It’s the holidays. Have out-of-town visitors? Need a holiday-shopping recharge? Toasting the end of holiday shopping? Irvine Spectrum Center offers scores of global dining options from Italian to Cuban to Vietnamese; American is an option, of course! Greet the season with one of these favorites from fast-casual to super-stylish.
One of the county’s few Cuban culinary destinations, this sprawling 300-seat venue seductively echoes Cuba’s frozen-in-time island splendor. A roomy patio open to the sky is made intimate by high walls and a cool soundtrack. On the menu, classics include exemplary empanadas and pork croquetas. Skirt steak and pork osso bucco are savory, plentiful entrees. Drop by the bakery counter (try the guava croissant) and coffee bar if you need a fast morning jolt.
Paul Martin’s American Grill
Specialties of the house at handsome Paul Martin’s American Grill include “brick” chicken and braised short rib; from the mesquite grill come steelhead-salmon tacos and a steakhouse Cobb. The must-have finish: sizzling butter cake in a mini skillet. Classic cocktails, be it Cadillac margarita or mai tai, are, well, classic.
Each dish – the imperial rolls, papaya salad, popular Shaky Shaky Beef, even the banh mí sandwich – is cause for celebration at chic and sultry Vietnamese bistro Little Sister. Provocative murals include one of butterflies emerging from a machine gun. Spirit-forward cocktails and classic rap tracks add to the lively vibe.
Viaggio Pizzeria, centerpiece dining experience at new Bristol Farms Newfound Market, offers artisan pizzas such as the Hornet with spicy soppressata and wildflower honey and the white Super Shroom mushroom mélange; start with Gramma’s veal-and-speck meatballs. The next-level cocktails at the distinctive diamond-shaped bar are alone worth a visit.
Treat yourself to a little comfort and joy
Chocolate Bash presents over-the-top and build-your-own creations. Bash Specials include sushi-shaped, Kinder Chocolate-wrapped crepes; the Bash Burger features four pancakes layered with three kinds of fruit and choice of topping.
Crispy, gooey adventure awaits at Hudsons Cookies – from oversized chocolate-pecan and oatmeal-butterscotch-salted-caramel cookies, to confections such as brown-sugar meringues.
Honey & Butter
The exquisite sandwich cookies at Honey & Butter Macarons are scratch-made daily. Lines out the door are common; when a cute creature macaron is unveiled, aficionados queue up hours before opening.
Have a soft-serve day. SomiSomi offers Korean dessert Ah‑Boong – soft serve in a fish-shaped waffle. It might be stuffed with custard, topped with ube soft serve and sprinkled with macarons – lots of options.