While the San Clemente Pier, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano train stops offer a host of restaurants and cafes steps from their respective platforms, without having to cross busy streets or trek too far, the same cannot be said for the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo, Irvine and Tustin Stations.
The three stops are primarily used by regular commuters who either drive and park or take the bus to and from the station; not so much by passengers seeking destination-worthy dining. (Though many use it to reach nearby FivePoint Amphitheatre.) There’s just not a lot of commercial zoning, and even less residential zoning, surrounding the stations.
“When you don’t allow housing density, not just near transit but also commercial corridors, you’re really starving those areas of small businesses and customers,” explained Sen. Scott Wiener (D-11th District), who has authored bills to create more affordable and multi-use housing near California transit stations. “So small businesses don’t open up to support or they struggle. It’s in the interest of small businesses to have people living nearby.”
Compared to South County’s southern stations, these three offer few choices for hungry passengers.
Laguna Niguel / Mission Viejo
No dining options exist outside the platform without having to cross Camino Capistrano, a somewhat busy two-lane street with no nearby crosswalks for safe pedestrian travel. Since jaywalking is all but required to access one of the few dining options across the street from this South County stop — unless you travel more than half a mile down the road to the nearest intersection crosswalk — it’s hard to recommend hopping off the train here to find food.
However, if you must, passengers can dine at the following restaurant. Again, accessing food requires jaywalking, which is neither safe nor legal. Consider yourselves warned.
Escape Craft Brewery: Billed as Laguna Niguel’s first brewery, this suds spot offers more than 20 craft beers on tap. While technically not a restaurant, Escape Craft Brewery features pop-up trucks just outside its doors, like Big Rick’s BBQ 714, on Fridays and Saturdays and occasionally on Thursdays and Sundays. Guests can also bring their pooch as this place is a dog-friendly spot. Open Tuesday through Sunday. 28162 Camino Capistrano #109A, Laguna Niguel; escapecraftbrewery.com
Aside from Escape Craft Brewery, you can find several fast-food options across Camino Capistrano and down the road, like A’s Burgers, In-N-Out and Carl’s Jr., via an estimated 13- minute walk south of the train platform.
The freeway impedes a lot of walkability at the Irvine Station. Even though some spots like the Hello Kitty Grand Cafe Sanrio are close as the crow flies, pedestrian access is inadvisable since you can’t cross the freeway sans automobile; pedestrians would have to walk two extra miles to go around it, which isn’t reasonable. Station Cafe, which used to operate at the train station’s building, closed in 2020.
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The nearest dining options accessible via public transit can be found at the Irvine Spectrum (670 Spectrum Center Drive). Passengers can take bus 403 from the station to the Irvine Spectrum Center. Bruegger’s Bagels (3991 Irvine Blvd.) and Maast Indian (15358 Alton Parkway) can be reached by taking the 86 bus from the Irvine train station.
The Tustin Station is located in an industrial area, with no easily accessible dining options outside of fast food joints, like a nearby Subway Sandwich (3017 Edinger Ave.) and Jack In the Box (3089 Edinger Ave.).