Over the past year, there’s been plenty of time to sit and think about all the delicious foods we’d love to be eating with a group of our closest friends. With hope on the horizon, here’s a list of the 20 best things to try in Irvine.

 

Best Buffalo Fries: The Buffalo Spot 

The Buffalo Spot has built a fried chicken empire with the help of a simple, yet tasty, niche – buffalo fries. After opening in Long Beach, California in 2013, the Buffalo Spot now has more than 30 locations across California, Arizona and Nevada. The Buffalo Spot has called Irvine home since May 2019. By popularizing the hashtag #WorldFamousBuffaloFries on social media, the Buffalo Spot has created a unique niche for itself by serving heaps of French fries loaded with chopped and diced pieces of hand-breaded fried chicken. The chicken is then sauced with different flavors of “buffalo-style” sauce, with signature flavors like mango habanero, Tajin and pineapple jalapeno.

4511 Campus Drive, Irvine

Best Filipino Fried Chicken: Jollibee 

This Filipino staple has gained a cult following thanks to a delicious rendition of Filipino fried chicken, known as Chickenjoy. The crispy, flaky, golden brown chicken is one of the most celebrated fried chicken experiences around the world. Jollibee should be on the list of Irvine’s go-to spots at all times. If you go, be sure to try the mashed potatoes and gravy, and Filipino spaghetti. Lastly, whatever you do, be sure to get extra Jollibee gravy, because there’s never too much.

2180 Barranca Pkwy, Ste. #120, Irvine

Best Sushi: Ootoro Sushi 

By placing an attention to detail on every aspect of dining, Ootoro Sushi in Irvine’s TRADE Shopping Center has silently gained Michelin Guide notoriety. For some background, Michelin Guide inspectors are trained to objectively evaluate dishes based on five core categories of dining, known as, “The Five Criteria – quality of the ingredients used, mastery of flavor and cooking techniques, the personality of the chef in his cuisine, value for money and consistency between visits.” Ootoro is a recipient of the The Michelin Plate: Good cooking distinction.

2222 Michelson Drive #246, Irvine

Best Shabu Shabu: dPot Hot Pot 

Known as Shabu Shabu, which translates to, “Swish, Swish,” this Korean dish consists of adding noodles, protein and veggies to a pot of steaming hot broth that cooks on a stove built into the table. At dPot, you can create your own hot pot experience, selecting from Wagyu beef and many other cuts of top choice beef. Guests have reported about a tableside three-tiered plate rack with meat on top, veggies and noodles on the bottom, with a healthy serving of veggies, which include cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, carrots and tofu. dPot has two locations, one in Buena Park and the other in Irvine’s Woodbridge Village Center.

4636 Barranca Pkwy, Irvine

Best Morraccan Salmon Salad: Zov’s Kitchen 

Chef Zov Karamardian, owner and founder of the Orange County-based Zov’s Bistro and Bakery, has one dish that is the centerpiece of her menus – the Morraccan Salmon Salad with lentil and rice pilaf and charmoula sauce. Chef Zov said she learned how to make this dish during a visit to Morocco, adding that it has become a permanent fixture on her menu. “I learned this dish from my visit to Morocco many many years ago and recreated the dish,” Chef Zov explained in an email to Irvine Weekly. “To this day I will be crucified if I ever take it off the menu. It is healthy, delicious and beautiful on the plate.”

3915 Portola Parkway, Irvine

Best Taquiza for Two: Taco Rosa

Loaded up with skirt steak, chicken breast and tiger shrimp, Taco Rosa’s Taquiza for Two is the ultimate date night platter. With mexican cuisine at the core of Taco Rosa in Irvine, guests can always find familiar flavors and hearty portions, and highly recommended cadillac margaritas. While COVID-19 has changed how Irvine experiences Taco Rosa, the days of dining in a dimly lit, authentically decorated Mexican cantina are not too far away. Until then, there’s always take out!

13792 Jamboree Road, Irvine

Best Croque Monsieur: La Boulangerie

The well-known San Franciscan bakery La Boulangerie has established roots in Irvine offering the elevated coffee and Paris cafe-style fare. While much of La Boulangerie’s menu provides the norm – avocado toasts, croissants, along with a variety of soups and sandwiches. However, those looking to raise some eyebrows should go with the monstrous Croque Monsieur, built with gruyere cheese, creme fraîche and pain de mie. Offering an all-day brunch, anytime is the perfect time for a quick bite at La Boulangerie.

5635 Alton Pkwy, Suite I, Irvine

Best All-Around Vibe: TRADE Market Place 

With more than a dozen internationally themed restaurants, TRADE Food Hall in Irvine has an eclectic vibe, with plenty of outdoor space to work, eat and relax. From coffee to curry, to dental offices and shopping, TRADE Market Place has become a one-stop shop for necessities in Irvine.

2222 Michelson Drive, Irvin

Best Curry: Curry House CoCo Ichibanya

With locations in Torrance, Irvine, Brentwood and Koreatown, CoCo IchIbanya Curry House has more than 1,400 locations around the globe. CoCo Curry House has a stellar reputation for its extravagant list of curry dishes. From chicken cutlets, pork cutlets, omelettes and even seafood, Coco Curry House offers an incredible lineup of curry and rice dishes.

2710 Alton Pkwy, Irvine

Best Spicy Ramen: Silverlake Ramen

Silverlake’s popular ramen spot has expanded southward, opening in Huntington Beach, Long Beach and recently at the Irvine Spectrum. The Blaze is a spicy tonkotsu ramen, served with bean sprouts, steamed spinach, green onion and a soft boiled egg. Served with a healthy slab of pork belly or chashu. One of the tastiest bowls of ramen you can find in Irvine. 

Angelinas Pizzeria Irvine

Best Authentic Italian Pizza: Angelina’s Pizzeria

With ingredients imported from Italy, Angelina’s Pizzeria Napoletana specializes in authentic Neapolitan-style pizza, using old world cooking techniques. With wood fired ovens, Angelina’s pizza program is certified by the Vera Pizza Napoletana, which is an organization founded by a group of Neapolitan people.

8573 Irvine Center Dr, Irvine

Agora Churrascaria

Best Brazilan Steakhouse: Agora Churrascaria

If you like the idea of being served sizzling hot steak, sliced off the skewer, then Agora Churrascaria is the place for you. With a dozen cuts of meat, this Brazillian steakhouse serves beef, pork, lamb and chicken. Guests can signal their desire for additional meat with the use of a green ticket, left on the table which encourages the waiters to bring more meat. Once the ticket is flipped to the red side, the meal will come to an end.

1830 Main Street, Irvine

Best Grilled Cheese: The Melt

Located at the Irvine Spectrum, there is undying hype around the concept of a grilled cheese. The cheese pull is a novelty in today’s age of social media and with a long list of mac ‘n’ cheese, melt burger and melted classics – like a patty melt made with grilled angus and Waygu burger patties, caramelized onions and provolone cheese, and mustard – there’s no shortage of Instagrammable eats as The Melt.

665 Spectrum Center Drive, Irvine

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Best Macarons: Honey and Butter Macarons 

This small macaron shop at the Irvine Spectrum crafts incredibly detailed character-style macarons, with flavors like dark chocolate marmalade, French toast, Oreo and Honey Lemon. If you ever need a cool gift idea, or just have a sweet tooth, Honey and Butter will tick all your boxes.

633 Spectrum Center Drive, Irvine

Best Mediterranean: Olive Oil Mediterranean Grill

Located in the Cypress Village Shopping Center, Olive Oil is a casual Mediterranean joint,  featuring a Chicken Shawarma Calzone and Olive Oil Calzone that you can only find in Irvine. They also offer a Mini Menu, which is mini versions of their regular menu items, that is ideal for catering.

14141 Jeffrey Rd, Irvine

Best Udon: Fukada 

Yelp reviews will showcase Irvine’s and Orange County’s undying loyalty to Fukada in Irvine. Well-known for their delicious rice bowls and wide variety of udon and don bowls. On top of high-rated food, guests also point to the affordability of Fukada’s food, which is always consistent in quality and authenticity.

683 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine

Best Bagels: East Coast Bagels 

From pizza sandwich bagels to the traditional lox and cream cheese, East Coast Bagels is located in Irvine’s Heritage Plaza. Thanks to their hefty bagel sandwiches, ECB is one of the highest rated bagel makers in Orange County. Pro Tip: Phone orders might take longer, sometimes it’s best to wait in line.
14370 Culver Drive, Ste B, Irvine.

 

OUTSIDE IRVINE

Best Sichuan Cuisine: Sichuan Impression 

For the spice lovers in Orange County, Sichuan Impression serves spicy Chinese Sichuan cuisine. Dishes like toothpick lamb, mapo tofu, rice flour pork belly, twice cooked pork and marbled beef noodle casserole. For the fearless spice seeker, Sichuan Impression also serves several Rattan Pepper dishes, including a wok-fried duck tongue.

3816 Red Hill Ave, Tustin.

Best Clay Pot Chicken: Yang’s Chicken Rice

With more than 6,000 locations in China, Australia, Japan and Singapore, Yang’s Chicken Rice is well-known across the globe for its simple and delicious Clay Pot Chicken, known as Huang men ji. The dish is made with hearty thigh meat, tasty slices of ginger, shiitake mushrooms and sliced serrano peppers. Tustin is home to the first Yang’s Braised Chicken in the United States. Priding itself on a secret family recipe, Yang’s chicken and rice bowls are served in three levels: regular, authentic and spicy.

13824 Red Hill Ave, Tustin

Best Taco Tuesday: Hermosa Taqueria  

Just outside the Irvine border in Tustin, Hermosa Taqueria is a female-owned and operated establishment serving latin cuisine in the Tustin Union Market. However, while not exactly Irvine-based, the amazing Taco Tuesday deal makes it all worthwhile. On Tuesday, Hermosa Taqueria offers $2 off margaritas and beer, and $3 off taco combos. With a protein lineup of birra, al pastor, chicken and carne asada, Hermosa Taqueria is a great local spot that showcases authentic cuisine.

2493 Park Ave, Tustin