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“Fun dining experience and top notch creative food” 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 622 Restaurants in Santa Ana
Certificate of Excellence 2014
Price range: $15 - $30
Cuisines: American, Californian, International, Gastropub
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Restaurant details
Dining options: Breakfast, Late Night, Reservations
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.
Atlanta, Georgia
Top Contributor
51 reviews 51 reviews
25 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 28 cities Reviews in 28 cities
26 helpful votes 26 helpful votes
“Fun dining experience and top notch creative food”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 23, 2013

I absolutely loved this restaurant and everything I ate. I sat at the bar and had multiple small plates and dessert. Each dish was unique, well presented and above all, delicious. The service was excellent and their advice / knowledge of the menu was great, especially since the menu changes daily. A great dining experience and one of the restaurants I will definitely make my way back to in the near future.

  • Visited May 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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109 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
    78
    19
    6
    3
    3
Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Newport Beach, California
Top Contributor
131 reviews 131 reviews
92 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 30 cities Reviews in 30 cities
32 helpful votes 32 helpful votes
“Over rated”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed May 18, 2013

I am mystified at the hype and hoopla. Small portions, high prices, seemingly overbooked but with too many empty tables to explain the fuss about reservations. Food quality was average. A lot said about "fresh" "organic" etc etc, one of our dishes came with a bar code piece of paper in the middle of the pizza. Unacceptable. Per person $40 for one small carafe of wine and one order of fish. Overpriced. We shall not be going back.

  • Visited May 2013
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Food
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Robert Q, Owner at The Playground, responded to this review, May 31, 2013
I responded immediately and privately to this reviewer, but have received no response. I felt bad that her experience did not meet her expectations and - of course - finding a piece of paper in a pizza is something that is not acceptable. (Upon investigation, the paper with the product scan code on a kitchen tool fell off as the chef was shaving a product onto the pizza. It should have been caught before it made it to the table. We apologized at the time and removed the pizza from the check.) If the review had berated us for the paper on the pizza, I would remain silent and take my medicine. But I feel that the balance of the review was unfair and misleading.

The reviewer attacks our reservation policy, although she was able to sit exactly upon the time of her reservation. That is our policy. If you have a reservation, your table will be ready. To accomplish this we allocate 2 hours to each guest's dining experience. The guest is informed of this and is welcome to ask for more time when making the reservation. But many guests find that an hour and a half is sufficient time, so they leave before the two hours has expired. Their table will sit empty for the half hour until you arrive so we can keep our promise to you that your table will be ready.

The reviewer describes our "carafe" of wine as small. In fact, it is a large "glass" of wine served in a 250 ml carafe. It is priced as a glass of wine, not as a carafe.

Matters of taste and perception of quality are personal and the reviewer is entitled to her opinion. But I can assure your readers that we use only the finest ingredients, including Jidori chicken, wagyu and akaushi beef, Berkshire, kurobuta and prime pork, fish fresh selected daily from the LA fish market and exquisite olive oils, vinegars, butter and even real wasabi. These ingredients are rare and expensive, which explains why our prices may appear high to some, and why so many value what we do.
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Orange, California
Senior Contributor
30 reviews 30 reviews
14 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 19 cities Reviews in 19 cities
15 helpful votes 15 helpful votes
“Great Foodie Restaurant”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 8, 2013

We decided to try this restaurant for my birthday and it was a pleasant surprise. I got some of their Trade Winds beer which was excellent which has thai basil. We had the pork belly bun, mushrooms with scallion sauce and maple glazed pork chop. The chop was over 4 inches thick and enough for 4 people. The meyer lemon and mango sorbet was very refreshing for dessert. This is definitely a foodie restaurant and the service was very attentive by all of the waitresses,

  • Visited May 2013
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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Huntington Beach, California
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
3 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
“More food than I knew what to do with”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed May 7, 2013

I recently heard about The Playground from a friend who said I HAD to try it. I love tryong new places so I called to get reservations for their Sunday evening set menu and the wait was 4 wks out. I was dieing to try it so I took the first available. I was not dissapointed at all. My husband and I went with 2 friends who are are adventurous as we are and appreciate good food. We brought along a few bottles of wine, per the suggestion of the gal taking my reservation, since they have a very small wine menu- NO CORKAGE FEE!!!

When we arrived, there was no wait. We were seated right away, and almost immediately our server introduced himself and explained how the dinner would go - small plates, family style, quick succession. If we didn't care for something, move on. If we really liked another, we could order it as much as our hearts desired. He wasn't kidding. The plates came, and came, and came. The curried cauliflower, porridge, sweet potatoes, Uncle Lou's fried chicken - all flavorful and delicious. Not one plate was typical and had some sort of unique twist or ingredient about it. The dish of the night, hands down, was the mile-high maple glazed pork chop. Yum! The only down side about the whole night was that we were so full when dessert came around that we had to force ourselves to try them and I was a bit sad because I looove dessert. All 3 dishes were delicious, but my favorites were the fresh passionfruit on homemade vanilla ice cream and the sticky toffee pudding.

The only reason I gave it a 4 and not a five is because we all agreed, some of the dishes tasted a bit too salty.

My suggestion to anyone who plans to go, call now to get a table, and make sure you're very hungry. You don't want to miss one thing.

  • Visited February 2013
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Food
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Robert Q, Owner at The Playground, responded to this review, May 9, 2013
Thank you so much for this review. You've described the Sunday Supper we try to deliver, and that's always encouraging. And although we really hate any rating less than a 5, it's good that you called out the occasional excess of salt in our dishes. We get that comment a fair amount, but have decided to stay true to our own somewhat salty palates. Every time we get the comment we look at each other and ask the question again, Should we cut back? We always conclude that we believe in the amount of salt we use and we make no change to our standards. That's not to say that sometimes someone slips and exceeds those standards, in which case we happily take the item off your bill, but the fact is that overall we tend to be on the more intensely flavored end of the spectrum. So the lesson here is that people who are sensitive to salt may not wish to dine with us. I'd rather miss out on their business than to disappoint them with food they do not enjoy.
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Huntington Beach, California
Top Contributor
154 reviews 154 reviews
114 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 44 cities Reviews in 44 cities
42 helpful votes 42 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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