The Cut-ting edge
That’s one reason we’re so pleasantly surprised by The Cut, a restaurant that recently opened at Westpark Plaza, at Alton Parkway and Culver Drive; surprised because when we read that a popular gourmet food truck was debuting its first brick-and-mortar location, we were expecting the typical fast casual environment. Au contraire. The new restaurant is definitely (you can see this coming, right?) a cut above that Irvine norm.
We’re so used to lining up to order that the smiling host ready to seat us came as a surprise. It was before 5 p.m., but the place was buzzing. A large table of twenty-something co-workers filled up one corner, and there wasn’t a seat available at the bar. We raised the average age at the restaurant by a few when we entered; this is definitely a favorite with young, cool, diverse and tattooed set.
And that’s something to celebrate. The city’s economy depends on attracting and retaining STEM- and knowledge-based companies that compete with Austin, Portland and the Bay Area for skilled employees. “We want to invest in a community where our employees will enjoy living, recreational opportunities, educational opportunities, and an overall high quality of life,” is a line from the Amazon HQ2 RFP.
On our visits to The Cut, we saw young people enjoying life. Especially during happy hour when the discounts and deals, combined with the cool bar ambience, make this an afternoon and after-work choice for Irvine’s creative class. We’re not saying it’s hipster heaven, but there may be more tattoos per square inch of skin at The Cut than any other Irvine restaurant.
You’ll likely see Blizzard game designers clad in vintage WoW t-shirts sipping $4 blonde ale beers from Bottle Logic bar (all beers are $2 off from 3-6 p.m.) next to UCI grad students and bearded Instagram influencers scarfing down cheesy tots ($5) and perfectly seared shishito peppers ($4). For non-happy hour prices add $3.
While The Cut has a great selection of small plates and starters, an impressive wine selection for a place of its size, and plenty of craft beers to choose from, you’re really there for the burgers.
Created by Chef Andres Dangond, the hamburgers here check all the boxes: natural, certified humane, free range, hormone and antibiotic free. The hamburger is ground at the restaurant from cuts of Angus beef (brisket and chuck), and is handcrafted to order, from scratch. Choices range from the simple Original, with cheese, pickles and Cut sauce, to the more creative Columbian (smoked mozzarella, chimichurri and roasted bananas) and Truffle & Brie varieties.
The burgers aren’t of the gigantic, hard-to-fit-in-your-mouth variety. They tend to be juicy/saucy, which is why we appreciate the substantial bun the burgers are served on. The most expensive burger is the Grand Cut at $16: braised pork and bacon jam with the signature Angus brisket and chuck patty. Add an egg on top for $2 more.
If you are morally or fiscally opposed to paying two-figure prices for a hamburger, you’re in luck at happy hour, when there’s a simple and delicious cheeseburger offered for $7.
For those used to an almost limitless variety of mix-and-match toppings, The Cut’s eight or so burger choices may seem limited. In fact, the menu includes a note that “strongly encourages you to enjoy what we’ve created for you without modifications.” We’re fine with that. Sometimes we want a chef to decide what flavors work together. That’s their job.
The chef at The Cut does that job well. With the exception of a bland chopped salad, we’ve enjoyed every dish, including the fries, which are fresh cut and twice fried; the desserts, which include a creative corn cookie ice cream sandwich; and the $7 kids menu, which includes a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream beautifully presented, sitting proudly on its own plate.