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“best food in OC” 5 of 5 stars
Review of The Playground

The Playground
220 East 4th Street, Santa Ana, CA 92701
(714) 560-4444
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Ranked #1 of 608 Restaurants in Santa Ana
Price range: $15 - $30
Cuisines: American, International, Californian, Gastropub
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Dining options: Breakfast/Brunch, Reservations, Late Night
Dining style: Casual Dining
Cross street: Spurgeon
Description: Chef driven, ingredient driven affordable small plates and craft cocktails and beers. A young and creative team of chefs led by Executive Chef, Jason Quinn, change up the menu daily to keep the dining experience fresh and exciting. Orange County's "Best Bartender" making exciting craft cocktails and Santa Ana's best beer program, with 15 craft beers on tap and approximately 60 bottled beers, including many rarities. The dining experience is different at Playground: You're expected to share, so don't think in terms of my dish or your dish, and we're stubborn about our no-modification rule. If you're adventurous you'll probably love it; if you need control over your dish preparation, you probably won't.
Huntington Beach, California
Top Contributor
146 reviews 146 reviews
106 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 43 cities Reviews in 43 cities
36 helpful votes 36 helpful votes
“best food in OC”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 13, 2013

I vote this the best food in OC. I hated moving to OC from LA because I found mostly chain restaurants. With a little digging, I found more "mom & pop" and creative restaurants such as The Playground.

I went again on Friday night to introduce a girlfriend to this place. To no surprise, she loved it.

We had the cauliflower nachos which were amazing. I loved the cilantro cream sauce mixed with the kick from the jalapenos.

We also ordered the creole white beans with andouille and collard greens. I'm Southern, and most everyone does this soooo wrong. Not here--I ordered a 2nd round!

We also ordered the pan roasted carrots because carrots are just boring to me. I love ordering "boring" food and being pleasantly surprised at the flavor at this establishment only. If you usually say, "I don't eat those" or "That is boring," then the Playground will make a believer out of you!

I appreciate that you must eat the food as it is served per the menu. I ordered coffee with my dessert, sticky toffee pudding, and I had no choice but to have it black. I was not disappointed. The sticky toffee pudding left me rolling out dazed and in love. It was rich and delicious and brought back memories of having a similar dessert in South Africa, malva pudding.

If you have not been here yet, what a shame. Make this your next date or GNO destination!

Don't be fooled by the numerous Cheesecake Factories, Claim Jumpers, etc in OC. We DO have good food.

  • Visited April 2013
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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99 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Rating summary
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
yorba linda
Senior Contributor
29 reviews 29 reviews
13 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 19 cities Reviews in 19 cities
15 helpful votes 15 helpful votes
“Two for Two!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 28, 2013

My wife and I have eaten here twice in the last month. The food is amazing, smaller portions so the $ can add up quickly if you are hungry but it is truly worth every penny. Fresh Oysters, Maple glazed pork chop, Uncle Lou's fried chicken always interesting veggie creations and the best 6 words on the planet - Mission Black Fig Sticky Toffee Pudding. I don't ever order dessert as I am always a little disappointed when I do, however, this is the best dessert I've ever eaten. The fact that there is no corkage is just a great gift for us wine folk who need to "thin the herd" a bit at home.

  • Visited March 2013
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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Anaheim, CA
Top Contributor
344 reviews 344 reviews
238 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 90 cities Reviews in 90 cities
185 helpful votes 185 helpful votes
“Playground 2.0 is amazing”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 22, 2013

Chef Jason opened up another restaurant next door and named it IO: Playground 2.0. I was invited to the soft opening, and had a feast for the eyes and mouth. Three hours, and 25 courses later, i walked out in a food coma.

If you are a fan of Chef Jason, this is a must try! You must go with an open mind, and open palate. The food is fresh, and served omakase style (chef's choice)... so don't go asking for ketchup, your meat done a certain way or swap out ingredients. Its Chef's choice, so just go with the flow.

If you're allergic to something, I would suggest telling that to the Chef before you consume the food. Bring your fat pants, and 3 hours of your time.

Sorry, no reservations. And, its pricey. But worth it.

  • Visited March 2013
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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Anaheim, California
16 reviews 16 reviews
10 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
“Second Time Around Did Not Disappoint”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 16, 2013

We visited The Playground in February and again on March 14th. The food is incredibly satisfying, the atmosphere pleasant and the service impeccable! The servers are excited about the food and are extremely helpful lwhen asked to recommend a wine or beer.
There were three of us, so we decided to order several dishes. We had the Kale Caesar salad on our first visit, could not get it out of our minds, so ordered it again. It did not disappoint!! The watermelon radishes and cornbread croutons compliment the kale well, and the tortilla strips are yummy. We also ordered the burrata with duck prosciutto and melon, which was served with a slice of buttered toast and was the perfect pairing for the burrata. The crispy fried kurodai fish taco plate, mojo verde cream, red cabbage, salsa roja satisfied our longing for a really great fish taco. The fish was crisp fried and the tortillas were crunchy, yet folded perfectly into a most delicious taco accompanied by the cabbage, the salsa and the mojo verde cream. The Pan Roasted Wild Mushrooms, Masago, Scallion Puree, Garlic, Slow Egg was amazing. We were instructed to break and mix the egg and mushrooms well. One member in our party does not like mushrooms, and had two helpings, so that is an indication of how good it was. The maple glazed pork chop, was so big, it was enough to feed a family of ten. The Roasted Jidori Chicken, Fried Baked Potatoes, Zack’s Magical Green Sauce is not to be missed if you like chicken. The skin was perfectly crisped and the meat was incredibly succulent. The Attempt to Imitate Skyline Chili Four Ways was great, as it was a true Cincinnati chili made with chocolate and cinnamon served as a "four way," which means meat, beans, spaghetti and cheese grated on top. A member of our party described it as a "truly great chili."
For dessert we ordered three desserts: Lime Curd, Graham, Poached Blueberries, Black Mission Fig Sticky Toffee Pudding and Bittersweet Chocolate and Pistachio Crunch Bar. My favorite was the Lime Curd, which was very refreshing and oh so lime! I tasted The bittersweet chocolate and pistachio crunch bar, but one person in our party hugged it close to his chest and would not allow anyone else to try it. He almost licked the plate when he was done! The Black Mission Fig Sticky Toffee Pudding came out warm, having just left the oven and it was what I consider true comfort food. So good and so satisfying. We also ordered the black coffee and did not even dare to ask for cream or sugar, rather chose to trust. That was the best coffee I have ever drank. It was just amazing!!
The Playground is a restaurant that is not for everybody. It is for people .willing to order what calls to them from the menu and trust that the chef is extremely well versed in the art of seasoning, so that whatever has been ordered is perfect when it is placed on the table. That is the mind set we have had when we have dined at the Playground and of course, we have not been at all disappointed. We can hardly wait until we visit again.

Victoria Michaels

  • Visited March 2013
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
14 reviews 14 reviews
7 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
26 helpful votes 26 helpful votes
“Another mixed review...”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed January 13, 2013

Entering the restaurant you get the feel that this place yearns to be hip and chic. The clientele is young, the decor is modern and the atmosphere is bustling. The menu is innovative and intriguing. The waiter was informative, friendly, always serving with a smile and very confident with his recommendations. Overall, I imagine it would be a great first date place where the feel is more important than the food.

Unfortunately, we started our meal on the wrong note with the Champagne Sangria, which was bland and unappetizing. The four of us didn't finish the carafe and we are not light drinkers. Actually only one of us didn't finish the first glass.

We started our meal with their famous brussel sprouts and wild mushrooms. Half of us thought the brussel sprouts were decent, the charred taste masking the original flavor whereas the other half hoped to taste more of the ingredients. On the other hand the mushrooms got universal thumbs up, the taste and texture of the mushrooms enhanced rather than disguised.

The fresh scallops were also very good but a bit too simple and thus felt pricey for such a small portion.

For mains we had the Wagyu Tri Tips, the Jidori Chicken, Uncle Lou's Fried Chicken and The Rabbit Tart. The wagyu was delicious, the meet was cooked perfectly (medium)and paired with a radish and reduce sauce that made the dish not only delicious but different. The beef itself was good but with the sauce made it uniquely so. The Jidori Chicken was tender and the "magic" sauce made otherwise bland white meat savory. Too savory. The introductory page given to us along with the menu did inform us that they like their salt but everything that was suppose to be salty was doubly so. Uncle Lou's friend chicken which my wife likened to buffalo wings was sour and, yes, salty. It was a pity as each dish was cooked perfectly. It was just a matter of taste. On the other hand the rabbit tart was a bit of a disappointment. It was served cold and really quite bland. My sister was compelled to corniness with "it taste like chicken", which it absolutely did. The portion was also very small, which made us feel a bit ripped off given the lack of complexity in the dish.

For desert we shared a Sticky Toffee Pudding and a Mandarinquat Pie, both of which was delicious. The pudding was like a bread pudding that was lavished with a toffee sauce and a generous swirl of soft cream. The pie was a tangy yet sweet filling in a graham cracker crust, which I loved.

While the food is not expensive, the portions weren't large and didn't feel upscale. If this is tapas style, I'd prefer real tapas over this. But the atmosphere was right, the service was always with a smile and the food is decent. I don't think I'll be returning but I might recommend it to friends looking for a place for a first or second date.

  • Visited January 2013
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Food
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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