The following are summaries of recent Times restaurant reviews by Max jacobson. Prices are based on average cost for a party of two without wine. $--less than $15 $$--$15 to $39 $$$--$40 to $75 $$$$--More than $75
* Crocodile Cafe, Brea Marketplace, 975 E. Birch St., Brea. (714) 529-2233. Open Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; weekends to 11 p.m. $$ Greg Smith is doing more than just promoting the new American cuisine; he's making it into a populist movement at this small, laughably inexpensive cafe. Enjoy wonderful hamburgers grilled over smoking embers of oak, wood-fired pizzas with designer toppings, and trendy homemade pastas like fettuccine with roasted Pasilla chili. Sip wines while sitting under the 30-foot vinyl crocodile. You can bet your Beamer that this restaurant is a good value.
* Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant, Knott's Berry Farm, 8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park. (714) 220-5080. Open daily, except Christmas, 7 a.m to 10 p.m. $$ * Disneyland, 1313 N. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim. (714) 999-4565. Hours vary. $$ Between them, Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland feed more mouths than any local restaurant ever could hope to, yet their food concessions get surprisingly little notice. With regard to Disneyland, it's not surprising: You are a captive audience there and the food is mediocre at best. Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant fares much better. You don't even have to enter the park to eat there. For $7.95, hungry families can get individual dinners consisting of a rhubarb appetizer, a mixed green salad, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and country gravy, fresh cabbage seasoned with ham, buttermilk biscuits and a choice of pie. Take that, Mickey!
* The Original Pancake House, 1418 E. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim. (714) 693-1390. Open Tuesdays through Sundays from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. $ The Original Pancake House is one of the very best restaurants in Orange County. Just ask anyone who has eaten there. All the batters are made with sourdough yeast and come straight from the grill--light, finely textured, and complex. The Belgian waffles are eggy and crispy, and the apple pancake, a giant golden puff with a cinnamon glaze topping, is one step away from nirvana.
* Revere House, 900 W. 1st St., Tustin. (714) 543-9319. Open Mondays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. $$ Revere House is one of those dark, woody dinner houses that were popular during the '50s, and guess what: That's when the place opened. It specializes in credible versions of plain old American food--prime rib, pan-fried chicken, turkey with all the trimmings--all churned out with dependable regularity. The menu is enormous and portions are Protean. All entrees come with a choice of Caesar or spinach salad. Desserts are the one weak spot, except for the tapioca pudding you get for free.
* Dynasty, 9200 Bolsa Ave., No. 215, Westminster. (714) 898-3189. Open Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., weekends from 9 a.m. $$ A vast Hong Kong-style restaurant in a Little Saigon shopping mall, Dynasty is beginning to strut its stuff. The dining room is now in the hands of the capable Tony Lai, a Chinese foodie with Beverly Hills in his resume, and both food and service have taken a sharp upturn. Black pepper beef brisket from the Page 1 specials menu is extraordinary, and don't miss the first rate kung pao dishes, sand dabs with spicy salt, or soy sauce squab. On a menu with 150 entrees, there is much to choose from.
* Shan-Li Palace, 5634 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim. (714) 779-1410. Open Mondays through Thursdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays to 10:30 p.m. $ This Mandarin-style Chinese restaurant is further proof that gentrification is spreading like a brush fire. It is nestled snugly in the Anaheim Hills not far from the Riverside County line. A few years back, you couldn't have found a hamburger stand in these parts. Order the steamed dumplings, despite the fact that the waiter may try to discourage you. They are wonderful. Spinach bean curd soup tastes as fresh as if the spinach came from out back. Twice-cooked pork is fiery and colorful. Moo-shu dishes (minced meats and veggies rolled up burrito-style) are terrific.