Culinary choices at many college towns around the United States are limited to fast food chains, pizza, chicken wings, Chinese takeout, and bar snacks usually served with large amounts of beer. This is clearly not the case at UC Irvine, where students, faculty, staff, residents who buy homes in Irvine, and visitors have plenty to choose from in terms of diversity and gourmet cuisine. Here are five great places to eat near the UC Irvine campus.
1. Tender Greens
Don’t let the American-style ambiance of this restaurant fool you. The menu at Tender Greens, located on Campus Drive at the University Center, is healthy and diverse. This restaurant follows the farm-to-table approach to meal preparation, which means you can enjoy fresh and organic California ingredients. Chef Pete Balistreri specializes in Sicilian delicacies such as cured ham and salumi, and the restaurant also runs a program to teach foster youth about sustainable farming. Some of the highlights of the menu include roasted tomato soup and herb-brushed albacore tuna.
2. Hen House Grill
This Persian eatery is located on Campus Plaza and features casual dining and elaborate meals. The specialties include various styles of rotisserie chicken and kebabs as well as pita and other types of bread that are baked right on the premises. Prices are reasonable and the atmosphere is relaxed.
3. Gina’s Pizza
This restaurant is also conveniently located within Campus Plaza. Gina’s offers more than pizza. The house specialties are traditional Italian dishes such as focaccia, bruschetta, antipasto, minestrone, and zuppa. In terms of pizza, you can’t go wrong with the bianca and margherita pies, but you should also try the more innovative chicken Palermo with Alfredo sauce, which is a fusion Sicilian American dish, or the Maui Mamma, which is an interesting take on the Hawaiian style of pizza.
4. Le Diplomate Bakery Cafe
This University Center restaurant resembles an old Starbucks, but it is regarded as one of the best spots in Irvine to get gourmet sandwiches. Students love this cafe for two main reasons: wonderful food and affordable prices. The menu features Parisian cafe staples such as French bread sandwiches made with fine charcuterie, chicken cordon bleu, and pâté with artisan crackers. In addition to sandwiches, Le Diplomate serves great coffee, salads, and Vietnamese dishes. The recipe for the garlic sauce used in many of its sandwiches is a well-kept secret.
5. Anthill Pub & Grille
The Anthill is the closest you can get to an American college pub not only because of its ambiance, but also because it is located on campus, right in the student center. As expected, there is an expansive range of craft beers to choose from, but the menu is even more impressive in terms of taste. A few of the dishes are comically named to reflect the campus atmosphere, such is the case with the “stoner fries,” which come with sides of guacamole and chili con carne, but they are prepared with fresh ingredients.
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