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Restaurants & Bars 20

Lunch in Irvine?

lil mikey | Jun 6, 200403:38 PM

Please help me. I need chowish places near the 405 and MacArthur.

The risk of starting a new job in a new area is that (1) you don’t know any of the good chowhound places and (2) people want to take you to their favorite places. Unfortunately, I’ve been cursed with Chowhound for several years now and so I’m spoiled. But not knowing any good places I’ve ended up at the following:

Prego – My first day we went to Prego. It was a warm day and we sat on the patio by the fountain. Service was a little off. Slow and disjointed. This is one of those places where different people do different parts of the service. For instance, one person takes the order, another brings the drinks, another brings the bread, another brings the food. So it’s hard to correct anything that’s wrong because you’re not sure who’s responsibility it is. Finally we just asked whomever was closest and it worked itself out. I ordered the Invernale salad, which was arugula, radicchio, goat cheese, pine nuts and a balsamic vinaigrette. The bread was good, and the salad was delicious. Others at the table had the salmon and the chicken. Both of these looked very good. I’ll be back.

Bistango – Kind of a scene for lunch. People seem to be trying to one-up each other. I had the gazpacho and the California chicken salad. The gazpacho was excellent and the salad was okay. I don’t need to go back to this place.

Il Fornaio – I’ve been to the ones in Pasadena and Manhattan Beach. It’s pretty predictable. All the Atkins folks order the fish. I’ve had the chicken salad and the Insalade della Casa, which is lettuce, beans, avocado, tomato and cucumber. Both are good. They have a nice patio for warm days. There’s a 24-hour fitness next door, so you can watch the stream of people going for their lunchtime workout.

Fleming’s Steakhouse – Land of the pretty people. I went here for dinner and it was like a people museum. What a pickup place. First, it’s deafeningly loud. We literally had to shout across the table to be heard. Even talking to the person right next to you required an exertion. The bar can be watched from the dining room, and it was in full swing. As for the dinner, I ordered the warm spinach salad and the petite filet mignon. The sides are ordered separately, and served family-style for the whole table. They also serve 100 different wines by the glass. The salad was delicious and the steak was cooked exactly how I ordered it. The sides are large enough to share, especially the shoestring fries, which come in a large cone. We had 9 at our table, and while we ordered 2 orders of fries, we didn’t even finish one. The food was very good. I don’t like it so noisy, though. I’ll think hard about going back.

Balboa Bay Club – Dinner here is mostly about atmosphere. Being on the bay at dusk is truly magic. We had a private room, but the main dining room was tasteful and classy. There was a piano player off to the side and the lighting was nice. Service in our room was slow. I ordered the tuna tartare, lobster bisque and macadamia-encrusted whitefish. A seafood night. The bread was good. The tuna tartare was good. The lobster bisque was outstanding. The whitefish left a lot to be desired. I wouldn’t go back for the food, but a drink on the patio would be nice.

Pacific Club – This is a private club in Irvine that someone belongs to. We went for lunch, and the whole thing was a lot like the Balboa Bay Club. First of all, the lake outside was a nice view. The service was slow (when we asked the waiter about the soup of the day his response was “I don’t know. I was just outside parking cars and they told me to come in here.” And the real surprise was that he wasn’t going anywhere to find out.) I ordered the cobb salad, which was fine. Nothing special. With the bread dish, they give you some very tasty cheese sticks, which are basically melted cheese. YUM. The club itself is nice. There is outstanding artwork on the walls, and a clubby feel to it. I don’t need to go back.

International House of Pancakes – I guess it depends on who you’re dining with. Thinking no one would be here for lunch is a mistake. It gets crowded. As far as the food goes, since they’re a breakfast place I figured they must know the bacon business. So I ordered the double BLT. It was okay as far as BLT’s go. Nothing special.

Claimjumper – My dining companion charged into this place like it was home. And as it turns out, it could have been his home. He didn’t even need a menu. “The portions are large here” he told me. He ordered the wedge salad, and I ordered the cobb sandwich. The wedge salad consists of two large wedges of iceberg lettuce, in all about half a head of lettuce, covered with some blue cheese dressing. He ordered extra dressing. The cobb sandwich turned out to be large, as he had told me, but tasty.

Sgt. Pepperoni’s – I went here alone a couple of times. It’s actually pretty good. They have a 2-piece lunch special with (big surprise) 2 pieces of pizza, a salad and a drink for about $7. The pizza changes, but so far I’ve been pretty lucky.

Gullivers – This is a steakhouse, or should I say a prime rib house. I remember going here in high school and being titillated by the waitresses introducing themselves as our “serving wench.” They don’t say that anymore, and I can only assume they got slapped with a sexual harassment action. It was lunchtime, and I ordered the prime rib salad. It comes with a lot of prime rib, and for that matter, a lot of salad. I liked it. The others at the table ordered various combinations of meat, meat and meat.

And so, Mr. and Mrs. Chowhound, can you please recommend good places for me to try?

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