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
Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse is your classic friendly neighborhood steakhouse. White tablecloths, plush booths, servers lad in chef whites and fancy dessert carts put Davio’s on somewhat of an endangered species list in this day and age of modern chic, but with 25+ years of history on the east coast, this place is making big bets on comfort, coziness and iconic charm. Those 25 years, however, were built up with steakhouse grade hormone-free cuts, homemade pastas and a menu that brings timeless and new age dishes together.
Davio’s 3,000-mile journey out west brought it to a business park in Irvine, where needless to say they’re killing it on power lunches and business dinners. But the experience goes much further, with corporate clientele coming back dressed down and with families in tow. The newest offering is Davio’s Sunday Brunch, which is picking up steam as a high-end weekend dining destination.
If you’re looking to make your Sunday afternoon fun and fancy, with a feeling of privacy and seclusion, plus the unbelievably rare opportunity to actually make a brunch reservation, you just got a solid go-to with Davio’s. Ridiculous beef tenderloin Benedict and a crab omelet with crab ‘impossibly everywhere’ are just a preview of how this steakhouse takes brunch to the next level, complemented beautifully with a bloody Mary cart complete with fresh bacon, jumbo prawns and virtually anything else you can put in a morning cocktail.
The full Italian steakhouse experience is readily available at brunch as well, with hand-rolled potato gnocchi, fresh lobster rolls and of course an array of classic steak and seafood options. And whatever you’re craving, you owe it to yourself to start with the spring rolls. Far from your typical Far East dish, these variations are stuffed with Philly cheesesteak, Reuben, chicken parmesan and east coast specialties that allow Davio’s to show off its historic roots.
Davio’s did adapt to SoCal quite well in its ambiance, finding a location with tons of natural light and an expansive patio. It makes it that much easier to enjoy another bloody Mary, glass of wine or craft cocktail. Then that dessert cart comes out and the hardest decision of the day is whether to go with the molten chocolate cake or the panna cotta. Make it easy on yourself and just get both.
Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse is located at 18420 Von Karman Ave, Irvine CA 92162. Open 11:30a – 10p Mon/Tue, 11:30a – 11p Wed – Fri, 5p – 12a Sat, 11a – 10p Sun. Avg. out-the-door price for split appetizer, entrée, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$85/person. For more information and reservations call (949) 477-4810 or visit Davios.com/Irv.
Butternut squash soup with bacon marshmallows. Lobster rolls piled high with fresh seafood. Endless choices of high-end wines coupled with cooking demonstrations from some of the most acclaimed chefs in the country. The Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival saw a successful year indeed. Hosted over the final week of September, the festival welcomed fall in gourmet style with a festive party in tow.
Two days of grand tastings at the Newport Beach Civic Center highlighted the weekend, whereby a collection of acclaimed chefs showcased their restaurants’ creative approaches to modern dining. Live music energized a fun-loving crowd that sipped to their hearts’ content [albeit maybe beyond their livers’], with perfect weather rounding out an OC-foodie’s dreamland.
Award-winning Chefs Hubert Keller, Richard Blais, Lorena Garcia, Melissa King and Brooke Williamson were among the many big names to showcase their skills live on stage. Highlighting the cooking demos, however, was the duo of Amar Santana and Katsuji Tanabe, two Top Chef alums whose humor and banter was almost as fantastic as their kitchen skill. On the wine side, four master sommeliers led tastings and wine education lessons. Given that there are less than 150 master sommeliers in the entire US, The Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival recruited one heck of a lineup.
Dozens of eateries came to play, and a few certainly stole the show. Nobu was an unsurprising standout with a steamed cod that melted in your mouth. Selanne Steak Tavern’s braised short rib with white polenta and bleu cheese foam was a huge crowd favorite, as was their butternut squash soup noted above. Broadway’s Lamb Confit and Driftwood Kitchen’s prime, farro and roasted corn griddle cakes continued the momentum, as did The Winery’s pork belly over risotto and Puesto’s tacos.
Wineries included Ancient Peaks Winery, Barlow Vineyards, Mondavi Family Wines, AIX, Duckhorn, Dearly Beloved, Navarro Vineyards and Roadhouse Winery among many others. Stella poured from three separate stations, ensuring everyone got their beer fix. Duke’s and Johnny Walker brought an interesting presence to the festival, as well as Blue Marble’s ‘ultra premium’ pre-mixed canned cocktails.
Dessert was surprisingly missing on day one, but made a beautiful appearance day two thanks to Mozza’s butterscotch gelato and Aven Table + Bar’s honey syrup doughnuts with pork belly. It was joined with plenty of sweet drinks, such as Bass Note Sangria and Tatratea, a Slovakian tea-based herbal liquer that packs a punch like you wouldn’t believe.
Numerous VIP events surrounded the grand tastings, such as a champagne and caviar tasting by Moet Hennesey and Petrossian. A panel of four master sommeliers, caviar expert Christopher Klapp and Chef Alan Greeley led guests through five pairings of labels such as Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot and Moet Chandon with some of Petrossian’s top caviars. Petrossian, for those who don’t know, is the Moet Hennesey of caviar.
More VIP events, private dinners and late-night parties allowed the Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival to effectively take over Orange County’s restaurant scene for the weekend, adding a great spark to celebrate the region’s sprawling foodie presence.
Guests may spend the next year visiting the restaurants they sampled over the weekend, but before you know it the 2018 festival will be fast-approaching. For more information visit NewportWineAndFood.com
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.