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Apr 2, 2002 08:07 PM

Irvine (Orange County) suggestions

  • c

My mother is taking a weekend trip to Irvine, California in early May. She will be flying into Orange County (John Wayne) Airport, renting a car and staying at the Hyatt Regency Irvine near the airport, on Jamboree Road.

Mom is an adventurous diner. She loves fine restaurants and likes to try new ones, but when traveling alone, she often takes her meals in the hotel.

Are there any restaurants -- not too far from her hotel -- that you would recommend she try? (She will have a rental car, but I don't want her to risk getting lost in an unfamiliar city.) Of course, it would also have to be a place where she would feel comfortable dining alone, and one which takes reservations. It doesn't matter whether it is very expensive or inexpensive, dressy or casual, as long as it is interesting and has excellent food.

Saturday evening is already planned, but she needs suggestions for Friday and/or Sunday evening. And perhaps lunch on Saturday as well.

Any suggestions?

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  1. TROQUET in SC Plaza, PINOT PROVENCE , PASCAL'S in NB, THE RITZ in FASHION ISLAND. Many more suggestions are available upon request.

    4 Replies
    1. re: russkar

      Please, more suggestions! I am a big fan of your posts on this board, as well as the OC one.

      1. re: Russkar_Fan

        Thanks, everyone has a hobby and mine is dining all the time, night and day. I'm in LA half the week and live in NB so I try to dine somewhere new every other day. In Laguna I like Javier's , Savoury's, Cafe Zoolu, Vertical. My previous post are really my top-end favorites, so hopefully that will keep you busy dining for a while.

        1. re: russkar

          In Laguna try Partner's Bistro, extremely consistent, excellent service, convivial ambiance, creative dishes with an often-present Asian twist. The scallops and halibut are always excellent. Be sure to save room for the chocolate souffle.

          Also, Hapi Sushi in Laguna is excellent. Sato, the owner, Sota, the main sushi chef, and Mario, the waiter/busboy, will give you a great experience. Convivial atmosphere full of 8-year regulars and always great tunes playing. Tell them I (Kara) sent you -- and they'll enjoy taking good care of you.

      2. re: russkar

        Thank you so much, everyone! Yes, please do keep the suggestions coming. I am taking notes. (I especially appreciate knowing that Mom will probably be safe in venturing outside the hotel!)

        Would you please describe the food and atmosphere at the resturants you mentioned? In the meantime, I will look for websites. Having these names to start with is helpful and most appreciated!

      3. w
        wow i'm a dog

        Unfortunately, Irvine is not a mecca for fine diners, nor "adventurous" dining. I think that might be outlawed there, actually. We're talking conservative central. You have your standard chains; the best of which is probably Ruth Chris near the hotel you mentioned. Growing up in the next city over, I can say confidently that I fear for your Mom. I am very open to new ideas though - someone PLEASE surprise us.

        This restaurant seems promising though - see link to a post below. The menu can be found on their (rudimentary) site at:

        Your Mom will be very safe driving around OC, especially in Irvine - no worries there.


        1 Reply
        1. re: wow i'm a dog

          Sorry to say that I was just at Gustav's and it wasn't a STELLAR experience, unfortunately. It's strength is still its Holiday feasts.

        2. OK, I'll play Concierge.

          There are many choices near the Irvine Hyatt. South Coast Plaza has several. Take a look at their website below.
          Troquet that Russ mentioned is there. SCP from her hotel is a simple short drive. Jamboree and Main Street (where the hoel is) take Main St. toward the airport. Main Street to Sunflower, left (it's the only way you can go) and then to Bristol where SCP lives. South Coast plaza has two sections. Bristol Street address and Bear Street address (both access from Sunflower). Also, maybe The Rainforest Café for lunch (decor is kind of like a Disney ride). At the Bear Street side (right next to the floral bridge connecting both sides of the street) there is a restaurant called Bangkok Four (Thai food). We have always enjoyed lunch there. The link is (Point to “RESTAURANTS”, then click on “options” for a categorized list or “restaurant listings” for descriptions. See also,

          Also, if she'd like to stay at the hotel to take her meal, there is a service in the area by the name of Restaurants-On-The-Run that will pick up and deliver orders from many restaurants in the area. I would definitely go out, though. It's safe, it's beautiful, and there are many restaurants within a simple driving radius. Jamboree goes to Pacific Coast Highway, Newport Beach, and continues over to the bridge to Balboa Island. Russ suggested Pascal’s (1000 Bristol St. North) and that is Jamboree towards the beach to and right turn to the second little strip center (Cocos on the corner in that hidden little strip center
          Finally, I would suggest a Saturday lunch at Jimmy Z in Irvine (opened about 1 ½ year). It is very near the UCI campus (a beautiful arborous campus) she might stroll through after lunch. Interesting, excellent food and service; also outside patio. Also, it’s in a residential area rather than hustle bustle touristy;
          Jimmy Z Grill; Address: 4517 Campus Drive , Irvine, CA 92612; 949-737-6700; 949-737-6702 fax



          12 Replies
          1. re: kc girl

            Like your suggestions except for the Rainforest Cafe. If you're at SCP, there's a Pascal cafe on the bridge right outside of Macy's, for lunch. I personally can't imagine an adult going into the Rainforest Cafe voluntarily unless being held hostage by a screaming 5 year old. The food is nothing special and the noise level is deafening. Advil should be complimentary with every meal.

            Another suggestion is Oyster's, on PCH just south of MacArthur in Corona del Mar, also a fairly short drive from the hotel. Pacific rim cuisine, piano bar, all in all a pleasant place. It's a bit more lively than some other places, so might be a good place to dine alone and people watch.

            1. re: LBQT

              Cafe Pascal is under siege of a horribly cocky waiter; I don't recommend the experience until he's gone. The Cafe is simply a pit stop in my opinion (not a bad "pit" -- just a good enough quick place - but, nothing special) While food by Pascal is never bad, he needs to make some changes at his Cafe. For one, his menu says the Nicoise Salad is made with butter lettuce. It is most often served with mixed greens and is not at all like the one he serves at Pascal's on Bristol. But, hey, it's a sidewalk cafe next to the parking structure and positioned over the trash bins. I'm sure the weekend live music is a distraction.

              1. re: kc girl

                Ditto on Pascals, and I must have had the cocky waiter you are talking about! The food is overpriced and all outside dining. So if the weather is all but warm you will be chilly outside. The food is only average.

              2. re: LBQT
                torta basilica

                Ditto the Rainforest Cafe comments - truly horrendous food in tacky loud atmosphere - and people wait with their strollers all lined up for hours to be seated - yuck! Sitting in the bar at Oysters is fun - I love their gumbo & grilled artichokes!

                Would also suggest Cafe Jardin in the Sherman Gardens in Corona del Mar - gorgeous private gardens tucked away right off of PCH - just took my in-laws there & they loved it. Food is from Pascal's (thankfully snotty waiter doesn't come with...) Admission is free on Mondays & you'll most probably need a reservation. Yummy walnut bread!

                For fun & now that it's re-opened, Ruby's on the end of the Balboa pier is just plain fun & amazing views if roof-top patio is open. Service is a little slow up there & you have to watch for dive-bombing birds, but still cool sitting out there in the middle of the ocean with great views back of the coast enjoying a Super Burger.

                For spectacular views on a clear day & good food, I also like the Grill at Pelican Hill Golf Club on the Newport Coast.

                None of the above are too far & well worth the drive.

                1. re: torta basilica
                  torta basilica

                  Just thought of another - lunch on the patio at Lex & 59th Cafe - at Bloomingdales, Fashion Island - great salads & even better people watching!

              3. re: kc girl

                Thank you so much, everyone! I am printing this information, looking up websites and getting maps. Mom will be so pleased (and suddenly, I want to go with her)!

                1. re: kc girl
                  David "Zeb" Cook

                  There are also a couple of nice Persian places -- Darya and Ferducci rignt near South Coast Plaza. It's been a while since I've been to either, though. Any reports from folks?

                  Oh, and isn't there a good sushi place right near Yaohan?

                  Zeb (former OC'er)

                  1. re: David "Zeb" Cook

                    Yaohan Market changed their name about 2 years ago to Mitsuka(?) and the Sushi restaurant is ANGOTEI(?) next to it which is not very good. Try Taiko in Irvine instead and plan to wait in a very long line.

                    1. re: russkar

                      Also, in the same parking lot at Taiko, there is a new Chinese restaurant that is quite a dining experience. It is called The China Garden and the menu is arguably the most extensive and authentic in Orange County.

                      Taiko and The China Garden are in a little condo mall on Jeffrey next to the 5 freeway. From her Irvine Hyatt hotel, go Main Street (south?) (away from the airport) to Jeffrey, left to just before Walnut (3-4 miles?). It's on that corner lot and China Garden is visible from the street.

                      1. re: kc girl

                        Taiko food is terrible. Quantity over quality - its not at all authentic, you never see any Japanese eating in there. I'd recommend Angotei for those who enjoy true Japanese sushi.

                      2. re: russkar

                        Oops, you're right, Russ, it's just Mitsuwa. The utsuwa no yakata is the ceramics place inside. We're having a Kimono show this weekend and needed serving trays.

                      3. re: David "Zeb" Cook

                        A Persian friend of mine thinks Ferducci is really good - or Dayra.

                        The sushi place next to Mitsuwa No Yakata (fka Yaohan) (on Paularino at Bristol) looks like it's undergoing some construction or something. Mitsuwa is a rather interesting grocery store. It's kind of like a little Tokyo in there - massage chairs for test and sale, Japanese ceramic goods, five or six oriental fast food counters, a green tea store; as well as the rather large Oriental grocery store.

                    2. Kitayama in Newport Beach, about 5 minutes from the Hyatt is a branch of a Japanese restaurant chain and is very good. Nicely done interior, kimonoed waitresses, very good food. Just over in Irvine is Prego Ristorante, excellent Italian, very nice dining area with gracious service. Both are reasonably priced, but not cheap. Another place a bit farther in Irvine is El Cholo Cantina, a branch of the famous El Cholo restaurant in LA. Enjoy.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: allen

                        Kitayama is not just very good, it is considered the best Japanese Restaurant in Orange County. Driving there can be tricky because of the one-way street situation of Bristol Street North and Bristol Street South. I don't know if maps show it correctly.

                        Prego at lunchtime during the work week is very, very busy. It is among at least 7 high-rise office buildings within 1 mile of it. Same for Il Fornaio across the street on VonKarman.

                        El Cholo Cantina is on Jeffrey at Alton and I would not consider it the best Mexican, although some of their items are very good and the decor is home-like and festive. Some of the servers are lacking (ignorant?), but not indignant. Just keep on them by asking for what you want - anyone server that passes your table will help. My neighbor likes that place better than I ever will.