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 $$$$--More than $75
* Pinky's Hamburger Grill, 4115 Campus Drive, Irvine. (714) 854-4632. Open Sundays through Thursdays from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays to 11 p.m. $ Be-Bop Burgers and Pinky's Hamburger Grill are part of a wave of "nostalgia" hamburger joints engulfing Orange County, and both are longer on atmosphere than food. The Be-Bop burger is a good value, a full quarter pound of lean beef on a seeded bun that just drips with condiments. Pinky's beach burgers are charcoal-grilled and really taste good. Other sandwiches in both restaurants are less appealing. Luckily, both restaurants exude energy, plus the mindless fun of the '50s and '60s.
* La Palma Chicken Pie Shop and Restaurant, 928 N. Euclid Ave., Anaheim. (714) 533-2021. Open Mondays through Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Bakery opens at 9 a.m. $ This is where you want to go for meat loaf, pan-fried chicken and the other kinds of tried-and-true, roadside American fare that is creeping back onto the menus in more upscale establishments. The signature dish, chicken pie, is a buttery, 9-ounce disk crammed with shredded meat. At $1.95, it makes a great, affordable snack. Don't bypass the attached bakery, where the goodies include peach pie, burnt-almond cake and a rich house cheesecake, and where an excellent, springy chocolate cake is only $3.
* Mimi's Cafe, five Orange County locations: 1240 N. Euclid St., Anaheim, (714) 535-1552; 1835 E. Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (714) 722-6722; 7935 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 898-5022; 17231 E. 17th St., Tustin, (714) 544-5522; 18342 Imperial Highway, Yorba Linda, (714) 996-7650. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. $$ Mimi's Cafe has 10 Southland locations boasting identical menus and decor. There is almost always a line to get in. The menu includes soups, salads, sandwiches and breakfasts along with such entrees as mesquite-broiled fish and a host of (commercially) baked desserts. The kittenish and busy decor hints at France, though from the outside, the places look like gingerbread houses. Food at Mimi's tastes much like what the French think American food is: burgers, muffins and egg dishes, but overall, it's little more than a glorified coffee shop. It's cheap, at least.
* Papa's Pantry, 21094 Beach Boulevard, Huntington Beach. (714) 960-5400. Open Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sundays 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. $
* Polly's Pies, 3404 Katella Avenue, Los Alamitos. (213) 430-4541. Open daily, 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. $
Polly's Pies and Papa's Pantry are two restaurants dishing up solid American comfort foods at solidly affordable prices. So dig in. Polly's is the place for good burgers and a superb rotisserie chicken to go along with its visually stunning fresh fruit pies and bright, sunny interior. Papa's Pantry is basically a steakhouse trading on huge portions and frontier-style decor. Try chicken fried steak, sauteed liver and prime rib--all complete dinners for $7.95 or less.
* Five Feet, 328 Glenneyre St., Laguna Beach. (714) 497-4955. Open Sundays through Thursdays, 5 to 10 p.m. ; Fridays and Saturdays, 5 to 11 p.m.; lunch served Fridays only, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. $$$
Owner Michael Kang has some of the most compelling art around decorating this restaurant's somber, postmodern walls, and he serves plates of food very nearly as artful. Dishes of pot stickers or steamed dumpling are no better than you would get in any Chinese restaurant, but the eclectic lamb, scallop and catfish entrees demonstrate Kang's flair. The catfish is particularly fine.
* Shan-Li Palace, 5634 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim. (714) 779-1410. Open Mondays through Thursdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays to 10:30 p.m. $
This Mandarin-style Chinese restaurant is further proof that gentrification is spreading like a brush fire. It is nestled snugly in the Anaheim Hills not far from the Riverside County line. A few years back, you couldn't have found a hamburger stand in these parts. Order the steamed dumplings, despite the fact that the waiter may try to discourage you. They are wonderful. Spinach bean-curd soup tastes as fresh as if the spinach came from out back. Twice-cooked pork is fiery and colorful. Moo-shu dishes (minced meats and veggies rolled up burrito-style) are terrific.
* The Hobbit, 2932 E. Chapman Ave., Orange. (714) 997-1972. Open for dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. $$$$