This holiday season, instead of hitting the local caffeine dispensary for a frustrating day of speed-shopping, take it easy. Relax, enjoy the day. Sing to the annoying music. People watch. While you’re out at the local shopping mall, take a break in your day and grab a beer and bite at some of these great spots.
1) Main Place Mall – Santa Ana. Chances are you’re here because either A) You like the Abercrombie & Crotch smell or B) a you enjoy a crooked owner that (allegedly) undervalues malls to pay less taxes (I personally think he’s dead on with Main Place). When you’re rumbly in the tumbly, head up Main street a block or so for a DIPA and appetizer that can cut through the festive mall stench and provide a bit of your own.
- Eatery: Hollingshead’s Deli.
- Dish: Pickled eggs!
- Beer: Russian River Pliny the Elder. Usually on tap due to their long-time relationship with Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo, the IBU’s are just high enough to dull your olfactory senses to survive the rest of your day. Bonus, buy some really great beer for gifts!
2) South Coast Plaza Oh you fancy huh? As this mall brings in more money than the state of Maine, don’t be surprised if you see kids in strollers talking to other kids in strollers via Bluetooth headsets. With no proper food court and the removal of Del Taco, I’d recommend crossing the bridge for necessary food and drink. Although this destination does have beer, this is one place where the brewed and bubbly takes a back seat. After mixologist James Wood won a Golden Foodie award, he immediately took over the bar master duties at Scotts.
- Eatery: Scott’s Restaurant & Bar
- Dish: Peruvian Ceviche
- Drink: Blossom – any drink containing Templeton Rye is a friend of mine! Hell, even the bitters are whiskey barrel aged. I noted hints of cinnamon and honey with a great refreshing crisp mouthfeel. Alternately, a cocktail called Hops has Anchor Distillery Hophead Vodka if you’re so inclined for a nicely balanced libation.
- Crystal Court/Metropointe?: Karl Strauss all the way for some Four Scowling Owls paired with Holiday Gravlax. Boom.
3) The Lab Anti Mall/The Camp When people watching makes you wonder why a certain breed of men like to dress like lesbian lumberjacks, it may be a time for a beverage and a bite. I recommend two here based on what side of the Bristol street you’re on:
- The Camp Eatery: Taco Asylum: Ghost Chili Pork Taco as eating it makes you look super uncomfortable and pissed. Grab a can or two of 21st Amendment Bitter American: because hey, this isn’t distributed down here and also, you’re fucking bitter as hell. Scowl and enjoy.
- The Lab Eatery: Seabirds Kitchen: Beer Battered Avocado Tacos because they’re insanely good, crisp and creamy all in the same bite. Beer? Go with a can of Uinta Brewing’s WYLD. It’s perfectly crisp and fizzy enough to wash your palate clean. Plus, it’s vegan and organic if you swing that way.
4) Fascist Island - With outdoor temps in the mild 70′s near the beach, outdoor malls are a nice way to spend the day with oddly dressed rich people walking ugly dogs. Fortunately, Whole Paycheck opened with an actual pub with good food and craft beer taps. If that’s not enough, you’re welcome to bring anything in the store into the pub and consume it on premise!
- Eatery: Back Bay Tavern
- Dish: Stone IPA Battered Fish & Chips
- Beer: Whatever the hell you want. With a dozen taps and one of the better selections of craft beer in a cooler, this is worth coming to this mall on its own.
5) Irvine Spectrum – You’re probably thinking “Yard House” right? Sadly, that’s where you’re wrong. With all the holiday debauchery, I like to treat my temple to a vegetable or two for some nice fiber and bonus vitamins.
- Eatery: Tender Greens
- Dish: Backyard Steak Salad with horseradish vinaigrette
- Beer: Cismontane Dead Santa, because hey, drink to Santa’s health.
- Eatery: Rubios Fish Tacos
- Dish: Original Fish Tacos with copious amounts of their new Diablo sauce.
- Beer: Stone IPA, because a nice San Diego food/beer pairing is a total win! Not a fan of hoppy beers? Grab a Hangar 24 Orange Wheat with the Habanero Mahi Mahi tacos.
- Eatery: Lazy Dog Cafe
- Dish: Hawaiian Ahi Poke
- Beer: House Hefeweizen - After Firestone Walker gave up contract brewing, Lazy Dog grabbed LA’s Golden Road to make their house beers. I’m not sure if the recipe is the same as GR’s Hef, but it’s still tasty and goes great with Poke.
- Eatery #2: Taps Fishhouse & Brewery
- Dish: Oyster bar!
- Beer: TAPS Irish Red. Such a beautifully simple and delicious beer…the combo brings me back to my trip to County Clare Ireland, drinking fresh Smithwicks and scarfing seafood.
I honestly haven’t shopped anywhere else in the last ten years! What are your recommendations?