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Orange County suggestion please, 1 night only?

My wife's family is from OC and we'll be visiting next weekend. I must admit that while I'm quite familiar with restaurants in the greater LA area, Orange County is not on my radar at all. I'm looking for a really great dinner suggestion and the only requisite is that it can't be too formal or expensive (avg. $35 entrees). Fun atmosphere and ambiance would be great, but if there's some deadly roadside taqueria, Latin American cafeteria, Korean bbq joint, etc. that shouldn't be missed then I'm just as happy to do that. I would probably either lean towards some sort of ethnic food that is not as common in San Francisco, or else just a really great local seasonal Cal bistro kind of place with a strong wine/cocktail list and good neighborhood feel. Anywhere in OC works... Thanks for the help!

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  1. Gabbi's mexican in downtown Orange just south of the plaza. Super food, nice unique space, great service, reasonable.

      1. re: JAB

        Thank you both for the suggestions!

        They both look like great candidates and I'll probably let my wife decide! Are advance reservations strongly recommended for both places and is either one a clear winner over the other or are they just as great?

        Cheers!

        1. re: OliverB

          I respectfully put Playground several classes above Gabbi's which I didn't care for. Patio seating is available at Playground without reservations.

      2. $35 entrees? Holy smokes, you can eat anywhere!

        Get yourself to the Playground and go crazy!

        If you'd like something a bit more intimate, go to ARC.

        1. Gen KBBQ in Tustin $20/person (prepare for a long wait though), Kentro Greek Kitchen is a nice, upscale greek restaurant mid range prices, Brodard Chateau is a great place for classier vietnamese fare (best nem nuong spring rolls in the OC hands down) and also mid range prices. It really just depends on what type of food you want because OC is filled with plenty of nice atmosphere/ambiance restaurants around $35 entrees...if you want a spectacular view to wow your family but food that's slightly more pricey you can check out Orange Hill restaurant

          1. Thanks everyone!

            Last question: best ethnic resto in the area? I think I've read that Golden Gables has a big Asian community... are there any great Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean restaurants that are worthwhile?