Longtime East County residents used to complain bitterly about the shortage of good places to eat around here. That started changing about two decades ago with a huge population influx and the restaurants that followed them. People who eat out a lot are the big benefactors.

There now is a wide variety of food choices, everything from American, European, Asian and south of the border. Locals were queried at random about where they dine out to get good food at a reasonable price.

"Mac's Old House is an oldie. It's been in Antioch for ages and still is the area's best bargain," said Oakley's Ted Medina. "I usually have a steak or prime rib and my wife has a fish dish. We share our food and get stuffed at dinner for about $20."

Sydnie Carr of Antioch likes Rubio's in Brentwood. "Their fish tacos are fresh and excellent," she said. "If you go on Tuesdays after 2 o'clock they cost only $1.50. My mom and dad love the place too, even if it is a little noisy."

Vic Stewart's is more upscale, but Diana Robles of Discovery Bay still thinks it's a bargain. "I go for lobster and steak or catfish," she said. Their food is outstanding. I love the carrot dish that's soaked in Jack Daniels. A good dinner for two costs about $40."

"Lone Tree Thai is inexpensive and a great lunch," said Martine Nunez of Brentwood. "I really go for their red curry dish. You get a lot of food for under $10."

One of the newer restaurants, BJ's, is the choice of Brentwood's Jessica Twomey. "Its family style atmosphere brings us there every week. You can't beat their gluten-free pizza. As a second choice I'd list the Asian Cafe in Brentwood. It's the area's best Asian food."

"In-N-Out Burger on Lone Tree Way is tops for a quick, light, healthy and very inexpensive lunch," said Evan Kocher of Oakley. "Everything is fresh. The burger patty comes with lettuce, onions, and a big slice of tomato. Lunch for two with Cokes comes to less than $9."

Rick Stevens of Oakley has been a fan of Pittsburg's New Mecca Cafe for the past 45 years. "The dish of the house is Chilaquiles. I've eaten there almost every week since I was a child," he said. "Also, the owner does a lot of good things for the community. My second choice is the Red Caboose in Antioch. You get lots of food at a low price, and they have good two-for-one dinners."

For breakfast, Nicole Coccimiglio of Oakley picks Lumpy's Diner. "The food is excellent, priced well, and it's a very pleasant atmosphere," she said. "I love their biscuits and gravy and the crispy hash browns. Our family of four eats to our fill for less than $25."

Contact Ed Arnow at BrentwoodBuzz@aol.com.

"Five of us have a great dinner for $30 at La Costa in Oakley," said Crystal Whitehead of Oakley. "We've been doing it for the past 18 years. They have good food, excellent service and the price is right. We like their beef burritos, beef tacos and the shrimp ceviche."

Deborah Martin of Brentwood is a fan of Chili's on Lone Tree Way. "The lunch specials are excellent. Those dishes are priced cheaper, a little smaller but still plenty of food. They have really good pastas. I'm there at least a couple of times a week."

Contact Ed Arnow at BrentwoodBuzz@aol.com.