Story and photos by Kristin Torres

From sweet Belgian waffles to gourmet chicken sandwiches, there is a magical place down the 405 freeway from Saddleback College where burger dreams come true, seafood platters are as big as a table and where your diet goes in the garbage. TRADE Food Hall, a high-end venue that opened in fall 2016 is right in the heart of Irvine, California, offering guests quality and unique dining in the typical food court concept.

Close your eyes and think of the traditional American food court. Typically, one will find a Panda Express, Hot Dog on a Stick, a mediocre Chinese place and maybe a Subway sprinkled in there if you are lucky. There definitely will be some kid screaming and a slight stench of fried food mixed with stinky feet. Never are these places trendy or enjoyable, basically they are just good for a quick bite while shopping.

TRADE took the idea of a drab food court and occupied their stalls with tasteful and delicious restaurants. The interior is sprinkled with gorgeous communal dining spaces all to share your eats with family and friends. They ditched the booths and bright colored tables for modern and interesting seating.

“TRADE offers such a cool experience for people that are looking for quick and casual but still want restaurant quality food,” says Adam Hurtado, cashier at Portside the Fishery.

A seafood delight with loaded mashed potatoes is an option at the restaurant Portside at the Trade Food Hall in Irvine. (Kristin Torres) Belgium Liege waffles are a traditional street food that's typically eaten with your hand at Sweet Combforts at the Trade Food Hall in Irvine. (Kristin Torres) Sweet Combfort's liege waffle menu features a variety of toppings and drizzles, along with ice cream to pair alongside. In addition, they'll be making this sweet street food even more effortless by serving them on a stick. (Kristin Torres) Trade Food Hall in Irvine offers concept food in a casual and comfortable setting. (Kristin Torres) Whether your craving a burger, chicken sandwich or pulled pork on a roll, you can find it at the Trade Food Hall in Irvine. (Kristin Torres) After a tough day, meet your friends for a signature cocktails or your choice of 10 craft beers on tap will be cold and refreshing at Center Hub in the Trade Food Hall in Irvine. (Kristin Torres)

You will find nine extremely diverse restaurants scattered throughout the walls of TRADE. The longest line seemed to be for Two Birds, which in short looked like a glorified Chick-fil-a. There was a vegan place, a Latin and Asian fusion restaurant and burgers galore.

The savory food list seemed endless and next to impossible to choose just one. Although, the real show stopper was for the dessert shop called Sweet Combforts, this place brings a piece of Belgium straight to Irvine. Trending on Instagram right now, these photo-friendly waffle creations look like the perfect finish to any meal.

“I think just the whole look of the waffle when posted on social media really gets people to come because they look delicious and people want pictures of them,” says Jocelyn Ramon, an employee at Sweet Combforts.

The newest member of TRADE is a burger restaurant called Ground House Burger. Posts of these burgers are flooding Instagram as well. They are beyond drool worthy and put In-N-Out Burger to shame.

“The biggest benefit of being in TRADE is people have options to come and buy whatever they want for a good meal,” says Sergio Garcia, owner and operator of Ground House Burger. “It is not your typical brick and mortar store, I like the idea of food halls and definitely is trendy.”

Next time you find yourself in Irvine, TRADE is a must go. With every food possibility under one roof, you and your lunch date will not be disappointed. Grab a burger and beer, kick back and enjoy a nice afternoon at TRADE.

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