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Moving to Irvine...need restaurant recommends!

Hi there, I am moving to Irvine for a 10 week internship starting this June. Would love some great restaurant recommends in the area (and surrounding area) for a student on a budget! Not picky, lover of all genres. I just want to make sure I get some good eats in while I'm there!

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  1. There's lots of inexpensive Chinese food in Irvine. S.W. Seafood and 101 Noodle Express just to name 2.

    1. Irvine is a huge city. The south end towards Jeffrey has a bunch of good cheap Chinese as JAB mentioned. I second 101 Noodle and also would recommend Tasty Noodle. Explore the whole area around Jeffrey and Walnut and Culver and Barranca.

      For other good cheap eats in the area go to Mistuwa. Its just over in Costa Mesa, the next city to the north. They have great ramen at Santouka and other good cheap eats in the food court.

      There are a bunch of food truck meet ups during the week. My favorite trucks that generally show up are Burnt Truck (sliders) and the Grilled Cheese Truck. Check twitter or facebook for schedules.

      1 Reply
      1. re: js76wisco

        Good tips

        I like the Viking food truck for massive corn dogs and drunk fare

      2. For such a huge city, Irvine is a little bit sad as far as the food choices go, but there are bright spots, also some great options exist in the surrounding cities. Costa Mesa for example, has some fantastic places to check out, from Moscow Deli on Harbor just south of the 405, to the SoCo Collection / OC Mix complex off of Harbor just north of the 405, to the Camp on Bristol (Blackmarket Bakery, Umami Burger, Taco Asylum, etc), to Pie-Not (Aussie meat pies!) and Sidecar Donuts and Coffee on 17th Street..

        In Irvine proper, be sure and check out Wholesome Choice, for an interesting variety of ethnic foods (mainly but not at all entirely middle- and near-eastern). Their food court area is really worth hitting up. Also the farmers market at the shopping center across from UC Irvine on Saturday Mornings is quite good.

        Tustin has some good places too, including Kean (a great coffeehouse), some great japanese restaurants, Cream Pan a fantastic japanese bakery, also some good korean choices, Claro's Market an Italian deli...

        In Lake Forest you've got Sabatino's, for the awesome cheese-stuffed sausage.

        1. After living here all my life, Irvine really is a little sad. But the surrounding cities have great food! Mike, JS, and JAB have all given great suggestions.

          Adding to the list are Cucina Alessa for Italian food in Newport Beach, Thanh Binh 2 in Lake Forest for pho/fried rice, Slater's 50/50 in Lake Forest for fat burgers, and Bruxie in Orange for "gourmet waffles".

          Fyi, Santouka is seriously good. Go try it.

          3 Replies
          1. re: fkslksj

            It's funny because living in Mission Viejo, I envy Irvine, for Chinese at least.

            1. re: JAB

              All of these sound awesome, thanks for the suggestions and variety! I'm coming from Salt Lake which actually has a decent food scene...but is seriously lacking any good Chinese options, so I'm stoked for that.

              1. re: ccbklnd

                In Tustin which is also another bordering city to Irvine
                Claro's Italian Deli - good sandwiches
                El Toro Bravo - made to order flautas and tacos
                Cream Pan - great Japanese bakery - I'd recommend the ham n cheese croissant, strawberry croissant, pre-made sandwiches and olive twist bread.

                You also have a bunch of In n Out locations around you.

          2. Chong Qing Mei Wei and 101 Noodle have the best Chinese IMO. Four Sea is good too for that Taiwanese breakfast stuff.

            DonerG makes a decent shwarma sandwich.

            Wholesome choice has good persian food in the food court. I really like this rice with green beans and chunks of meat they do Weds and Sat. I also like the lamb biryani in the indian section. They also make fresh sangak bread, a delicious flatbread that's 3 bucks for a towel sized piece (if the line is longer than 4 people, probably not worth waiting though.)

            Nana San is one of the better sushi bars in OC and it's close by and not too expensive for lunch.

            Ole Spain Delishop makes a fantastic paella I think Tuesday and Friday for lunch but don't hold me to that. Really good sandwiches too but too expensive IMO. The paella is a good deal though.

            The following places are worth the drive:
            Vientiane Thai Laos
            Casa Inka (if you just want rotisserie chicken, go to Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken instead.)
            Olive tree for the daily specials, especially on Friday or Saturday
            Kasen for the best sushi
            If you find yourself in Santa Ana, where to go really comes down to what you want. Even something like what meat you want in your tacos can change which place I'd recommend for a taco. But to throw a few places out there: La Cemita Poblana, Alebrije's (for their suadero. Actually, go anywhere with suadero. I have no clue what this meat is but it's my new go-to just not often available.) El Cabrito or El Borrego Sagrado for birria/barbacoa. Tacos Ruben y Mulitas. Tons of random unknown taco trucks. It's pretty hard to go wrong.

            Westminster I'm not even going to begin. Frankly I don't really think Viet food is worth driving from Irvine for. There are some decent Viet places near Irvine that aren't that far off the mark and to me Viet food isn't eminently craveable so just research the forum if you think you want to head up there. Same reason I wouldn't drive to Garden Grove for Korean. If you really want the very best Korean or Vietnamese though, go to Garden Grove/Stanton or Westminster, respectively. Kind of like Santa Ana for Mexican, it's pretty hard to go wrong.

            South County is very hit or miss, mostly miss I find.

            Don't bother trying to get dim sum.

            Pizza comes down to your personal preference between Mozza and Ortica. No good delivery at all.

            Ramen: my favorite is Iroha. Santuoka makes a great bowl too.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Eater15

              Suadero is the cut directly between the skirt ("falda") and the lower rump. Picture a cow and the suadero is right above the udder.

            2. irvine is fine. It used to be the culinary wasteland that the other posters have posted, but it's come a long way, if you know what you're doing.

              These are some inexpensive spots where you will eat well in Irvine, and Tustin.

              Chinese: A&J (Irvine)
              Burgers: Mick's Karma Bar (Irvine)
              Taco shop: Taco Factory (Tustin) <I eat the burrito loco, and it has changed my life)
              Sweet Treats and Coffee: 85* (degrees) (Irvine)
              Gyros: Peter's Gourmade Grill (Tustin)
              Indian (southern): Laxmi Sweets and Spices
              Shaved Ice: Snow Station (Tustin)

              Take the time to go to Wholesome Choice. It's really great. I drive 20 minutes to use it as my go to grocery spot, and I am not disappointed. The make a fresh bread right as you walk in that is not to be missed.

              You can do some cheap shopping at Daiso too, and there's a Trader Joe's right across the street.

              I'm sure after 10 weeks, you'll be looking forward to getting out of what is a god forsaken city, but it has it's bright spots.