No. 28: Lunch at Playground

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You'd think there would be a lot of food choices in an area as concentrated with workers and residents as Downtown SanTana, but you'd be wrong. Good Mexican is out of the question, you can only eat so many arepas at Mil Jugos or Soul Burgers at Memphis before you're all doughy inside, and the Crosby's grilled cheese shop still hasn't arrived to save the universe. 

One place that always keeps it fresh is the Playground. The same randomness they bring to their daily dinner menu is also displayed at lunch, and better yet, you'll find plates here that might never make their way onto the menu at night. That makes it a great place to go with a group of co-workers because there's something for everyone, and a hidden burger to default to.

I still dream of the pork belly nachos--a plate I mistakenly shared with friends when really, those fat, fatty hunks of piggy's breadbasket should have been mine, all mine. A meatloaf sandwich sold several months ago was so filling, much bigger than many of the small-ish plates here, and contained a tangy tomato jam that played well as an upscale ketchup. Since they're in season, a recent add was a breakfast quesadilla studded with hatch peppers. (And while we're at it, there is only two weeks left to try the flavorful hatch burger--a better-dressed version of the Playground Burger--which is on the menu as "Nothing You'd Be Interested In, cool people only.")

Recently, Chef Jason Quinn posted on his website an apology for the lunch service: "We had too few chefs, too little room (to prep for dinner and serve lunch) and too little sleep to pull it off in true Playground fashion. ... We took some flack for this and I'm not going to say it was all undeserved."

In response, they've added another chef and expanded the daytime menu. That Quinn responds so quickly to his critics proves that Playground, always adaptable, will be in business a long time (until, I fear, he'll one day get the urge to close the joint and move on to the next big thing). Might as well enjoy it while it's here, for dinner, or lunch.

The list so far:

29: Calamari at Three Seventy Common
30. Four-Course $7 Lunch Special at Olé Spain Delishop
31. Starving Artist Sandwich With the Fixins' at the Crosby
32: Mac 'n' Cheese at Chapter One: The Modern Local
33: Chocolate Dome Cake at AnQi
34. Neff Ranch Orange Juice from That Guy at the Saturday Irvine Farmer's Market
35. Carlsbad Aquafarm Oysters at Slapfish
36. Hu Tieu at Pho Crystal Noodle House
37. Chocolate Soufflé at Bistro Bleu 
38. "15-Minute Wings" at Simmzy's
39. Hot Pots at Boiling Point 
40. California Burrito at Taco Pronto 
41. Kohryu Ramen at Kohryu Ramen
42. Meyer Lemon Curd at Irvine's Lucca Cafe
43. Cola Braised Pork at Haven Gastropub
44. Shao Shan Tsai at 101 Noodle Express
45. Any Sandwich from Paninoteca Maggio
46. Any Vegetable Platter at Tana Ethiopian
47. Bun Cha Ca Thang Long at Vien Dong
48. Comida Corrida at Lindo Michoacán #2
49. Gordita de Tinga at El Rincón Chilango
50. Lobster Waffle at Bruxië
51. The Scone at Coffee, Tea and Tulips
52. Huarache de Carnitas at El Paraiso
53. Chivito at Puerto Madero
54. Brizio Combo at Brizio Chicago Style Pan Pizza
55. French Toast at Starling Diner
56. The $7 Three-Item Combo Plates at Yu's Garden
57. Gudeg at Indo Ranch
58. Salted Caramel Gelato at N'Ice Cream
59. Live Amaebi at Sushi Imari
60. Any Burrito from Dos Chinos
61. Olive Tree's Iftar
62. Sonoran Dog at Rubalcava's
63. Sizzling Hiramasa Sashimi at The Catch
64. Yakisoba Dog from Dogzilla
65. Crispy Pork Belly from Lucca Cafe
66. French Toast with Bacon at Flurries Shaved Snow Bar
67. The Venetian Roll at Sushi at The Venetian Gentleman's Club
68. Okaki Asparagus at Hamamori
69. The "Fried Egg" at Eat Chow
70. Nam Kao Tod at Vientiane Restaurant
71. Chicken Ramen at Jinya Ramen Bar
72. Pig Snout at Tacos & Carnitas Sahuayo
73. Kale and Mushroom Flatbread at 320 Main
74. Congee at King Lobster Palace
75. Fish and Chips at Slapfish
76. Fries at Playground

77. Carne en Su Jugo at La Cocina de Mi Abuelita
78. S'mores at Ti Amo Biscotti & More
79. Broken Rice at Dat Thanh
80. Bulgogi and Potato Pizza at Chicken & Pizza Love Letter
81. Braised Bacon at Break of Dawn
82. Cake Donut at Cream Pan
83. Bistec de Pollo at Mercado El Rey
84. The Rhino at Rancho a Go Go
85. Cabernet Brownies at Blackmarket Bakery
86. Cookie Monster at Lola Ice Cream and Deli
87. Polenta Board at CUCINA Enoteca
88. Falafel Taco at Taco Asylum
89. Wagon-Wheel Bread at THE RANCH Restaurant
90. Toothpick Tacos at Mexico Supermarket
91. Hoppin' John at Memphis at the Santora
92. Free Beans and Chips at Taqueria Zamora
93. Pig in a Blanket Waffle with Gringo Bandito at Cafe Calacas
94. "Pork Hash" at Huong Giang
95. Sweet Chili Chicken Quesadilla At Kogi
96. Licuados at Mil Jugos
97. Hawaiian Ahi Poke at California Fish Grill
98. Takoyaki at Takoyaki Tanota
99. Fiesta Noodles at Jollibee
100. Chilaquiles Verdes Con Huevos Estrellados at La Tablita California

Click here to view our 100 Favorite Dishes of 2010!
Click here to view our 100 Favorite Dishes of 2011!

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Location Info

The Playground

220 E. 4th St., Santa Ana, CA

Category: Music


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1 comments
CarrionFairy
CarrionFairy

I had the hatch burger last night. It was excellent, but it really needed more hatch! The clam bacon risotto was fucking awesome, too.

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