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MORE BITES

September 06, 1990

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

AMERICAN

* 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 could ever 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. 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!

* Soup Exchange, 151 E. Orangethorpe Ave., Fullerton. (714) 992-5522. Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. $

* Salmagundi, South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa. (714) 549-9267. Open Mondays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays till 6 p.m.; Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. $

Eat soup and live longer at these two emporia for our favorite comfort food. Soup Exchange is the slicker and less expensively packaged of the two, a soup and salad bar with such extras as frozen yogurt, muffins and a nacho bar. It's all you can eat and every man for himself. Salmagundi is homier and even a bit trendy, with such exotic soups as tortilla, wild rice and country cheddar; they change daily. Salmagundi also has a dessert bar where you can indulge in such goodies as trifle, apple brown betty and chocolate mousse.

CHINESE

* 3-6-9 Shanghai, 613 N. Euclid St., Anaheim. (714) 635-8369. Open daily except Sundays from 11:30 a.m.; Mondays through Thursdays to 9:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays to 10 p.m. $

One of the best small Chinese restaurants in the heavily ethnic San Gabriel Valley, 3-6-9 Shanghai has opened this storefront sister in an Anaheim shopping mall, bringing nearly all of its popular dishes. Handmade breads and savory dumpling preparations excel here along with such exotic cold appetizers as tea-smoked chicken and braised baby bamboo. The restaurant is cheap and basic; tell them to tread lightly on the MSG. The steamed pork with rice is a revelation.

MEXICAN

* El Ranchito, 1351-H Beach Blvd., La Habra. (213) 943-6020. Open Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays to 10 p.m. ; Sundays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. $

* Manana, 17171 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley. (714) 963-8673. Open Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. ; Fridays and Saturdays to midnight; Sundays from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. $

* La Salsa, Irvine Ranch Farmers Market, Fashion Island, Newport Beach, (714) 640-4289; and Santa Ana MainPlace, (714) 543-9524. Open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; weekends from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. $

Everyone, it seems, has his secret Mexican haunt, where the chilis are hotter or the tortillas fresher. El Ranchito is the place for carnitas, chunked pork marinated in lemon and garlic, and for some of the most toothsome handmade tortillas in the area. Larry Cano's Manana specializes in fajitas, giant portions that easily feed two, loaded with trimmed meats, red and yellow peppers, tomatoes and carmelized onion. Best of all is La Salsa, a humble food stand dispensing antojitos, soft tacos, quesadillas and Mexican sandwiches. Meats here are impeccable, accompaniments rapturous.

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