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.
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
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.