On a typical 9 to 5 corporate job, the average worker is faced with a tough decision every day. And no, it’s not whether or not you should call out of work that morning. Rather, what you should eat during your favorite time of the workday, lunch.
Lunch is the most exciting time of the day and is something I am always looking forward to at work. It is when you know you are halfway through your workday. My work is near the John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Irvine, lunch options are not as abundant as the other areas of town, luckily, there are some pockets of restaurants and take-out places to fill my yummy needs.
Places worthy of your lunchtime period nearby John Wayne Airport:
My favorite lunch spot till this date. If it was a little closer to my work office, I would frequent Habuya more often. This little restaurant is serving up lunch special bento boxes only offered during certain hours of the day.
The Okinawa Bento Box was SO good and for a great value. It comes with sashimi of the day, kimchi, Soki, rice, Okinawa soba, and house special salad. If you add $1, you get ice cream! The Soki is a stewed pork rib that is cooked so tenderly that the meat falls off of the bone. Everything from start to finish was so delightful and exquisite. I practically licked my plate clean!
The parking is limited. Be sure to allocate enough time for lunch as it took me well over my lunch hour. Highly recommend! I never walked out of a lunchtime meal so in awe of my food as I did at Habuya Okinawan Dining.
Bottom line: Delicious food
14215 Red Hill Ave, Tustin, CA
Sometimes eating as a group is difficult because everyone has their own preferences. Food courts, like TRADE, make it easier to go out with co-workers considering everyone can pick something they like.
There are 9 different food stalls to choose from, you may even order a little something from each one. Many vendors move in and out of Trade, check out their website for an updated list of the merchants and offerings.
When I go to TRADE, the two places I visit are Two Birds for chicken sandwiches and Center Hub for drinks. The chicken sandwiches at Two Birds are decent and there are tasty alcoholic specials at Center Hub. After work hours, Center Hub offers Happy Hour for beers and cocktails at a discounted price.
TRADE has come a long way. It used to be a depressing, all-white food court with subpar choices. Though I worked across the street, I only visited twice before the renovation and open-air environment. Granted, TRADE is nothing you should go out of your way for as it is a no-frills food court but it is definitely a huge upgrade from what it was before. The downside is that parking can be quite challenging here when it gets busy.
Bottom line: Lunch with a group of co-workers
2222 Michelson Dr, Irvine, CA
Mess Hall Market, named after a place military personnel eat and socialize, is a building filled with various eateries located in Tustin, off of Barranca Parkway and Flight. It offers plenty of free parking, seating, and restrooms, another perfect place for a lunch outing!
There is a variety of different cuisines based on your mood. You can get seafood at Slapfish, pizza at Big Parm, burgers at Vaka Burger, sandwiches at Sandwich Society, Pho at Saigon Kitchen and several more. View the complete list of vendors here.
I have personally tried a cup of coffee at The Lost Bean and a chicken sandwich at Fowl Play. The Lost Bean Organic Coffee and Tea has a hipster vibe with a decent selection of drinks. Fowl Play is known for the Nashville Hot Chicken style of food but could use a tad more spice. There are 3 levels of spiciness: mild, medium and hot. The hot was no where near what some people might call “hot”. Overall, not a bad choice and a better value for your money in comparison to other food stalls.
Bottom line: Plenty of choices, parking, and space for group lunches
In the same plaza as Trade Food Hall, KRISP is first known for being a coffee shop, but with their offerings of fruit smoothies, acai bowls, pastries, soups, wraps, bread boxes, and avocado/hummus toasts, it became a perfect contender for having a healthy lunch. KRISP is more geared towards healthy eating with cold-pressed juices and the focus of being “fresh”. In addition, there are fruit smoothies that are delicious. I suggest the Refresher as it truly is refreshing!
For coffee, I have tried all of their lattes and my favorite one is the Honey Lavender Latte; the Pistachio Rose Latte and Nutella Madeleine Latte are no match for it. My coworker swears on the Mayan Mocha. There is a drink for every coffee lover. Matcha and other teas are also available.
A concern some might have for jumping ship to KRISP for your morning coffee rather than the typical Starbucks is the rewards system. KRISP has a rewards program of their own.
The salads displayed behind the glass cabinet is available for sampling, if interested. The bread boxes are made to order and a fun alternative to a sandwich. The pastries, from what I’ve been told, aren’t made in house. Overall, KRISP is a quick and healthy alternative to eating lunch.
Bottom line: Healthy food and delicious caffeinated drinks
2272 Michelson Dr., Ste 100, Irvine, CA
In the same plaza as Trade Food Hall and KRISP is HiroNori Craft Ramen, a small ramen shop with limited seating. It’s not the best for workers who have time constraint for lunch. It usually gets very busy during lunch and the parking lot is challenging. It might take you well over an hour to have lunch here. The service is a different style here than what many are used to. You get hurried in and out of the restaurant like herded sheep and will get cut off when they need to bring out someone else’s meal. It is more efficient but does not give the best experience. On top of that, mandatory gratuity is included in your bill.
As for the ramen, it is better tasting than the closeby Ajisen Ramen with prices ranging from $10-$13 a bowl. The noodles are thicker than your average noodle and the egg costs extra ($1.50). I’d be happier if HiroNori had a spicy ramen option. Irvine doesn’t have many ramen restaurants, so it’s safe to say that HiroNori is the best ramen in town.
Bottom line: Best ramen Irvine’s got
2222 Michelson Dr, Suite 234, Irvine, CA
Bento boxes are like adult elementary cafeteria lunches. They are one of my favorite things when it comes to food because of all of the different choices that are connected together to make one great meal. At Roll It Sushi, you get to choose between the main entree, salad, appetizer, and a 4-piece sushi roll. The entrees are chosen between the proteins: chicken, steak, salmon, or katsu. Aloha Maids are available in the fridge and I would highly suggest grabbing one as they are delicious. I got the Strawberry Guava and it goes great with the meal.
The bento box delivers a great lunch option whether you decide to eat it there or take it back to the office. Roll It can get a little crowded during lunch but the line moves quickly.
Bottom line: Efficient Bento box lunch
4221 Macarthur Blvd, Newport Beach, CA
Making its way down from Northern California and spreading throughout Southern California, Ike’s prepares heavy, savory sandwiches for a big price. The list of sandwiches creations on their menu can be a little overwhelming but just remember to get it on the Dutch Crunch bread and you can thank me later.
If you don’t see a sandwich you like or know of one that isn’t on the menu, you can still order it! There is a secret menu sandwich called “Kryptonite” which consists of every meat and add-ons that they have and comes in 2 different sandwiches. I don’t recommend getting this unless you have 2 or 3 people to help you finish it. Ike’s is your place for lunch for delicious sandwiches
Bottom line: Tasty sandwiches
4221 Macarthur Blvd, Newport Beach, CA
Conveniently located next to the John Wayne Airport, El Torito offers lunch specials at a bargain price. Other than Lunch specials, they offer Taco Tuesdays, Happy Hours, and occasional food deals such as Buy 1 get 1 when you subscribe to their mailing list.
When dining at El Torito, free tasty salsa and chips will greet you at your table. Whether you are there for a quick lunch or hanging out after work with coworkers, it is a great place to do either. Now, don’t discredit me just yet for recommending El Torito. The prices are reasonable and I highly recommend the Chicken & Sour Cream Enchilada and Beef Crispy Taco Combo with refills of chips and salsa. The sweet corn cake always leaves me wanting more.
Bottom line: Affordable lunch specials
18512 Macarthur Blvd, Irvine, CA
Gourmet tacos at a premium price. Puesto has great tacos if you know what to order because not all tacos are made equally. Be sure to ask about their secret menu options that’s where all the good tacos are, off-menu! One of the secret menu items, a surf and turf taco or “Hero taco”, is definitely the way to go! This crowd pleasure consists of both lobster and filet mignon.
Taco Tuesdays are available so I wouldn’t go on a regular day unless it’s on someone else’s dime. Even better, catch their Happy Hour on Taco Tuesday from 3-6PM. That way, you can get tacos for significantly less than the normal price tag and also $6 classic or spicy margaritas! The perfect pairing.
During lunch, it can get pretty packed with people, so expect to spend longer than an hour here.
Bottom line: Flavorful artisan tacos
3311 Michelson Dr, Irvine, CA
Typically, food that looks aesthetically pleasing in pictures make me skeptical, but The Kebab Shop delivers! This place has my stamp of approval for it being both pleasing to the eyes and to the tongue.
As you enter through the doors, you order your food at the cashier. First, you start with how you want your food presented, either in a wrap, fries box, rice box, panini sandwich, or a plate; followed by picking your proteins and sides. The sauces are self-serve with 3 different types available. The green, spicy cilantro sauce is my favorite!
The Kebab Shop, a chain famous for Mediterranean selections, is a healthier, quicker, and tastier option than a fast food joint most people choose for lunch.
Bottom line: Aesthetic and fresh lunch
17655-G Harvard Ave, Irvine, CA
A fast and casual seafood restaurant with great smoked fish tacos for $2 on Taco Tuesdays! Great flavors and value, perfect for a quick lunch. Happy hour is also available here.
Bottom line: Taco Tuesday
15080 Kensington Park Dr, Suite 330, Tustin, CA
Located in Diamond Jamboree, Pepper Lunch is an eatery specializing in food served on sizzling hot plates. It is a cool, simple concept that lets you know the food is piping hot.
You first pick what type of protein and flavor you like to be served, then add your sauces and MIX, MIX, MIX! There is usually a long wait here but you get your food fairly quickly since all they need to do is put it together and bring it out to you while it cooks on the hot plate. Be cautious when you eat, because it is HOT! The portions are just right because it is enough for you to feel content and not overly full or leaving you hungry.
Fun and tasty addition to Irvine’s ever-growing roster of restaurants for a decent lunch.
Bottom line: Sizzling hot plate lunch
2750 Alton Pkwy, Ste 101, Irvine, CA
What is a quicker, easier and a more delicious lunch option than pizza by the slice? You simply choose your flavor of pizza through the glass case display and the employee will heat up your pizza and bring it out to you after you pay and grab a seat. In addition to the delightful pizza, the pinwheels are also a great add-on option.
There are lunch special combos available for your convenience. I got the meatball ricotta and I would unquestionably order it again.
Bottom line: Quick, delectable pizza
2300 SE Bristol St., Ste F, Newport Beach, CA
Delicious Italian food with handmade pasta made in-house and so fresh that you can peek through the window to the kitchen to see the pasta being made. It is no surprise that North Italia is a very popular lunch and dinner spot. You can taste the quality of the ingredients here and how everything on the dishes compliments each other.
I highly recommend the pasta here and not other items such as the pizza and salads. The appetizers are also divine. I would be surprised if you didn’t enjoy your meal from start to finish.
Bottom line: Handmade pasta
2957 Michelson Dr, Irvine, CA
Happy hunting for a lunchtime spot to make your workdays a little more bearable!
Make sure to leave a comment if I’ve missed any of your favorite lunch spots near John Wayne Airport!