Wednesday, January 4, 2012

dinner at playground

We've always been on the food truck bandwagon. The food is delicious and usually pretty inventive (like Kogi's mash up of Mexican and Korean cuisine or Grill 'Em All's vast menu of hamburgers). And without all the overhead of a restaurant, the food is pretty affordable.

We've dined with the Lime Truck a few times and have always been more-than-content with our meals. We were thrilled to see them win the Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. And then even more excited to see one of the chef's open up his own brick and mortar establishment in Orange County called Playground.

Playground has a great vibe and puts together an awesome list of microbrews (both on tap and bottled). The restaurant's seasonal menu varies daily with a few staples that stick around.

We took Josh's parents there for his Dad's birthday, so we got the opportunity to try quite a few dishes. At one point the owner's dad came over and joked around with us that we had ordered the whole menu. Yeah...we came pretty close!

Each dish was incredible, but for the sake of time - here are some of our favorites:

Brussel Sprouts (my favorite dish of the night)

The brussel sprouts were good and crispy with this addictive mustard vinaigrette and big pieces of delectable bacon. The chef said they quickly deep fry them and toss them in some vinegar, mustard, and honey. I was eating them with my fingers because I just couldn't get to them fast enough with my fork.

French Fries

The fries are hand cut, twice fried, doused in this "dehydrated ketchup powder," and served up with garlic aioli. This tomato seasoning gave it a truly unique flavor - slightly sweet and reminiscent of ketchup - which paired perfectly with the dipping sauce.

Yellowtail Tostada

Thinly sliced yellowtail layered with avocado, greens, cabbage, and onions over a crispy tostada cracker. The dish was dressed in a mixture of sugar and lime juice - so simple, but so perfect.

Shortrib Stroganoff

The restaurant makes homemade pappardelle noodles and tops them with juicy, tender shortrib pieces mixed with a creamy stroganoff sauce and meaty mushrooms. So comforting. I have big plans to recreate this dish.

Pork Chop (sorry for the poor picture quality; too excited to dig in to let the camera focus)

The menu literally claims "best pork chop ever - prove us wrong." Playground prepares the double chop sous vide and serves it simply with mustard and pickled cabbage. The meat is tender and juicy and truly sings the praises of the high-quality pork. Yes, it was the best pork chop I've ever had.


This burger has already been written up in some local newspapers as OC's best new burger. Served with a generous helping of maple bourbon onions, gruyere and fontina cheeses, and a rich homemade mayo. The burger is flavorful, messy, and downright tasty.

Playground recently opened for Sunday brunch, which I have a soft spot for. Can't wait to try it out on my next trip to Orange County!

220 E Fourth Street
Santa Ana, CA 92701

Tues - Sat: 12pm - Close
Sun: 10am - 3pm

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