Tag Archives: lunch

i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Irvine, a bedroom community in Orange County, is often spoken about as a homestead of possible Utopian living with green trees, cookie cutter homes, and maybe an ethnic market selling something as exotic as dark chocolate or unroasted nuts. In truth, it’s a thriving urban area with an incredibly diverse population – and food to match.

i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Close to Disneyland, 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean, and roughly an hour and a half drive from the City of Los Angeles, resides Irvine, opened in 1965 as a “new town.” The area’s conception was a bedroom metropolis budding out of the 405-freeway connecting LA, OC, and San Diego counties. Its sole purpose was to be a pedestrian, and yes, a conformist archetype of 20th century modernism.

Now, in the 21st century, ironically, it is the largest city in the continental U.S states with an Asian diaspora, ranging from Indian to Korean, Filipino to Chinese, Malaysian to Japan. Irvine has become a blossoming food center, offering cuisine not only throughout Asia but Mexican, Italian, Indian, and Middle Eastern – and sometimes, a fusion of several.

For residents, the town’s proximity is close enough to enjoy Pacific Ocean breezes from Newport and Laguna Beach without having to pay for the pricey coastal real estate, although that, too, is changing as it continues to grow. Indeed, the area measuring 65 square miles is home to several higher learning schools including University of California, Irvine, Concordia, Brandman and Chapman Universities, and has a median income of a little more than $93,000 per household compared to the entire state at $63,000.

During the mid-sixties, people were the leaving urban centers for places like Irvine, which quickly become synonymous as a landmark of social and political conservatism. Often a hidden tag line, going to any city within Orange County such as Anaheim, Huntington Beach, or San Juan Capistrano was said to be “visiting behind the Orange Curtain,” a post-WW II reference to communist countries and much of the then area’s non-liberal viewpoint. Much of that has changed, as OCs head into the first quarter of the 21st century.

Matter of fact, Irvine proudly stated that for the first time since WWII, the entire area went “blue,” attributable to the shifting and dying demographics that once reigned in the area. Now Irvine, also called “SoCal’s Silicon Valley,” is one of the leading centers of the state’s diverse eats and eaten by internet company denizens from Google, Houzz, Microsoft, and Oracle populating each side of the 405.

No, Dorothy, this isn’t Kansas, it’s Irvine.

Breakfast: Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace

If you’re staying here, this yummy place offers well-made grab and go sandwiches, pizzas, and salads throughout the day. However, it’s the ideal spot to grab a great sausage and egg on an English muffin ($3) or a breakfast burrito ($4). Want to order a la carte? Go for scrambled eggs ($2), any breakfast meat ($2), and a side of potatoes ($2). It’s far better than anything heated up at a chain coffee of fast food spot. Indeed, many of the young office workers start their days at Marketplace because the prices are low. Coffee is standard Starbucks, but you can have a breakfast meeting with the ample seating. Free wi-fi included so it’s easy to start up a Powerpoint presentation. Come back during the never-ending happy hour and enjoy inexpensive glasses of wines, unique cocktails, and beer along with a stellar small plate eating menu that is equally as delicious.


Breakfast at Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

17900 Jamboree Road
Irvine, California, 92614

Lunch: Wholesome Choice

You did well on that 26-slide Powerpoint presentation during breakfast, but that was at 8:00 am. It took hours to get through, and you’re famished, but the chain restaurants which proliferate in Irvine – and they do – aren’t what you want. Head to Irvine’s possibly greatest food spot: a grocery store called Wholesome Choice. At lunch (or even dinner), they have one of the best ethnic food hot bars probably in the country. Running the gamut from Chinese-American, Persian, Indian, Mexican, traditional American, to Middle -Eastern, it’s a food person’s dream. Enter in on the right side by the vegetable and fruit area, and you’re walking into a Turkish bazaar stateside.

Lunch at Wholesome Choice. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

The bins are overflowing with pomegranates, Persian cucumbers, key limes (in season), parsley, ginger, and other items not seen in traditional grocery stores.

Lunch at Wholesome Choice. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Before getting there, though, you have to sidle by the sangak bread bakery and its bakers (who are Mexican). In line waiting for the unleavened curtains of whole wheat, which drape the shopping carts, are people of all backgrounds – Latin, Korean, Jewish, Russian, Filipino, Persian, Arabic – reflecting the neighborhood and the locals.

Lunch at Wholesome Choice. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Buy a bottle of orange water, rose water, lily water, or drinking water. Nearly a dozen varieties of tahini rest in the sauce aisle – it’s hard to choose. If you’re a little queasy about meat products, don’t head to the butcher cases. Whole sheep and cow reside there in pieces. An eye there, a testicle here, and a little bit of tongue. (Don’t forget trying a little bit of the house-made Turkish delight. There seem to be nearly as many choices of the confection as there are stars in the sky.)

Lunch at Wholesome Choice. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

18040 Culver Drive
Irvine, CA 92612
(949) 551-4111


After shopping through one of the many malls, including Irvine Spectrum complete with a ferris wheel, head to Angelina’s Neapolitan Pizzeria, located in another strip area across the 405. Even though it’s a cement block with all the appeal of a wood chip, inside, the Italian bistro is light with grey, burgundy, and white.

Cocktail at Angelina's Neapolitan Pizzeria. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Additionally, it’s well-appointed with racks of wine bottles (mostly Italian), a full bar, and a pizza-oven creating robust aromas. Although you could order a glass of Pinot Grigio with maybe a pizza to share for as an appetizer before a meal, my recommendation is a flight of Italian food and wine. It consists of three tastes, with a trio of wines of about 3 to 3.5 ounces each. For example, the Sophia Flight ($12) focusing on rosatos, imbibers sip a sparkling from Setteanime, Raboso Marca Trevigiana, paired with a bruschetta of shrimp, garlic, and bell pepper. Another pairing is a Sangiovese rosato from Il Poggione Brancato in Tuscany coupled with a bruschetta of brie, olives, and micro-basil and lastly, from Puglia, a beautifully dry rosato, Tormaresca Calafuria Negroamaro, is combined with goat cheese, artichokes, and parsley slathered onto toast. There are others, but it’s a tasty way to travel the Italian wines without going bottle by bottle. Granted, you can do that, but there are checkpoints in Irvine.

Flights of food & Wine at Angelina's Neapolitan Pizzeria. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Los Olivos Marketplace
8573 Irvine Center Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 536 – 5200

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market

Union Market is one of my favorite destinations in all of Orange County, both for eating and retail shopping. It’s a unique one-of-a-kind retail and food hall destination showcasing the best of the independent shops.

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Located in Tustin, a small town to the north of Irvine, it’s based in another mall, called The District.

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

There are about seven full restaurants, including Hatch which serves only sliders, Kettlebar, a New Orleans steam cooking experience, and several others. In the center of the mini-mall within a large mall – sort of like the Russian stacking dolls — lies a horseshoe shaped bar, appropriately named Central.

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California


Here you will find locally-sourced beers, hand-picked wines, and craft cocktails served to a robust gathering of area workers. Order a deliciously messy Country Fried Chicken Poutine ($9) from The Kroft (the tagline is “comfort food re-invented.” ‘Nuff said.), or Market 2 Table’s freshly made rigatoni served with Bolognese ($8.95), and eat at any of the tables. How much fun is doing a buffet to your liking?

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

2493 Park Avenue
Tustin, California 92782

Dinner: Puesto

Across the parking lot from Angelina Neopolitan Pizzeria lies a Mexican restaurant created by three brothers in San Diego. Offering a variety of tacos and other South of the Border goodies, Puesto is a unique offering in the world of California Mexican food.

Dinner at Puesto Taco. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Begin the evening in the kitchen, where four dining tables are close to the culinary action. If the meal conversation lags or your companion is completely dull, start watching the sous chefs make batch after batch of perfectly pressed blue corn tortillas. Monthly, their Executive Chef Katy Smith creates a taco, of which a dollar from each sale goes to a local charity. It’s not always a taco, either. Sometimes, it’s a margarita, and in April of this year, a frozen horchata was chilled up. The inspiration comes from a variety of Mexican states, including the street food of Distrito Federale. It’s also one of the few restaurants where I’ve had freshly made chicarrones (pork skin deep-fried). Lightly salted, they can be a gluten-free or an alternative to corn chips. Fresh, intensely flavorful, and charitable all at the same time. What more can you want from a dining experience?

Dinner at Puesto Taco. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

8577 Irvine Center Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 608 – 9990

Hotel Irvine

Within the confines of staying in the city area of Irvine, hotel choices are limited. However, a nice casual business stay is the Hotel Irvine.

Where to stay: Hotel Irvine. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Looking more like a seventies securities exchange building, the 536-room property is nicely appointed – free Wi Fi – with a thriving food scene. Some of the rooms have balconies but overlook a business park and freeway. Regardless, it’s a quick escape from either North or South on the 405 and comes complete with a pool. (My motto: No pool. No stay.) The restaurant is called Eats Kitchen & Bar, which in January changed executive chefs. It’s now overseen by Jeff Moore, who comes from a fourth generation Palos Verdes-based grocer. The atmosphere of the restaurant is conflicted between being a gastropub, as is seen in the décor, and an industrial edifice.

EATS Kitchen & Bar Dining Room. Breakfast at Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

EATS Kitchen & Bar (Nicoise Salad). Breakfast at Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Regardless, it’s a great place to stay – hell, it’s really the only place to stay in Irvine.

Where to stay: Hotel Irvine. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California


– The End. Go Eat. – 


Word photo courtesy creative commons: Derek Liang 

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Brooklyn

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in BrooklynBrooklyn is no longer a side trip to take when you’ve run out of things to do across the river in Manhattan. It’s now the reason many people visit New York and a place most tourists plan to spend some time. There are several neighborhoods to explore for a mind-boggling range of ethnic foods, and to sample “hipster” Brooklyn. But I focused my picks in and around “Brownstone Brooklyn” because they’re near the sites tourists come to see – the Waterfront Park, BAM for dance and theater, Barclay’s Center for basketball, hockey and concerts, and the Brooklyn Museum and Botanic Garden. The museum, the city’s third largest, has a renowned Egypt collection (many items are from expeditions it funded in the early 1900s) and serves up modern art that’s interesting and sometimes controversial. Its Target-sponsored First Saturday evenings combine art, theater, music, and food and draw an eclectic mix of people, including families on the early side.

Breakfast: Teresa’s

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in BrooklynTeresa’s, a Brooklyn Heights staple for decades, is a few blocks from the Heights Promenade with its often-filmed skyline views. They capably cook up all the usual breakfast foods including buttermilk pancakes (a favorite for neighborhood kids) and egg dishes. But you really go for the Polish food: blintzes, potato pancakes, apple fritters, four kinds of pierogi, and grilled kielbasa.

My suggestion: The blintzes with sweet cheese and plum butter have the right balance of sweet, creamy, and tart and go well with a cup of coffee. If I’m craving something savory I go for the potato pancakes, maybe with a side of kielbasa. It’s a good place to order a few different plates to share. If you prefer eggs but want them with a Polish accent, go for the kielbasa omelet.

Price: breakfast dishes are in the $6-$10 range.
Hours: Daily: 7am-11pm
Address: 80 Montague St, near Hicks St.; Brooklyn Heights
Phone Number: 718-797-3996
Website: Ha! The place is way to old school for such nonsense.
Photo: Zomato 

Second Breakfast (Bakery): Almondine

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in BrooklynIf you head to DUMBO to explore our ever-changing Brooklyn Bridge waterfront park you’ll be blissfully near Almondine. It’s thoroughly French and everything is good. Expect lines late on weekend mornings.

My suggestion: I love the plump Jelly donuts (beignets) even if they do leave me covered in powdered sugar. I like their almond croissants as well. My daughter goes for the brightly colored macarons or the eclairs, depending on how hungry she is.

Price: upscale NYC bakery prices so $3 to $8 for pastries.
Hours: Mon-Sat: 7am-7pm; Sun: 10am-6pm
Address: 85 Water St, near Main St.; DUMBO
Phone Number: 718-797-5026
Website: http://www.almondinebakery.com
Photo flickr cc

Lunch: Brooklyn Crab

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in BrooklynBrooklyn Crab is a little out of the way, but worth a cab ride (you can also take the NYC Water Taxi to the Red Hook Dock). The two upper floors have a bar, outdoor picnic tables and a covered dining area with huge windows that open in summer. The top floor has views of the harbor and the Statue of Liberty. People flock in summer for platters of steamed crab or lobster, fried clams and and a decent kids’ menu. On the ground floor you’ll find a large backyard with a bar, picnic tables, a small mini-golf course, beanbag toss, and shuffleboard tables. The menu is smaller than upstairs, but it’s a great place to while away an afternoon. It’s popular with groups and families and, inexplicably, with local French expats.

My Suggestion: We like the crab roll and the steamer clams when they’re in season. If we aren’t with a group we eat upstairs then head to the backyard for ice cream, a second beer, and some games.

Price: beer $5-6/pint; wine $8-10/glass; appetizers $8-12; sandwiches $15-24; $17-50
Hours: Open year-round. Sunday – Thursday: 11:30am – 10:00 pm; Friday – Saturday: 11:30am – midnight
Address: 24 Reed St, Red Hook, and Brooklyn 11231
Phone Number: 718-643-2722
Website: http://www.brooklyncrab.com

Coffee shop: Tom’s Restaurant

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in BrooklynTom’s Restaurant is a step into classic Brooklyn just a few blocks from the Museum and Botanical Garden. The old soda fountain and counter tell you what to order. Lime rickey’s, egg creams, ice cream sodas, and floats come in tall, thick fountain glasses. Order a shake and they’ll bring you the extra that didn’t fit in the glass on the side.

My suggestion: They’re known for the lemon-ricotta pancakes, but my daughter likes the chocolate chip ones. I like their huevos rancheros, unless I go for a classic grilled cheese with tomato on rye. We often share a cherry lemonade.

Price: fountain drinks $3-6; breakfast $3-14; lunch items $5-15
Hours: Monday – Saturday: 7:00 AM – 4:00 PM; Sunday: 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Address: 782 Washington Avenue, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn 11238
Phone Number: 718-636-9738
Website: http://www.tomsbrooklyn.com/about.html

Happy Hour 1: Strong Place

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Brooklyn
Beer and Cupcakes: Smuttynose Beer & Porter S’more, Brewery Ommegang & Orange-Almond, Great Divide Brew & Lemon Curd

Brooklyn is hive of innovative brewing, fermenting, distilling, shaking, and stirring these days. So picking one bar is not only unfair but also nearly impossible. If you’re a beer drinker I’d head to Strong Place for its good tap selection and innovative bar food. A weeknight happy hour offers 2-for-1 local beers and very good $1 oysters.

My suggestion: Ask what’s in season and on the happy hour list.

Price: Tap beer $6-12;
Hours: happy hour is 4:00 pm-7:00 pm weekdays.
Address: 270 Court Street, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn 11231
Phone Number: 718-855-2105
Website: http://www.strong-place.com

Happy Hour 2: The Clover Club

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in BrooklynThe Clover Club is considered the pioneer and standard-bearer for mixologist-centered cocktail bars in the borough. A weekday happy hour here serves up a selection of drinks and snacks for about half-price.

My suggestion: The cocktails rotate so go with the season, your mood and your favorite booze. Order a round of deviled eggs to go with whatever you’re drinking.

Price: Select cocktails $7; wine $6; beer $4; snacks $5-7.
Hours: happy hour is 4:00 pm -7:00 pm weekdays.
Address: 210 Smith Street, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn 11201
Phone Number: 718-855-7939
Website: https://cloverclubny.com

Dinner: Alma 

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in BrooklynBypass the gritty ground-floor bar at Alma and head upstairs to the restaurant with its huge picture windows and top-floor roof deck. The views of the Brooklyn waterfront and harbor are reason enough to visit. And the Mexican food is first rate.

My suggestion: The Chilaquiles, ceviches, chile relleno, and enchiladas are all authentic, interesting, and tasty.

Price: beer $7; wine $8-12; margaritas about $12; appetizers $6-16; entrees $16-$30
Hours: Monday- Thursday: 5:30 pm – 10:00 pm; Friday: 5:30 pm – 11:00 pm; Saturday – Sunday: 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Address: 187 Columbia Street; Brooklyn 11231
Phone Number: 718.643.5400
Website: http://almarestaurant.com

Hotel: The Nu Hotel

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in BrooklynThe Nu Hotel is a modern boutique hotel that’s central to Brooklyn’s major cultural institutions and a few blocks from Barclay’s Center. It’s an easy subway hop to Manhattan or the Brooklyn waterfront. The neighborhoods around it offer ample eating, drinking, and shopping. It offers complimentary breakfast, bicycles to borrow, and a family suite with bunk beds. It’s pet friendly.

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i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Brooklyn

Photo Wikimedia Commons: Theeditor93


Eileen Gunn. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in BrooklynEileen Gunn is the founder of FamiliesGo! and at least the 4th generation of her family to settle in Brooklyn. When she’s not eating her way through New York City, you can find her on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.



– The End. Go Eat. –