Driving down Sand Canyon toward Old Town Irvine can feel like a road trip when you’re passing through a podunk town in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly you see that random restaurant with a lot of country character and out-of-place pizzazz. That restaurant is Knowlwood.
Right off of the 5 Freeway at 14952 Sand Canyon Avenue, nestled behind the Irvine train tracks, lies the farmhouse style joint with wooden picnic tables and umbrellas in front. Diners are greeted by an old-fashioned Ford truck with a countertop to eat on in the back and a lot of kitschy Americana memorabilia on the walls. The restaurant models a blacksmith shop, drawing upon the historical themes that the Knowlwood franchise uses at each of its locations. Nuts and bolts are dispersed throughout the eatery, while an authentic steel zigzag lacing press sits in the back. A “Tool Room” where people can eat and an “Office,” which is actually an arcade, also gives this restaurant a unique decorum.
To entertain the kiddies, as well as the kid-at-heart college students Knowlwood’s arcade hosts a pool table, air hockey, old-school video games and big screen TVs. A fine selection of bottled and draft beers and wine is available for those over the age of 21.
The crowd on a regular Wednesday evening typically consists of a mix of Irvine families with their kids who have just finished their team practices. While blowing off their steam on the pool table, a few firemen from the adjacent fire station take a quick burger break at this quaint pit stop. Although it might not be your typical college hangout, it is definitely a fun scene to escape to after taking a midterm.
As UC Irvine students who are perpetually stuck in our bubble of four or five go-to restaurants, most of which are located at the University Center and only provide fast, convenient food, it is refreshing to find a place that is off-the-beaten-path, a place that makes you feel a bit removed from the constrictions and chaos of everyday college life.
The menu options range from burgers to pastrami sandwiches, fish and chips to quesadillas, providing a mix of meals to choose from and a blend of comfort food favorites as well. They’ve even got your fried, cheesy, gooey snacks covered, the perfect hangover cure.
I recommend digging into their famous Irish Nachos – French fries smothered in cheddar cheese, chopped green onion, bacon bits and served with homemade ranch dressing. If that’s not your style, then I suggest trying the Frisco Burger, a meaty heart-attack on a plate. It comes topped with bacon, cheese, grilled onions, Thousand Island dressing, lettuce, tomato and pickles on a grilled, parmesan sourdough bun. I wouldn’t recommend getting both at the same time, though. You’ve got to pick your poison, right?
The 1/3 pound “World’s Best Burger,” doesn’t exactly live up to its masterful moniker, but it is definitely a decent dish. Knowlwood’s burgers are juicy. With its patty far thicker than its In-and-Out counterpart, you can be sure you’ll be leaving clean, crumbless plates behind.
Knowlwood also serves an extensive array of breakfast favorites like pancakes and omelets, not to mention they’ve got some good ol’ country-style biscuit, gravy and chicken-fried steak for those eager beaver, early birds. Also, to ring in the holiday season, it has a special turkey burger with cranberries on a wheat bun with mandarin oranges on the side.
Knowlwood might not be conveniently located in the Irvine bubble, but it is close enough – and certainly worthy enough for students to take a much-needed break from Jack in the Crack, so head to Knowlwood for a real burger.
Filed Under: Features