Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sliders Going Down the Hatch

2493 Park Avenue Suite #27
Tustin, CA 92782

It's not everyday my good friend Richard can get out of the house for a little guy time. He's a very doting father, a great husband, and loves spending time with his family when he is not at work. So it's really rare that he can make our weekly Tuesday night poker game. The problem is we don't start playing until 6 pm, and we get off of work at 3, so it really wouldn't be wise for him to head home, just to turn around and come back down the busy 5 Freeway for cards. So, while waiting for our card game, we decided to try out a new slider place at the Union Market at the District in Tustin, Hatch.

It seems like it has taken the Union Market space at the District a long time to launch, but I think they are finally on their way. There's finally more shops than empty retail spaces, and every time we come here, there seems to be a new spot that has opened up, and been featured on my Instagram feed. On my list of places to hit up here are, the Kroft, Churned Creamery, and Crepe Coop. This visit was all about Hatch though, which Richard had seen when he was here watching the latest Disney movie, and had wanted to give it a try.

The Hatch concept comes to us from Leonard Chan, who has had a string of successful restaurants lately. He is responsible for The Iron Press, The Blind Rabbit, Rolling Boil, and California Shabu Shabu in Costa Mesa. This restaurant is his nod towards a mid 20th century inspired bar specializing in craft beers, rum/tiki inspired beverages, and the real reason I was here, gourmet sliders. They totally nailed the decor, as it really reminded me of what I imagined the Brady Bunch set to look like in real life. Satellite looking lights hanging above the bar, plastic chairs like the ones we used to sit on in school all around the space, and muted wood paneling give this restaurant a mod feel to it, one where you would expect Austin Powers to hangout if he were around now.

The menu is pretty straight forward, with 20 sliders offered, and they are ordered in pairs ($14), but you can mix and match them, and they also come with a half order of a side of your choosing. There are three each offerings of sliders from the following categories; beef, pork, poultry, fish, and veggie. There's also a Loco Moco available, but other than that, this is a joint for sliders. We arrived at the odd time of 3:30, found a seat at the bar, and ordered our food. Let's see how everything turned out for us on this guys afternoon out.

Of course I had to start off with a beverage since we were celebrating Richard's one day independence on this afternoon, and I went with the first cocktail listed on their drink menu, the Donn's Dream ($10 usually, but happy hour priced at $6). From what I could gather, this drink was inspired by the disputed inventor of the mai tai, Donn Beach, more famously known as the man behind Donn the Beachcomber. This was not like those sugary mai tai's I have had before. This was a more grown up version, which used Plantation Grand Reserve 5 Year Old Rum, Flor de Cana 4 Year Old Rum, Clement Creole Shrubb Orange Liqueur, and their own simple syrup recipe. A little more of a punch than I was expecting, but still rather good. The bartenders here know their stuff, and take great pride crafting these cocktails with high quality ingredients.

Richard and I came up with the game plan of sharing 4 of their 20 sliders that they offer, starting with this Fried Soft Shell Crab Slider. The crab was fried nicely, with limited greasiness, and was topped with a tomato slice and togarashi aioli, which had a faint wisp of heat from the chili used in it. I would have used a little more of the aioli on this, but the crab was already kind of missing in action here. Not a bad slider, but I was expecting a little more from the crab.

More to my liking was their namesake burger, The Hatch. An all beef patty is placed between the very sturdy bun, along with fried onions, hatch sauce, which resembled thousand island, and what made this for me was the fried cheese hat. The cheese had a very good texture to it, the beef was pretty solid, and the hatch sauce was tasty, but they could have used a little more on here. A very solid slider.

Another winner for me was this Buffalo Slider. I love buffalo flavored anything, and this was like a buffalo wing in slider form. It used a buttermilk fried piece of chicken, and then was doused with a sriracha buffalo sauce, and paired with Parmesan cheese and a carrot and celery slaw. The only thing this was missing was either some blue cheese or ranch dressing. The chicken was good, the sriracha sauce had a nice low kick to it, and the slaw provided a nice crunchy texture element.

Our last slider of the afternoon before we had to headed off to poker was this Rum Braised Slider. I had some pretty high hopes for this pork slider, but it did not live up to my expectations. The rum braised pork was tender, but the roasted garlic aioli, pineapple chutney, and cilantro kind of canceled each other out here, and left this slider in chaos. I think this would have been better with just the aioli, but I can see that they were going for a sweet and savory thing here. For what its worth, this was Richard's favorite, so maybe I just wasn't feeling this one for some reason.

Like I said earlier, each pair of sliders comes with a half side of your choice. The options include fries, onion rings, Caesar salad, or a chopped salad. We of course went with the fries and onion rings. The fries were pretty standard, but the onion rings rose above the norm. They had a good thick breading, did not breakaway from the onion, and went well with the provided togarashi aioli. One of the better onion rings in my recent memory.

I've been on quite a roll with bread puddings this year, and wanted to see if my luck would hold out with this Aloha ($8). This dessert was fried bread pudding, with ice cream and a few strands of caramel. I liked this dessert, because the bread pudding was not mushy like a lot of bread pudding tends to be, but they could have used a little more ice cream and caramel here. Still good, and my hot streak with bread pudding desserts continues.

Before we hit the road for my ultimate demise at poker on this evening, I ordered one more cocktail, the Hemingway's Ghost ($10). This simply made drink used Papa Pilar's Blonde Rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. This really was a strong drink, and I left half of it on the bar, or I wouldn't have been able to make it to poker. Not really my kind of cocktail, but for rum purists, this is probably right up their alley.

I'd have to say that I was not really a big fan of the drinks I had at Hatch. I know they are made with great ingredients, and by bartenders that really take great pride in crafting cocktails, but I'm usually looking for more of a refreshing beverage, than one that will knock me out for awhile. As you may have guessed, I'm more of a food guy, and I liked what we consumed at Hatch. For the most part the sliders were good, but did not blow me out of the water with their awesomeness, but definitely pretty solid for bar food. I would have liked to have had the option to have a full sized burger here, but I guess sliders are their thing. For people that are cocktail enthusiasts, Hatch might be a destination spot for you, but as far as the food goes, I'd come back here if I were in the area, and looking for a spot to eat, at this kind of underwhelming, restaurant rich, shopping center. Service was on point this afternoon, as the bartenders did a great job of answering questions, and making sure we had everything we needed. This was a great afternoon hanging out with my long lost friend Richard, even though I ended up losing at poker.

Out of five chilies, (because whenever I hear the word hatch, I automatically think of the delicious hatch chilies from New Mexico), five being best to zero being worst, Hatch gets 3 chilies.

For more information about Hatch, head to their website here:

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