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Quiet, not ultra expensive lunch, near UC Irvine campus

I grew up in Irvine (2nd grade thru 12, college and master's degree at UCI) so I know the area pretty well. But now that I've gotten my MBA and work in the area, I've yet to find a good lunch place that is nearby. I work at Jamboree/MacArthur, across from the new Lexus dealership.

I'm getting tired of hitting Wienerschnitzel, Burger King, Quiznos or Taco Bell everyday. Any nearby recommendations?

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  1. Pascal's Epicurie is just around the corner.

    Taco Rosa down the street in Newport off of Bonita Canyon

    A bunch of places in UCI Marketplace

    Cafe R & D in Fashion Island, but it can be a wait if you've got time constraints

    2 Replies
    1. re: torta basilica

      Thanks for the suggestions! Pascal's is supernice, but from the online menu it looked like lunch was in the $20-$30 range per person?

      Today being a rainy day, I think Taco Rosa sounds like a plan. What would you suggest ordering there?

      1. re: kingkong5

        Pascal's has a take-out section & a few tables - you won't spend anywhere near that.

        Taco Rosa - I also like any of their blackened items - esp. the calamari. It's all good - you really can't go wrong. More plusses - salsa & escabeche bar!

    2. What about Panini on MacArthur and Birch?

      1. Both of the below locations on MacArthur/Main

        I just recently went to Agora Churrascaria (Brazilian BBQ) and had a nice lunch there. Although it was company paid, their lunch isn't super expensive at $21/pp with endless meat brought to your table and salad bar. It's definitely quiet but bring some co-workers who love to eat meat and indulge once in awhile :)


        In the same plaza as Agora is Russell's Seafood Palace where they have chinese lunch specials ranging from the $6.75-$8.25. I heard from a friend that they have good dim sum here, but I have not tried it yet.


        1. There is a Lee Sandwiches, which is fast, casual and CHEAP right in the University Centre... :)


          1. The options do open up quite a bit if you expand your driving distance to at least 5 miles. But here are some good options within 2 miles.

            Kitayama's for decent Japanese/sushi.

            Chicago's Best for great Italian beef sandwiches and the best French fries in the area (similar to In N Out fries, but bigger and tastier).

            If you're willing to take a 5 mile drive, there are a large number of choices on 17th St in Costa Mesa: Beach Pit BBQ, Los Primos Cantina, Pizza Bakery, Frenzy Sushi, Plums Cafe

            Taleo Mexican Grill for nice upscale Mexican/Southwestern.

            Thai Spice for excellent pad thai or pad see ewe noodles. In the same shopping center is Haute Links, for Polish or Italian sausages and bratwursts.

            Onotria for some excellent Italian fusion cuisine.

            Also forgot to mention Philly's Best for some great Philly cheesesteaks and hoagies. Also, SuperMex is good quality Mexican food. The L&L Hawaiian chain is next door for some decent plate lunches.

            1. Taco Rosa:

              The flor de calabaza quesadilla is a MUST ORDER.

              I also love the taco alambre and the house-made churros.

              1. A bit of a drive, but I'm a proponent of Pho Bac Ky on the corner of University and Michelson.

                1. You've got great suggestions.

                  Here's one that hasn't been mentioned yet.

                  California Fish Grill on Barranca and Culver.

                  Great grilled fish plates for less than $10. Casual, but not fast-food.


                  1. I think that my office must be next door to yours. Let me begn by saying that none of the reccomendations below are going to knock your socks off culinarily speaking. These are the best, non-chain, restaurants for lunch in our area (IMO).

                    My go-to for a quick lunch is Arnie's Manhattan Deli on Birch Street because you can always get in and the corned beef is great. (1660 Dove Street).

                    I just went to a newish Asian buffett called Hokkaido (4220 Scott Drive) for lunch yesterday. For $9.99 it was not bad, but I am not going to say that it was good. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/.... I say Asian because there is marginal sushi and marginal Chinese food all mixed up into one gigantic buffett. For $9.99 it is at least interesting and non-expensive.

                    Clayton Shirley's BBQ up MacArthur is a nice quick lunch when you are in the mood for BBQ. (4341 MacArthur


                    Next door to that center, the Radisson Hotel's restaurant Tiffany's http://www.radissonnewportbeach.com/d... does a good job and tries hard to vary the menu.

                    Both Cafe Panini and Ten have really good food and aren't impossible to get it for lunch.

                    I haven't tried the new Indian place Saagar (4248 Martingale) yet.

                    I took a client to lunch at Hamburger Mary's (4221 Dolphin Striker Way) and it was unique and above-average bar food, but not particularly quiet. Be advised that since it changed from Trophies, it has taken on a much more "flamboyant" theme. It is not a bad thing, it is just something to be aware of should you take a business associate there. When our bill was presented in a red, high-heeled pump, my client looked at me a little bit funny.

                    Mezzanine Restauarnt on the first floor in the Newport Gateway towers (next door to you?) has some interesting dishes and specials and is rarely crowded. They also do Murder Mystery dinners called the Gourmet Detective http://www.gourmetdetective.com/index...".

                    The food court at Jamboree Promenade (Jamboree and Dupont) has good Mexican and Gyros and the Food Court at Main and Cartwright (mentioned above with Chicago's Best) has lots of good choices for a quick lunch.

                    If you have more time and money to spend, Bistango is probably my top reco for this area. http://www.bistango.com/ The $17.75 two-course lunch is a favorite of mine with garlic soup to start and California Chicken Salad, Seared Diver Scallops, Crab and Lobster Cake, Pizzas, Calzone, Fettuccine, Fusilli, Potato Gnocchi or Penne as choices for main entree. I like the California Chicken Salad. Bistango's owners will be opening up a new restaurant called Kimera in the center where Equinox Fitness just went in.

                    Two more and then I need to go to lunch because all of this talk is making me hungry:
                    Vessia Ristorante http://www.vessia.com/ at the center at Barranca and Culver for upscale Italian can't be beat.

                    Stonefire Grill (next door) http://www.stonefiregrill.com/SF.html for decidedly more downscale but good and cheap food. Their small BBQ Chopped salad feeds my wife and I for two meals each.

                    Good Luck!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Patrick Strader


                      Thank you that was awesome! Great information in your post. I started working here a couple months ago, I'm in the Bank of the West building and I work for CB Richard Ellis. So if we're not neighbors, we're probably your landlord, LOL.

                      Today I played it safe and went with a coworker down to Mitsuwa on Paularino/Bristol for ramen noodles. It was great. I'm really interested in the Deli suggestion (didn't know it was there), as well as Tiffany's. Regardless, it gives me a lot more to try than Wienerschnitzel and Taco Bell.

                      1. re: kingkong5

                        No problem. Despite all of the choices above, I went to Champagnes Market (Bison and MacArthur) for their Turkey Meatball sandwich. I am constantly amazed by all of the good food they have there. BTW - I work with CB on the brokerage side all the time. Say Hi to Snell & Schneider for me.

                        1. re: Patrick Strader

                          try their turkey chilli, it's great!

                    2. I was just about to chime in that if it were me, I'd take a short ride to the glorious Bristol Street corridor where you'll find the Mitsuwa food court, T.K. Burgers, Aloha Hawaiian BBQ, and Wahoo's on the strip and its perimeter. Even some other just slightly pricier gems like Native Foods and Gypsy Den are right there. To save time, you could even access the 73 and 55 freeways and exit/enter at either Baker or Paularino.

                      My other thought, if it were me, would be to sneak up Jamboree to the Park Place shopping center at Michelson. There is a Mother's Market that surely must have sandwiches and salads available. If that doesn't work, there's probably other places in the same center that would work...I was there only once in my life, more than 2 years ago, so someone else here needs to help with specific ideas.

                      1. I will give everything mentioned here a try as soon as I can! Today, a coworker and I ventured out to nearby Taco Rosa. It's very hard to find. I had mapquested the directions, plus my car has the navigation. Finding the center is not hard, but you really have to look to find the Taco Rosa, it's tucked away in one of the corners.

                        The service was outstanding! They were really thoughtful, for example, when changing plates but not changing silverware, they brought a napkin to put your knife and fork on while they took your plate away. At other mexican food places I've been, they just put the utensils on the table, yuk!

                        The food was just absolutely fabulous. We split the zucchini blossom quesadilla as an appetizer, but they also gave us a tostada and mini chimichanga as an amuse. The zucchini tasted so fresh, especially on the freshly made corn tortillas.

                        My coworker ordered the carnitas, and I got the blackened calamari tostada. He was very happy with his order, and mine was just huge! The calamari was as fantastic as the reviews on chowhound have said, although I wish there was a little more of it. Total damage was about $35 for the two of us, not bad for a very nice lunch in such an upscale restaurant.

                        Thanks for the suggestions, I'll let you know what we try next.

                        1. The soups at Taco Rosa are also amazing (my favorite is the tomato). If you can make it to Costa Mesa (probably via the backbay, that's how i used to get from CM to UCI), try Picnics or Avanti Cafe on 17th. Picnics has great sandwiches, quiches, salads, etc. It's across the street from Peets, in the same area as H&R. It's a cheese shops/deli run by a great cook and his wife. Avanti is near Staples and Winchells (it's vegetarian, but has an amazing selection).

                          1. There's always Lee's Sandwiches, for decent Banh Mi and other quick Vietnamese-with-a-french accent goodies (the coffee, yum!)

                            1. You have to try chicago's best. I believe that they will deliver in your area too. My company have hired them for catering and they are awesome. they are right off jamboree and main in the plaza food court.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: wingnut19

                                That is really close! I've never been there before, what would you recommend I order?

                                1. re: kingkong5

                                  The Italian beef sandwiches are a must at Chicago's Best, as are the French fries, which are freshly made in a similar style to In N Out's fries, but they are so much better. Some of the best fries I've had anywhere in LA/OC so far. It's been awhile since I've ordered the Italian sausage, but I remember it being pretty good.

                              2. I apologize if this has already been suggested--I only skimmed the previous twenty posts--but right there in the University plaze is Britta's. Rather inconspicuous, but a nice find. French bistro food and an interesting wine list. Was introduced to me by a wine-broker friend of mine who calls on Britta quite a bit, (and whose wines tend to dominate their list, hapilly). It's expensive, but not really cheap, either. I would be a good place to take clients for something nice, but still casual and not ostentatious or stuffy.


                                2 Replies
                                1. re: georgempavlov

                                  I second Britta's for breakfast or lunch. Britta could not be nicer, the food could not be better, and good for us, but bad for her, it is never hard to get in.

                                  1. re: georgempavlov

                                    Oops, I meant to say that it's "NOT expensive, but not really cheap, either."

                                  2. For vegetarians, the sweet potato fries is a must-eat at this resto!

                                    The Veggie Grill, 4213 Campus Dr., Irvine.
                                    (949) 509-0003

                                    1. Pho Bac on Barranca....best Pho in Irvine

                                      1. I agree the Italian beef and fries are really good. also the steak, Meatball, and field greens salad are good choices. i believe that the owner of chicago's best is like only 20 years old. so that is a kinda cool story.