Best Cheesecake: 85°C

The bakery, whose name comes from the “ideal” temperature for coffee (185°F, for those who are now anxiously wondering whether or not they’re making coffee correctly), has been a worldwide phenomenon since it opened in 2004. 

The Irvine location is 85°C’s first U.S. store. Between the absurdly large array of pastries, the perfectly chewy boba and the absolutely incredible cheesecake, this bakery is bound to make Diamond Jamboree a pastry lover’s pilgrimage site.

The cream cheesecake is the star of the show. It rests on a firm layer of sponge cake and the “cheese” part of the cheesecake is light and smooth and topped with fresh, seasonal fruit. It is unholy, and we would like to eat it for every meal. Multiple locations. Bret Kavanaugh

Best Garlic Noodles: Anqi

Anqi is an Orange County institution featuring Mama Helene An’s one-of-a-kind recipes. Part of the House of An family of restaurants (which includes Beverly Hills staple Crustacean and San Francisco’s Thanh Long), Anqi features healthy and delicious traditional Asian dishes with a modern twist. Artisanal cocktails (do not miss out on Daughter of the Dragon) and house made desserts make Anqi a not-to-miss experience.

Without a doubt, Anqi makes the best garlic noodles. Hailing from Mama An’s secret kitchen, where only An family members and employees with over 10 years of experience can go, the noodles are soft and supple with the perfect amount of garlic to provide flavor and essence, yet not overpower as one would expect. There is a secret sauce that lightly coats the noodles, taking them to the next level without drowning them. The noodles are delicious on their own, but for those looking for an extra oomph, they can be ordered with a protein such as a perfectly seared shaken beef or Peking roasted chicken. 

In the past 20 years, only 6 dishes have earned a permanent spot on all House of An family restaurants’ menus and it is no surprise that the garlic noodles are one. Make sure you order two portions so you can have leftovers! —Irvine Weekly Staff

(Courtesy of Mr. Crepe)

Best French Crepes: Mr. French Crepe

Admittedly, what initially led me to Mr. French Crepe was their stellar Yelp listing: a full five stars from over 150 reviewing customers. A nondescript kiosk located inside a supermarket, this eatery that has Yelpers raving has only been open since April of this year.

Offering a variety of savory and sweet selections far beyond similarly sized establishments, the crepery’s highlights include the customer-favorite savory crepe, La Parisienne. It includes turkey, tomato, onion, parmesan cheese and béchamel sauce. The crepe was light, fluffy and had the perfect amount of crisp, providing a variety of textures.

Next up: dessert. Like the savory side of the menu, there are a lot of options for sweet delights, each seeming equally appetizing in their own special way. I tried the “Romeo and Juliette,” a beauty of a crepe that comes with freshly sliced bananas, strawberries, nutella, powdered sugar and whipped cream. I highly recommend adding blueberries. 18040 Culver Drive, Irvine. Ryan Najjar 

(Courtesy of BBQ Chicken)

Best Korean Fried Chicken: BBQ Chicken

BBQ Chicken doesn’t serve the standard style of fried chicken Americans know and love, they offer something better: Korean fried chicken. Korean fried chicken is thinly battered and fried twice. As a result, there’s a light yet satisfyingly crispy crust, moist meat and a refreshing lack of grease. It can be as spicy or mild, and sauces merely add to the flavor, rather than ruin the texture. 

BBQ Chicken claims to serve the best Korean fried chicken in town and, honestly, we agree. They offer flavors and varieties in perfect moderation: there’s original, along with sweet and spicy, soy and garlic, a traditionally Korean variety involving gangjeong sauce, and others with special preparations to make them spicier or crunchier. Our favorite? The soy and garlic wings. The texture of the skin provides the perfect crispy compliment to the tenderness of the chicken inside. 2750 Alton Parkway #111, Irvine. Ryan Najjar and Bret Kavanaugh

Best Korean-Mexican Fusion: Urban Seoul

Urban Seoul offers a sizable but focused variety of Korean and Mexican inspired dishes. Our favorite is the tteokbokki. A mainstay in Korean bar cuisine, these smooth gnocchi-like shapes made of glutinous rice flour are served in a flavorful and lightly spicy red sauce. The texture of lower-quality tteokbokki can be a detrimental issue, but these glided across the tongue without trouble and held up well in the tasty sauce. 

Along with the spicy rice cakes, we recommend to the kimchi pancake quesadilla, which is a kimchi pancake with filled with grilled chicken, green onions, a combination of mozzarella and cheddar cheese, kimchi sour cream, and, of course, kimchi. Served with a cilantro sauce that we couldn’t get enough of, this is a must-get.

With an extensive drink menu featuring flavored sakes, soju bombs, draft beer and non-alcoholic sips like sakura fruit tea and iced matcha, there is something to please every palate. Urban Seoul: 2750 Alton Parkway, Ste 13, Irvine; Urban Seoul 2.0: 714 Spectrum Center Drive, Irvine. Ryan Najjar and Bret Kavanaugh

(Courtesy of Mokkoji)

Best Shabu Shabu / Hot Pot: Mokkoji

Mokkoji, located in Cypress Village Shopping Center, is Irvine’s premier hot pot destination. Mokkoji specializes in Japan’s take on it, or shabu shabu, while maintaining a focus on quality ingredients, with all of them being organic and often locally sourced.

When ordering from Mokkoji, you are seated with a boiling hot pot containing one of their delicious broth options our favorite is their spicy miso. Then you are provided endless protein options, like Scottish salmon, Jidori chicken, zabuton wagyu beef, and more, accompanied with a bountiful vegetable plate containing items like bok choy, tofu, and your choice of glass or udon noodles. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that you are cooking your own food, it is easy, fun and the staff are very helpful in providing shabu shabu cooking techniques. —Ryan Leuteriz

Best Tequila Flights: Puesto

Puesto is well known for their beautiful decor, in addition to their extensive alcohol selection. Their Los Olivos Irvine location, directly across from the Irvine Spectrum, was designed by famed San Diego artist Paul Basile, who credits his design inspiration to Mesoamerican architecture and modern-day Mexico City.

Puesto could be on this list for half of their menu items, but their tequila and mezcal flights are a fan favorite. Each flight comes with three pours of rare and classy Latin liquor, featuring options like Yuu Baal Anejo, a tequila containing notes of honey and smoke, and their Vago Elote, a mezcal with subtle Mexican corn flavor. These flights pair perfectly with Puesto’s expansive gourmet taco selection, and even better with their secret menu (ask your server!). —Ryan Leuteriz

(Courtesy of HiroNori)

Best Ramen: HiroNori

HiroNori Ramen’s popularity speaks for itself, often clogging their Irvine location’s parking lot with hungry ramen fanatics. If you want the best bowl of ramen that Irvine has to offer, make sure to check-in online, because HiroNori is packed almost all the time. 

With that being said, their milky tonkotsu ramen is well worth the wait, featuring smooth homemade noodles and slow-cooked pork marrow, boiled for a full 24 hours before being served. HiroNori also prides themselves on their plant based options like their Vegan Ramen, made with grilled tofu and sweet corn. —Ryan Leuteriz

Best Plate of Pasta: North Italia 

At North Italia, phones eat first, meaning customers shouldn’t touch their food without getting an Instagrammable photo of their artfully presented dish, before diving in. North Italia makes their pasta from scratch daily, and in addition to their superior presentation, their pasta dishes are to die for.

One of our favorite dishes is the chicken pesto. This dish is made with fresh gigli pasta, garlic, basil and topped with toasted pine nuts and house made pesto, giving the plate a vibrant green palette. Try enjoying your pasta in North Italia’s shaded patio area, perfect for an afternoon brunch or cocktails at sunset. —Ryan Leuteriz

Best Al Pastor Fries: Taquiero Taco Patio

Taquiero Taco Patio Co-Founders Roberto and Sean are two friends who are on a mission to bring the authentic mexican flavors of Tijuana to Sean’s beloved hometown of Irvine, for their first location. 

Our favorite dish, their al pastor fries, have captured the hearts of Irvine residents and Instagram users alike. One of Sean’s favorites, the al pastor features slow-cooked pork topped with shredded cheddar cheese over a bed of crispy fries, providing an original take on typical loaded fries dishes. —Ryan Leuteriz

Best Pancakes: Stacks Pancake House

Stacks Pancake House, founded by chef Nixon Tanuwidjaja, is known for its decadent breakfast sweets, but Stacks’ roots add another layer to its allure. Chef Tanuwidjaja worked in four Japanese restaurants in L.A., before he and his wife relocated to Hawaii, where they experienced a Hawaiian and Japanese influence on their favorite meal of the day, breakfast. 

Stacks is Irvine’s go-to destination for innovative and delicious Hawaiian-inspired brunch items and their most popular and our favorite is the banana macadamia nut pancakes. These pancakes receive universally rave reviews from patrons around Orange County, with many of them citing Stacks’ famous coconut syrup as one of the dish’s standout components. —Ryan Leuteriz

(Courtesy of Avocado Cafe)

Best Avocado Toast: Avocado Cafe

Avocado Cafe is located in a small and quiet retail strip, nestled within luxury condo complex The Plaza,  making it an ideal spot to meet a friend, check a few emails, enjoy a coffee in their spacious patio and, of course, eat avocado toast. —Ryan Leuteriz

Avocado Cafe’s avo toast isn’t your average, avocado, salt and pepper, avo toast. Avocado Cafe’s toast comes with a healthy serving of avocado, freshly sliced tomato, sprouts and even two poached eggs. This avocado toast is more like a meal than a snack, but don’t worry, they can remove both eggs for a delicious vegan entree. —Ryan Leuteriz

(Courtesy of Panini Kabob)

Best kabobs: Panini Kabob Grill

Panini Kabob Grill calls themselves a “scratch kitchen that takes Mediterranean cuisine to the next level” and we couldn’t agree more. Panini Kabob Grill has spent decades serving customers with sizzling kabobs and fresh paninis made with only the finest ingredients, like organic eggs, imported oils and cheeses from Europe, grass-fed and hormone-free meats, and fresh baked bread delivered fresh daily.

Panini Kabob Grill specializes in their kabobs, offering steak, salmon and chicken options, with the latter being most popular. Their chicken kabob, containing 44 grams of protein, is skewered with each piece of chicken separated by fresh and organic bell peppers and onions and then grilled to perfect succulence. Panini Kabob Grill is always hopping, but they also excel in delivery and take out orders, with customers and delivery boys constantly flowing in and out of the restaurant, fresh kabobs in hand. —Ryan Leuteriz

Best Cronut: Jannys Donut

Jannys Donuts is a go-to sweet spot in Irvine. They specialize in sinful breakfast treats, with offerings ranging from favorites like maple bars and bear claws to doughnuts topped with pretzels and even childhood cereals like Captain Crunch and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. 

Our favorite Jannys pastry comes from their selection of croissant donuts, better known as cronuts. The cinnamon apple cronut is a fan favorite, known for its soft texture and sweet apple filling, often compared to that of a homemade apple pie. It’s best described as the lovechild of a croissant, a donut and a bear claw. Imagine the soft flakiness of a croissant, the gooey sweetness of a bear claw, and the indulgent icing of a donut. The best part; you can get this doughnut for free when you check in to Janny’s online. —Ryan Leuteriz

(Courtesy of Bruxie)

Best Chicken and Waffles: Bruxie

When you think of Chicken and Waffles, Bruxie should be your first thought. Bruxie’s fried chicken flies in the face of traditional fried food. All of their chicken is hormone-free and marinated in buttermilk for a full 24 hours before being fried to order. Most of their menu items contain their delicious fried chicken and waffles, but our favorite is The Original.

The Original features their classic seasoned fried chicken breast, fresh cider slaw and Bruxie brand maple syrup. They don’t stop at traditional chicken and waffles and slaw either, they aim to satisfy all of your fried chicken cravings, offering chicken and waffle dishes containing jalapenos and chipotle mayo, mac and cheese, and bacon and eggs. —Ryan Leuteriz

(Courtesy of Sessions)

Best Turkey Sandwich: Sessions West Coast Deli

Sessions West Coast Deli is Irvine’s best destination for hearty and healthy sandwiches, because at Sessions, everything has a healthy and homemade twist. From sides like their chips and guac to sauces and dressings like their habanero-pineapple BBQ sauce, every single ingredient comes from Sessions’ scratch kitchen. Even their coffee is made fresh daily from imported Golden State Co. coffee beans.

Our favorite item on the menu is their turkey sandwich, the Meddock Melee. This exceptional sandwich comes on a squaw roll with turkey, jalapeno jack cheese, sprouts, and adobo buttermilk dressing. Don’t forget: This beautifully crafted sandwich is made entirely in-house, from the squaw roll to the adobo buttermilk dressing.  —Ryan Leuteriz

Best Latte: Coffee Tomo

Coffee Tomo is a relaxing hangout for pour over coffee and special attes, all of which are hand dripped. Tomo’s hand drip technique, as opposed to machine dripped coffee, is what makes their lattes superior to the drive-thru coffee stops of 2019. 

Tomo customers love the outdoor patio and are often seen enjoying red bean lattes and large flavored pretzels, but their most popular latte is their house drink, the Tomo Latte. The Tomo Latte is a cafe latte made with medium roasted arabic beans, with condensed milk as an added sweetener. This simple twist on a traditional cafe latte, brings Tomo stans (i know ‘stan’ is informal but it just got added to the dictionary this year) to their Culver Plaza location daily to get their Tomo fix. —Ryan Leuteriz

Best Mojitos: Habana

Irvine’s newest Cuban destination is Habana at the Irvine Spectrum. Habana always offers a lively atmosphere, whether their fall picnic lunch buffet offering steak, seasonal fruit, and Cuban salads, or their weekend Habana nights that pair authentic Latin cocktails with live Cuban music. 

Our favorite happening at Habana also includes our favorite menu on the item. Habana’s Mojito Mondays feature their house mojitos, made with Bacardi Rum, fresh mint and muddled limes at just $6. And don’t worry about the time constraints of a happy hour, Mojito Mondays lasts from 11 a.m. till closing time at midnight. —Ryan Leuteriz

(Courtesy of Hello Kitty Grand Cafe)

Best Speakeasy: Hello Kitty Grand Cafe

Did you know that Irvine is home to one of the most popular speakeasies in Orange County? The Bow Room is a hidden pink paradise within the Hello Kitty Grand Cafe at the Irvine Spectrum. During the day, The Bow Room hosts tea parties, but at night, The Bow Room offers an array of exceptional cocktails.

This speakeasy is an Instagrammers dream, even if you’re not a Hello Kitty fan. Almost everything in the room is pink, from the walls, to their neon signs, to their cocktails, like the Pink Bow, made with gin, raspberry, and aquafaba, an eggwhite foam. Reservations are recommended, but walk-ins are accepted based on availability, as The Bow Room is often booked for weeks at a time. —Ryan Leuteriz

Best Korean BBQ: I Can BBQ

Whether you are a KBBQ first-timer or a seasoned gogi-gui veteran, I Can BBQ is proud to serve all Irvine residents. Offering an extensive grill-your-own menu paired with small gas grills built into your table, I Can BBQ offers guests an ideal KBBQ experience.

Their pork belly is a fan favorite, but you can’t go wrong picking your favorite protein option and cooking it to your satisfaction. I Can BBQ is an easy and fun way to cook and eat your own food and if you are a first timer, servers are more than happy to serve you helpful cooking tips. We also recommend hitting their dual happy hour, featuring 20 percent off alcohol all week, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and then again from 9 close. —Ryan Leuteriz

(Courtesy of Pokeworks)

Best Poke Bowl: Pokeworks

Poke, pronounced poh-kay, is a Hawaiian seafood dish usually featuring raw fish and fresh veggies, on top of a bed of rice. Pokeworks in Irvine aims to give you authentic poke dishes using only fresh and sustainable ingredients. They remains ecologically minded when serving their poke bowls, using only fresh and responsibly-sourced ingredients.

At Pokeworks, they provide you the option to make your own bowl, or choose one of their own classic bowls, like the umami bowl. It boasts freshly caught ahi tuna, green and sweet onions, hijiki seaweed, and umami shoyu sauce. —Ryan Leuteriz

Best Nitrogen Ice Cream: Creamistry

Nitrogen ice cream is the latest advancement in ice cream technology. Creamistry’s “creamologists” are specially trained to use liquid nitrogen to handcraft their premium ice cream. At creamistry, your ice cream is made to order, making it the freshest ice cream option the world has to offer.

It’s hard to pick our favorite Creamistry flavor, as they have over 60 flavor and topping options, including organic and sugar-free selections. One of Creamistry’s most popular creations is the Speculoos Overload. This intensely decadent ice cream dish features layers of Speculoos cookie butter ice cream, mini-marshmallows and Biscoff cookies. —Ryan Leuteriz

Best Grilled Cheese: The Melt

The Melt is Irvine’s gold standard for beautifully golden grilled cheeses. The Melt stands out from other cheesy sandwich spots, as they carefully select each of their ingredients to ensure that they are completely responsibly-sourced, natural and free of any artificial preservatives or colors. 

The Mac Daddy, our favorite sandwich, is aptly named, featuring cheesy mac and cheddar goodness, along with smoked bacon and crispy onions. The Melt doesn’t stop with caloric masterpieces like the Mac Daddy, they also offer burgers, salads and even grilled chicken sandwiches, all made with the Melt’s carefully selected ingredients. —Ryan Leuteriz

Best Veggie Burger: Butterleaf

Butterleaf aims to bring vegetarian and vegan cuisine to the mainstream. Butterleaf bills themselves as a vegetable diner, serving vegetarian food to non-vegetarians. Obviously Butterleaf is a vegetarian favorite in Irvine, but chef Andre Gruel offers an innovative and nontraditional vegetarian menu with items like veggie chowder, along with vegetarian classics like their Scratch Made Veggie Burger.

The Scratch Made Veggie Burger is made entirely in house, with a black bean and grain patty. Butterleaf patrons swear by it, and its size, flavor and $9 dollar price point, make it a go-to for a quick vegetarian meal. Vegans need not worry, most dishes are vegan, aside from their sauces, and Butterleaf servers known to be very attentive to each customer’s dietary restrictions. —Ryan Leuteriz

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