Orange County is a great place for food and the city of Irvine is no exception to that. Even though it is full of chain restaurants with hidden surprises here and there, it is a central location to the OC food scene. Think of all the options in Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Santa Ana, Anaheim and beyond. So 'Eaters, if you needed any reassurance, you're in the right place.
We've made this guide to help eager freshman, new transfers, and even seasoned students, find new places to add to their Yelp bookmarks and familiar favorites that are often overlooked. Whether it be 2 am and you're craving something sweet or it be post-workout and you're looking for a quick snack, we've got your back.
When you want a brunch you can Instagram: Le Pain Quotidien
LPQ provides a unique, comfortable setting to enjoy some really delicious food. Their ingredients are always fresh, their breads have the perfect crunch, every item on the menu is great, and it's located in one of the best outdoor malls in Orange County.
So indulge in that Insta-worthy Avocado Toast or that bread basket with chocolate hazelnut spread—you'll be happy you did. Oh, and I guarantee this is a spot very few UCI students know about, so you're now in the know.
What to Order: Regardless if you're there for breakfast, lunch or brunch, the Avocado Toast is a must-try (or any of their Tartines, for that matter). Add a daily blend and you're good to go with this nutritious meal. Their scone (flavor changes seasonally) is always a great snack and their massive chocolate chip cookies are pretty dang yummy too.
Location: Fashion Island, 401 Newport Center Dr #1103A, Newport Beach, CA 92660
When you're hungry after that party in Stanford Court was rolled way too early: In-N-Out
We here at UCI are very fortunate to have one of the best burger chains in, dare I say, the world, right across the street from our campus. Anyone who is local to California knows that In-N-Out is heaven and it doesn't hurt that it's one of the cheapest meals around.
What to Order: Double Double with Animal Fries and a Coke. Simple, I know, but that's what In-N-Out is about.
Location: University Center, 4115 Campus Dr, Irvine, CA 92612
When you want a beer during your 3-hour break between classes: Anthill Pub & Grille
Okay, who wouldn't want a beer and curly fries to help get them through the day? Sure, you have to be 21 (don't forget your ID) to participate in half of this good time, but it's a notable place for sure. Somewhat hidden on campus and often overlooked, they have a good variety of beers on tap and some good grub to go along with it.
What to order: ANY beer with some Stoner Tots (make sure you bring cash because it's cash only!)
Location: UC Irvine, 215 Pereira Dr, Irvine, CA 92697
When you're sick of relying on Starbucks for that afternoon pick-me-up: Peet's Coffee & Tea
Even though there are multiple Starbucks locations on the UC Irvine campus, they are almost always filled with students. And if you're like me, you're not only tired of the line, but also tired of getting the same iced coffee or white chocolate mocha.
So venture slightly off campus to University Center and get a drink from Peet's. This little walk adds much-needed variety to your study routine.
What to order: If you're here during the fall, do yourself a favor and try the Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Mocha. If you're here any other time though, grab a Latte Macchiato or The Black Tie.
Location: University Center, 4213 Campus Dr P-166A, Irvine, CA 92612
When you need to stock up for those nights spent in the apartment: Trader Joe's
I have never met a person who doesn't love Trader Joe's. Often smaller than most chain grocery stores, TJ's offers students a quick and easy way to get all the groceries they could need. The prices are decent, new products come with the seasons and everything they have is pretty much great. Stock up on frozen meals and on-the-go snacks right across from campus.
What to purchase: Dried fruits! The Soft & Juicy Mango is my personal favorite. Frozen Orange Chicken and Mini Pizzas are also convenient to make in your apartment in between classes. Also a good place to purchase the basics like milk, eggs, lunch meat, etc.
Location: University Center, 4225 Campus Dr, Irvine, CA 92612
When your study squad is in desperate need of a study break: Milk & Honey
When it’s time to put those textbooks aside and get away for an hour or two, take a maximum ten-minute drive from campus to Milk And Honey. Enjoy the lighted backyard ambiance, while releasing some stress with your friends by playing some Jenga. That, or just vent about how you’re so not ready for that midterm tomorrow, while listening to their awesome playlist in the background.
What to Order: Whether you’re more of a coffee, tea, or lemonade type of person, they have it all here. From a Spanish Latte to a Cucumberade, it’s all delicious. Or if you're feeling rather adventurous, try the Chai Deluxe Shaved Ice.
Location: 2981 Bristol St B6, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
When you want donuts at 2 am & know someone who has a car: Seaside Bakery
Many people on campus have a story associated with the party they went to before stopping at Seaside for a late night snack. What looks like a run down, tiny donut shop is actually a surprisingly good and delicious place to be. So whether it's 10 am or 10 pm, those donut cravings can be satisfied.
What to Order: If you're feeling savory, the Ham, Cream Cheese, and Jalapeño Croissant is what you need to get. Pair that with a Green Thai Tea and a blueberry donut for dessert and you're good to go.
Location: 2108 W Oceanfront, Newport Beach, CA 92663
#SpoonTip: Grab a bag of donut holes for your friends that couldn't make it, you'll be greatly appreciated.
When you're trying to be healthy after that workout at the ARC: Tender Greens
A good workout is never complete without a nutritious, protein-filled meal afterwards. Don't be fooled by the name of the restaurant, they don't only have salads. They have deliciously grilled meat, fish and veggies that can be placed in salads, sandwiches or other dishes. The portions are so big, that this seemingly expensive meal becomes cheap because it's able to feed you twice. Vegan and vegetarian options are plentiful as well.
What to Order: If you're looking for lots of nutrients and protein in one menu item, get the Tuna Nicoise Big Salad or the Backyard Marinated Steak as a sandwich or a hot plate.
Location: University Center, B165, 4237 Campus Dr, Irvine, CA 92612
When you need something sweet to get you through your afternoon classes: Sprinkles Cupcakes
Who doesn't like cupcakes? They are literally portable, fun to eat, personal cakes—it doesn't get much better than that. Being the first ever cupcake bakery, Sprinkles knows what it's doing. Fresh-baked daily and frosted throughout the day, you are bound to fall in love with one of the moist, delicious flavors.
What to Order: If you're new to Sprinkles, try their signature Red Velvet Cupcake. Once you're ready to try something a little more adventurous, look for the seasonal S'more or Lemon Meringue cupcake. With a graham cracker crust, gooey filling and toasted marshmallow topping, you can't go wrong with either of those.
Location: Corona Del Mar Plaza, 952 Avocado Ave, Newport Beach, CA 92660
#SpoonTip: Stop by their neighboring sister store, Sprinkles Ice Cream, to get a Sprinkles Sundae. You won't be upset.
When you want to grab a slice after the 'Eaters baseball game: Gina's Pizza
Fluffy, cheesy goodness is what you will find in each pizza at Gina's Pizza. Gina's, in Sicilian fashion, makes thick-crust, gooey pizza that's filling and always makes for a delicious meal. The portions are hefty and you will often leave with leftovers.
What to order: Do yourself a favor and get a freshly-made pizza, and not a slice. It takes more time, but the pie will be less dense and so much better. I'm a simple eater and really like the pepperoni pizza, but I've also heard The Godfather is delicious, as well as the Lasagna. Oh and get some cheesy garlic bread. And a beer.
Location: Campus Plaza, 4533 Campus Dr, Irvine, CA 92612
When you're feeling Kawaii: Hello Kitty Cafe Pop-Up
If you were anything like me in high school, then you also went through the Kawaii phase because let’s face it, everyone else was. Times change and so do the trends, but we both know the nostalgia kicks in and you can’t help but reminisce the good old days. So, what’s more Kawaii than delicious Hello Kitty-themed pastries and cute packaging? It can’t get any cuter than that.
What to Order: To make your wait in line worth while, you can’t go wrong with a refreshing Strawberry Mint Lemonade or a Peach Iced Tea. To satisfy your sweet tooth, make sure to try the Nutella filled pop tart.
Location: 670 Spectrum Center Dr, Irvine, CA 92618
When you're craving ramen on the surprisingly gloomy day: Ajisen Ramen
On rainy gloomy days, nothing is better for the college student soul than soothing tasty Ramen. Ajisen has not only a large variety of Ramen, but also a large variety of yummy appetizers including Dumplings and Fried Calamari. Goodbye rain, hello sunshine.
What to Order: There is really nothing you shouldn’t order. My life goal is to taste everything on the menu at least once, so I’m pretty sure you’ll run into me often. The Ajisen Combination Ramon never fails to satisfy my craving and gives the best of all the meaty goodness Japanese food has to offer.
Location: 2700 Alton Parkway, Irvine, CA 92606
When you want fancy tacos on Taco Tuesday: Taco Asylum
What more could you want on a Tuesday than some gourmet tacos and a nice cold beer? Taco Asylum is the definitely the place for you if you’re crazy about tacos. Come enjoy their specialty tacos when you’re feeling daring or just play it safe with their classic tacos.
But wait, the best part is on Tuesdays, classic tacos are just three dollars and beers are a dollar off. Don’t worry my fellow vegetarians, they have tacos for you, too.
What to Order: If you have a taste for spicy tacos, give the Jamaican Jerk Chicken Taco a try. It’s a nice combination of sweet pineapple and habanero salsa. Or if you want to be edgy try the Bacon PB&J Taco (yes, you read that right).
Location: 2937 Bristol St, Costa Mesa CA 92626
When you want to impress your friends with the best milk tea in the OC: 7 Leaves Cafe
The teas and coffee at 7 Leave Cafe are no joke, and I mean that in the best way possible. Something about their drinks are different than other boba stores and it's evident in their high-quality tasting product.
Add-ons include boba (obvi), egg pudding, aloe vera and grass jelly. You'll be sad when you head home for the holidays, not because you'll miss school, but because you'll miss 7 Leaves.
What to Order: All of the drinks are pretty much the best things ever, but I would start with either the House Special Coffee (it comes with a fluffy cream topping that is so great), the creamy Thai Tea, or the Japanese Matcha Tea. Add a strawberry croissant as something to munch on and you're good to go.Location: The Arbor, 14845 Jeffrey Rd, Irvine, CA 92618
*closest location to campus, but there are others across the OC
#SpoonTip: If you're new to bubble tea, check out this article to get some boba knowledge.