Starting with Classic UC Irvine Eateries: Le Dip, Cha, Alejandro’sAle

“There’s nowhere to eat!” I hear it all the time. As an Orange County native, I consider that an offense.

Orange County has no where good to eat? I object!

I’m a double Anteater, having attended UCI as an undergraduate and now returning as a law student. Coming back, I was excited to revisit some of my favorite foods Đ the classics I could turn to again and again. New to UCI? You should know that ’Eaters eat like they mean it. When you’re walking in circles around Ring Road, food will help you get through the day. For a great beginning, I’d like to share with you my favorite local classics.

For days when you are rife with indecision: feel confident in what you order at Le Diplomat. Can’t make a decision or stick to your guns? Go somewhere where every decision is a good one (smothered in garlic sauce), and you can customize as you please.

When you and your Humanities Core research paper just aren’t connecting, escape to Teuscher at Fashion Island. You’ll forget all about your demanding TA when you order an iced mocha or drinking chocolate from this Swiss chocolatier. Then you’ll be ready to strut your stuff back into Gateway study center.

For days when you want to feel like you’re living the life, but only have 10 dollars in your wallet, have brunch or happy hour snacks at Memphis Soul Cafe at the Lab in Costa Mesa. This SoCal-soul food fusion menu will satisfy the gourmet in you without breaking the bank.

For days when you can’t get off campus, duck into the Cyber A CafŽ over at the School of the Arts. Grab an Italian soda with cream, walk to Aldrich Park and look for those quirky bio professors who wander the park in floppy hats while examining trees and analyzing the sky. They’re there, and they are kind and entertaining.

For days when you want to travel the world but Ń alas! Ń that international studies class you want is full yet again, grab lunch at Wholesome Choice, where there’s food from around the world cooked fresh daily in the food court. Get in line for Sangak bread Ń it’s legendary and worth the wait.

For days when you wish you were in Hollywood, but you’re not into cruising down Melrose, stand in line with the real housewives of Orange County at Sprinkles in Newport Beach. I know, it’s such a trendy cupcake, but let me tell you, I have set out in search of a better one to beat the trend, and I have concluded that Sprinkles makes by far the best childhood-memory-your-mom-never-actually-made around.

For days when you’re embarrassed to stand in line yet again today at Starbucks or Peet’s because every barista knows your name, head to KŽan Coffee on 19th Street. This is not an ordinary coffee shop Ń it’s an idyllic conversation spot with foam art and the owner roasting beans and greeting customers.

For days when you have a paper due in less than 12 hours, equip yourself with Alejandro’s in Costa Mesa or Albatros in Lake Forest. Yes it’s a drive, but you’re going to be up all night anyway, right? 14 pages is no problem when you have a California Burrito by your side.

For days when you need a pick me up and are skeptical about those Five-Hour Energy shots you saw on TV and impulsively bought at the grocery checkout, buy a California Green Tea at Cha for Tea over in University Town Center. That drink has magical powers.

For days when you’re feeling philosophical about life, go to In-n-Out. It’s all about the simple things.  Grab a No. 1, drive to the pier at Balboa at night and sit at the end. Stare out and see how you can’t see where the ocean ends and the night sky begins. Dunk your fries into your strawberry shake and ponder the wonder of being young and alive. In this column, I’m going to make my case for where you can go to chow down. I’ll concede that this is not the type of town where you just trip over good eats as you’re walking down the street. Have you seen anyone walking on the street in OC?

You need to be willing to take a trip, and you need to know where you’re going. It’s out there, I assure you. I want to find some soul-fulfilling and tummy-filling cheap eats, check out the OC food truck scene and enjoy places with real spirit. Join me as I uncover evidence of delicious and affordable adventures around UCI.

The Food Court is now in session.