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Business lunch in the vicinity of Irvine Spectrum?

Any Chow-worthy lunch recommendations in the Irvine Spectrum area? Event is an alumni meet & greet (women). Group size: 5-10. Ideal: remarkable food plus an atmosphere that's conducive to conversation. Thanks!

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  1. The best food in the area is Break of Dawn, a little South of El Toro not too far from the Spectrum. Frankly, that would be the strongest recommendation out of anything I would suggest.

    At the Spectrum itself, you have a few chains. I like Javier's (I am in the minority on this board), but I always get the same thing and I like the margaritas, plus it is loud and crowded. Wasa is also good for Sushi if you want Sushi and Japanese food. Cheesecake Factory is... well the Cheesecake Factory, and PF Chang's is a PF Chang's. I think both are competent chains, and they have a wide variety of options for a group, but they are corporate assembly line kitchens.

    At the Laguna Hills mall there is a King's Fish House, which I like, but don't consider really special.

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    Break of Dawn
    24351 Avenida De La Carlota Ste N6, Laguna Hills, CA 92653

    9 Replies
    1. re: ocshooter

      Thanks for your input. I would prefer to avoid the chains. Re: Break of Dawn...am I the only person who finds the dishes more interesting than delicious (more of an intellectual than culinary experience)?

      1. re: TravelingStomach

        I found Break of Dawn's food to be absolutely wonderful, from the concept of the ingredients to the preparation, the presentation and right on through to the taste. Wish they were here in West LA (although my waist line probably would be in even more serious peril than it is now if they were).

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        Break of Dawn
        24351 Avenida De La Carlota Ste N6, Laguna Hills, CA 92653

        1. re: TravelingStomach

          I really like BOD, but I can see your point, and some of the flavor combinations do seem driven more by how they sound and not how they taste.

          I agree with you about the chains, but I figured I should include them in case you are more locked into the Spectrum and not the area around the Spectrum. Of the various chains, I do like King's Fish House, so I would keep that as an potential option.

          Another place I forgot about is Fukada, which has udon, bento boxes, some rolls, but generally non-sushi Japanese food. It is very good, but a little stark and it gets crowded, so you may have a wait i they can accommodate you, but maybe for 10 you can make a reservation, I don't know.

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          Fukada Restaurant
          8683 Irvine Center Dr, Irvine, CA 92618

          1. re: ocshooter

            Not sure how Fukada would fit the OPs requirements. Yes, the noodles are fresh and the soup is good, but the food is hardly remarkable and it is certainly not conducive to conversation or even a relaxed lunch.

            The Spectrum is all about the chains, but I have to say that Yardhouse is consistently good and they have a nice patio if the weather is fine.

            1. re: mollygirl

              But, the music is so loud at Yardhouse, it's hard to have a conversation.

              1. re: reality check

                It's not loud at lunch time. I regularly have casual meets there.

                1. re: mollygirl

                  Maybe not at the Spectrum location, but LB & Brea, are both very loud, even during lunch time.

        2. re: ocshooter

          You are very bold for standing by Javier's. I agree with you that there are worse restaurants out there in the OC. I also agree with the critics that most items you can find better for cheaper out and around Santa Ana.

          However, I would also vouch for the carnitas at Javier (had it once at each location). It's pork sparerib cooked until tender and then fried so it's crispy on the outside, moist on the inside. Quite reasonably priced at around the $20-$25 price point. That dish is downright delicious and if it were put on a platter and served at Animal, it would be lauded as "genius".

          1. re: Porthos

            I go to Javier's and have the carne asada soft tacos. Two basic tacos with really good cubed beef on soft tortillas with guac, rice, and beans (not refried). It is about $12 and a decent sized meal with the fresh chips and OK salsa. I add on one or three Marcos Mexican margaritas (no salt), made with Don Julio, and fresh lime, for about $12 each - which I think is pretty fair for a superpremium. So I don't walk out cheap, but I do walk out happy on many levels.

            As for the rest of the menu - ehhh. My wife had a steak she really liked there, but it was pretty pricey, and she also likes the ceviche. None of the other options on the menu really strike me as a decent value or something compelling, though I doubt anything is really bad. I think it suffers mainly from no longer being the little gem in Laguna, being a little overpriced, and being way, way, way too trendy and popular. I prefer Taco Rosa in general, but there is no Taco Rosa around the Spectrum. I also used to like El Torito Grill, bu they closed in MV and I have not been to the Irvine or Newport locations in quite a while.

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            Taco Rosa
            13792 Jamboree Rd, Irvine, CA 92602

        3. Lucca Cafe for italian/med; they have a decent sized patio for your group

          1 Reply
          1. re: I got nothin

            Ah, Lucca Cafe! It was on my list but it slipped my mind - thank you!

            And thanks to you all for the options/insight...I think my waistline grew an inch in anticipation. : )

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            Lucca Restaurant
            1636 N Cahuenga Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028