In the rapidly growing epicenter of Downtown Santa Ana, Playground 2.0 sits at the corner of 4th Street and North Spurgeon. In his home restaurant, Playground, chef Jason Quinn recognized a desire to speak with patrons about the quality of ingredients that made up the meals he served. In the renovated space next to Playground, Jason brings a modern style of eating to the table. Through the idea of getting to know and interact with patrons as he cooks, Playground 2.0 was born. In an environment that prides itself on top-quality product and cooking precision, Playground 2.0 is at the forefront of creative gastronomy in Orange County.
We sit down with Jason Quinn, owner and chef of Playground 2.0, which offers a locally sourced and ever-changing menu to the dining revitalization of Santa Ana.
Tell us about how Playground 2.0 got started.
Within the first year of opening Playground, we were notified that the space next door had become available. We were running out of prep space and decided to take this place over. When we looked at the space and all of its configurations, we ran through the idea of using it as a bar or a kitchen. More importantly, there were a lot of really nice ingredients that we were utilizing at Playground. It was sad when someone would eat a meal in our dining room and say, “That was okay.” I would think to myself - "If our customers knew exactly what they just ate - if I told them what they just ate; they would have loved it." I wanted to speak with all of the guests that came here. I wanted to cook for them, and tell the story of really special ingredients face-to-face. I wanted to watch everything being cooked perfectly and hand the meals to our guests.
How does the culture of Downtown Santa Ana affect your restaurant?
At Playground 2.0 we have been fortunate enough to do whatever we want. We want to be the best that we can, while bringing as much to the table as other business in Downtown Santa Ana. We’ve been defined by the experience of walking right outside the restaurant, meeting people down the street and talking with different business owners whose success is dependent on these two blocks. We want other people to be apart of this revitalization in Santa Ana. We hope this city becomes synonymous with high-quality food, dining experiences and people. It’s a wonderful place that we believe in and we want the best for it.
What is the importance of the pig in your restaurant?
When we first opened, I wanted the restaurant to be really meat heavy. We’re inspired by many different cuts of pork and flavors that pair naturally with it. The more I cook, though, I find myself drawn to vegetables. I’m excited by small things, like trying to cook the perfect fava bean or carrot. We don’t try putting things together that shouldn’t work. We’re just trying to put something on your plate that excites us. We have a sandbox that we play in, here. When it comes to pork, that sandbox becomes quite large.
Please explain the atmosphere of Playground 2.0.
At Playground 2.0, there’s no choice in what you eat for dinner. You sit back, relax and we take care of it. That aspect of this experience is really cool. We hope that you trust us. There’s something awesome about a person walking in here and trusting our judgement. And, as a chef, that’s a really great feeling. It makes you want to deliver your top product because your diners are counting on their meal to be awesome.
What is the perfect Playground 2.0 experience?
I think it’s really exciting when people come to experience this style of eating. There’s nothing better than getting to cook for somebody that wants to be here, in your restaurant. People will think about how excited they are to dine here and all we have to do is put the food in front of them; that’s what’s nice for us. All of these people come to this little corner of the world and walk through this tiny entrance to sit down and eat a fourteen course meal. To me, that makes you family - everyone becomes equal. We hope that people show up with eighteen strangers around a counter and leave knowing eighteen friends.
220 E 4th St #102, Santa Ana, CA 92701