantity and price. I went to dinner there last night and had the kebab combo plate. It was not that great. The chicken kebab was OK, but it didn't taste as though the chicken had been marinated in anything, or seasoned. The beef kebab was tough. If I had to guess, the meat was probably chuck, as it was tough, chewy and overcooked. The pilaf was dry and tasted as though it had been cooked with just water instead of broth. The greek salad was also a problem. They pre-portion their house dressing into styrofoam containers. Mine was all oil, no vinegar, and the herbs were all at the bottom of the container. I commented on it and, as I was leaving, I saw them emptying the small containers into a larger one, with a whisk standing by to try to emulsify the dressing. I hope it works. I'll probably go back for the gyros sandwich, and I may try the bifteki, but I'll not go back for dinner again.

                                      1. The carnitas burrito (or, if you've got extra Lipitor handy, the surtido burrito) at Sahuayo Primo on Main St. north of Warner in Santa Ana. Throw in a trip to the pickle bar and a tamarindo and you're still out of there for under 8 bucks. Get a horchata instead if that's how you roll, but I find the extra acidity in the tamarindo helps cut through the glorious pork fat and creamy lardy beans on that burrito...

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: Bradbury

                                          How are the tacos there? We miss Taqueria 2 guys. Taqueria Zamora has taken its place but not the same type of taco. We like the little street tacos.

                                          1. re: js76wisco

                                            I'm with you on Taqueria 2 Guys. I'm also a regular at Zamora (their chilaquiles and machaca are excellent), but you're right about their tacos. They're great, but too big to have more than two.

                                            My recollection of Sahuayo Primo is that the tacos are the smaller "street" sized tacos, and they're awesome. Definitely worth a try. Bradbury's post reminded me that I haven't been there in waaaay too long.

                                          2. re: Bradbury

                                            You like carnitas? Gotta get over to Carnitas Uruapan ASAP. The best spot for carnitas and every-part-of-the-pig deliciousness. Great salsas and GREAT tacos. Surtido, carnitas, and everything from ears to eyeballs.

                                            1. re: Eater15

                                              Looks good thanks for the reco. I was just at Carnitas Snack Shack in SD and had some awesome carnitas tacos.

                                              Do you like the salsa and tacos better than El Toro?

                                              1. re: js76wisco

                                                Yes I do but to be fair, I like a lot of places in SA better than El Toro. As far as their tacos go, I think they're kind of size-over-substance and their saving grace is the in-house-made tortillas, which really isn't all that special since SA taco shops aren't exactly lacking in fresh tortillas. It's kind of like, whoopty do, your tortillas were made here instead of 500 feet from here... If that makes sense.

                                                Comparing taco to taco it's no comparison, but again I'd rank a lot of taco shops higher than ET

                                                1. re: Eater15

                                                  Thanks. I'm all about quality over quantity.

                                          3. I'm personally not a fan of sit-down restaurant lunches. I can't imagine a nicer lunch than an Italian hoagie at Philly's Best in Irvine (Barranca near Yale Loop). This particular Philly's Best is better than the adjoining ones in Lake Forest and Costa Mesa.


                                            26 Replies
                                            1. re: ArtShapiro

                                              You should give Jersey Mike's a try. About 2x more cold cuts. Get it Mike's Way. Good stuff.

                                                1. re: jessejames

                                                  What that some lame joke about how I had to be drinking to make that rec? As you can see, you're the odd man out on this one. Keep yukking JJ.

                                                  1. re: Porthos

                                                    enjoy porthos! for essentially the price of Jersey mikes there's the scarpetta sandwich shop paninoteca here which has HQ ingredients and bread...as I said I don't know the other sub options in OC. And I don't think I'm the odd man out saying JM isn't chow-worthy, but heck, that's my opinion. I'm not the odd man out re red medicine either, but I'm also glad it's there for you and you love it. sorry you find my jokes lame -- have a great day!

                                                    1. re: jessejames

                                                      There is a great cold cut sandwich at Pizzeria Ortica also. But since OP (ArtS) didn't want a sit-down restaurant lunch, I didn't mention it. Scarpetta is hardly a lunch rec for the OC.

                                                      "Chow-worthy" is so loaded. It's just your opinion.

                                                      Have a great day yourself.

                                                      1. re: Porthos

                                                        I said it was and is my opinion.
                                                        I guess to me JM is a fast food chain half a rung above subway, but then again we chat about In n out and others all day long.
                                                        Yeah I agree Scarp not OC but maybe there's a one-of place like you note that does a good job...either way...have it Mike's way and enjoy.

                                                        1. re: jessejames

                                                          I don't disagree with you, but a NJ sub isn't known for artisan cold cuts.

                                                          1. re: ns1

                                                            i agree...salami, mortadella, etc...just had many with better bread and to me, its the relishes and sweet and hot peppers that jersey mikes doesn't have that make it good...there's a new sub chain jimmy johns opening in BH too on same street as JM and subway (and scarpetta)...not sure if you've tried that...im just amazed how frickin expensive JM is for what it is...maybe that's BH but you're looking at almost 10 bucks for a medium sandwich no chips drink scant meat.

                                                            what about that Chicago Italian beef dip spot in OC...is that good?

                                                            1. re: jessejames

                                                              Never even heard of Jimmy John's. I'm actually super excited about the JM that's opening up next to my house =X

                                                              Agreed though, I'm always shocked by how expensive they are - $10 bucks+/- for a large. But goddamn when you want a NJ sub nothing else seems to fit (and the subs that I've had didn't have relishes/peppers in them either ^_^)

                                                2. re: Porthos

                                                  a shockingly accurate representation (for a chain!) of the NJ subs that I love whenever I visit NJ.

                                                  1. re: ns1

                                                    Gosh so many much better options there but I don't know that scene in oc

                                                    I'm not above jm here but I shouldn't yuk a yum. Enjoy!

                                                    1. re: jessejames

                                                      Without a ton of options in the area the one thing Irvine/Costa Mesa does well is decent fast casual sandwich joints. Each have a few good sandwiches

                                                      Wich Which
                                                      Jersey Mikes
                                                      Claro's - in Tustin and the deli makes a good sandwich

                                                      1. re: js76wisco

                                                        Add Mendocino Farms in Costa Mesa to that list.

                                                  2. re: Porthos

                                                    i'm not a fan of either joint. but to each their own, from super high to super low.

                                                    after all, i love taco bell. hence.....

                                                    i do like Ralphs Subs in Orange in OC though, it ain't a chain and its pretty darn tasty, no joke.

                                                    1. re: kevin

                                                      Exactly. It's about good eats from the high end to the low end. From chains to the mom and pop joints. Not all hole in the wall mom and pop joints serve great food. Just because you make something fancier doesn't mean it's "better" than the original version. These new small plates/asian influenced restaurants have shown that in spades.

                                                      1. re: Porthos

                                                        is it a lunch I would have sometimes yes...is it "best lunch under 10 bucks" per the post...seems to be different that what you're saying...

                                                        1. re: jessejames

                                                          It was a reply to someone who liked the Italian Hoagie at Philly's Best in Irvine. An alternative to Philly's Best because I too have had and enjoyed the hoagie at Philly's Best and thought JM was better.

                                                          One could tell you to put the pipe down every time you champion Carnegie Deli over Katz but that would be d*ck wouldn't it?

                                                          1. re: Porthos

                                                            feel free to say whatever you like and eat whatever you like, it doesn't bother me, it's a free country...and i'll do the same

                                                            ps, love your posts and good tips seriously

                                                  3. re: ArtShapiro

                                                    I have not eaten at either of those two Philly's Bests (the one is actually in Santa Ana). I have eaten, pleaurably at the "factory" store in Huntington Beach. For a short time, there was one in Whittier to which we'd go for lunch, but they were poorly trained and the sandwiches (especially the cheesesteaks)were a poor reflection on what they are capable of at the HB store.
                                                    My wife and I both like Jersey Mike's, but many of his meats are "water added" and I don't order those. If I'm going Italian, I'll just have the hard salami and pepperoni with double the meat. Usually, I'll have a cheesesteak. The HB store personnel I have now trained to make it "my way" with grilled vinegar peppers and hot pepper relish in addition to the onions and green peppers, with a shot of marinara.
                                                    My favorite cheesesteak is still Frank's Philadelphia in Costa Mesa (Fairview & Wilson) and the fries are the best.

                                                    1. re: REFFI

                                                      what does water added mean ??????

                                                      1. re: kevin

                                                        The manufacturer is allowed to inject water into the meat increasing its weight (and, in my opinion, decreasing its flavor). Ham is the biggest recipient, but other meats, like turkey are injected as well. At JM's you can see the meats in the case and the labels clearly state which are 'water added' and which are not.
                                                        To reply to JesseJames, there are now two places in OC where an acceptable Italian Beef Sandwich can be had. The first is the hot dog wagon in the Pep Boys parking lot on Beach, just north of the 405. The second is at Gina's pizza in Costa Mesa on Harbor Blvd. in the shopping center on Adams. I'm not a fan of their pizza but the sandwich (half) I had was tasty.

                                                        1. re: REFFI

                                                          id love a tasty Italian beef Sammy -- good tips thanks.

                                                          1. re: jessejames

                                                            i think there's a joint in irvine near the campus called Chicago's Best.

                                                            someone else will have to verify that

                                                            if it's still there

                                                            1. re: kevin

                                                              It is on Main between Von Karman and Jamboree in the mini-mall. The name changed to Aioli a year or so ago but they still have an ok Italian beef (better as a combo with the sausage) as well as Chicago style dogs.

                                                            1. re: REFFI

                                                              yep, i remember that dogs joint there used to be location at the balboa island pier area.


                                                      2. Wow hello, thread necro from like a year ago. Since then, Mendocino Farms opened at location 450E and 17th in Costa Mesa. I used to go to their downtown LA location all the time when I worked up there. They're a gourmet sandwich shop based in LA, and they just opened their OC location in April

                                                        Anyway, they do really good sandwiches, most of them are under $10. So, if you just get a Sandwich, you can stay under budget.

                                                        I went there in the evening, so not sure if parking is crazy during lunch time...the restaurant is next to a Starbucks.

                                                        Also, I visited during their grand opening and their service, while really good, was almost over the top nice. They might have toned that down since then.

                                                        1. Had the cabeza taco (center) along with the chorizo (bottom) and al pastor at Taqueria El Zamorano (not to be confused with nearby Zamora) in the former Taqueria 2 Guys location. All were excellent, but cabeza was the standout. They didn't have tripas today, but I'll definitely be going back. The al pastor was even better in my date's burrito. Corn tortillas are handmade.

                                                          Tacos were $2.50 each, and the burrito was $6.50. Horchata is also excellent, but will push you a little over the $10/meal mark.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: OCSteve

                                                            Thanks for the update. My friend drove by there the other day and thought it was Zamora as well. Definitely on our list to try for lunch soon.

                                                          2. The best place I've found since starting this thread is Vishnu. Was voted #1 best dish in OC Weekly. Best Indian buffet I've had anywhere to be honest. The food is punchy and spiced authentically, not dumbed down for Western palates.


                                                            I've eaten here once a week for the last month. $7.40 per person for buffet lunch which includes
                                                            - potato dosa
                                                            - 4 vegetarian dishes
                                                            - 2 meats usually chicken
                                                            - 1 pakora, samosa or tadhka
                                                            - naan
                                                            - chutneys and sauces

                                                            This place is packed from noon to around 1pm with lots of Indian folks who work around the area. No frills atmosphere just great food.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: js76wisco

                                                              Jalapenos - in the large center at Alton and Harvard in Irvine.