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First off: this place is very loud. The kind of place you will have to basically yell the whole time while leaning in on the table to say anything to your dining partner(s). The target market here appears to be the usual "eternal partying" and "club" crowd of Costa Mesa/New Port Beach. For this crowd, the food at SOCIAL is HUGE jump in quality.
Unfortunately, for anyone that takes food more seriously, SOCIAL is a step down from most places.
Ideas for food are very simple; for such simple ideas to produce standout cuisine the execution has to be quite high, and unfortunately it is not here. Perhaps this should be expected as the head chef came from Playground, which does not really provide a formal culinary training.
If you choose to go, stick with something simple, like the burger. The use of Akuashi beef seems pointless as the parties are cooked basically well done, but overall the burger feels comforting, like a high end version of a fast food burger. However, I would say it's not even close to some of the better burgers in OC (ARC, and Mick's come to mind).
Another easy win is the pimento cheese. It comes with lots of toast, pimento cheese, and bacon jam. You are basically eating cheese, bacon, and toasted bread. It's not amazing, but it would be hard to screw it up. The pimento cheese does not come close to, for example, the stuff at The Hart & The Hunter or Son of a Gun in LA, but it's not horrible.
Definitely avoid: spoon bread, which is like a dry block of cornbread. Not sure if how it is supposed to be, but is close in inedible unfortunately, even though the squash butter and cheese on top was alright.
Also avoid: chicken and waffles. Chicken tastes like your basic chicken wings in buffalo sauce. Waffles are not crisp, very thick, maybe slightly better than the horrible waffles served at Roscoe's, but still not really success as far as waffles go.
Mixed feelings: the pork belly sandwich. Basically a banh mi without a crusty bread. The papaya was not sour enough to work, but the pork belly itself was prepared well. It was only $6, and it's large enough that really you could just eat that as your entree if you wanted. Maybe the best value on the whole menu. If you love pork belly (and all of the fattiness that entails), you might really like this.
The beer and wine selection is above average for the area, with a sour ale appearing on the beer bottle list, and some interesting wines at low price points on the wine list.
The cost for two people including tax and tip was $80.
For glorified bar food, $40/person feels like way too much.
Compared to what you could get for $40/person at Playground, it's worth your time to just drive to Santa Ana for dinner. The main source of customers at SOCIAL are people coming in that are too drunk to drive there, so I am sure the place will be around for a while if you decide it's worth checking out, but for me, it's more of the laziness that seems to pervade so much of OC's dining scene. Just good enough to be better than what the local crowd is used to.
Meanwhile, Taco Maria was only half full on Saturday. Tragic.
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