2023 Dining Guide

Elevated outdoor environments and menus curated by independent restaurateurs make Irvine’s dining scene unique in SoCal.

Click to view the 2023 Dining Guide.

Irvine’s dining scene is driven by chefs who tailor menus to the tastes of the community. Inside, we profile 32 restaurants, where you’ll meet Ukrainian Maria Tulchevska, who serves up her signature mango cake at Puesto, chef Erik De Marchi, who is opening Oliver’s Trattoria with patios perfect for the coastal California environment, and New Zealander Nasim Clark, who brings her homeland’s cafe culture to Everyday Eatery.


Breakfast Republic

University Center

Start your day with innovative goodness! Consider shrimp and grits – shrimp cooked in Cluckin’ Good hot sauce and Gouda cheese-infused grits – or the Mr. Presley – peanut butter-stuffed French toast topped with bananas Foster and bacon. The “eggs” in the vegan Jammin’ Bennie, with blackberry-jalapeño jam, Italian vegan sausage and vegan hollandaise, are plant-based, of course. Even waiting for a table, in hard-boiled egg-shaped seats, is fun. Lazy mornings beg a prosecco or breakfast cocktail.


Cypress Village Shopping Center, University Center

The gleaming new location near UC Irvine presents “flippin’ awesome” egg sandwiches in versions as diverse as mozzarella and kimchi bulgogi, plus tea and coffee drinks featuring melty dalgona honeycomb, which also starred in the South Korean thriller “Squid Games.” Other options include spicy tteokbokki noodles or rice cake bowls. Immortalize yourself in photo booths, where text bubbles exclaim “Yes. I’m pretty!” and “Cheese!” Tape your photo panel up alongside hundreds of others.

Aloha Stacks

Woodbury Town Center

Don’t let the name or casual setting fool you. This newbie griddle house with lines out the door serves an indulgent menu that reaches far beyond Hawaii – think French toast, Belgian waffles, chilaquiles, chicken katsu and, oh yes, a “da kine” loco moco plate, all with good portions at approachable prices. There’s overflow seating on the roomy patio and kid-friendly dishes, too – just know that the kitchen closes at 2 p.m. daily.

Poached Kitchen

Harvard Place Shopping Center

Look for the egg yolk yellow umbrellas to find this sunny breakfast spot with a scratch kitchen that insists on local and organic ingredients. Of course, lavish Benedicts with trembly, just-poached eggs are a specialty, but the batter-fried chicken is popular, and the hefty burrito is an employee favorite. Fans swoon over “soft yet crunchy hash browns like no other,” declaring them a “must-get with any order.” Weekend lines are common, but early birds know crowds are lighter at 7 a.m., when doors open.


Irvine Spectrum Center

The beguiling rhythms, aromas and aesthetic of pre-Castro Cuba evoke a forgotten place and time for brunch at this sprawling compound with a tropical vibe. Start with a summery mango daiquiri or minty mojito. Follow with slow-roasted pork Lechon Benedict with passion fruit hollandaise or veer into the sweet lane with Caribbean pancakes under a drizzle of coconut syrup and a side pot of guava jam. Share a perfect flan or luscious Key lime pie for a dreamy island getaway – minus the TSA lines.

Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen

The Market Place

The three-course Sunday brunch at the stylish indoor-outdoor dining room starts with chile con queso, continues with options such as pozole verde or Mexican Caesar salad and culminates with choice of entrée: carne asada con huevos, huevos rancheros or brunch-only braised short rib chilaquiles, as well as nearly a dozen types of tacos (e.g., wild mushrooms, steak mojo) or enchiladas (e.g., crab & shrimp). You can upcharge for bottomless mimosas.

The Cut

Westpark Plaza

This chill locals’ hang may be renowned for bodacious burgers with a proprietary grass-fed beef blend, but regulars descend on weekends for exclusive brunch-only fare. Think delicate buttermilk biscuits under Italian sausage gravy, crispy tater tot poutine and tall, fluffy chocolate chip pancakes that cover the plate. And, of course, $20 bottomless mimosas (with food order) topped off by the gregarious crew who will happily serve you a cold craft beer and a patty melt if you’re not a brunch believer.

Zov’s Bistro

Orchard Hills Shopping Center

Weekend brunches are relaxed affairs on a stunning arcade patio graced with climbing vines and mature olive trees that amplify the Mediterranean mood at this Portola Parkway gem. Diners on Team Savory fancy Moroccan salmon salad with lentils while Team Sweet roots for the lavish bananas Foster French toast. Creative mimosas tempt daylight foodies to linger longer – yuzu lavender, prickly pear, ginger peach, fresh orange and pomegranate are also offered in flights of three.

Mag’s Donuts & Bakery

Quail Hill Shopping Center, University Center

This family-run bakery has been putting smiles on Irvine faces since 1980. Since then, its bacon maple cronuts, French crullers and classic glazed doughnuts (deliciously sweet and soft) have stirred generations of fans, often waiting for the doors to open at 5 a.m. In addition to 20 kinds of handcrafted doughnuts, the menu offers fresh muffins, croissants, breakfast burritos and design-your-own sandwiches. Good morning!

Liquid Assets

The Lost Bean

Woodbridge Village Center

Mochas, lattes and pour-overs galore attract a loyal fan base to this intimate spot with a shady patio. Local roasting in small batches coaxes the peak flavor and aroma from every coffee bean. Open early, free Wi-Fi.

It’s Boba Time

Northpark Plaza

This chipper, low-frills outpost of a long-popular boba chain earns high marks for speedy service via self-serve tablet or counter staff. Choose from scores of milk teas, slushes, smoothies and iced coffees. Insiders praise the pistachio frappe and strawberry matcha milk tea.

Ever After TeaRoom and Eatery

University Park Center

Avoid being overwhelmed by the staggering selection of teas at this charming newbie by trying fan favorites such as Rose Blush and Matcha Brûlée. Also tempting: mouthwatering light bites (popcorn shrimp, anyone?) and fruity Taiwanese snow cakes.

OMomo Tea Shoppe

Alton Square, Walnut Village Center

Choose from every milk, cream and fruit tea imaginable at these cheerful and convenient shops where every sip is your way. Picky about sugar or ice levels? No problem – you call it along with your choice of 10 add-ins, including bobas, lychee jelly and cheese foam.

Nékter Juice Bar

Woodbury Town Center, Orchard Hills Shopping Center, Quail Hill Shopping Center, University Center, The Square

Squeaky-fresh juices and nutrient-dense smoothies are the specialty of these OC-born juiceries also known for açaí berry power food bowls. Customize your superfood smoothie or high-protein functional bowl via the app. In a hurry? Grab a bottle of antioxidant lemonade, green apple detox juice blend or down a quick ginger wellness shot.

Lunch & linger

Tender Greens

Irvine Spectrum Center, University Center

Lunch bowls, sammies and plates here all start with sustainably raised local produce, such as the colorful carrots from Weiser Family Farms. You just might find them in the popular chicken katsu bowl with sushi rice, miso mayo, greens and sesame ginger dressing. Humanely raised meats star in build-your-own plates, though mashed potatoes and garlicky kale salad have their own cult followings. Awnings provide shade to the appealing patio accented by leafy green plantings. All menu items list calorie counts you can ignore or heed as you please.



Turkish street fries and Istanbowls top the menu, but patrons flock to the Turkish-Mediterranean grill for sandwiches on pillowy-soft grilled pita. Also available as tortilla wraps or on grilled soda bread, known as fladenbrot, they’re filled with falafel or seasoned rotisserie brisket or chicken and topped with a choice of two of 20 salads, veggies, spreads and sauces such as cucumber-yogurt jajik. The Original Fladenbrot overflows with brisket, fries and chile-garlic sauce.

Maast Indian Creative Kitchen

Alton Retail Center

In an unlikely pairing that works beautifully, one of the city’s best Indian restaurants marries the cuisines of India and Mexico. On a recent visit, there was a burrito at every table – filled with butter chicken, spiced ground lamb or tandoori tofu – with a side of masala queso chips. Also popular at the family-owned and -operated spot: the parathadilla, an Indian flatbread quesadilla that patrons often top with “65” spicy sauce. More traditional curries include tikka masala and coconut korma. The OC Register has included Maast’s tandoori chicken sandwich among its top 10 sandwiches.


Parkview Center

The decor features Vietnamese musical instruments, and the pho sings. Sous vide chicken-breast pho is one of 16 noodle-soup choices. The Nam family eatery departs from tradition with truffle banh mi empanadas – with Vietnamese sausage, char siu pork, truffle pate and jalapeno-cilantro aioli – and garlic-butter chicken wings enthusiastically described as “Namtastic wings from Colonel Namders!” Also new: shrimp-and-pork dim sum-style dumplings. Ever new: crispy egg rolls.

Shake Shack

Irvine Spectrum Center

You could say Shake Shack is all about the beef – premium, whole-muscle Angus from famed meat purveyor Pat LaFrieda – except that it’s also about the crinkle fries, flavored caffeinated lemonades and hand-spun milkshakes. The smash-patty-and-cheese ShackBurger is the top seller, but the SmokeShack, which adds bacon and chopped cherry peppers, isn’t far behind. If you want to taste one of America’s favorite new burgers, you’ll have to come here, as it’s the first, and only, Shake Shack in the county.

Shake Shack hamburgers are always made-to-order with Angus beef.

Burnt Crumbs

Los Olivos Marketplace

Though renowned for its delectable soufflé pancakes and breakfast fried rice, this innovative canteen swaggers at lunch, offering hearty fusion sandos such as spaghetti grilled cheese, fried chicken with sriracha honey, and crispy pork with chicharrones on telera roll. Hand-carved fries are crispy spears made for dunking in fresh garlic aioli. Don’t delay on the hyper-fresh heirloom tomato salad that’s at its flavor peak right now. Shaded pergola seating is ideal throughout the year.

Burnt Crumbs’ famous soufflé pancakes.

Sessions West Coast Deli

Woodbridge Village Center

Lakeside lunch on the patio here is a mini staycation within a humdrum workday or hectic weekend. Ingenious sandwiches, crafted with artisan breads and stellar ingredients, each have their super fans, but the famous vegetarian Summer Zephyr widens its appeal when bacon is added. Other highlights include the Big Tuna Melt, Wedge Legend Salad and tomato-basil soup. Half-portion combos are a good value. Too late for lunch? Happy hour starts at 3 p.m., Monday-Friday.

Cluck Kitchen

The Square

It’s not often said about chicken, but at Cluck, that bird can fly. The fried chicken breast on its county-best Nashville hot sandwich, for instance, has always delivered more topography than its namesake city. New in the coop: the Toma-Cluck, a tomahawk steak-inspired, semi-deboned chicken chop served country-fried or Nashville-hot; weekends bring Toma-Cluck and waffles. Also new: Nashville hot cheese curds and, for dessert, croissant beignets with salted caramel.

Grater Grilled Cheese

Sand Canyon Plaza

If cheese, as it’s been said, is milk’s leap toward immortality, then Grater’s languidly oozing sandwiches are here to stay. Decor includes surprisingly chic cheese-grater light fixtures and ornately gilt-framed photos of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley eating grilled cheese sandwiches. The grilled cheeses here – such as lobster or L.A. pastrami – each incorporate five cheeses. Loaded mac ’n’ cheese and loaded s’mores sweet potato fries make the world a Grater place.

HiroNori Craft Ramen

Sand Canyon Plaza

Making noodles, stock and sauces from scratch takes extra time, and though this acclaimed ramen house devotes precious hours to perfecting its craft tonkotsu and shoyu bowls, it happily serves it your way and speedily. What perfect timing when your lunch hour is only 30 minutes long. Vegans, there’s a rich broth for you, too. A choice of thick or thin hand-cut noodles is a luxury that never fails to please, so consider ordering the cold dipping noodles when the hot August days dare you to order ramen.

Elevate your grab and go menu

Bacchus Bar & Bistro

Quail Hill Shopping Center

Impress your guests without lifting a knife when you present a super-swanky cheese and charcuterie board from Bacchus. Order ahead and simply pick up the day of your party or feast. Boards include all the extras like olives, fruits, spreads, nuts and bakery bread.

La Boulangerie San Francisco

Alton Square

This convenient source for eats will fire up breakfast meetings or office lunches for that team on a deadline. Think giant almond croissants or fruit muffins in the morning, or chicken pesto sandwiches, soups and chef salads for energizing midday brain fuel.

Tanaka and Manassero Farms

Summer produce doesn’t get any fresher than the daily harvest at Irvine’s most beloved family farms. Stop by their farm stands for August’s bounty of just-picked white corn, sweet melons, zucchini, juicy heirloom tomatoes and even organic Japanese eggplant.

Wholesome Choice

University Park Center

Feed a hungry bunch fast with family-style hot entrees like koobideh skewers or gyros, cold sides such as creamy hummus, shiraz salad and, of course, long planks of oven-hot sangak bread. Don’t forget those fanciful pastries in the deli case.

Cheers to fine dining

Del Frisco’s Grille

Irvine Spectrum Center

The stylish chophouse is as approachable as it is sophisticated, right from the start: Think shareable cheesesteak egg rolls or sticky garlic St. Louis ribs with gochujang-honey glaze. The on-point pan-roasted branzino and the impeccably charred, butter-optional USDA Prime bone-in rib-eye make lasting impressions; for an unforgettable side to either, go for the lobster-enhanced truffled mac & cheese. Liquid desserts – such as the crystal-clear chocolate martini – are a signature finish.

Cucina Enoteca

Irvine Spectrum Center

Stately olive trees and two outdoor patios lure diners to this summer hot spot that combines the flavors of Italy with the organic freshness of Southern California. Praiseworthy favorites include the fried squash blossoms and the short rib pappardelle with housemade pasta. Or come early for happy hour nibbles over cocktails and affordable wines.

At Cucina Enoteca, the Feast of the Seven Fishes is a tapas-style platter for sharing.

Meizhou Dongpo

Culver Plaza

Golden, crispy-skinned roast duck, half or whole, is a signature dish that’s fit for royalty at this treasured spot for upscale dinners of Szechuan cuisine. Precisely sliced for folding into delicate pancakes, the duck is also offered as a trio of duck soup, duck breast and crunchy chopped bones. Chilled bang bang chicken and potent dan dan pork noodles are fan favorites, too. Showy sweet-and-sour whole fish is a dramatic addition to celebratory feasts. There’s also an intimate private room for special occasions.

Gurume Sushi

Walnut Village Center

Gurume means gourmet in Japanese – appropriate for this new spot. At the heart of its menu are sushi omakase and sashimi moriawase – chef’s-choice feasts focusing on pristine, meticulously presented raw fish – and elaborate live lobster or abalone “festivals.” The DIY Hand Roll Set provides a fun alternative experience; you build six hand rolls, progressing from spicy scallops to eel. The restaurant also offers Japanese tapas, multicourse meal sets and hot pots.


Irvine Spectrum Center

Owner Javier Sosa has been wowing Spectrum Center diners since 2004 with elevated Mexican fare in a setting that is like being transported to Latin America. Tequila worshippers populate the dramatic bar for sips of legendary bottles, while date-nighters and special-occasion celebrants dig into the juiciest Michoacán-style carnitas and plumpest white Mexican prawns in all of Irvine.

Little Sister

Irvine Spectrum Center

Classic Viet dishes such as Shaky Shaky Beef and Salt & Pepper Lobster get Chef Tin Vuong’s modernist treatment at his award-winning bistro. Favored for consistently gracious service and its sultry, midcentury Saigon setting, the high-ceilinged space suits date nights, post-shopping rendezvous or meeting for swanky drinks at the friendly bar. Don’t miss the vibrant green papaya salad – it’s one of OC’s best. Super-stylish desserts make any dinner a celebration.

Angelina’s Pizzeria Napoletana

Los Olivos Marketplace

One of only five pizzerias in Southern California to earn certification from Italy’s esteemed Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, this dashing destination offers more than sublime, bubbly thin-crust pies. Regulars rave about “unbelievably awesome” branzino, “incredible craft cocktails” and Calamari Fritti that’s “10 out of 10.” And if you like pie for dessert, the almond wood-fired Nutella pizza calls your name.

Paul Martin’s American Grill

Irvine Spectrum Center

The vibe at this spot from legendary restaurateur Paul Fleming is cosmopolitan and convivial, its design striking and service a step above. Go straight for the classics: the salt-and-pepper shrimp starter; pan-seared, herb-marinated “brick” chicken, or steelhead salmon cassoulet, or center-cut filet mignon; and sizzling St. Louis-style butter cake in a mini-skillet to finish. The bar alone is worth a visit; starring now is its contemporary classic Raspberry Mule.

Thai Bamboo Bistro

Quail Hill Shopping Center

The menu options are practically encyclopedic: nearly 30 entrees, such as Fire Tofu, Crispy Tamarind Shrimp, Crazy Cashew Chicken and Drunken Beef, and another 30 noodle, curry and rice-plate possibilities, all prepared to individual spice preference. Traditional starters and sides, such as papaya salad and coconut-milk seafood soup, enhance the experience. An appetizer sampler of five items, including satay skewers, feeds two.