If you've ever caught a show over in the performing arts area of Costa Mesa, you'll likely know where we are referring to. What was once an empty, concrete walking area between Segerstrom Center for the Arts and Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall/South Coast Repertory has grown to a multi-use plaza. Find the fountain/valet area between the buildings, and you're at one end of the sprawling area known as Julianne and George Argyros Plaza.
A Patina Restaurant Group property (think Downtown Disney District, plus many downtown LA eateries), Center 360 is the newest dining destination found in the South Coast Plaza family. It's overseen by Chef Greg Stillman, who now has double duty between this and his current gig as executive chef of Leatherby's Cafe Rouge. We stopped by opening weekend for festivities and lunch, making sure to take a gander at the menu.
We read that weekday breakfast and lunch will be available, plus lunch and a dinner option during performances. We definitely want to go back for a brekkie date and try their toasted brioche meal known as the Sriracha Melt. Hey, anything with caramelized onions, cheddar, chives and soft scramble is a hit to us! An all-day espresso bar featuring Intelligentsia, flaky pastry selection, super grain granola and Favocado Toast made us salivate. Yeah, we did say Favocado (with fava beans, avo smash and watermelon radish for a crisp finish). Morning meals are from 7-10:30 a.m.
Lunch and dinner plates covered a global selection of eats. Adding a runny egg and hardwood smoked bacon made the third-pound cheeseburger that much better, coming out to only $10.50 after the add-ons. Our friend enjoyed his pressed Cuban sandwich ($8.50) with its savory trio of Swiss, ham and roast pork. A family seated next to us ordered both the OC Street Tacos and upscale flatbread, favoring the Gruyere, Lucques olives, tomato jam and fra'mani salami pizza-in-disguise as the best bang for the buck at $8. Our falafel ($7.50), while tasty, wasn't enough for this appetite. So we decided to also have a salad.
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From the trio to choose from, the Sesame-Togarashi Crusted Ahi Tuna sang to us. Although we did take a bite of their Grilled Skirt Steak, and it's kind of a toss up. Both priced at $13, their vinaigrette dressings made these meals more tolerable in the afternoon heat. As a fan of green goddess dressing, we'll give the Little Gem Caesar a chance next time. However, our only issue was in the execution of the salads. Piled high in their serving bowls, the leafy greens were served whole, making it difficult to chew on a forkful. We knew tearing or chopping the greens even a little bit would make a difference. Instead, we watched someone dump the entire thing onto their tray to cut with a knife.
Did we mention the full bar? Oh yes, it's there. We ordered a Holiday Smash, filled generously with Bulleit Bourbon, mint, blackberries, lemon and soda. The photo would not do it justice, as it's poured into a colorful plastic cup. Moscow Mule, Old Fashioned and Margarita fans will be in familiar territory, as these are listed as $12 house specialties. Not only can you order booze, but your radius to walk about with your beverage is throughout Argyros Plaza. And thank you, The Powers That Be, for the bonus wifi!
Our verdict: If you are not interested in the full-service dining rooms close by (Pizzeria Ortica, Leatherby's, Water Grill), this is a reasonable option. Definitely take advantage of this casual vibe before showtime. Drink or dine at your own pace, and it's a very short walk to the three venues.
Center 360 is located at 600 Town Center Dr, Costa Mesa, (714) 556-2122. www.patinagroup.com/center-360.