Chapter One: the modern local
227 N. Broadway
Santa Ana, CA 92701
I have recently connected with my second cousin after nearly twenty years. He is a great guy. He likes to partake in some alcoholic beverages, he likes some great movies and music, he also likes to eat at some places that I have been wanting to try for ages. Hip, cool places that I read about in the OC Weekly, and have yet to try. When we texted each other setting up our long awaited meeting, he suggested meeting at Chapter One: the modern local. Needless to say I was very excited with his suggestion.
We arrived at Chapter One at 6:30 on a Friday night. We did not have a reservation, but were sat immediately. The decor of this restaurant felt more like a den or bookstore. That supposedly is not by coincidence. Chapter One is paying homage to the fact that their present location used to be home to a bookstore for many years. A very nice touch remembering the past.
Chapter One is the brainchild of former partner of Haven Gastropub, Jeff Hall. As you may recall, (or probably not, since it was a long time ago), I was not too big of a fan of Haven. I thought they might be trying to hard with their tobacco ice cream and blue cheese and apple tart. I admit that since that time, my tastes may have evolved a bit more. I am planning on returning to Haven in the near future for a revisit, but for now we we turn our attention to Jeff's current venture, Chapter One.
The culinary cocktail list at Chapter One is quite the assortment of mixed drinks. To be honest I was a little intimidated by the list. A lot of these concoctions are new to me, and I have been drinking for twenty plus years. I felt a little out of touch, so I asked our helpful waitress to bring me the most popular, so she brought out the Moscow Mule. This drink features a house made ginger beer, Russian vodka, and a lime, in a copper cup. This was a great choice. Very refreshing, with a mild taste. You could get a little taste of the ginger after every sip. The copper cup kept the drink very cold throughout it's stay at our table. There must be quite a problem of thievery with these cups, because the menu asks for an ID or $25 deposit for the cup. We must have looked honest, because our waitress did not ask for either from us. Guess we fooled her, just kidding.
We made it to the Modern Local a half hour before happy hour ended, so we quickly ordered two tapas from the menu. The first of which was the Tempura Frog Legs above. I admit I ordered this mainly for the shock value. They were heavily battered, and served with a lemon grass oyster sauce, radish sprouts, and julienned ginger. I likened this to a greasy chicken drumstick. Not a bad flavor, but nothing that I would probably order again. Plenty of meat on these though.
Katie went with a safer pick off of the happy hour menu, The Min Mac and Cheese. The mac and cheese here is made with white cheddar and Fontina cheeses, a smoky bacon and caramelized onion relish, toasted panko, and truffle oil. She felt this was a rich and creamy mac and cheese. She was very fond of this, but was happy she had a smaller version of this, because it was very rich.
On to the entrees, and first up is Daryl's dinner, the Skirt Steak Chimichurri. He really wanted this steak well done, but they would not do it that way. Are you sure we are related? Well done? Anyways, they compromised and got this medium well. Some pieces of this were more on the medium side, and I was lucky enough to have gotten some of those pieces. I liked the flavor of this meat. The steak was marinated in an apple chimichurri sauce. Very nice subtle flavor, which still let the natural flavor of the meat shine through. This steak was served with red pepper yucca fries. I am not really a big fan of yucca fries, but Daryl finished most of these off.
Katie's dinner may look like a pizza, but this was the House Flatbread. At the Modern Local they include grilled chicken, spinach, caramelized onions, blue cheese beciamel, arugula, and an interesting bacon infused powder on their flatbread. Katie liked all of the ingredients on top of this flatbread, calling everything, "well balanced and fresh". She was not as excited about the bacon infused powder. This did not pack the bacon punch it promised, and begged the question to be asked, "Why not just use real bacon?" Not sure of the answer to this, but Katie ended up liking this anyways.
I am not sure if you have heard, but starting on July 1st, Foie Gras will be banned in California. So a lot of restaurants are making the goose or duck liver a featured item on their menus for the next few months. At Chapter One they had a special burger this night, the Foie Gras Burger. This burger was great, and it disappeared quickly. The foie gras was very rich and complimented the burger patty wonderfully. The caramelized onions and brioche bun rounded this burger out perfectly. I would not hesitate ordering this again. I had higher hopes for the duck fat fries, but they were just okay. The house made ketchup was more of a marinara instead the red tomato ketchup we are used to.
After the entrees we went with three very unique desserts, including this one, the Milk and Cereal. This tasted exactly like it sounds. Vanilla panna cotta is layered on the bottom of the bowl, along with kataifi, Cinnamon Toast Crunch ice cream, and fresh berries. Very light dessert with a mild flavor. The ice cream really had the Cinnamon Toast Crunch flavor nailed down. The berries were fresh, the panna cotta was ice cold, and the kataifi added a great cereal texture. Katie really enjoyed this.
Daryl's dessert was another kind of interesting take on Elvis's favorite flavor combination, the PB and B. Here peanut butter ice cream was topped with maple bourbon caviar, then placed alongside a bruleed banana, topped with candied bacon, and a drizzle of chocolate oil on the plate. As odd as all of this sounds it actually went well together, and created good flavor combinations. This is another dessert that was not very heavy, like a lot of other desserts tend to be. This kind of dessert will not replace a big old slice of cake or an ice cream sundae for my tastes, but it was nice for a change.
My dessert was probably the biggest disappointment of the night for me here. Not really even a dessert, it is listed on the bar menu. This was a version of a beer float made with Banana Bread Beer. This whole thing was just odd to me. I was not a fan of the banana beer, and the peanut butter ice cream really got lost here. I should have stuck with one of their other desserts.
Chapter One was a hip dining experience that I was not so sure I would like, but ended up enjoying. It is really not the kind of place that is for everyone though. I can see how some people may think this place is trying too hard to be artsy with their food pairings and flavors. They do seem to care about the quality of their foods, and the customers taste experience. Prices were not as crazy as I had expected. Most dinners will set you back about $20. Their happy hour is a great way to go here. They have drink specials, and on some appetizers they offer almost fifty percent off of the regular prices. Happy hour is weekdays 3 to 7. Our service was really good. Our waitress was very bubbly, and was very patient with us. The menu does change here four times a year, so be prepared for one of your favorite items not being available for sure. Glad we met my cousin at Chapter One, and glad he has such good taste in food.
Out of five encyclopedias, (because on the bookshelf right by our seats, there were a few World Book Encyclopedias that were identical to the ones my parents had when we were growing up), five being best to zero being worst, Chapter One: the modern local gets 3.5 encyclopedias.
For more information on Chapter One: the modern local, click here: http://chapteronetml.com/