When it’s time to impress important clients, it helps to have the right atmosphere. Our advice? Do it over a lunch that shows you mean business. Break bread at any of these five restaurants in Orange County—don’t forget to wear your best-looking suit and, of course, bring the company plastic.
1. Andrea Ristorante Pelican Hill
Whisk that VIP client away to an opulent retreat that’s sure to impress. Andrea Ristorante, above, at Pelican Hill Resort offers terrace dining with the blue Pacific on the horizon. Wednesday through Sunday brings Il Pranzo Veloce, a 45-minute, two-course lunch for $35, perfect for a luxurious meal minus the delay. The grilled octopus, beautifully presented atop a mound of cannellini beans with a sprig of fried thyme, is an excellent starter. For an elegant seafood course, try the brown butter gnocchi with langostine and chanterelles. And if eight pastas made in-house daily aren’t impressive enough, order the showstopper risotto, finished tableside. $14 to $36. 22701 S. Pelican Hill Road, Newport Coast, 949-467-6800, pelicanhill.com/dining/andrea
2. Capital Grille
Nothing says “expense account meal” more than a sumptuous steakhouse with dark wood interior, plush leather booths, and private wine lockers for VIP guests. Capital Grille attracts a fair share of corporate bigwigs from the South Coast Metro area, from Deloitte to Experian, and pharmaceutical companies as well. Start with the classic wedge salad, blanketed with blue cheese and a pile of thick, crisp bacon. The sliced filet mignon with cipollini onions and wild mushrooms—the most expensive dish on the lunch menu at $31—is sure to impress your dining companion. Desserts, such as cheesecake and flourless chocolate espresso cake, are ethereally light and airy, the better to balance all those big steaks and sweeten those deals. $12 to $31. 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 714-432-1140, thecapitalgrille.com
3. Paul Martin’s American Grill
This grill has all the steakhouse perks with a modern edge, with soaring ceilings and expansive booths that are quiet enough for private conversations. Handheld favorites include the New York French dip, with house-made au jus and horseradish cream, all on a freshly baked roll; the bistro burger—a juicy, freshly ground Angus patty with black pepper aioli—is another solid pick. Don’t miss the banana cream pie layered with chocolate, vanilla bean pastry cream, and whipped cream. $13 to $21. 31 Fortune Drive, Irvine, 949-453-1144, paulmartinsamericangrill.com
4. The Catch
It may be known as a go-to restaurant before or after an Angels or Ducks game, but regulars also include local and state politicos who do plenty of handshaking and fundraising over lunch. The Veracruz salad, with grilled shrimp, corn, avocado, mango, and tortillas, is a house favorite along with the formidable Harvest Turkey Burger: a 10-ounce patty stuffed with capers, Dijon mustard, and shallots, on a toasted sesame bun with pesto aioli, sprouts, and aged white cheddar. For dessert, the red velvet cake is a no-brainer. It’s baked-to-order in a cast-iron skillet, then iced tableside with gooey cream cheese frosting and served with vanilla ice cream and roasted pecans. $13 to $60. 2100 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, 714-935-0101, catchanaheim.com
With its setting inside the Atrium business center, it’s no surprise that Bistango caters to a steady stream of suited professionals. Start with a Waldorf salad, or the rich and creamy sweet garlic soup. For entrees, the baked Chilean sea bass with mushroom asparagus risotto, truffle essence, and a concord grape demi-glace reduction is a solid pick, as is the tender, pan-seared rack of lamb. $9.50 to $35. 19100 Von Karman Ave., Irvine, 949-752-5999, bistango.com
This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue.