Fans might remember Brian Malarkey as one of the finalists on the third season of Top Chef. He’s been an active cook for a majority of his life, with restaurants across the country in Austin, Las Vegas, Hawaii and San Diego. Now Malarkey has opened Herb & Ranch at the University of California Irvine. Open to the public, residents can try some quality dishes, from avocado toast and herb-roasted chicken breast to hot and cold sandwiches and freshly made poke bowls.

In an exclusive interview with Irvine Weekly, Malarkey explained that he wanted to open a new eatery in Orange County to give everyone the chance to try out some great variety. “One day you can have a poke bowl, one day you can have the press sandwich or something off the grill, or the incredible salad. And it’s done to be really quick and really healthy and affordable, so just so many high points,” he said. “There’s always a special, you can get in there really quick and get out fast and feel good.”

Brian Malarkey (Dustin Bailey)

Originally from Oregon, Malarkey has been living in San Diego for the past 15 years. He became well known for opening a number of restaurants in Southern California, including the award-winning Herb & Wood, named as one of the country’s “10 Best Restaurants” by USA Today. Now that Herb & Ranch is open, Malarkey is grateful to be part of a new project that offers so many options to the public. “People have a lot more expectations in Southern California I think than most places in the country or maybe the world as far as health options, gluten [and] allergies,” Malarkey said. “So the idea of this place is it’s very far-reaching for so many different people based on what they’re looking for that day. I think this is a revolutionary concept in all honesty.”

Herb and Ranch’s interior (Dustin Bailey)

Herb & Ranch has an indoor and outdoor setting, and a grassy area for guests to enjoy their time outside. Malarkey said Herb & Ranch is all about both quality and quantity to give a memorable experience that will keep everyone coming back.

“It’s the best deal in town,” he said. “[It’s the] freshest quality and the design is over the top; it’s beautiful. Irvine really stepped it up for the customers and it’s fantastic and I hope you get the opportunity to come check it out.”

Herb & Ranch, 5301 California Ave., Irvine; Mon.-Fri., 6:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; (949) 316-4491, herbandranch.com.