I am a corporate whore, although I think it's more due to my environment than personal taste. A majority of the restaurants in the Irvine area are corporate chains or corporate owned. While, one of my favorite activities is ferreting out all of Irvine's little mom & pops, sometimes the convenience and cookie-cutter predictability of corporate nosh can be hard to resist.
But hey, this blog is all about the places I wander to and the things I eat. It would be dishonest of me not to admit that I, as much as any other resident behind the Orange Curtain, occasionally submit to the almighty will of our corporate overlords. Besides, as Sarah from the Delicious Life so eloquently points out in this post, the image of food bloggers as elite gourmands leading charmed lives as we flit from one flavorful experience to another is just plain silly. So, why bother trying to live a lie? Or to lie about living a lie?
A few weeks ago, I read Elmo's excellent review in Monster Munching about the Cravery in Irvine and was immediately intrigued. I'm a genuine pie enthusiast. If you can stick it in or on a flakey crust, I've probably sampled it. So a restaurant chain devoted to serving posh versions of one of my favorite foods, the Cornish pasty, was highly appealing to me. I showed the review to Cat, who also became interested in giving the place a try. Surprising, as Cat is one of the most anti-pie people I know. Since we both work near the Bella Terra mall in Huntington Beach, we decided to have a late lunch at the Cravery there.
The decor was pretty much what I expected; trendy, upscale, and soullessly anonymous. We could have been at a Starbucks, Panera, Corner Bakery, or any of the other faux-stylish eateries that infest Orange County. I wasn't particularly moved by it, one way or another. The pies on the back of the chairs were a nice touch, though.
Elmo's review had promised big posters of people far prettier and fashionable than I would ever want to be holding pies. I wasn't disappointed. Notice that neither of these hipsters is actually holding their pie like they intend to eat it, much less actually biting into one, although the girl on the left sorta made me want her pie. Or her. Huh, maybe that marketing technique isn't as lame as I originally thought.
(Silly side note: I was grabbing a bite to eat in a Sbarro at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport while I was waiting for a connector flight when I noticed similar posters of air-brushed models holding pizzas like they had no idea what to do with them. Ya gotta love those marketing firms.)
On to what's really important; the pies!
Cat and I both opted for one of their pie and house salad combos. She got the mushroom chicken pie, which they called the "Chix Mushroom". I have no idea why. Maybe "Chix" sounds cooler than "Chicken" or something. I got the Veggie Curry pie, pictured above. Since both plates were almost identical, I didn't bother taking more than one picture.
My Veggie Curry pie was filled with green peas and chunks of potato, carrot, and onion, all flavored with a mild yellow curry. It tasted much like a vegetable sammosa; not surprising given the similarities in construction between the two. It was pleasant, but entirely unremarkable.
Cat's Chix Mushroom pie was somewhat more promising. Hefty pieces of chicken and mushroom were held together with a thick, mushroom, chicken, and white wine gravy. It was pretty good, although I thought it could have done with a little more salt. Cat, on the other hand, felt the sodium level was just right.
The pies held together quite well while we ate them. I think I'd hesitate before trying to eat one in the car, as the potential for disaster is a little too high with one of these babies. The crust was somewhat disappointing. It might have been because we were there around 3:30pm, but it had a mushy, gooey, and almost soggy consistency. I imagine the pies had been sitting under heat lamps for a while.
My favorite part of the meal was the wasabi ginger vinaigrette that I got with my house salad. It was light and tangy, with just the right touch of zest from the wasabi.
Overall, I'd say the Cravery was a decent experience. I didn't regret going there for lunch. I'll probably go back every so often. It isn't a must-visit location by any stretch, but it does provide a welcome lunch-time alternative to the sandwich shops and fast food franchises that dot the area, although I doubt its pies are any less bad for you. My only real complaint is with the price, which is far too hefty for what you actually get. To me, the phrase "less is more" only applies to restaurant's like Lucques, 6ix Park Grill, or Le Chat Noir. It does not apply to a fast food alternative chain.
Bill (for two):
Chix Mushroom pie and house salad combo - 7.50
Veggie Curry pie and house salad combo - 7.50
Drink - 1.45
Drink - 1.45
Tax - 1.39
Tip - 0.00 (Not the type of place where you leave one.)
Total - 19.29
Flavor: C+ (No strong feelings one way or another.)
Ambience: B (Stylish in a cookie-cutter sort of way.)
Service: A (Girl at the counter was friendly and helpful.)
ROI: C- (Fit my rule that lunch specials should cost under $10/person with tax and tip, but the neither the amount nor the quality of food justified the cost.)
7811 Edinger Avenue, B-128
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
Irvine, Torrance, and Los Altos (NorCal)