What is American food, anyway? Perhaps it’s the pizza and hamburgers that are connected to the cuisine of Italian and German immigrants of another era—Irvine has had dozens of new restaurants offering those exotic dishes debut in recent years. Or could it be pho, nem nuong and banh mi prepared by second- and third-generation American chefs of Vietnamese heritage, whose families first came here in the 1970s and ’80s.
Or is it the wide variety of Chinese cuisine that’s been served at California restaurants since the Gold Rush era? That’s before California was a state, and before anyone named Irvine bought his first acre of Rancho land hereabouts. Today, seven Irvine restaurants made Register food critic Brad Johnson’s list of the best Chinese restaurants in Orange County, so we’re certainly continuing the pre-American culinary tradition.
To go on would be to belabor the point that we are a nation of immigrants, and the broth in the melting pot that is America is well spiced with wide variety of what once were considered exotic ethnic foods.
All that being said, those who love a wide variety of cuisine have reason to celebrate the opening of The Stand, which its owners and marketers describe as “offering American classics redefined.” The restaurant debuted recently at Oak Creek Shopping Center, where Baja Fresh used to be. The fast casual chain with several locations in L.A. offers a contemporary take on a diner-like menu. There’s a wide variety of choices, including sandwiches (spicy beef short rib and cilantro lime chicken are standouts), 11 burgers, eight hot dogs and sausages, 20 draft beers, salads, and more. And each item is also customizable, with 20 toppings that can be added to burgers and hot dogs.
Favorite burger choices so far include El Capitan, which is topped with braised short rib, pickled peppers, guacamole and chimichurri, and the Westside Veggie. The latter has the best veggie patty in town, featuring a moist yet crisp brown rice base loaded with vegetables one can actually taste. We prefer it without the garlic mushrooms it comes loaded with, though.
Happily, The Stand has a good and cheap kids menu (five items @ $4.75 each), two big TVs for sports lovers, an open kitchen and a nice patio. Plus, the shopping center’s adjacent common area has been remodeled, with nicer seating than before.
Irvine families will love this place, though for the xenophobic among us, beware: the menu does offer foreign-sounding choices that include bratwurst, guacamole, chimichurri, ciabatta, siracha, aioli, parmesan and porchetta, not to mention something really scary called “kale.”