The Crow Bar and Kitchen
2325 East Coast Highway
Corona Del Mar, CA 92625
Crow Bar has been on my list of places so long that I almost forgot about it. Lucky for us my good friend Ed was going to be visiting from Philadelphia, and staying nearby in Newport. I happened to look at my list of places to try and spotted Crow Bar near the top. Ed likes to experiment with new restaurants, and Crow Bar seemed to be like a great place to nest for the night, (sorry, I will try to limit the bird puns in this review).
Crow Bar has been open since 2007. Since that time they have won rave reviews for their hamburgers, fries, cocktails, beer selection, and they were named best bar in Orange County. They want you to know that they are not just a bar, but they consider themselves a gastropub. The distinction that makes this a gastropub is the chef twists common pub food into making it his own, and using seasonal ingredients, that compliment the beers and cocktails they serve. The last time I wrote about a gastropub was when we went to Haven Gastropub almost two years ago. I was not too fond of the experience that time, because I thought they were trying too hard. I was hoping this trip would be more to my liking.
We arrived at Crow Bar at 7 pm on a Thursday night. The place was packed. Our party of three did not have a reservation, but we pulled up a seat at the bar and had a quick drink while we waited fifteen minutes for our table to be ready. The bar was jammed, with young professionals out for an after work drink. During our stay the professionals moved out, and the young hipsters moved in. After paying for our drinks we were moved to a table and ordered. This is what came our way.
We started off our night with the Sausage Trio with a Soft Baked Pretzel. This trifecta of sausages included a smoked cheddar bratwurst, spicy Polish sausage, and a nuerinberger bratwurst. These were all paired with a condiment. The nuerinberger brat was paired with a spicy mustard. My favorite one of the three sausages was the spicy Polish served with the house made tomato chutney. This one really popped with flavor, and the chutney attempted to cool it down. The cheddar brat was okay, but I did not sense a lot of cheese in this one, but the "crow", sauerkraut made up for the lack of cheese. The pretzel here was not just an afterthought. The pretzel came out warm, soft, and salted perfectly. We could have eaten a few more of these.
Let's start the main course with our guest for the evening, Ed. He ordered up this Chicken Pallard. Roasted chicken, organic tomatoes, kalamata olives, roasted garlic, and basil were combined to come up with this dish. Ed finished this plate rather quickly, calling this both, "great and savory". He enjoyed the smaller portion size here, so he could save room for dessert later. What a lightweight!
Katie was on the fence about what to order, but she settled on the Classic Burger, adding Havarti cheese. This quenched her burger craving. She felt this burger was very rich, and loved the addition of the Havarti cheese on it. Unfortunately she ordered this burger well done, but the bite I had was still very juicy. The Duck Fat Fries were not as crisp as we are used to, but were still good. The seasoned truffle aioli that was served with this was a little too strong of a flavor for her, but I enjoyed it when I dipped some of her fries into the sauce.
I know that we are only a few weeks into the new year, but this is by far the best thing I have eaten all year. The Braised Veal Cheeks, paired with house made tater tots, mushrooms, and braising jus were a hit in my book. The veal here tasted like the most tender pot roast you have ever had. The jus was a little on the salty side, but it still worked with the meat. The tater tots needed to be a little softer, but I would definitely get this plate again.
Onto the dessert portion of our show, and Ed's selection was the Bananas Foster Bread Pudding. The bread pudding was moist, and the banana flavor was subdued. The ice cream on top of this was a nice touch, with plenty of caramel sauce.
Katie always loves chocolate, so I knew she would lean towards the Liquid Chocolate Cake. This was served with caramel brown sugar swirl ice cream. She described the cake portion as, "divine, and it paired well with the caramel ice cream". It was rich, without being over the top.
Not to be biased, but I had the best dessert of the night, the Butterscotch Pot au Creme. Not only did this dessert feature a smooth butterscotch creme, but it also came with salted caramel, and palmiers. Not sure if the palmiers cookies were house made, but they were really good. Salted caramel is also one of my new favorite things as well, and it really went well with pudding here. This would be a dessert I would get again for sure.
After leaving Crow Bar I was disappointed that we had not been here sooner. The food was definitely well worth the trip, and the vibe here was hipster cool. The dining area can be a little on the loud side. The young, good looking servers kept thing moving along, and got us in and out. Seating here was a little cramped. Prices were what you would expect to pay in Corona Del Mar. Main entrees were in the $15 to $25 range, while most burgers were under the $10 mark, a bargain for these delicious burgers. The portion sizes were a little on the small size, but they more than made up for it with their well prepared plates. At the end of the night we were all chirping about how great the Crow Bar was, (see, I only limited the bird puns to two for this whole article, your welcome my little chickadees!).
Out of five money makers, (because that was the name of the Black Crowes debut album back in 1990), five being best to zero being worst, Crow Bar Kitchen gets 3.5 money makers.
For more information on Crow Bar Kitchen, click here: http://www.crowbarcdm.com/index2.html