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
One of LA’s top cheesesteak spots is far from what you’d think of as the city’s foodie hotspots. Housed in a humble storefront on the corner of 39th and Figueroa, directly across from the coliseum and a half block from the USC campus, Figueroa Philly isn’t the posh hautespot you’d find in Silverlake or Westwood. Faux wood communal tabletops and rustic industrial décor simply aren’t a fit in an area that far away from the yuppie hustle and bustle, not to mention that any true Philadelphian would balk at seeing a cheesesteak spot all dressed up in such a way.
Figueroa Philly sticks to its roots, or rather, borrows the roots of your classic east coast hole in the wall. Rib eye steak, Amorso rolls shipped directly from Philly, and of course your ever-popular cheese whiz. The only thing that owner Danny Hizami, who bears an interesting resemblance to Ray Romano, ‘LA-ified’ about the place was the sourcing of high-end ingredients. The meats and cheeses—the real cheeses, at least—are all Boar’s Head, veggies are fresh, and of course everything is cooked to order.
While Figueroa Philly has been open since 2010, the property where it resides has been in Hizami’s family for more than 40 years. And because he has the ridiculous advantage of owning his restaurant outright, he’s got the freedom to charge less and experiment more. He’s assembled a small but loyal team that’s been with him for nearly two decades, and they’ve hatched not just a slew of indulgent cheesesteak offerings, but also a secret menu that unlocks even more.
Your classic cheesesteak, or the ‘Famous Figueroa Philly,’ has your classic rib eye steak, onions, peppers, mushrooms and cheese whiz. Branch out a bit for a New Yorker with Pastrami, mustard and pickles, and in any case get an order of onion rings, delivered in massive quantity and fried to a perfect golden brown. Things get interesting on the secret menu, where the Yin Yang essentially combines the two orders and the Philly fries turn carne asada fries on its head.
These carnivorous compilations are joined by the up-and-coming Hot Cheeto cheesesteak. Exactly as it sounds, this new-age concoction melds crushed hot Cheetos into the whiz, plus a few on top for good measure. Similar to Doritos mac ‘n’ cheese, if it sounds good then you’re going to love it. Also be on the lookout for an eating challenge with 'The Frankenstein,' a massive double cheesesteak with hot dogs, french fries, onion rings, pepperoni, peppers and onions.
Figueroa Philly is located at 3850 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90037. Open 10a – 8p 7 days a week. Avg. out-the-door price for cheesteak, split side and a drink is ~$15/person. For more information call (213) 748-9073 or visit FigueroaPhilly.com.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.