Monday, August 17, 2015

Bringing Back Some Good Memories at La Cave

La Cave 
1695 Irvine Ave. 
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

There are certain places that you can return to, and you instantly feel the years wash away. It can be a spot where you spent quite a bit of time with the best friends you have ever had. It can be somewhere that brings to mind the world before you became a real adult. Really it just needs to be a place where you feel comfortable, and have made some great memories. One of those places for me is the venerable Costa Mesa landmark, La Cave.

In my early twenties I moved down to the Santa Ana Heights section of Newport Beach with two of my really good high school friends. I ended up living with these guys for over ten years, and as is the case with youngsters in their 20's and early 30's, there was a lot of drinking going on.

We had a circuit of bars we would hit up weekly. Monday we would hang out by whatever softball field we were playing at, Tuesdays would be Muldoon's for the dart tournament, Fridays you could find us at Rudy's and then Newport Brewing Company, Saturdays we would head to Habana at the Lab, and Sundays we would take it easy and just hang at TGI Fridays.

Wednesdays? That would always be La Cave, but only after 10pm. You never wanted to be here too early because the drinks were stiff, and the smells from the kitchen were too intoxicating to us young guys, who did not have enough money for the steaks and seafood here, and we really just wanted to save our money for the strong cocktails. Anyways, we could always just hit up Jack In The Box on the way home.

La Cave has a wonderful history, even before I started coming here. Now in its 53rd year of business, La Cave has had John Wayne as a frequent guest, Justin Bieber has taken the stage in the lounge area, and I even had the pleasure of meeting Dennis Rodman here on one evening. The dining room here can be described as part Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, add a part of the movie Swingers, and then throw in a hint of a speakeasy, and that's how I would describe the vibe here.

Old school is how others would probably describe La Cave. There's no menu here, instead they wheel a refrigerated cart over, and show you today's offerings under the glare of a flashlight. Some of the wait staff have been here for years, and they know many of the regulars that have been coming here for years. The chef is in the front of the restaurant cooking up steaks and seafood, and the aromas gently wash over the smaller than you would imagine room. After waiting for Tom and Daniele to show up, and after an initial cocktail, I was excited to add another chapter to my history at La Cave.

Once seated at La Cave, you will be presented with their Garlic Cheese Bread, which is included with dinner. Usually I'd air on the side of caution about filling up on bread, but this bread is worth gorging on, and they are not shy about refilling the empty basket numerous times during your stay. This bread is a little light on the garlic, but the excess cheese makes up for it. I put this bread pretty close to the one from North Woods Inn. Delicious, and there's no way you'll be able to stop at just one slice.

Along with the garlic cheese bread, dinners also include your choice of soup or salad. Tom tried the Soup, which I did not actually catch what kind it was. Looking at the picture, it has some kind of chicken in it, but other than that I have no idea whether he enjoyed it or not. He usually likes to keep his opinions to himself, so he can share them on his own blog. Selfish. I went with the Salad option, and I'm rather happy I did. Really this is a basic dinner salad with a red beet and cucumber added. What pushed this salad above the average mark for me was the blue cheese dressing here. First, they got more than enough on here, which made me very happy. Second, the dressing clung to the produce well, and had a very nice blue cheese flavor to it. I ended up making quick work of the salad.

I walked into La Cave thinking I was going to have the New York steak, but I ended up with my favorite steak, the 16 Ounce Boneless Ribeye ($37.95). This was actually a pretty good ribeye. Not ribboned with tons of fat, like some ribeyes tend to be, it had just enough to flavor the beef well. Cooked to a very nice medium rare, this was a pretty tender steak. The dinners here also come with your choice of rice or a twice baked potato. I've never had the rice, but I do not think it could rival the potato option. My potato was left under the broiler a little too long, but was still delicious, with just the right amount of cheese topping it.

Katie must have been pretty excited it was Friday, because she went big with the 7 Ounce Filet Mignon and a Half a Lobster Tail ($60.95). I must have become accustomed to Katie ordering her steaks well done, because I did not even flinch when she ordered it this way. I didn't try it, but Katie felt this was an amazing piece of meat. She let loose with adjectives like juicy, tender, and melt in your mouth. Pretty good for a steak that most would consider being overcooked. She also was a fan of the lobster. Not the best she has had, but it satisfied her seafood craving on this night.

I never did get an answer to my question about whether this Carrot Cake ($8.95) was made in house, as the waitress left to find out and never came back with the answer, but it doesn't matter because it was a pretty solid version of one of my favorite desserts. This four layer cake could have been a little more moist, but it had subtle cream cheese frosting and a good cinnamon flavor to it.

La Cave is a bygone restaurant that is still here today thankfully. Not like today's upscale steak restaurants that serve everything ala carte. For what you pay for just the steak at those places, at La Cave you get the salad, side potato, and of course the very good cheese bread. These are not the same quality of steaks that you can get at Maestro's or Ruth Chris, but they are still real good for the price and they are prepared well, and a great value for the money. I did think Katie's dinner was a little overpriced though for the tiny portion of lobster that came out with the filet. That little bit of lobster was not worth the extra $20 I assume that it costs. Still, the service was good, the atmosphere is always great here, and the company on this night was just alright. Glad I could add another page to my history at La Cave.

Out of five sprockets, (because the same year that La Cave opened for business, 1962, was the same year that The Jetsons premiered on TV, and George Jetson worked at Spacely Sprockets), five being best to zero being worst, La Cave gets 3.5 sprockets.

For more information about La Cave, go to their website here:

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