Andrei’s embodies all the elements you’d look for in traditional fine dining, with a fully modern splash at every touchpoint. Lavish, intimate atmosphere with tasteful, contemporary décor and just the right lighting. Cuisine based on the classic steak, seafood and salad, prepared with California flare and Mediterranean influence, and finished with remarkable presentation.
Andrei’s seeks to serve ‘conscious cuisine’ through and through, which means sustainable seafood, naturally raised meats and organic, local produce. Health and nutrition resonate throughout the menu, though most classic comforts are readily available. The restaurant itself is a nonprofit—a rarity in the industry—whereby the entire bottom line goes to the Andrei Foundation, dedicated to the owner’s late brother, for eye research and blindness support.
Highlighting the dinner menu is the filet mignon, a tender cut finished with a peppery spike. Sweet corn and cherry tomatoes alongside compliment the dish with exceptional sweetness. The salmon and Israeli couscous makes for a lovely seafood option. Add on a side of pesto risotto…you’ll be glad you did. Save room at the end for their peach cheesecake beignets, just as rich as they sound with a marvelous cinnamon whipped cream.
Make note, however, that Andrei’s is far from cheap. While that filet is quite good, $42 typically fetches a better steak. Most of the appetizers are priced over the quality or quantity they offer as well. Sadly, the cocktails fall into the same boat. Andrei’s gets credit for committing great care toward their cocktail program, but need to tweak the drinks a bit more for flavors to stand out.
Andrei’s is perfect for expense account dinners, largely from the business complex and Marriott nearby. For regular patrons, the happy hour, or perhaps lesser-priced menu items would suffice for better value.
Andrei’s is located at 2607 Main Street, Irvine, CA 92614. Open 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Mon – Thurs, 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. Fri, 5 – 10 p.m. Sat. Closed Sundays. Average out-the-door price for appetizer, entrée, split side and dessert, and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$90/person. For more information and reservations call (949) 387-8887 or visit AndreisRestaurant.com.
Within Huntington Beach’s Pacific City shopping mall lives Lot 579, a chic food hall that houses a slew of delectable eateries and drinkeries. These fast-casual concepts range from sandwiches to sushi, beer to root beer floats, but all share the common motif of fresh, creative, tasty and—wait for it—affordable.
Should you desire, a self-guided food tour is both welcomed and encouraged. From savory onto sweet with several drinks in between, the path below marks a foodie paradise, conveniently located right off the Huntington Beach Pier. Just be sure to bring your appetite.
Stop 1: Pie Not
For those unfamiliar with meat pies, they are to Australia as cheeseburgers are to the US, namely indulgent and delicious. Pie Not takes you straight down under with its array of meat and veggie combinations baked into flaky, buttery pastry. The Mary, made with lamb, cheese and bacon, and the spring a leek, with creamy chicken, stand out for being especially rich.
Pie Not bakes their pies fresh on a rolling basis, a process proudly displayed from their fishbowl-like kitchen visible from the Lot 579 thoroughfare. The place is run by an Aussie, so you know the recipes are authentic. Best to make the experience complete with a bottle of Bundaberg’s.
Stop 2: The Dudes’ Brewing Company
More exotic beer flavors than you can imagine are made in-house and poured at Dudes. If you’re a traditionalist who favors a good lager, IPA or hefeweizen, Dudes has got you covered. If you’re looking for something new and different, however, Dudes is a novelty beer Mecca.
The ‘juicebox series’ presents particular appeal, with flavors such as blood orange, boysenberry and pumpkin. You’ve also got grandma’s pecan, cream soda and malt liquor. Perhaps the most outlandish, however, is mint. Yes, mint beer, green like you’d see on St. Patrick’s Day. Essentially every one of their labels tastes exactly as it sounds.
At lot 579, The Dudes welcomes patrons to bring food from any other eatery to their communal tables. They simply ask that you don’t bring in any outside alcohol. On your food tour, take advantage of The Dudes as a home base; you’ll want to order at least two flights to wash everything down anyway.
Stop 3: Burnt Crumbs
Burnt Crumbs does sandwiches, and does them well. Their small menu strays away from your typical cold cuts and instead focuses on select hot sandwiches that stretch across American favorites. Their Reuben is one for the books, with juicy, thick cut meat and heavenly Russian dressing. The fried chicken sandwich is another highlight, served atop a buttery biscuit with country gravy, garlic mashed potatoes and Sriracha honey.
Burnt crumbs also makes a darn good burger. They sandwich they’re best known for, though, is easily their most off-the-cuff: the spaghetti grilled cheese . If the thought of a spaghetti sandwich sounds good to you, you’ll love it. Otherwise, the choice is yours. In any case, everything Burnt Crumbs puts between bread is masterfully crafted.
Stop 4: Hans’ Homemade Ice Cream
Making your way through amazing meat pies, sandwiches, and beers is an enjoyable challenge, but you must save room for dessert at Hans’ Homemade. Each store churns its own ice cream on-premises, using some pretty interesting ingredients. Who would’ve thought that Twinkies and powdered donuts would make for prime ice cream flavors?
The brownie sundae is a great way to step up your dessert game, with chewy, chocolaty brownie chunks. It pairs well with cookie dough, for a baked/not-baked dynamic, as well as crunchy pecan praline. Nut and sprinkle-covered drumsticks, shakes, floats, cookie sandwiches and just good ol’ fashioned scoops are sure to please as well.
Each of these establishments embodies California comfort in its own distinct way. For most, touring all four at once is a stretch, but the flavor depth, creativity and execution at each establishment necessitate repeat visits to enjoy each establishment over and over. These are not just fast-casual eateries; these are just as much of a cultural experience as their full-service counterparts.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.