We were invited to cover the dining specials happening at South Coast Plaza for their 50th anniversary. Now while we’re down with trying all things at the retail destination, there wasn’t enough time (or stomach space) for that to occur. We did, however, manage to cover a handful of savory and sweet options over the course of an evening. Shoppers are encouraged to sit down and dine on many of the prix fixe lunches and dinners throughout SCP, but here are some convenient places to check out. Note: these specials are only around through the end of the month.
Course One: The Chaparral at Vaca
Our first stop was across the bridge connecting Claim Jumper and Water Grill. We found ourselves at
Vodka Vaca for a pre-dinner cocktail. The Chaparral is the bar’s riff on a Gin & Tonic (and don’t confuse this with their signature Vaca Tonic, either. That’s actually vermouth-based). Since we took our photo earlier in the week, they’ve updated the ice to a single sphere. Add to that Cutwater Spirits Old Grove Gin, East Imperial yuzu tonic, Escubac liqueur, orange and sage for bar manager Michael Rooney’s creation. Its chilled complexity was making us hungry, but we had dinner plans elsewhere.
If you’re wondering about Vaca’s $50 prix fixe dinner, we’ve got you covered. For tapas, you’re tasked to select two from a list of nine small plates that include Spanish octopus, creamy chicken fritters and roasted lamb meatballs. Your entree is a choice between Grilled Flat Iron and Grilled Salmon. For dessert, decide between Tres Leches and Mana Santana Flan. 695 Town Center Dr, (714) 463-6060; www.vacarestaurant.com.
Course two: Gamberi alla Henry at Antonello Ristorante
Course three: Sugar Cookie at Champagne French Bakery
It was a dim inside Antonello’s Enoteca Lounge, so we focused on our subsequent course for excellent lighting. However, we thoroughly enjoyed our tableside preparation of jumbo prawns, a favorite of South Coast Plaza developer Henry Segerstrom. Served with friendly amounts of garlic and marinara, this was a luxe way to begin a meal . . . .especially with a pour of red vino. 3800 S Plaza Dr, (714) 751-7153; www.antonello.com.
Across the street in the home store wing, we drooled over the pastry case at Champagne. Their contribution is a delicate cookie with powdered sugar and sprinkles in an assortment of colors. Bonus: these are perfect if you’ve got a friend hitting the big 5-0 milestone. We snacked on ours the next morning, and it still tasted fresh. 3333 Bear St, Ste. 151, (714) 429-1502; www.champagnebakery.com.
Course four: Lima Bean Soup from zCafe
Course five: Pizza South Coast Plaza from Quattro Caffe
Utilizing lima beans direct from the Segerstrom farm, zCafe’s hot bowl is not only the soup of the month, but it’s featured in their $10 Orange County Restaurant Week meal. You know the best thing about soup? It tastes even better the next day, so we took most of ours to-go. If you plan to enjoy it there, step out onto their hidden patio to people-watch or chill. 3333 Bear St, Ste 316, (714) 545-5500; www.zcafesouthcoast.com.
At this point, it was time to head to the main part of the shopping center. As usual, things were bustling inside Quattro. Domenico spotted us as we took a seat at the bar. Created specifically for the anniversary, Pizza South Coast Plaza includes Tuscan olives, cherry tomatoes, a healthy dollop of Puglia burrata cheese and prosciutto di Parma. Salty, creamy and the right about of chew in the crust, it was difficult not to finish. 3333 Bristol St, Ste 1205, (714) 754-0300; www.quattrocaffe.com.
Course six: 50th Anniversary Mini Indulgence at Seasons 52
Last stop was dessert, of course. We slid in a booth across from the piano bar for some lively entertainment with our finale. The cup of roobios tea settled our tummy as we dug into layers of orange marmalade and Greek yogurt mousse flavored with vanilla bean. Three hours later, we managed to remember where we parked. Go ahead and check out some of the options available. Chances are you’ll end up dining at one of the anniversary participants. 3333 Bristol St, Ste 2802, (714) 437-5252; www.seasons52.com.
A contributing writer for OC Weekly, Anne Marie freelances for multiple online and print publications, and guest judges for culinary competitions. A Bay Area transplant, she graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management from Cal Poly Pomona. Find her on Instagram as brekkiefan.