On the Cheap: Top Eats in Orange County, California

On the Cheap: Top Eats in Orange County, California

Looking for cheap eats in Orange County, but uncertain where to start? Take Orange County's famous Mediterranean climate, add a hearty dose of organic, local ingredients (avocado, anyone?), and sprinkle with southern California fast food. Drive through (or "thru"), and enjoy a meal that will be easy on the eyes and the budget.

Check out our recommendations of the Top Cheap Eats in Orange County.

In-N-Out Burger

One of the best things about Orange County is its unashamed love on that most American of products -- the car. And what better place to drive your convertible, top-down, than in and out of a burger joint known for using natural, fresh ingredients? It's the Californian way.

In-N-Out Burger opened in 1948 and was the first drive-thru hamburger stand in California. It sticks with a basic menu of burgers, fries, and drinks, but the meat is cooked fresh (no microwaves or freezers here), and hand-cut french fries and milkshakes made with real ice cream, along with its well-known friendly service, make it one of the most popular places in Orange County (and elsewhere in the West).

Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant

Comfort food at its finest, Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant has been open next to Knotts Berry Farm since 1934. In fact, the restaurant was the basis for the theme park. How could people waiting in line for good food pass the time?

Since their opening, Mrs. Knott's has served over 20 million hungry visitors, and is now one of the country's largest full-service family restaurants. Fixin's are not for the faint of heart, but have not succumbed to fad diets. Along with the famous fried chicken, you'll get buttermilk biscuits, mashed potatoes, chicken gravy and fresh vegetables. Options don't stop at chicken. Soups, salads, sandwiches Boysenberry pie and a bevy of daily specials round out the offerings.

Taco Mesa

Taco Mesa gets high marks for making Mexican fast food healthy and authentic. Reviewers love the chile rellenos, seafood specials, cilantro rice and other unique offerings. Upscale but inexpenvsive specials like the crepas de langosta (lobster crepes) and salmon tropica keep customers returning, as does the popular Taco Tuesdays, when tacos are just $1.

Taco Mesa has several locations in Orange County, including Orange, Laguna Beach, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, and Mission Viejo.

Bánh Mì Che Cali

Food trucks sprouting up around southern California, along with the large Vietnamese population, have made bánh mì -- Vietnamese sandwiches -- increasingly popular.

Orange County residents and local Vietnamese immigrants love this small Vietnamese joint in particular, which offers great deals for the budget-minded -- buy 2 bánh mì, get one free, and the sandwiches are only $2.25 each. Their popular pudding milk tea is only $1. Bánh Mì Che Cali has a few locations in Los Angeles and Orange County, but the popular location in Westminster is open 24 hours/day.


If you want to work at any of these restaurants or open your own restaurant, check out the culinary arts schools in Orange County.

Visiting another city? Check out our restaurant listings for Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Miami, New York, Orlando, San Francisco and Seattle.

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