1802 Newport Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
I love getting two things done at once. The second weekend of May this year included both my Dad's birthday and of course Mother's Day. This double dip seems to happen almost every year. So killing two birds with one stone, I decided to combine both celebrations with one dinner for the both of them. I consulted one of my favorite food resource sites, Urabanspoon, and looked up restaurants in Costa Mesa. Eat Chow had over a ninety percent approval rating, and a few of the blogs I read regularly had liked the food, so that is where we headed.
Eat Chow has a Newport Boulevard address, but it is really located on 18th street, a stones throw from one of my favorite bars, Goat Hill Tavern. Eat Chow shares this address with a clothing store, and the windows of the restaurant look out on shoppers buying what I assume to be, expensive apparel. The restaurant is not big, maybe ten or so tables. Even with the cramped quarters we really felt pretty comfortable here. The restaurant kind of had an LA feel to it. Part hipster, but in a laid back kind of way. The restaurant's decor is dominated by darker woods, but with the large windows facing the street and the windows in the back, Eat Chow conveys an openness.
We got to the restaurant at about 4PM on a recent Saturday evening. There was a smattering of customers here when we arrived, but the place filled up around us as we ate. The menu here is dominated by some Mexican dishes and sandwiches, among other things. I was pretty impressed with their sandwich selection. They offer 17 different kinds, and I really had a hard time deciding which one to have. Everyone else must have been having the same problem as me, because it took us awhile to decide on what we were going to have. After some tough decisions, this is what hit our table.
Reading the reviews on-line before I got here, almost everyone had mentioned the Beer Battered Onion Rings ($4.50) and the Truffle Parmesan Fries ($5). Let's start with the better of the two, the onion rings. These were a very solid onion ring. The breading stuck to the onion, the batter was not too greasy, and the Point Reyes blue cheese dip went well with these rings. Not a bad one in the bunch. The fries had a good amount of truffle flavor on them, but I thought a bigger french fry would have been preferable here. An increased surface area would have made the truffle and Parmesan more intense, but that's just my opinion. Everyone else really liked these fries. I thought the serving size for these was pretty generous.
Katie went big here, with the #1 Ahi Burger (Market Price, but the day we were here it was $18). This very rich tuna burger had a lot going on with it. Not only did this contain a big slab of ahi, it also came with a chili aioli, Roma tomatoes, and a ginger wasabi slaw, all on a toasted brioche bun. The mild spiciness of the condiments helped to cut down on the richness from the ahi. Everything played off each other nicely here. Katie could not finish this, leaving about a quarter of it for me, which I did not mind. The sandwiches here come with either a side green salad or a Caesar. Both Katie and I chose the Caesar with or meals. I really enjoyed this Caesar. It kind of had a Cole slaw type vibe, and was dressed nicely with a good Caesar dressing. Very fresh produce and plenty of cheese, made this Caesar a winner.
We'll skip to my Dad's dinner next, the Hot Turkey Pastrami Sandwich ($13). This was listed as one of their specials, so I'm not sure if it is available all the time or not. Here they take their house made turkey pastrami and then add Swiss cheese, a creamy three mustard jalapeno slaw and some cotija cheese. I did not really get the taste of the cotija cheese with this one, but I did detect the slight heat from the jalapeno slaw. The turkey was done nicely, and my Dad could not have been happier with his sandwich. Glad to make the old guy happy every once in awhile.
If you have been an avid follower of the blog, you might know that I am always looking for great Cuban sandwiches when we go out. To me there is not a more balanced sandwich than a Cuban. My Mom beat me to the punch by getting the Media Noche Cubano ($10) here at Eat Chow. Stuffed between two grilled pieces of sweet egg bread was plenty of roasted pork, smoked ham, house made pickles, Swiss cheese, and spicy mustard. You get the sweet from the bread, the saltiness from the meats, and the sour from the pickles. A little taste of everything for your tongue. The version at Eat Chow was pretty spot on. It really conveyed the media noche taste, and my Mom had plenty left to bring home to my bother in law. She also really enjoyed the side salad that was served with this sandwich. Not sure what kind of vinaigrette was on this salad, but she made a point of saying that she really liked it.
I really did have a hard time narrowing down my choices at Eat Chow, but I finally made my choice of the Reuben ($11). The sandwich was served on sourdough, with house made corned beef, thousand island dressing, Swiss cheese, and a red cabbage kraut. I really liked that they grilled the sandwich. It added a nice crunch to the bread. The overall taste of the sandwich could have been a little better though with a few tweaks. The red cabbage really overpowered the sandwich, thus the meat got lost in most of my bites. This sandwich also could have used a little more dressing, which I ended up asking for. A good sandwich, but there are too many other items on their menu that I want to try before getting this again.
All four of us were pretty full by this point, but we persevered and split one dessert four ways. The Banana Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding ($8) was our almost unanimous choice. This bread pudding was drizzled with caramel and chocolate sauce, and topped with whipped cream. I had higher hopes for this dessert when we ordered it. The bread pudding was a little on the dense side, and the chocolate chips did not shine through for me. Again, not bad, but not something I would probably get again.
Eat Chow really made both Mother's Day and my Dad's birthday a great success. Both of my parents left Eat Chow very happy and satisfied with their meals. I liked mine, but I will definitely have to come back to find my ultimate meal here. I really liked the playful way that they tried to make each item their own by adding something that you might not expect. The prices were pretty reasonable for the serving sizes offered. The service on this late afternoon was pretty solid. Jessica and her busboys really took good care of us, refilling our drinks and clearing plates. It was a very good day, celebrating two family celebrations at the same time. Now if I could just do that with every family occasion, I would have more time on my hands than I would know what to do with. I know, its not going to happen, but I can still dream.
Out of five dog houses, (because the Chow Chow is a breed of dog, and I could come up with anything better), five being best to zero being worst, Eat Chow gets 3 dog houses.
For more information about Eat Chow, click here: http://www.eatchownow.com/