Where to Eat in Irvine: From Conscious Cuisine to Mason Jars

by Elena Sonnino
Live Do Grow

The contagious joy of travel evolves just as much by exploring local sites as from sampling the unique tastes of local cuisine. Whether internationally or locally, travel offers full immersion in the feel of a new destination. When deciding where to eat in Irvine, California, I was struck by the focus on sustainability by local chefs while still offering an expansive diversity of cuisines.

Southern California cuisine makes me think of healthy cooking, fresh produce, seafood and Latin influences. (I can still taste the delicious fish tacos I ate last year in Laguna Niguel). Irvine invites foodies on a tour that elevates local ingredients while traversing cultures for flavor.The first Irvine restaurant to make my list of places to try was Andrei's Conscious Cuisine. Intrigued by Andrei's non-profit mission, inspired by the story of Andrei Olenicoff, a young man who dreamt of opening a restaurant with his sister, my social good roots made Andrei's a must "eat" spot. Andrei was afflicted with an eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentos, which along with other similar degenerative diseases affect 1 in 28 people in the United States. 100% of the restaurant's profits benefit the Andrei Foundation, started in 2005, whose goals are to find a cure for these diseases and also help the people who are currently affected in addition to supporting a number of community and global support causes. While the mission and inspiration of the restaurant were the draw for me, the food at Andrei's Conscious Cuisine speaks for itself, making this restaurant a local foodie hotspot.

Chef Yves Fournier leads a kitchen that features fresh local and organically grown produce, naturally raised meats and sustainable seafood in a trendy yet welcoming bar and restaurant. The restaurant's philosophy says it all: "Our culinary style incorporates the cultural diversity of California cuisine, emphasizing Mediterranean flavors, while adding aspects of the "Slow Food" movement."

The biggest problem about having lunch at Andrei's is deciding what to order. Everything looked good...and tasted even better...