Wednesday, December 30, 2015
The end of the year is fast approaching, and thanks to my computer crashing on me this week, it's going to be close trying to get this best of list out before 2016 rolls around. So if this shows up a little late, please forgive me.
2015 was an awesome year for me in so many ways. Number one of course was getting married to the woman of my dreams. Katie finally said yes, and we got hitched in April. Everyone has asked me the same thing, "How's married life"? My answer always is that it's really the same. It has been one smooth transition from dating, to engaged, to marriage. We do the same things, she allows me time to blog, I allow her time to nap, and we just have to find time to see our families.
Speaking of families, 2015 was the year of the wedding for us. Besides our own, we went to six other weddings this year, which gave us plenty of time to see our families. It also gave us a little time to blog some restaurants in some places that we would not normally get to. We always enjoy traveling, but unfortunately due to the abundance of marital bliss going around, our only vacation adventure this year was going to Jamaica for our honeymoon, and the food at the resort was definitely not worth writing about.
As far as this blog goes, this is our sixth year doing it, and we are not stopping anytime soon. I really want to hit at least 1000 different restaurants before I even think of taking some time off.. Right now we are at 580 different restaurants, and 653 different posts. So I guess you can say that we still have a lot of work to do. It's a good thing that I still really enjoy eating out, and hope that this is a great resource for all of you.
As always, before we get to our top ten list, I just want to thank all of my dining partners over this last year. Thanks for allowing me to take so many pictures of your food, before digging in. I would also like to thank all of you out there who have read, commented, and follow us on social media. I greatly appreciate it, and look forward to many more of your suggestions and complaints throughout 2016, and beyond. So without further ado, here's the top 10 restaurants we ate at in Orange County this year.
#10 Cafe Mimosa - The only breakfast spot to make our list this year. It was a spur of the moment decision to try this place while walking the San Clemente Beach Trail, and I could not have been happier with their baked goods, and their pork belly breakfast. As with most breakfast spots around the county, there's going to be a wait, but this place is worth it. With a promise of eating here, I'd even agree to go walking again.
#9 Pub Thirty-Two - Chef driven restaurants are all the rage right now, and they are even popping up in South OC, where chain restaurants used to reign supreme. That's not the case anymore though, with great restaurants like Pub Thirty-Two surfacing in this Mission Viejo shopping center. We had a wonderful meal here that featured Chef Glen Tinsley's version of farm to table cuisine, which almost made us forget the awful meal we had at this same address when it was home to one of the worst Mexican restaurants we had the displeasure of eating at. A definite upgrade now.
#8 Reunion Kitchen and Drink - Coming to us from the people behind Nick's, French 75, and Claim Jumper, (back when they were good), is Anaheim Hills very own, Reunion. This is American comfort food at its best, with a wonderful menu that hasn't missed the mark with any of the items we have tried. Standouts include the Fried Chicken, Meatloaf, and save room for the Butter Cake for dessert. We're eagerly awaiting the opening of a new Reunion in Laguna soon.
#7 South Coast Kitchen - Unfortunately this is one restaurant you will not be able to make it to on this list. It saddened me to hear that this South OC gem had closed after a dispute with its landlord. Chef Justin Davis has headed up to Northern California now, and it's a bummer we won't be able to sample his menu which changed every week depending on what was available. Hope Chef Davis returns to us in OC someday.
#6 Driftwood Kitchen - Usually restaurants with a killer view serve lackluster dishes, and hope that the beautiful OC coastline will be enough to lure people through their doors. We did not find that to be true when we dined at Driftwood Kitchen in Laguna. The food here was prepared simply, and we found lots to like from Chef Rainer Schwarz's menu. I'd probably get the Pork Belly and Butcher Steak combo that I had on my first visit again, but you definitely need to tell them you're celebrating something so you can try their Toffee Cake, which is given out for birthdays, anniversaries, or whatever occasion you care to make up.
#5 SOCIAL - I can admit that SOCIAL may not be for everyone, but we really enjoyed this joint. Part hipster, kind of a rowdy bar scene, and some very good southern food with a California twist make this place a winner. We've been here twice now, and have had a real pleasurable time both visits. I'd talk about the food I had when I was here, but the menu changes often, so you're likely to see other items when you come here. Come in with no preconceived notions, and you will more than likely leave happy.
#4 Leadbelly's Barbecue - I'm a big fan of barbecue, so it's no surprise that there are two barbecue restaurants on this list, the first of which is Leadbelly's in Placentia. I liked that this BBQ place did not pigeon hole their barbecue into a specific region. They just have good meats, and are willing to take chances with the way that they serve them. You have to try their Loaded Pork Garlic Fries for sure, and their Burnt Ends if they are available. If they're not, order something else, and make plans to come back again until you get to try those elusive burnt ends. Worth the trip.
#3 Pina's Bistro - Yes, only one Italian spot on my list, but what a memorable meal it was. I usually shy away from specials, because I always figure that if they were really that great, they'd be on the menu. Glad I didn't listen to my own advice, and had Pina's almost always offered special, the 16 ounce Veal Chop Marsala. This massive chop is flown in directly from New Zealand, and is then cooked wonderfully here at Pina's. Don't scoff at the $40 price of this, you will leave full and satisfied.
#2 370 Common - I figured that since Owner/Chef Ryan Adams was splinting time between this place, and his new venture, The North Left in Santa Ana, that maybe the quality was going to suffer here. I was wrong. Everything we had was great, the Short Rib Poutine, the Hanger Steak, and one of the better Burgers in OC. Definitely one of the crown jewels of OC chef driven restaurants.
#1 Lillie's Q - That leaves Lillie's Q as the best restaurant that we ate at in 2015. We are extremely lucky that this Chicago based restaurant has opened an outpost in Brea. Their barbecue is legit, they have a great variety of sauces on the table, and I can not say enough good things about their grits, which are the best I have ever had. Need another reason to come here? How about all you can eat Sunday brunch? Yes, they have that, and I am salivating just thinking about it.
Okay, so that gives you a few places to try in this new year, if you haven't tried them already. Thanks again for taking the time to read the blog, and I look forward to sharing more dining adventures with you in the new year. Happiest of new years to you are yours.
Sunday, December 27, 2015
1640 North El Camino Real
San Clemente, CA 92672
Yes we eat our fair share of burgers, Italian, and Mexican food on this blog, but we also like branching out, and trying other kinds of food. No, I'm not going to stop eating my favorites, but we had a good experience with Colombian a few years back, and wanted to give it another try. We were coming down this way to visit our friend who was in a rehab facility, and decided this would be the opportune time to give Colombian food a try again.
I had heard about La Colombiana the way a lot of people have, through an article written about them in Westways Magazine. In that article, the author described this restaurant as a meat lover's paradise, and that's all I had to hear to put them on my list of restaurants to try. The Westways article came out earlier this year, and we finally made it in to see if this would be better than our first foray with Colombian food.
We arrived at about 8pm on a recent Saturday night. The restaurant is within shouting distance of Riders Club, and there was plenty of parking right next door at the closed Bread Gallery Bakery. We showed up without a reservation, but were seated promptly on the darkened patio out front. We could have eaten inside, but there was a guy singing inside, and it was rather loud.
The menu here is dotted with all of the Colombian staples. There's eight appetizers offered, along with 11 entrees, all of which are the recipes of the owner, Eddy. She settled in San Clemente via Colombia many years ago, and wanted to share her passion of Colombian cuisine with her community. She's a very hands on owner, as we saw her talking with customers, clearing tables, and running food. I was pretty hungry by this point, and looked forward to seeing the food hit our table. Let's see how it all came out for us.
First up was an appetizer, the Colombian Empanadas ($9.95). These were filled with beef, onion, tomatoes, and potatoes. The outside is a corn and flour dough, which is a little more structurally sturdier than their Argentine empanada cousins I have tried. The insides of these were good, but made much better with the provided aji, which is described on the menu as Colombian salsa. It had real depth of flavor. I got some hints of cilantro, onion, and citrus notes when using this condiment, which Katie liked to use liberally on her entree as well as these empanadas.
Speaking of entrees, they were not too far behind our appetizer, and let's take a look at Katie's selection on this evening, the Pollo Asado ($12.95). This featured grilled chicken, marinated in citrus juice. Anytime our waitress came by, Katie gushed about how much she enjoyed this meal. The chicken was tender, and had added flavor from the grill and the marinade. This meal was rounded out by plantains, rice, and a Colombian salad, which is really more of a slaw in my opinion, but if they want to call it a salad, who am I to judge.
I once described the national dish of Colombia as a Grand Slam Breakfast on steroids, and after eating this, I'd stand by this statement. This Bandeja Colombiana ($17.95) was a much better version of this dish, than I had during my first time eating Colombian food. This plate of food featured a portion of carne asada, a chorizo link, beans and rice, a fried egg, an arepa, and was finished with plantains. Of course the meats were the stars of the show for me here. The carne asada was flavorful, with some tender bites included. The chorizo was a tougher grind than most people would enjoy, but I liked the meatiness of it. The beans and rice, mixed together with the yolk from the egg created a very hearty portion, which you could imagine sticking to your ribs. I'm also not much of a plantain fan, but these were a pretty good version. Smashed, and then fried, they were not overly sweet, and went well with this plate. The arepa, which is like a cheese/corn patty was definitely another highlight here. It paired nicely with the aji provided. A very satisfying meal, and a good choice for first timers to Colombian cuisine.
We finished up our night at La Colombiana with Colombian Style Flan ($4.95). I kind of felt this was like the other flan versions I have had, but a little less sweet. It had a creamy structure, with a slightly less sugary caramel sauce. A nice end to our meal.
The flan above kind of helped me sum up what I believe to be Colombian food. I'm of course not an expert on this country's cuisine, but I'd summarize Colombian cuisine as good, solid, and stick to your ribs kind of food, that does not rely on big pops of flavor from it, or its condiments. The aji does not add spice, but it adds another flavor element to the food. It's definitely worth a try if you have never tried Colombian food, and La Colombiana is definitely the only game in town when it comes to South OC. With Colombian food no longer being served at Mitzi's Kountry Kitchen in Laguna Hills, this is your only Colombian option south of Santa Ana. We experienced great service on this evening. The restaurant is pretty small, and not going to awe you with its decor, but it is homey, and a comfortable restaurant to dine in. I'm glad we gave Colombian food another try.
Out of five roses, (because the country of Colombia is one of the main producer and exporter of roses worldwide, so many of those roses you see in next weeks Rose Parade could be from Colombia), five being best to zero being worst, La Colombiana gets 3.5 roses.
To find out more information about La Colombiana, go to their website here: http://www.lacolombianaoc.com/
Sunday, December 20, 2015
322 Main Street
Seal Beach, CA 90740
Well it took me almost a full twelve months, but I can finally cross one of my new year's resolutions off my list. With this visit to the wonderful city of Seal Beach, we have now officially eaten in every city in Orange County. Yes, that's all 34 of them, which does not seem like a lot, but because we are deep in south OC, it is kind of hard to make a trip to La Palma or Seal Beach. With traffic being what it is most of the time, an hour and a half drive does not really work so well for dinner. We were not to be deterred though.
Both Katie and I woke up earlier than normal on a recent Sunday morning and made the forty minute trip up the 405 Freeway. There was no traffic on this colder than average December morning, as there was plenty of room to race up to our destination. We parked at the pier and decided to walk the downtown strip towards Crema Cafe. Yes, there were other options, but Crema had been on my list for so long I almost felt a duty to them that they would be the first restaurant we ate at in this coastal city.
Walking up Main, I noticed a lot of near empty places serving breakfast, and there was only one spot that seemed to rival the wait at Crema, and that was Old Town Cafe. I felt pretty good about my choice, especially since I have read so many good things about this place in the OC Weekly. Of course since this was a Sunday morning at just after 10, I was prepared for a wait, and yes, there was one of about 45 minutes. We left our phone number with the hostess, and were able to walk around the shops until our table was ready.
I was already hungry, so our first stop was to their walk in bakery next door to get something to tide me over. I went with their Chocolate Croissant ($3) as the thing that would keep my hunger pains at bay while we waited for a table. This was probably one of the better croissants that I have ever had. Very flaky and buttery on the outside, soft near the center, and good quality chocolate in the middle. I was very impressed, and excited that Katie only wanted one bite of this.
We finally got a text that our table was ready, so we scurried back as quickly as we could. When seated, we were placed on the larger than I expected patio. I was not done trying their baked goods, so I made sure to order this Cinnamon Pull Apart ($2.75). I'd describe this as a miniature monkey bread, which was a little more dense. It had plenty of cinnamon inside, and the icing did not intrude too much with this. A very solid pastry.
Katie looked at the menu long and hard before making her decision to have this Seal Beach Omelet ($10.88). It came with bacon, tomato, avocado, cilantro, and cheddar jack cheese inside of it, and was served with their breakfast potatoes and choice of toast, which Katie went with their marbled rye. She really enjoyed this breakfast, which she called fresh, well seasoned, and delicious. The potatoes, and the rye bread, which was made on the premises, were standouts in her mind.
I also had a tough choice to make when choosing a breakfast selection here at Crema Cafe. I eventually went with the Breakfast Crepe ($11.49). This crepe was filled with chorizo, scrambled eggs, potato, cheese, and then topped with avocado slices and sour cream. With all this going on here, I'm still surprised that the thing that sticks out to me the most with this plate is the sour cream. This was not your grocery store kind of sour cream. It was well made, and was one of the creamiest I have ever had. The crepe itself was well done, and was a great vessel for the guts of this breakfast. The chorizo had an odd texture to it, but I still enjoyed it. There could have been a little more cheese, but in the end, this filled me up nicely. I'd probably try something else on my next visit here, but this was a good choice for my first time at Crema Cafe.
Crema Cafe did well to introduce us to the cuisine of Seal Beach. Both Katie and I really enjoyed our stay here, and could easily see why this restaurant gets such high praise from locals, and the restaurant blogs that we read. Service was cordial, and the food made its way out of kitchen in a timely manner. Not the best breakfast that we have ever had, but definitely better than average, and the bread items are what to key in on at Crema Cafe. With other Seal Beach favorites, Walt's Wharf, 320 Main, Spaghettini, Beachwood BBQ, and Nick's Deli yet to try, the city of Seal Beach will soon be tired of having us around.
Out of five wooden piers, (because Seal Beach is home to the second longest wooden pier in the state, with only Oceanside's pier being longer), five being best to zero being worst, Crema Cafe gets 3 wooden piers.
For more information about Crema Cafe, go to their website here: http://cremacafe.com/
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Del Frisco's Grille
772 Spectrum Dr.
Irvine, CA 92618
One of the questions that I get a lot in your emails is, "Where is there a good happy hour?" To be honest, I rarely go out for happy hour. Katie has to work til 6pm almost everyday, so that means I would have to drive myself to a happy hour spot, drink alone or meet up with a friend, and then behave myself and only have one or two drinks, so I can drive home under the limit. Also, most of the time happy hour food items underwhelm me. That was until me and my good friend Danny were invited to try out Del Frisco's Grille's version of happy hour.
Del Frisco's is a part of the Del Frisco's Restaurant Group, which also includes Sullivan's Steakhouse, and Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse. I haven't eaten at either of these, but I've heard great things about them. This DFG opened at the Irvine Spectrum over a year ago now, and they recently added a happy hour menu to the delight of many of their regulars. We reviewed them the first of this year, when we ate here on New Years Eve. You can see that review here.
The Spectrum is a big place, so if you are coming here for happy hour, it's best to park in the parking structure nearest Nordstrom's, and exit the structure near the valet stand. Located right next door to Brio, Del Frisco's is easy to get to, and you can avoid the hustle and bustle of the main part of the Spectrum.
When we walked in here at just after 4pm, the restaurant was near empty, but that changed rather quickly as the after work crowd congregated in the comfortable bar area to take advantage of the Sip and Share Happy Hour promotion. This is the first DFG location where they offer happy hour, and according to General Manager Katie Pavkov, the early buzz has been overwhelmingly positive. Happy hour runs Monday through Friday 4pm to 6:30, and is offered in the bar only. Danny and I were excited to experience it for ourselves, so we headed to one of the high top tables, with a great view of the basketball game on TV, and ordered almost everything on the happy hour menu.
Before we showcase the culinary exploits of the happy hour menu, we started things off with some cocktails. Danny selected the White Sangria ($6 during happy hour or $12 the rest of the day) to start off with. I'm usually not much into wine based cocktails, but this one was delicious. Pinot Grigio was the base for this, and then they added white peach puree, peach schnapps, and garnished it with a strawberry peach Popsicle. Very refreshing, and not overly sweet. This kind of brought a little touch of summer to this December afternoon. I ordered The VIP ($6) because I wanted to be a VIP for once in my life. This concoction consisted of sweet Hawaiian gold pineapple-infused Svedka Clementine Vodka. When this arrived I was afraid this was going to be over the top sweet, but it was mellower than I imagined, and went down rather easily. I wanted another one, but the food started coming out, so I ultimately saved some space for the happy hour grub.
If you are an ardent fan of this blog, you know that I'm pretty partial to the ahi tacos here at Del Frisco's Grille, but sadly they are not offered on the happy hour menu. There are tacos on their happy hour menu though, Asian Street Tacos ($6). These tacos definitely brought to mind a bahn mi sandwich. It had plenty of barbecued pork, pickled daikon and carrots, cucumber, cilantro, and chiles. The sauce provided was good, but I really enjoyed their very well done chipotle ranch paired with these. Really good tacos, and hard to limit ourselves to only one order of these.
Almost as iconic as DFG's ahi tacos, their Cheesesteak Eggrolls ($6) luckily were included on their happy hour menu. These taste just as they sound, like the insides of a cheesesteak wrapped in an eggroll wrapper. I'm always astonished that these are not as greasy as I imagine them to be, and they still feature the best part of a cheesesteak, the meat. These come with a spicy mustard sauce and a very well made sweet and spicy chili sauce, which has a great yin and yang thing going for it. These are a must try when coming to happy hour here.
If any of you enjoy blue cheese, you need to try these Buffalo Blue Cheese Chips ($6). House made potato chips are doused with a buffalo wing sauce, then sprinkled with blue cheese crumbles. Something so simple, but yet very addicting. The blue cheese kind of overpowered here, but these chips were mellowed out with an avocado ranch dressing. I could see these chips becoming the next flavor that the guys at Lay's use in their yearly contest to come up with new flavors.
DFG went a little south of the border on their next happy hour item, the Pulled Pork Nachos ($6). This mini nacho skillet started with some very sturdy tortilla chips as a base, then they were topped with jalapenos, crema, something that appeared to be taco seasoning, cheese, cilantro and pulled pork. I really enjoyed this, especially the top layer, where all the flavors were co-mingled. The pork here is very good, with a nice natural flavor to it. This was Danny's favorite food item of the night.
Up next were the misnamed on the menu Frites ($6). These were actually a mixture of frites, which is the fancy way of saying french fries, and sweet potato fries. I'm not really into sweet potato fries, but these were some of the best I have had. I'm not yet a convert to this variety of fries, but I would not thumb my nose at having these again. The regular fries were much more to my style, as they were seasoned just enough, and went well with the chipotle ranch dipping sauce provided. I also had to keep Danny from snaking the little squeeze bottle of ketchup from the restaurant. You can't bring Danny anywhere.
The last happy hour food item we had on this afternoon were these Wagyu Corndogs ($6). I was very skeptical about these when they came to the table, but they turned out to be pretty good. The hot dog inside was beefy, and the batter on the outside, along with being crunchy, had a great flavor to it, even better than the ones you can get at the mall. Both dipping sauce were good, but I enjoyed the better than most honey mustard sauce with these, and I'm not even a mustard person.
With our stomachs full from all that we had eaten, we wanted to have another round, just so we could finish watching the basketball game and enjoy the happy hour atmosphere at Del Frisco's Grille. I went with the Dutch Mule ($12, and not on the happy hour menu). This twist on the very popular Moscow mule still used ginger beer and mint, but also added some Nolet's Silver Gin and was garnished with a slice of grapefruit. This was good, but I'd probably stick with the standard version, which I've had here before. The grapefruit kind of threw this off for me. I really liked Danny's beverage selection better, the Apt 5D ($12, also not on the happy hour menu). This vodka based drink also came with fresh strawberries, lemon sour, simple syrup, and a dash of balsamic, which helped even this out. I liked the balance of this, but Danny thought it was on the sweeter side.
Both Danny and I really enjoyed this happy hour at Del Frisco's Grille. It's really a great option for people in the Irvine area, who want to take a break from a long day at work, shopping at the Spectrum, or just want to have some really good food. The Sip and Share happy hour program here is also very economical as well. All of the happy hour items we had on this afternoon would have only set us back $48, and there was easily enough food here for more than just us two. Also not shown, but offered on the happy hour menu are their very good flatbreads and deviled eggs, which are also $6. All draft beer is $5, and there's also a selection of spirits and wines that are offered at the affordable $6 price point as well. Basically something for everyone is offered here. Now when someone asks me about a great happy hour spot, Del Frisco's Grille will be near the top of my list.
Both Danny and I would like to thank everyone that we encountered on this afternoon at Del Frisco's Grille. They took such great care of us, along with their other guests, and they made sure we had everything that we needed during our stay. A special thanks to our good friend, General Manager Katie Pavkov for an excellent afternoon of catching up, and showcasing her wonderful restaurant. We'd also like to thank Executive Chef, the very talented Sarah Daniels for taking the time to come out and say hello during the start of the dinner rush. It was much appreciated Sarah. We'd also like to thank the food runners, bartenders, and other management who stopped by to say hello. You all make a great a team.
If you would like to experience Del Frisco's Grille, and their happy hour for yourself, you can find out more about them by going to their website here: http://delfriscosgrille.com/
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Tin Roof Bistro
3500 North Sepulveda Blvd. #100
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Yes, we are up in the South Bay area again, so you know what that means. We are taking our good friends Chuck and Stephanie to LAX for one of their six trips a year to visit their grand kids in South Carolina. Most people need to be in their golden years to travel this much, and luckily Stephanie married someone that was way older than herself, and well into his golden years when they met all those years ago. I can write this because Chuck probably has misplaced his bifocals, and can't read this anyways.
With this dynamic duo traveling so much, you might think that we are running out of places to eat when head up this way. Nothing could be further from the truth. The South Bay area has so many great restaurants that we want to try, Chuck will be 105 years old by the time we have even made a dent in our list of restaurants to hit up. Of course that's only three years away, but new places are opening all the time. This trip we came up to try the highly rated Tin Roof Bistro.
Tin Roof Bistro is located on the outskirts of the Manhattan Village Mall, which is on the corner of Sepulveda and Rosecrans. This restaurant visit added a little more importance to me, because of the recently opened up Simmzy's back in OC at the new shopping and entertainment venue, Pacific City. Simmzy's is the sister restaurant to Tin Roof Bistro, and part of the Simms Restaurant Group, which also includes the restaurants, Fishing With Dynamite, Manhattan Beach Post, and of course the now five location strong Simmzy's.
Tin Roof Bistro, opened in 2009, is Mike Simms vision of a wine country locals spot. A restaurant where you can feel comfortable wearing a t-shirt and jeans, or in sports jacket. Mike knows a little something about wine country, as he worked up in the Napa Valley after graduating college. He also has the restaurant business in his genes, as his dad and grandfather are longtime restaurateurs.
We got here at just before 8:30 on a Friday night. We had no reservation, but at this later dinner hour, we had no problem being seated right away. I'd say they nailed Mike's vision, as the restaurant was very comfortable, lively, and unpretentious. The feel of it reminded me of one of our favorite spots in San Clemente, Vine Restaurant, which is also going for the wine country feel, without the stuffiness. The menu is dotted with appetizers, salads, a fine selection of daily specials, and entrees. The entrees are all reasonably priced, with none of them reaching Chuck's critical $30 mark. Let's see if we could send Chuck and Stephanie off to South Carolina with a great meal.
First up is an item that you can also order at Simmzy's, the Blue Cheese Haystack ($6.75). On Tin Roof Bistro's Yelp page, this gets a lot of love, and that held true at our table as well. A mound of shoestring fries is topped with a blue cheese dressing and a sauce that resembled a milder buffalo style sauce. I enjoyed these, but because the fries were so skinny, it was hard for the sauce to cling to them. They were good quality fries and the blue cheese had a little tang to it. A nice start to our meal at Tin Roof.
Since Chuck was buying dinner in exchange for the ride to the airport, we all got salads. This was Katie's selection, the half version of the Manhattan Beach Cobb ($8). This take on a Cobb salad had Katie drooling. It came with romaine, bite sized chicken pieces, avocado, bacon, walnuts, celery, grapes, crispy shallots, and a combination herb vinaigrette and blue cheese dressing. This updated spin on a Cobb salad was refreshing, and hit the mark. Lots of different textures kept each bite interesting, and the combo salad dressing was the best of both worlds. Katie remarked that she might just get the full version of this salad next time.
I've been on a real roll with Caesar salads lately, and that held true to form on this night as well. This Classic Caesar ($8.75) had all the components you'd expect to find in a Caesar; chopped romaine, plenty of shaved Parmesan, some pretty solid croutons, and their self described, "take no prisoners" Caesar dressing. This salad was not revolutionary, but I liked the combined effect everything had here. There was plenty of the dressing on here, the crunch from the croutons was good, and they also did not skimp on the shaved cheese. A delicious, yet basic Caesar.
I guess Chuck was in a good mood, because he allowed himself and Stephanie to split this Simple Greens Salad ($5.75). This was a pretty good sized salad for the price, and it came with a good variety of greens, tomatoes, shredded carrots, croutons, and a honey Dijon vinaigrette. No complaints from either Chuck or Stephanie about this salad, which they said had fresh produce, and the dressing provided a nice flavor to the greens.
We saw a number of pizzas coming out of the kitchen on this evening, and two of them made their way to our table, the first of which was this M.S.G. Pizza ($13.50). Mushroom, sausage, and garlic made up the name of this pie, but there was also red sauce, mozzarella, and plenty of green scallions topping this. Katie really enjoyed her choice here. She felt that the toppings on this pizza went well together, without one of them stealing the spotlight from the others. She also was a big fan of the crust here, as it was not soggy in the middle, like a lot of these wood fired pizzas tend to be. I also enjoyed the piece I stole from her.
Almost without fail, if there's a menu item with the word spicy included in the title, Stephanie makes a beeline for it. She was true to form when she chose this Spicy Chicken BBQ Pizza ($12.50) for her and Chuck to share on this evening. Fresno chilis, smoked mozzarella, chicken, cilantro, and caramelized onions topped this pizza, which predictably, Stephanie said could have been spicier. Both her and Chuck did like the pizza, thought the chicken was tender, and the crust was pretty solid. They would probably get something else on their next visit here, but had no qualms about this being their first meal at Tin Roof Bistro.
I was not feeling like a pizza on this evening, and instead opted for something off of their entree portion of the menu. This Grilled Flat Iron Steak ($26.25) caught my eye right away. This 8 ounce steak was cooked perfectly to my desired medium rare specifications, tender, and made even better with a very good homemade Worcestershire sauce. Almost out shining the beef was the fingerling potato hash, which was topped with plenty of blue cheese and bacon. One of the better side dishes I have had in awhile. The potatoes were done right, and you can never go wrong with a blue cheese and bacon combo. A very satisfying meal.
Chuck and Stephanie still had about two hours before their flight, so we decided to splurge on dessert with this Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse ($4.25). This was a lighter than expected mousse, but still had a rich chocolate presence. I wish there was a little more of the pecan brittle toffee incorporated here, but this was a great way to end our stay at Tin Roof Bistro.
I left here pretty impressed with almost everything we experienced at Tin Roof Bistro. The food was exactly what they were striving for, chef inspired cuisine, with an emphasis on freshness. Almost overshadowing the food was the warm, yet professional service we experienced on this evening. When patrons would get up during their meals, the staff would fold their napkins for them, which is not something that you see at a restaurant with this price point. I also noticed a real team atmosphere among the wait staff, which helped keep things running smoothly. After eating here, I'm really looking forward to this restaurant group's entry into the OC dining scene. Tin Roof Bistro was a great sendoff for Chuck and Stephanie.
Out of five cats, (for the obvious reason of when I hear the words tin roof, I immediately think of the play by Tennessee Williams, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"), five being best to zero being worst, Tin Roof Bistro gets 3.5 cats.
For more information about Tin Roof Bistro, head to their website here: http://www.tinroofbistro.com/