Cool Places for a Drink/Light Food in Irvine
I'm meeting up with a girl coming into Irvine on business. She wants me to take her out on the town, but I'm not familiar with the city. Can you offer any recommendations on a place that has a really good vibe going? The ideal of what I'm looking for is someplace like El Carmen on 3rd Street in LA: Really solid drinks (margaritas are a plus), solid food, not too much of a sit-down place, not too casual, not too high-end, and has just that right amount of funkiness.
El Carmen Restaurant
8138 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048
There's not really much 'scene' in Irvine... Depending what day and time it is, you might want to go to Memphis in Costa Mesa, or Andrei's in Irvine (excellent drinks, good happy hour, nice bar snacks, and you can hear yourself think)... you could also go to Tia Juana's, but the food doesn't measure up to the tequila-type drinks.
If you want scene-scene, I guess Taco Asylum would be fine too—but do some wallet stretches first, and they don't have a full license, just beer and wine. You could also head to SOL in Newport Beach. It's sit-down but there's a large bar and both the drinks and the food measure up.
2937 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Maybe consider Kimera. It's still technically Irvine, but bordering on Newport Beach. Nice bar, and pretty much fits your criteria.
It's not exactly "taking her out on the town" - more like taking her out to the only place that's open after Google's corporate office empties out for the night and you can hear the bullfrogs croaking in the distant creek.
If you need a more lively part of town, maybe look toward the coast - Newport Beach, Corona del Mar or Laguna maybe.
19530 Jamboree Rd., Irvine, CA 92612
Irvine nightlife is... thin.
Probably the most happening spot in Irvine is the Spectrum, a large movie/shopping outdoor mall. Javier's is there. Super premium margaritas are $10 - $12. I like the soft tacos and don't find them too expensive. Also at the Spectrum is Dave and Buster's, Cheesecake Factory, Yard House, PF Chang's and a pretty good sushi spot, Wasa.
Personally, I think you are better off going to a place like the Crow Bar in Corona Del Mar or Haven Gastropub in Orange. Crow Bar is nicer overall, and more expensive, Haven is in Old Town Orange, which is sleepy overall but has a nice area for a stroll. depending on when you go, the District Lounge is a close walk with a different vibe and some live music.
Mesa in Costa Mesa will probably be crowded, so you can get a bit of a scene there, along with 3Thirty3 in Newport. I don't really care for SOL based on the one time I was there. The food was good, but ridiculously expensive.
There are lots of options in Laguna Beach, about 1 15 minute drive, including K'Ya (upscale), Mosun (sushi and a disco), and the Marine Room and the Sandpiper (dive bars).
725 Baker St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Crow Bar & Kitchen
2325 E Coast Hwy, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625
Javier's Cantina & Grill
45 Fortune Dr, Irvine, CA 92618
3 Thirty 3
333 Bayside Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660
1183 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Marine Room Tavern
214 Ocean Ave, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Mosun Sushi Saki Bar & Night Club
680 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
The District Lounge
223 W Chapman Ave, Orange, CA 92866
K'ya Bistro - Laguna Beach
1287 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
190 S Glassell St, Orange, CA 92866