If you are looking for a place to eat in Orange County that is not only reasonably priced but also fits into the healthier restaurant category, then we think Panini Café hits the mark. Their philosophy is to “take every possible opportunity to provide the freshest, healthiest and high quality ingredients we can find.”
There are several locations in Orange County and LA County. We ventured over to Aliso Viejo in the Aliso Viejo Town Center to check things out. The outdoor covered patio was an inviting place to be, with comfortable surroundings that were relaxing enough to enjoy our lunch. The staff are very friendly and go out of their way to be helpful.
We were pleasantly surprised and encouraged to learn that Panini’s Mediterranean styled menu includes organic eggs, grass-fed, antibiotic free meats and chicken, organic greens for salads and wild caught tuna. They tell us that they include organic vegetables on the menu whenever possible, so at least they are making an effort to do the right thing. Ask the manager when you’re dining here to find out more about the current offerings.
The menu has a great variety to choose from and our focus was to order the healthiest lunch dishes. The Mediterranean Greek salad with chicken was ample in size, full of flavor and very filling. The fresh vegetables in this salad consist of thinly chopped red onions, roma tomatoes, cucumbers and kalamata olives and of course, feta cheese, all marinated in balsamic vinaigrette. Unfortunately, the only vegetable that was organic that day was the romaine. The Romaine Avocado salad was very good – with a tasty light basil and lime dressing. The cup of organic, green lentil soup (blended with tomatoes, garlic, onions, mint and vegetable broth) was delicious and a true vegetarian choice. We all agreed that the lentil soup was a hit and we would definitely come back for that!
You can find gluten-free and vegan options on the menu. There are plenty of vegetarian options and organic tofu is also on the menu. Although we didn’t try them, the shish kabob choices with chicken, fish or lamb or beef looked spectacular and are all served with basmati rice or bulgur pilaf. This dish comes with skewered meat or fish and grilled vegetables along with a choice of three signatures salads: Caesar; Mediterranean Greek or romaine avocado. The shish kebobs are ample enough to share and are a favorite at Panini. Unfortunately, the salmon is not wild caught.
Panini Cafe is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and if you love eating out for breakfast, they have a nice variety of healthy, organic egg dishes. If you haven't already had a chance to try Panini Cafe, give it a try... any time of day.