Whether to entertain a client or close a deal, business meetings are inevitable for the white collar. Dining rooms built for the sole purpose of perusing the wine list and throwing down your corporate card are centrally located near the headquarters of (insert corporation here) . You'll notice similarities between our selections, but also realize that each location serves a purpose. While food is at the top of our criteria, a restaurant's attributes play an integral role in making it worthy of a business expense.
1. Lark Creek – Newport Beach
Ah, yes. Newport. Where the closest island is a
mall lifestyle center surrounded by law firms and doctor's offices. Even The Irvine Company calls this city home. We kick off our list at an easy, breezy newcomer to the Fashion Island family. Their shiny factor draws a business savvy set for health-conscious free-range chicken and white shrimp ceviche (pictured). Soak in some Vitamin D on Lark Creek's patio when the weather is comfortable. Order a bottle of red off their list, which favors California and neighboring West Coast vineyards.
2. The Capital Grille – Costa Mesa
Businesspeople who don't know their truffle fries from their chocolate truffles are content with familiarity. The Capital Grille chain is well within their comfort zone, but this list does contain more personality the further along we go. As you reach the top of the staircase, prominently displayed wine lockers announce resident oenophiles. A quick lunch can be achieved, but South Coast Metro suits enjoy their mahogany booths with Caprese salad and bone-in steaks. Terrace and private dining room seating can discreetly cater to VIP guests. We can't seem to get enough of their truffle fries, either.
3. Nieuport 17 – Tustin
The Continental scene is alive and well in this ode to WWII fighter aircrafts. Nieuport 17 may be an out-of-the-way dining room, but their dinner menu has been upgraded ever since Greg Moro transferred in from his stint at French 75. Have Tommy pour a timeless cocktail from their Barnstormer Bar. Ahi tuna tartar is a perfect starter while you decide what cut of beef to consume. They possess an old-fashioned, yet always classy form of service rarely found these days.
4. Andrei's Conscious Cuisine N Cocktails – Irvine
Standing tall on the corner of Main and Siglo, Andrei's is centrally located, attracting businesses parked around the 405 and Jamboree. Spacious upstairs, their bar scene rivals the dining room, where you'll find cliques of co-workers huddled in the lounge. It's an ideal spot for a discussion, with enough privacy between you and the next party. Coconut ginger clams or one of their flatbreads can make for a quick lunch. Although waitstaff is known to make a disappearing act, so request the cheque sooner than later.
5. Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale's – Costa Mesa
A celebrity chef-branded establishment is the kind of recognition professionals can rely on when selecting a place to dine. Possessing an expansive wine cellar and top-notch service, Charlie Palmer knows how to treat guests. We recommend sitting far into the dining room if we're talking dinner, or else the chatter from the lounge will be too distracting. Chef Seakyeong Kim runs an efficient kitchen, serving both land and sea options with precision and elegance.
6. Bistango – Irvine
The OG of power lunches, this mainstay has roots firmly planted in the atrium of an office building. In other comparisons, this would be a liability. Yet their accessibility is the asset, with live jazz and modern artwork keeping us too preoccupied to realize. Their growing love of craft beer, combined with a cigar selection to smoke on their patio, and they've got more reasons to keep you. For those trying to cut down on carbs, Bistango serves an unusually comprehensive salad selection in addition to their protein-driven menu.
7. The Winery – Tustin
What they're known for is in the name, but it's the pairing with Yvon Goetz's vineyard cuisine which makes them one of our preferred spots. Go with a nightly special, and you'll be in good hands. Our favorites include chef's Alsatian pizza and their hearty organic vegetable tower. Or have their sommelier recommend a bottle and sip to your heart's content (with Lyft on speed dial). The Winery operates a perpetually crowded dining room, making them worthy of a second location in the works down the street from our next restaurant.
8. A Restaurant – Newport Beach
Pacific Coast Highway may connect our beach cities, but Jonathan Blackford corrals his own community inside their dining room. Lined with tufted leather booths, A's decibel level increases at the bar as day transitions into evening, while the lighting goes in reverse. Not the optimal combination for dinner, they do serve familiar comforts alongside regional fare during lunch service. Next door, A Market offers impressive sandwich combinations for a more casual meeting spot.
9. The RANCH Restaurant and Saloon – Anaheim
We awarded them with Best Steakhouse last year for good reason: The RANCH knows beef. They also know a thing or two about wine, seafood and ambiance. Despite an unorthodox location (plus being the only entry not offering lunch), the trio of Andrew Edwards, David Rossi and Michael Rossi exhibit what good ol' southern hospitality is all about. The top floor now has a special events facility, decked out for parties of all sizes. What they lack in neighborhood, they make up for in every other way. The main dining area buzzes with a view of the exhibition kitchen, so request a booth close to the private Carolina Room to discuss matters. Their gnocchi with rabbit or deviled eggs make for excellent starters.
10. Pelican Grill – Newport Beach
Location, location, location. What elevated Pelican Grill was not only the ultimate view, but the purest form of social networking: 18-holes at one of Orange County's best courses. Their terrace overlooks the bridge golf carts motor over to reach the first tee. After a long day in the sun, watching the sunset alongside a cocktail will mesmerize any guest– especially the visiting executives. Order the bruschetta trio if it's still on the menu; it's one of the better representations of seasonal cuisine. Resort dining equates to resort pricing, but that's what expense reports are for.