I’m not going to lie, campus dining is not the best. It might be good for lunch for a few weeks, In-n-Out for a few days, then Wahoo’s, then maybe Le Dip or Gen, but for an extended period of time? Horrible. Bland. Repetitive. Boring.
Go just a little beyond campus , and there’s a lot of good food. Below is my UCI Dining Guide, listed by meal.
Pancakes R Us, Costa Mesa.
- I have to admit, despite my disdain for pancakes, this place does breakfast platters right. Besides, where else can you have eggs and bacon served to you by an ex-CIA informant?
Rooster Café, Costa Mesa.
- Great breakfast food. Everything is solid, but try the breakfast burrito, which might be the perfect example of guilty morning food.
C’est Si Bon, Newport Beach.
- C’est Si Bon is a bakery and sandwich place located just off the water in Newport Beach. It’s a great place to get a cup of coffee and read the newspaper during the weekend. On clearer days, the air smells like the ocean. Try their pastries and, most importantly, their sandwiches, which feature brie and havarti cheeses as well as curried chicken.
The Gypsy Den, Costa Mesa.
- Known for their bohemian atmosphere, the Gypsy Den also has a good collection of breakfast and brunch food. Try their breakfast bowl or the vegetarian friendly spinach scramble or soyrizo dishes.
- It’s crowded during dinner, but during lunch the crowd is much more manageable and the conveyor belt is better stocked. If you can, try to get some toro before they run out. Also, try out the yellowtail, the Sushicalifragilisticexpialidocious roll (walnut shrimp on top of rice and soy paper, described by one of my friends as an orgasm in your mouth) and the tempura green tea ice cream.
Harry’s Deli, Irvine.
- Harry’s is currently closed for construction and normally only open until 3 p.m., but the sandwiches are ridiculous. My favorite is, hands down, the prime angus rib-eye.
Le Dip, Irvine.
- It deserves a place on this list for its baguette, which is perfect for sandwiches. Chicken, broccoli and mushroom with garlic sauce. Apply sriracha as needed.
OC DinDin-a-GoGo, Irvine.
- Irvine’s food trucks meet every Tuesday at Irvine Lanes. Rotating lineup. Lime Truck and Burnt Truck are always strong, though everyone is worth a try.
Mitsuwa Food Court, Irvine or Costa Mesa.
- Japanese food that’s not sushi. Try their ramen, curry plates or udon. They’re cheap, they’re filling and they’re very, very good.
Boiling Point, Irvine.
- This Taiwanese hot pot is boiling and spicy, and cheap and delicious. The seafood pot is wonderful. If you look like any kind of Asian, be ready to be spoken to in Mandarin.
The Irvine Asian Ghetto on Walnut and Jeffrey
- Any Asian food you could ever want. Liang’s Kitchen, more Taiwanese cuisine, is especially good.
Haven Gastropub, Orange.
- Good American food. Mac and cheese is wonderful. Fries are almost perfect. Beer list is impressive. For now, avoid dessert until their menu changes again.
Tulsa Ribs (See this week’s review), Orange.
- The king of Orange County BBQ. Review this week.
- The Yelpiest place ever. Their chicken and waffles might not be as awesome as Roscoe’s but everything else is great. My personal favorite is the grilled cheese. Also, check out their custard. Super creamy, super good.
Memphis Café, Costa Mesa.
- Southern food. Try the gumbo or the po’ boy. Cocktails are also very good. The Santa Ana location makes an awesome Old Fashioned.
- $1 Beer, perfect lychee cocktails and ridiculous amounts of meat. You’ll smell delicious after you leave.
Yard House, Irvine.
- Only worthwhile during happy hour. Try anything from Rogue Brewery, my personal favorite.
Super Late Night:
Pho 54, Fountain Valley
- Open until 3 a.m. and comes with a free drink. Also lets you eat a train. Get a Pho xe lua, never be hungry again.
- Breakfast food at 3 in the morning? Perfect.
- Korean soups that take drunk dining to a whole new level.
Alberto’s, Costa Mesa.
- California burritos and carne asada fries perfect for eating in the early morning.
These are only my personal favorites and should only serve as a starter. There are a lot more places to check out in Orange County. Go forth, and eat.