Mendocino Farms hosted my family to try out their University Center Irvine location around the holidays. I always like to support local businesses and restaurants, so it was a pleasure to learn more about “Mendo” from co-owner, Ellen Chen. Even though there are 15 locations in Southern California, each location has its own neighborhood feel. I could tell Ellen felt a true connection to the personality of each sandwich market location and had first-hand knowledge of the farmers and artisans where ingredients are sourced.
I am willing to pay for that extra “farm-to-table” experience, but it turns out that the Mendocino Farms sandwiches and salads are actually priced in the $10-$12 dollar range which makes it a bit more affordable for my family than something more upscale.
This particular Irvine location is super family-friendly with an indoor cornhole game situated on an astroturf floor, a kids corner with chalkboard walls, and an outdoor patio with a foosball table. Families are encouraged to come and hang out for as long as they like. Kids are truly welcome. And there are NO TVs! Hurray! Unlike some other restaurants inside University Center, Mendocino Farms has a restroom inside the restaurant rather than having to walk outside to find the Center’s public restrooms. My kids don’t drink soda much, but they got to try Puck’s brand, because it’s about as natural as you can get and still call it soda. Just good old cane sugar — and the flavors were fun: Birch Beer, Vanilla Cream, Mandarin Orange, Black Cherry, Lemon Lime, and Cola.
The menu changes seasonally and since they work with farms — planning starts pretty far in advance. You can go as fancy or plain as you want. The kids menu is pretty simple with PB&J or a variety of lunch meat and cheese combos.
There are vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options — and they also try to accommodate dietary restrictions and food allergies. Plus, their catering menu is also reasonably priced and packed to easily travel to a nearby park or your home for simple serving.
The location near UC Irvine is obviously a convenient option for college students, but my family often plays near campus at:
Picnic Park Suggestions Other Mendocino Farms OC Locations
- Carbon Canyon Regional Park
- Brea Sports Park
- Wildcatters Park
- Tri-City Regional Park in Placentia
- Craig Regional Park in Fullerton
- Eat at the restaurant and then visit the Environmental Nature Center
- Muth Interpretive Center roof has a great view of the Back Bay
- Castaways Park is perfect for sunsets
Tustin (inside the Whole Foods at The District at Tustin Legacy)