Munchie Madness: Instagrammable Food in Irvine
By Allison Economou
Although you might not expect it, some of the most Instagrammable food in all of Southern California lies just beyond the boundaries of Anteater territory. While offering the consistency and convenience that most college students crave, UTC sometimes falls short of appealing to a desire for fun, funky, and fashionable food products. Tie-dye, glitter, and over-the-top portions are a few of the antics businesses are using to entice exuberant customers with flashy cameras into their stores, but with an ever-increasing amount of suppliers entering the Instagrammable food market, how can businesses hope to stand out? In order to find out for myself if Insta-worthy food was living up to the hype its online presence was generating, I journeyed to ten different locations featured by Food Insider and tried what thousands of people are flocking from all over the world to get.
1. Snow Monster (Macaron Ice Cream Sandwich)
Located in UTC, Snow Monster is in every UCI student’s backyard, making it a quick and easy stop between classes or a nice place to chill after an evening seminar. Although this shop is most popularly known for boba served inside containers resembling light bulbs, Food Insider identifies the macaron ice cream sandwiches as the store’s most Instagrammable item.
What makes these sandwiches different is the specially-designed ice cream scooper that scoops perfectly-sized ice cream balls to fit between two hard-shelled macarons. Although odd flavors like fruity pebbles and toffee crunch add to the store’s feeling of novelty, the bland and indistinguishably flavored ice cream leaves you wondering if you got what was left from the bottom of the bin. It may be conveniently located, but there’s a reason there’s a line out the door for Sharetea and not here.
2. Sweet Combforts (Waffle Pops)
This unassuming waffle pop shop is tucked away inside Trade Food Hall, one of Orange County’s many strip malls. Here, the meaning of eye candy comes to life as freshly made belgium waffles are served to customers on popsicle sticks. With six regular flavors to choose from as well as seasonal and build-your-own options, the store offers something for everyone. Perfect as a brunch, lunch, or dessert item, customers can go anytime between noon and 9 p.m. on most days. Thinking about which pop your Instagram followers will like most? No need. Order one of each with friends and configure your treats to form the perfect waffle rainbow.
3. Hello Kitty Grand Cafe (Cookies, Cakes, Donuts)
The Hello Kitty Grand Cafe is arguably the most Instagrammed location for food in all of Orange County. Located inside the Irvine Spectrum Mall, the cafe’s variety of treats includes cakes, cookies, teas, and donuts which are sure to satisfy Hello Kitty fanatics and dessert lovers alike. Caroline Aghajanian from Food Insider claims a visit to the cafe is not just about the food but the experience as a whole. This could mean dressing up, taking pictures in front of the cafe’s pink walls, or booking a reservation inside their coveted bow room. Available only by reservation, the bow room is perfect for anyone looking to indulge in their Hello Kitty fantasies for more than a few hours while a traditional afternoon tea service is served to them inside a beautifully decorated room. The cafe even offers something for its adult patrons by serving cocktails and other alcoholic beverages in the evenings. Dress up and relive your childhood dreams, but think about what you want ahead of time because the amount of options will overwhelm you.
4. Loop (Churros)
Located inside Bolsa Plaza, another inconspicuous strip mall, is a shop serving up traditional churros in an untraditional way. The interior of the store is similar to many heavily Instagrammed dessert locations in Southern California. The small space and minimal seating area that most dessert bars sport don’t enchant bystanders to come in and explore what the shop has to offer which makes Instagram not only useful but necessary in the accumulation of fans and returning customers. A tagline on the wall reads, “Life is sweet,” which reminds the store’s visitors that indulging in American favorites is both a necessary and natural part of life. Loop’s innovation comes from the way the churros are served. Instead of being delivered to customers as vertical sticks, the churros are shaped to form loops that can be dipped in a bowl of soft serve, frosted and covered with sprinkles, or coated in nuts. Even though the flavor of the churro itself isn’t particularly unusual, the novelty of the delivery is enough to make the journey, picture, and experience worthwhile.
Although one’s experience at each of these stores will differ based on personal tastes and preferences, the stores that become popularized most often are the ones that seem to be doing something different from their competitors. The reason Sweet Combforts, The Hello Kitty Grand Cafe, and Loop are all worth visiting is because they offer a product that can’t be found anywhere else. Snow Monster, on the other hand, doesn’t just disappoint the taste buds; it profits off an already existing trend that combines ice cream with unusual macaron flavors while failing to offer anything unique. Join me as I continue to spot places taking the Instagram word by storm in part two of Munchie Madness.