So, thank you to everybody that gave suggestions for the OC Cheap Eats Food Tour. We just completed it yesterday.
Unlike the LA Food Tour, which was 3 days (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/848063), we only had 1 day for this one. From 10:30am until about 6pm, we had 4 people, and then 2 people had to leave, so my brother and I finished the rest of the tour of on our own (going to about midnight). Overall, we hit 24 different places!!
The favorites were definitely the Banh Mi at Banh Mi Cho Chu and the chocolate cake shake at Portillos. Without a doubt, a lot of the unique Vietnamese dishes were a lot of fun to try but were just missing something to make them really great (and, FYI, 2 of the people on the food tour were Asian-American and everyone, including them, was in basic agreement on most of the scores).
The dessert drink at Thach Che Hien Khanh was definitely fun and unique with its combo of coconut milk and all sorts of weird, funky textures and beans and stuff. I didn't really get the Marble Taro bread at 85C (it was just too floury and bland and starchy) while some of the other breads there, which had more butter and eggs in 'em, were pretty good.
And, yes, I am embarrassed to say that my family does like crappy fast food too so we checked out the Doritos Locos taco (which none of us had tried before) and also made a stop at Sonic for shakes (kind of a tradition we have on food tours).
There were also places we would have tried but they were closed on Sunday or they were just too far out of the way to make it worth going to with our limited time.
Also, a big shout out to Sanjeev Gupta, the owner of Traditions, the Indian restaurant in Tustin. He was a super nice dude and their flatbread that we tried was really unique and tasty.
At the end of the night, someone told us about M&M donuts in Anaheim, which we had not heard of. So, we went to check out their famous warm blueberry donuts (and the place is only open from 11pm until about noon--yes, that's right). The place is insane. We stood in line for 25 minutes and it literally did not move. Literally no one got served. And then it started to move slowly. After another 15 minutes or so, we got our blueberry donuts. While similar to Krispy Kreme in that they were glazed and warm, these were cake donuts rather than yeast-raised donuts and had a really crispy, crusty exterior which were good. The donuts were good, but the place is insane in that they can't increase the capacity (there are only 2 people in the shop and they are this busy every night, which would probably lead a normal business person to add another worker or something). So, can I advocate you go? No. But the donuts were good.
With regards to the scores, they are just based on taste and how much the dish was enjoyed and whether you'd wanna eat it again. Atmosphere, authenticity, presentation and things like that were not taken into account.
ORANGE COUNTY FOOD TOUR (in the order in which we tried them)-
July 1, 2012
Moscow Deli (Odessa Sandwich)-
Ngu Binh Restaurant (banh it kep banh ram [deep fried savory mochi ball])
Brodard (Nem Nuong Cuon [pork spring roll])
Thach Che Hien Khanh (che bam au [Vietnamese dessert drink])
Banh Mi Cho Chu (BBQ combination banh mi [Vietnamese sandwich])
New Duc Huong (Nuco Mia [kumquat sugarcane drink)
Quan Hy (bahn beo [steamed rice cake topped with shrimp and caramelized shallots])
Banh Mi So 1 (Banh Tieu [fried crusty sesame bread])
Huong Giang (spicy “pork hash” wrapped in banana leaf—50 cents)
Los Chilangos (barbacao [goat] taco & pambazo [chile-soaked sandwich])
Portillo’s (chocolate cake shake; Italian beef with hot and sweet peppers & extra jus on the side)
Natural (corn cup [w/mayonnaise, butter, sour cream, mozzarella, parmesan]; chamoyada [mango shake w/salty, sour, chile syrup & chile tamarind straw])
Joe’s Italian Ice [“bada bing cherry” Italian ice w/ fresh cherry pieces]
Alebrije’s Grill [bright pink food truck] (acorazado “battleship” taco [comes w/fresh tortilla, milanesa beef, rice, cactus, avocado, tomato, and cotija cheese]; Mexican coke)
El Borrego Sagrado (Tlacoyo [huarache stuffed with chickpeas])
^Sonic (Batter Blaster Shake with brownie chunks, cookie dough chunks, and chocolate; Tater Tots)
*85ºC Bakery Café (marble taro bread, taro bun, chocolate chip bread)
*A&J Restaurant (spicy wontons)
*101 Noodle Express (beef roll)
*Traditions (Gobi Paratha [flatbread stuffed with masala-spiced cauliflower])
^*Bruxie (Chicken and Waffle Sandwich with Chili Honey, Cider Slaw and real Maple Syrup; custard sample)
^*Taco Bell (supreme Doritos Locos Taco)
^*Flurries (halo-halo "snow ice")
^*M&M Donuts (warm glazed blueberry donut)
- - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - -
AVERAGE SCORES (for Taste)
94.1 Portillo’s (chocolate cake shake; Italian beef with hot & sweet peppers)
94.0 Banh Mi Cho Chu (BBQ combination banh mi [Vietnamese sandwich])
92.5 ^*M&M Donuts (warm glazed blueberry donut)
91.3 ^*Taco Bell (supreme Doritos Locos Taco)
87.6 *Traditions (Gobi Paratha [flatbread stuffed with masala-spiced cauliflower])
87.4 ^Sonic (Batter Blaster Shake with Chocolate, Tater Tots)
86.7 Alebrije’s Grill [bright pink food truck] (acorazado “battleship” taco; Mexican coke)
85.3 Brodard (Nem Nuong Cuon [pork spring roll])
85.2 Thach Che Hien Khanh (che bam au [Vietnamese dessert drink])
84.9 *85ºC Bakery Café (marble taro bread, taro bun, chocolate chip bread)
84.6 Natural (corn cup; chamoyada [mango shake w/salty, sour chile syrup])
84.0 *101 Noodle Express (beef roll)
80.9 Los Chilangos (Barbacao [goat] & pambazo [chile-soaked sandwich])
80.7 Banh Mi So 1 (Banh Tieu [fried crusty sesame bread])
80.6 Joe’s Italian Ice [bada bing cherry Italian ice]
80.5 Ngu Binh Restaurant (banh it kep banh ram [deep fried savory mochi ball])
78.3 *A&J Restaurant (spicy wontons)
76.3 El Borrego Sagrado (Tlacoyo [huarache stuffed with chickpeas])
76.0 Moscow Deli (Odessa Sandwich)
75.9 Quan Hy (bahn beo [steamed rice cake with shrimp & caramelized shallots])
70.6 New Duc Huong (Nuco Mia [kumquat sugarcane drink)
70.0 ^*Bruxie (Chicken & Waffle Sandwich)
69.6 Huong Giang (“pork hash”—50 cents)
58.0 ^*Flurries (halo-halo "snow ice")
^ indicates this location was not a scheduled stop on the OC FOOD TOUR
* indicates there were only 2 judges rather than 4