The Panini Cafe has locations all over Southern California, from Aliso Viejo all the way to Westwood by UCLA. This Santa Ana location is at the MainPlace Mall, under the 24 Hour Fitness. The name sounds more Italian, with the name “Panini” but its actually more Persian as there’s a jar of Sumac on the table.
Their menu has everything from salads to kebob/ koubideh to soups and sandwiches. The restaurant really pushes the boneless chicken kebob, and even offers it as a special “to go” family pack. With this much hype by the restaurant (and even Yelpers) I decided to try the chicken.
The chicken came with grilled vegetables, saffron rice, and a choice of salad: Mediterranean or avocado. I chose the avocado, which was romaine lettuce, tomatoes, Persian cucumbers with generous slices of avocado on top. The chicken portion was generous, but sadly a bit dry. I am not sure if it was dry from being massed produced, or simply overcooked. I ended up taking most of my food back to work, with the hope of eating it later when I’m “starving”. The web site posted it was $10.95 but apparently the information must be old. I was charged $12.95 and it was also on the menu as such. Regretfully I should have ordered the beef koubideh. Oh well.
Meanwhile my 2 dining companions chose the salad. One had the Mediterranean salad, and the other had the Caprese salad. Both came with triangles of pita bread. They must have enjoyed their food, as their plates were cleaned.
While we were chatting, I noted 90% of the customers ordered the chicken kebob. I kid you not, the restaurant really must push that entree, or everyone was in a chicken kebob mood.
Overall an ok first impression. Service was incredibly fast, and the place was packed by noon. I”m going to assume the dry chicken was due to the lunch rush. I hope to come back for dinner and try something else.