TRADE Food Hall epitomizes today’s fast-casual landscape, bringing together an array of comfort-centric eateries in a chic communal dining environment. And while you’ll find everything from pho to fried chicken, there’s an artistic element that ties every restaurant together within the TRADE confines. Beautiful food, with flavor pairings that push the boundaries of conventional dining ever outward, make virtually every TRADE Food Hall establishment something to strike intrigue with eye and palate alike.
If there’s ever a foodie concoction to blow up Instagram, it’s the magical burger at Ground House. This quadruple burger comes on a rainbow bagel bun, decorated with rainbow sprinkles and then covered with a heap of Lucky Charms marshmallows. And while there’s no doubt that most will order this outlandish burger for the pictures alone, it’s safe to say that most will be surprisingly pleased with the contrast of sweet and savory.
Magical burger aside, ‘conventional’ still wouldn’t be the best way to describe Ground House, which takes pride in its cheat day-worthy creations that put bacon and pork-centric items front and center. Those burgers, though, are top notch.
Neighboring restaurant Portside focuses on seafood, showcased in grand Cali fashion. Monster burritos stuffed to the point of explosion and tacos actually filled to capacity are a breath of fresh air from the faux ‘street style’ concepts that try to pass off paltry portions as more authentic. That surf ‘n’ turf burrito is absolutely worth a repeat visit.
Some of Irvine’s most inventive cocktails can be found at Center Hub, where mastermind Cameron Lang and team have come up with simply beautiful creations. Take the la chancla, a Mexican candy margarita made with blanco tequila, watermelon puree, tajin and a chili lollipop garnish, held on with the world’s smallest clothespin. Or the rock pops, basically a liquid alcoholic version of rock candy. And what better to pair with a quadruple burger than a gigantic mojito?
Wrap things up with a cookie monster milkshake at sweet comforts, made with blue cookies ‘n’ cream ice cream [think about it!]. And after all this, you’ve only scratched the surface at TRADE Food Hall. Perhaps best to pace yourself across a few visits to take it all in.
TRADE Food Hall is located at 2222 Michelson Dr. Irvine, CA 92612. Hours vary, but generally open 11a – 9p Mon – Fri, 11a – 8p Sat/Sun. Prices vary by restaurant. For more information, visit TradeFoodHall.com
Grimaldi’s Pizzeria has served up New York slices since 1990, where it opened its first location under the Brooklyn Bridge. Their technique goes much further back, however, utilizing coal-fired brick ovens that encompass more than a century of pizza-making. Now, with nearly 50 properties across the US and several international projects in the making, Grimaldi’s has proven its ability to scale classic production while retaining a heartwarming vibe.
The menu is somewhat of a rarity to the typical west-coaster: a full-service restaurant that’s almost entirely focused on pizza and salad. Read: no pasta, no chicken wings, no oversize meatballs or other usual suspects you’d typically find at a family-style Italian joint. What this means is an In-n-Out kind of focus—limited menu, but each item is done very well. What this also means is that the kitchen doesn’t even have a stove. Those old-fashioned brick ovens are the lifeblood of the fishbowl-style kitchen, going through more than 200lbs of coal a day.
The finished product is a classic New York-style crust, thin and crispy on the outside with an earthy element delivered from those coal ovens. And with a strong lineup of specialty pizzas and toppings for build-your-own creations, the choices are hardly limited. Corporate Executive Chef Cory Lattuca, a 15-year Grimaldi’s veteran, consistently churns out seasonal items to make the menu pop even further. Buffalo chicken pizza, anyone?
Lattuca takes Grimaldi’s a step further with sweets and drinks. Somehow those ovens are rigged to make some mean cannoli and New York cheesecake [Oreo and sugar cookie crust?!?]. Add a strong lineup of beers, housemade cocktails and—of course—wines. Fun fact: Grimaldi’s makes its own house wine in Italy.
Grimaldi’s has multiple locations nationwide. Hours can vary but hover around 11a – 10p Sun – Thu and 11a – 11pm Fri/Sat. Avg. Out-the-door price for split salad, split pizza and 1 – 2 drinks is ~ $30/person. For more information, visit GrimaldisPizzeria.com
The wondrous flavors of New Orleans have assimilated with the Angelino palate through Preux & Proper, bringing a quaint-yet-stylish, casual-yet-classy taste to on one of DTLA’s busy thoroughfares. ‘Colonel’ Josh Kopel and Executive Chef Sammy Monsour have created a masterful experience with Cajun-inspired dishes and elegant SoCal panache, striking patrons with a cultural intrigue that gets this place popping night after night.
The humble entrance off Spring Street transports you straight to NoLa, frozen drink machines and all. Walk up the stairs to enter Proper Dining Hall, where everything on a plate sticks to its Cajun roots while the bustling bar, lounge and dining area screams hip LA. Craft cocktails go far beyond NoLa’s hurricanes [the drink, to avoid any confusion here], such as the rising sun, with Japanese whisky, egg white and yuzu; the voodoo queen, with Jamaican rum and jerk bitters; and the mezcalarita del diablo, with ancho syrup and chipotle. Step onto the restaurant’s small balcony after a few of these and you may see someone down below asking for beads.
Preux & Proper dishes out sizeable portions, with featured shared plates like the grilled yellow street corn, a take on Mexican elote, as well as a chicken liver pate that spreads beautifully over grilled baguette. The southern fried section, however, really takes it home. The fried whole game hen, essentially a high-end version of chicken and biscuits, is a meal to remember, with a sweet, crunchy coating, fluffy biscuits and a honey finish that makes it all come together. For an additional splurge, go for the 36-hour prime boneless beef rib, a melt-in-your-mouth indulgence complemented beautifully with mashed yams and crispy parsnip chips.
Preux & Proper is located at 840 S. Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90014. Open 4 – 10p Mon – Wed, 4p – midnight Thu, 4 – 11p Fri/Sat and noon – 9p Sun. Avg. out-the-door cost for split appetizer, split charcuterie, entrée, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$105/person. For more information call (213) 896-0090 or visit PreuxAndProper.com
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.