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Jul 21, 2009 09:03 PM

Opah, Houstons, Gulfstream, Bandera or other in Irvine/Newport Beach

Hi all,

I'm envisioning a couple semi-special occasion dinners with an out-of-town guest at either Opah or Houstons in Irvine, or Gulfstream or Bandera in Newport Beach. I have selected these four places because they appear to have a good general selection of different foods for a middle-of-the-road American palate -- the exact palate possessed by my guest.

I have been once to Gulfstream, but never to any of the other three restaurants, nor do I have any firsthand stories from friends. I have read of many pros and cons of all. Gulfstream I remember as rather expensive, extremely loud, and overly Newport scene-y. So maybe I'll eliminate that from the running. My guest is from a part of the world where he enjoys excellent food of high quality served to him at reasonable prices with no "scene" or BS in in all manner of upscale venues, and I do not wish to disappoint him when he is here in OC. (That part of the world is New Jersey.)

Can anyone recommend for or against any of these places, or provide any other useful information?

Or perhaps someone can suggest a similarly American-ish place that will be appropriate -- but not more expensive, please! From the looks of their menus online, they are already expensive enough. These dinners will be on weekdays, so please don't send me on the 405 -- we'll not be straying far from Irvine, preferably right in Irvine or Corona del Mar.


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  1. It's been a while since I've been to Bandera or Houstons; both which are nicer chains as is Opah. Opah, I went to for the first time a couple weeks ago. Nice selection, with good (not great) food. One thing I liked about Opah was that we went during Happy Hour; they offer 1/2 priced selections.

    But IIRC, Bandera's a bit "sceney" and it was a bit loud @ Opah w/many of the diners being in the 20s (there were a handful of us middle-aged folk). I think Houston's was the same...I think you'll have a "scene" regardless of where you go in that neck of the woods. It's just a matter of degree.

    1. Being from New Jersey, I'm not sure which part he's in that he gets consistently high quality food at reasonable prices. I highly recommend Houston's.

      I have not eaten at the on in Irvine, but I've eaten at the Houston's in santa monica, boston, nj and phoenix and have found the menu and atmosphere at each to be slightly different but the food has been consistently good and so has the service.

      Yes, it is a chain, but it is a good chain. I mainly go for their burger which is one of my favorite burgers. It's always been perfectly cooked, juicy and you can get it with a loaded baked potato as a side (sour cream, butter, bacon, cheddar) - if you can eat the whole burger & potato you definitely are a fresser. I usually start with the artichoke spinach dip which used to not be listed on the menu but I believe has been added to all of them. I've also had their french dip, fish sandwich, steak salad and roast chicken. Friend's have enjoyed their steaks as well. Their steaks are not going to rival Peter Luger's, Cut, Mastro's, or even a Morton's or Ruth's Chris but they are pretty good. So pretty much everything (besides sushi) on the menu is good and the burger is exceptional.

      An added bonus is that you can bring your own wine, without corkage. Their stemware is not exceptional, but they will decant.

      2 Replies
      1. re: joshekg

        not for the op, but their veggie burger is also exceptional.

        1. re: westsidegal

          I second the veggie burger, forgot that I've had that as well when not feeling carnivorous.

      2. All three are decent.

        I would do Bandera's because it's location in the heart of CdM is best. Plus you can bring your own wine without corkage fee. The others may also allow this. After dinner, you can walk across the street to the Quiet Woman or down the street to Port. Gulfstream location is okay. Houston's location is not good for post-dinner walking/drinking/socializing.