Lunch Suggestions 405/Jamboree
I'm in Irvine for a new job and will be here 3 days a week going forward. I don't know much about food out here and need some help from OC Hounds. I'm willing to drive within a 5 mile radius to get some good lunch type food not too expensive. As a baseline I would like to find places similar to Pita Kitchen (middle eastern), Poquito Mas, Joan's on 3rd, Honey's Kettle (fried chicken) and sushi.
There's a sushi/Japanese cooked food restaurant in the Gelsons center off of Jeffrey just east of the 405. I can never remember the name and I live in Sherman Oaks but my mom lives in Irvine and we eat there every now and again. Not spectacular, but some ok and affordable lunch combos, seems to get a good crowd. It's in the area by the Coffee Bean.
Try Wholesome Choice, which is on Culver and Michelson. It's a Middle Eastern supermarket with a food court inside. The Persian counter is where you want to be.
For pasta, you simply have to try Franco's Pasta Cucina, which is in a food court on Michelson, near the airport. Simply the best pasta I've ever had, served cheap and cooked to order by a genuine Italian chef.
Never mind, they open at 11am. I had to laugh when I figured out where it was and pulled into the parking lot. I hate this strip mall and have always passed it by on the way to the airport. This soulless, blindingly white concrete mess is exactly what those Teva wearing yippies in Berkeley mean when they scream about how strip malls are ruining America. They would have had a heart attack if they saw how much styrofoam is used inside the mall...
Has anyone tried the gnocchi? I got the lobster ravioli and they were great but I should have stuck to my guns and got the gnocchi. And I dunno what people dislike about the bread. It was freshly toasted (okay I was their first customer) and went great with the light tomato cream sauce. A couple of regulars asked and got an extra piece of toasted bread. The "salad" is a couple of shreds of romaine, waste of a styrofoam cup. I still can't believe that lunch was $8. Yeah, it was served on styrofoam with plastic forks and napkins and absolutely zero ambiance, I mean zero. However, it was not the kind of lunch I normally have while sitting on a plastic chair next to a Blimpies. I'll be back again and again the rest of this week. Thanks again, guys!
As I ate my lunch, I saw a stream of guys getting orders from this place but not one female. The gals went with the other food court places. Is this normal?
--for the record, I want to say i normally have nothing against strip malls. some of the best eating is at strip malls. i just hate this one.
Chicago's Best, on Main St, just north of Jamboree. Great Italian beef sandwiches, with the best French fries I've found in OC, along with their daily specials, which have been pastrami, tri-tip, and chicken pesto sandwiches on the days that I visited.
Also a Philly's Best for great Philly cheese steaks, south of the Culver exit, on Barranca Pkwy.
Not sure of any good fried chicken options nearby, but Zubie's Chicken Coop in Newport Beach has great broasted chicken.
js, we are neighbors in a tough spot... I tend to frequent Francos, as metioned above as well as Baja Fish Tacos, again in a food court, on Jamboree and Dupont (behind the Daily Grill and Melting Pot). Mother's Market (Michelson & Jamboree) makes a great tuna melt, along with some other healthier fare in their cafe. I hit Houstons (same location as Mother's) for a good cheeseburger, since TK Burger is just a bit to far. For sushi, I would head down MacArthur to Wasa (The Bluffs Shopping Center), they always have fresh selections and do a great job, but a tad bit pricey. 930 Sushi on PCH in Newport may be a bit far, but good quality again at a bit better price. Welcome and happy hunting!
My recommendations for that area are:
Shibucho for sushi (or chirashi)
Wholesome Choice food court for Persian food
Baja Fish Taco (the one on Bristol is better IMO)
re: I got nothin
I used to work in Irvine and I miss Taleo SO much, more than any other place I went to. It's upscale Mexican but also with some other random dishes. My coworkers would always order this special they always had that was ahi tuna with wasabi on a bed of rice. I happened to love their crispy chicken sandwich with fries. It's a pretty nice sit-down restaurant, also with nice outdoor seating, and it's pretty moderately priced - my chicken sandwich was $9 and filet mignon tacos one coworker loved were I think about $12. If you go with anyone else, get the Queso Fundido with chips to share - yummy warm cheese dip appetizer - SO good! Their guacamole is also really good.
That is a gorgeous menu! But what is THIS doing on a menu labeled "Comedor Mexicano"?:
Tuna Tostar: Diced sushi-grade tuna tossed in cilantro wasabi soy dressing, topped with micro-greens and served on ciabatta toast or romaine hearts spread with avocado-wasabi.
Sounds really good, but....
Within 5 miles you have a lot of options.
I had a similar problem (new to the same area, needing lunch) about 3-4 years ago. I queried the hounds, and I got a lot of good suggestions. I also went to a number of lunches with colleagues. I no longer work there every day, but I go there often. Here are some of my findings:
There are a few concentrations of restaurants. (1) The MacArthur corridor (near John Wayne Airport), (2) South Coast Plaza and surrounding, (3) up (North on) Jamboree toward the 5, and also along the 5 from Jamboree. There are also some restaurants in mini-malls around, and some of them are good.
El Torito Grill – Main Street off of MacArthur – Just a little better than El Torito a half mile away. Typical American Mexican food.
McCormick & Schmick – Next to El Torito Grill on Main - They have good fish and a pretty good chowder.
Gulliver’s – MacArthur between the 405 and Michelson - This is a meat house…prime rib, etc. They have a good prime rib salad for lunch, and it includes a lot of meat and a lot of salad. And they have a lot of meat dishes. Did I mention meat?
IHOP – Across the street from Gulliver’s - The International House of Pancakes serves lunch. Think Denny’s.
El Torito – Same parking lot as Gulliver’s - Standard sit-down American Mexican food.
Bruegger’s Bagels – MacArthur and Birch – They make the bagels fresh. This is a very good place for a bagel before work. The coffee sucks, but next door is a Starbucks. I’ve seen a few places in OC where there is a Starbucks and a Bruegger’s in the same mini-mall Good match.
Clayton’s Barbecue – A little further South on MacArthur (past Birch) – It’s food. Nothing more.
Pleasant Peasant – On Martingale, near Dove and Birch – This is a delightful place. If you ask for it, they usually have a very good gazpacho. It’s not on the menu. I get it with the pate and cheese plate, and it’s a delicious lunch.
Tapas – Same shopping center as Pleasant Peasant – Sucks.
Arnie’s Deli – Same shopping center on Martingale – Typical deli. I’ve never been blown away by anything here, but it’s fine.
Yi Dynasty – Same shopping center – This is pretty good Korean food. They have a good bulgogi (Korean bbq beef) plate and several other dishes are surprisingly well done for not being in K-town. The panchan is pretty pedestrian.
Benihana – Corner of Birch and Dove – Place gets packed. I have no idea why. Violently ho hum.
Pascal – Bristol, just west of Jamboree – I’ve had the best dinner ever in this restaurant. I’ve never had lunch here, but I will vouch for it anyway. It’s French fine dining. Not cheap, but quite good.
Prego – On Von Karman, about a block north of Michelson – Expensive Italian. Go here with your boss.
Il Fornaio – Von Karman, just south of the 405 – Italian with nice patio dining. Try to take the seat at the table that looks out. You see all the hotties going in and out of the gym next door (wink wink).
Bistango – Von Karman at Campus – This is a trendy restaurant that is trying to be what it’s not. The food is pretty good, but not worth the price.
SOUTH COAST PLAZA
Habana – Bristol about a mile south of the 405 in the Anti Mall – This is a very good Cuban restaurant. The ropa vieja is good, as are the pressed sandwiches.
Memphis – Next to Habana - This is a bar/restaurant that serves a pretty good lunch. The waitresses are pierced and tattooed (reminds me of home in Hollywood) and they have a very good burger, pulled pork sandwich and meatloaf. Salads are also good.
Mitae Ramen – On St. Clair street, across Bristol from Memphis – This place is a real find. It’s tiny, and usually there aren’t many customers. Get the noodle soup. You get a huge bowl of soup with the meat of your choice and lots of tasty noodles. I’ve never been able to finish it. And it’s cheap.
Turner’s New Zealand – Anton about a block west of Bristol – This is a chi-chi place that serves a very good rack of lamb. It’s expensive, though.
Nordstrom Café – This is actually in the Nordstrom department store in SCP. It’s upstairs on the third floor behind the women’s casual wear department – They have a variety of sandwiches, pastas and salads. It's kind of like Joan's on 3rd. You order your food and they make it right in front of you (unless it’s a pizza or something, then they bring it to you). It’s all very fresh stuff, and tasty. And guess what the male to female ratio is….. great sightseeing.
Greek Island Grill – NW corner of Bristol and Sunflower – This place is great. It's along the lines of Pita Kitchen. I like the gyro sandwich. Don’t get the combo plate, the sides aren’t very good. The pita is fresh, the filling is delicious. If you need more food, get a few dolmades. You can sit outside on the patio and they bring your food.
Daphnes – NE corner of Bristol and Sunflower – Yuck.
Ferdussi – Corner of MacArthur and Bristol – This is a great choice for lunch. It’s a Persian buffet restaurant. The food is always fresh, and on Fridays they do a “Royal” spread that includes more stuff. The other days are good as well, but Fridays are special. The nice thing about this restaurant is that since it’s a buffet, you can get in and out very quickly. You don’t have to wait for anything. Don’t order from the menu. It takes a long time and you don’t get the variety you find at the buffet.
Oh, and if you’re more than 50 pounds overweight, there’s a Claim Jumper on Alton and Culver. It’s about 2 miles east of Jamboree.
That’s a start. I’m sure you’ll find others. Please write them in so I can try them.
re: lil mikey
Great list, lil mikey.
Just a note: Mitae Ramen closed earlier this year. Alternatives for good ramen nearby are Santouka in the Mitsuwa marketplace, Mentatsu Noodle House, and Oki Doki.
There is also a Wahoo's Fish Tacos nearby Memphis, and an Aloha Hawaiian BBQ across the street from the Wahoo's if you're in the mood for a decent plate lunch.
And the correct name for the BBQ place is Clayton Shurley's BBQ. I would pass on this place, probably the worst BBQ in OC. If you're craving BBQ, take the drive up to Tulsa Rib in Orange or down to Ribs on the Run in Laguna Hills. Other decent alternatives for BBQ, in addition to the Claim Jumper chain, are Johnny Rebs and the Rib Trader in Orange, but these are probably about 10-12 miles away, just off the 55 freeway on the Chapman exit.
I second the food court in the Mitsuwa marketplace. Lots of choices: Maestro's for tasty omelettes...Tomato Tomato for pasta...Santouka for some rich and satisfying shio ramen...chinese food, too. The one next to Santouka always has a long line, and the portions are generous. Warning: bring cash. Most of them only take cash...and there's no cash back option at Mitsuwa (in case you wanted to buy something there and try to get cash for the food court...like I did...)
There's an In N Out right across the street from UC Irvine on Campus Dr., if you like burgers.
When I'm in Irvine, I always like to swing by Taco Mesa in Costa Mesa. They have great agua frescas, a good salsa bar, and fresh food, for under ten bucks.
Wholesome Choice also gets my vote. It's a Persian grocery store on Culver and Michelson, about 1 mile away from UCI. They have a good international food court.
If you want more of a sit-down experience, check out one of the Persian restaurants (Caspian or Darband) on Culver right near the 5 freeway exit. There's also a decent Korean place in that same parking lot, but I don't know the name of it.
For a fancier Persian restaurant, check out Darya, across the street from South Coast Plaza (405 exit Bristol) in Costa Mesa.
Enjoy Irvine. :)
Since not many people focused on the 405/Jamboree I will. There is a center right there that has Houstons Steakhouse for a nicer place, Whaoos fish tacos for casual, and Mothers for healthy and different. Also right down the street you are near the UCI campus which has the Kabob House, In-N-Out, Steel Head Brewery, etc. That whole parking lot is a farmers market from 9-1p.m on Saturdays.
Thanks for the feedback everybody. I'm going to try and hit up every restaurant since I'll have plenty of lunches. Grat list Lil Mikey- great input.
Whenever I'm in that neck of the woods, I head over to the corner of Michelson and University for some moderately priced Vietnamese at Pho Bac Ky. Not the best by any stretch of the imagination, but the price is nice and the bowl is hearty.
India Cook house has a good Indian lunch.
Jamillah Garden: Chinese Islamic at 2512 Walnut.
I think the best bbq in the area is at the newly-opened Lucille's on Jamboree and Barranca.
For Good Chinese, there's Sam Woo's, next to the 99 Ranch Market on Culver(?)
Mr. S - it is a tough spot but it sounds like if you can drive within 10 minutes there are a lot of options. Here are some of the places I've tried based off everybody's suggestions and places I seeked on my own
Chick-fil-a - they don't have any in LA and love this place.
Wasa - went there for sushi and was very pleased.
Houstons - always reliable.
Wahoos - go there too often.
Next on my list are Taleo, Franco, Greek Island Grill and some of the places near South Coast plaza.