Monday, April 22, 2019

Scratching the Surface in Anaheim

The Scratch Room
2415 Lincoln Ave. 
Anaheim, CA 92801

It's been a while since we have reviewed a breakfast spot, which is a shame because it's one of my favorite meals. I've been on a streak at work where I usually only have Mondays and Wednesdays off, and since Katie works on weekdays, and I don't want to be a complete loser and eat breakfast alone, I have not had the pleasure of eating my favorite meal for two months now. I decided this needed to change and called my parents who are always happy to spend some time with me and try a new place. We headed to The Scratch Room.

I did a search of all the breakfast spots in Orange County and The Scratch Room got mentioned quite a few times. They have a very respectable four-star rating on Yelp, with over 1,400 reviews. They were listed as a top ten pick in quite a few magazine articles, and they even were the winner of the best breakfast in OC according to the OC Hot List in 2016 and 2017. I was pretty excited to see what they were all about on mid-Monday morning.

The Scratch Room is situated on the corner of Gilbert and Lincoln, in a small little shopping plaza, where I can imagine parking could get a little challenging. In fact, they have a map out in front of their door which alerts you to places where it is safe to park, so your car will not get towed and ruin your morning.

My parents and I arrived at The Scratch Room right before 10am. I was a little surprised that they were as busy as they were, especially since this was a weekday. The restaurant seems a little bigger than it appears from the outside. They have maybe 30 or so tables, almost all of which were in use on this weekday morning. The dining area is dominated by black walls and ceiling, an accent wall of yellow, and very little else in the way of decor. A very clean, almost sterile environment.

The Scratch Room, which is open 7 days a week, from 7am to 2 most days, has a menu that is, of course, heavily focused on breakfast, but there is a selection of sandwiches, burgers, and salads available for people who are not into the first meal of the day. The considerable breakfast portion of the menu has something for everyone's tastes. There's plenty in the way of egg dishes, omelets, benedicts, Mexican inspired dishes, breakfast burgers, skillets, griddled items, and even a few lighter items for people that do not want to spoil their tastebuds like the menu suggests. You can count me in as one of the people that wants a heavy breakfast this morning, so let's see how it all shook out for us on this morning.

Let's start things out with my meal, the Country Skillet ($11.25). True stick to your ribs kind of food here. Chopped up strips of chicken fried steak are joined with crisp hash browns, onions and peppers then blanketed with sausage gravy and topped with three eggs. I really enjoyed this heavy breakfast. There was plenty in the way of country fried steak and hash browns. The eggs were a tad overcooked, but the gravy shined. It featured plenty of sliced sausage, which made me feel like I was getting extra breakfast meat. I only ate half of this and had the rest for dinner later on that evening, and it was still very good and satisfying. 

At the Scratch Room, most meals come with your choice of toast, biscuits with gravy, or their special loaf, which happened to be banana bread on the day we were here. Do yourself a favor and forgo the toast and biscuits because this banana bread was some of the best I have ever had. Not overly sweet, but with a great banana flavor to it, the texture was spongy and moist and made even better as it came out warmed. I was so impressed I got an extra slice ($2.99) since the first one seemed to disappear rather quickly.

My light eating mom took advantage of the senior portion of the menu with this Senior Special #2 ($7.00). This came with two eggs, two bacon, and either fruit or potatoes. This basic breakfast helped sustain my mom for the rest of the day. The egg came out just as she had requested, the bacon was crisp, and the fruit was fresh. All she could have asked for. 

Luckily, my dad got something a little more creative at the Scratch Room. He got the Grizzly Benedict ($12.25). This northwest inspired? benedict featured two fried salmon cakes, three poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, and unusual red caper relish. My dad has been on a real seafood kick lately, as his nickname has become fish taco, and he loved this plate. The salmon cakes were heavily breaded, but the salmon came through in most bites. I was not sure it would, but the two sauces interacted well together. I'm not sure they make the salmon cakes here, but it didn't much matter to my dad, as he ate this quicker than I have seen him in a long time. Probably because he did not want to give me a second bite. Thanks, fish taco!

I was pretty impressed with our initial visit to the Scratch Room. This family-run restaurant has got it going on. I feel like this trip just scratched the surface of what they have to offer. I'm eyeing the Breakfast Burger, the Bad Hombre Benedict, and the Wild Boar skillet on my subsequent visits. Prices were very modest here, with only the steak and eggs breaking the $12 barrier. Service was competent, cordial, and speedy. The only things that might keep me away are that we have heard the wait for a table on weekends can be up to an hour and a half long and the parking situation in this cramped shopping plaza. That, and of course my awful work schedule as of late.

Out of five green jackets, (because the winner of the Master's golf tournament wins that garment and all winners of that prestigious tournament are scratch golfers), five being best to zero being worst, The Scratch Room gets 3.5 green jackets.

For more information about The Scratch Room, head to their website here:

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Hoping Not to Be Derailed at Trevor's

Trevor's at the Tracks
26701 Verdugo St.
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

It used to be that San Juan Capistrano was a sleepy little town, which only came alive for the Swallow's Day Parade, Mariachi Festival, and the steady stream of school buses rumbling into town loaded with kids visiting Mission San Juan Capistrano. Now, thanks to a myriad of restaurants, many of which feature live music every night of the week, the Downtown District hums with activity every time we are down this way.

One place we had not been to yet in this downtown area was Trevor's at the Tracks. They opened for business in early 2017, replacing Sarducci's. Trevor's is housed in a building that dates from 1894 and was used as the San Juan Capistrano train station for many years. Now the building host both Trevor's and the Vintage Steakhouse, both of which are steps from the north and southbound trains dropping off passengers.

No train rides for us on this evening, as Katie and I were here to have dinner with her mother, who was enjoying the single life for the week, while her husband was off training for his new job venture. The three of us arrived at Trevor's just before 6pm on a recent Thursday. There are three distinct dining areas to this restaurant. The patio area appears to be the most popular, especially with the happy hour and the live music loving crowd. There's also a more formal dining room, and then there's the area we were seated in, which is a long hallway, running parallel to the train tracks a mere few feet away. The trains did not come rumbling in, as they had to slow down to drop off their weary travelers, so it was very easy to keep your conversation going as life went on outside the restaurant.

Trevor's food offerings would appeal to a large range of people. There's really something for everyone on this menu, which they tout as locally acquired ingredients, with a globally inspired tinge to it. The menu is broken up into plenty of appetizer options, seafood, flatbreads, starters featuring meat, and a whole host of starters that feature items from their trackside garden. Rounding out the menu are entree salads, sandwiches, and more substantial entrees. The man behind the menu is Executive Chef Joesph Tripi, who has been with this restaurant since its inception, and before that held the same position at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery. Let's see which side of the tracks our meal at Trevor's will land.

When I told one of my friends I was coming to Trevor's, they made me promise that I would try their Brussel Sprouts ($15) and not wanting to disappoint a friend, I totally complied. Don't think about the soggy Brussel sprouts you had as a kid, and instead, think of a roasted, almost crunchy Brussel sprout, which is made even better with some cranberries, goat cheese, and a balsamic drizzle over the top of them. I really liked the different layers of flavor popping through this at different spots. You had the earthiness of the sprouts themselves, the cranberry coming through in bursts, the creaminess of the goat cheese, and the tang from the balsamic. The end result was a balanced appetizer that I can see myself getting again for sure.

Not content with just the one thing before my main meal would arrive, I tried this Southern Seafood Chowder ($6) as well. The first few spoonfuls of this were really quite good, as it had a nice rich flavor to it. As I dug deeper the seafood that was in this was what I'd call a little iffy. I then recalled a passage in Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, which told of chef's secrets, like how they get rid of fish that was ready to turn by placing it in chowders. Not saying that's what was going on here, but there was a very stringy piece that I had on my spoon and pulled it out at just the last second. Not sure what it was, but it was definitely not something I wanted to eat. I lost my appetite for this chowder after that.

Both Katie and her mother opted for entree salads on this evening. Let's start off with Katie's selection, the Karate Chop Chicken Salad ($16). This is Trevor's rift on a Chinese chicken salad. It included a base of romaine, with ginger soy chicken breast pieces, napa cabbage, bok choy, shredded carrots and bell peppers, sesame seeds, and a peanut ginger vinaigrette. Katie was pretty vague when describing her love for this salad. She said she loved the flavors and the freshness of the veggies, which is her usual response when I ask her if she liked something or not. She's been here many times for lunch with her coworkers and has yet to try anything else other than this salad. A creature of habit I guess.

Lynn went with this more substantial Southwest Steak Cobb ($19) as her meal on this evening. From across the table, I could tell that I would have liked this salad. It was made up of a whole host of items, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, jicama for crunch, queso fresco, roasted corn, cubes of avocado, and it was all tied together with an interesting chipotle blue cheese dressing. Again, this salad had a bunch of textural elements that kept you interested. The blue cheese chipotle dressing was delicious, and I liked the cubed pieces of avocado as well. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention the sliced flat iron steak that was served medium rare on side of the plate. It was a decent steak but needed to be seasoned a bit more if eaten on its own. Eating it with the salad really helped it out.

None of the bigger meal options really spoke to me this evening, so I had to decide from either the burger, the Reuben, or the Cuban sandwich. From the picture above, you can see that the Cubano ($18) won out. This was a pretty traditional Cuban sandwich, with its roasted pork and ham, Swiss cheese, pickle, pepperoncini, and Havana aioli on crusty panini pressed bread. When done right, this is one of the most balanced sandwiches around. This one was pretty solid. I did need a little extra of the aioli to counteract the pickles and mustard on this. Both the pork and ham were savory and present. A good crunch from the bread too. Good, but did not blow me away like others have. This came with fries which were nicely fried, with a good crunch to them.

I'm always a sucker for a cookie, and I felt like a sucker after getting this one at Trevor's. Not sure if they make this Chocolate Chip Cookie ($2) in-house or not, but I'd describe this as one of the most chalky cookies I have had. It was hard all the way around, very heavy, and the chocolate chips were not very visible in this disappointing cookie. It was not any better when I placed the half I had not eaten in the microwave at home. It defied logic that it stayed as hard as ever even after being heated. Skip this cookie, unless you need a doorstop.

I know brownies get a lot of love and are way more popular than blondies, but I can not recall having a blondie and not liking it a lot. That streak continued at Trevor's with this Maple White Chocolate Blondie ($10). This blondie was topped with candied pecans, maple bourbon ice cream, and a caramel sauce. After the hard cookie, I was a little worried that the blondie was going to be the same, but it was baked well, with a good cakey feel to it. I was also pleased that they topped this with plenty of ice cream, even though I did not get a lot of maple flavor from it. I'd definitely get this dessert again.

There were some hits and misses on this visit to Trevor's. I liked the dessert and the Brussel sprouts, but the chowder and the cookie were both a letdown. My Cuban sandwich was fine, but nothing really made it anything more than an average version of my favorite sandwich. I get the feeling that the real draw for Trevor's is the picturesque outdoor patio where they have live music featured every day, except Mondays, when they are closed. The food seems to be just fine, but nothing that would probably draw us back, unless we were in the area. Our server did a great job keeping tabs on us, without being too obtrusive. Prices were a tad high for what you get, but that's to be expected in this high traffic area of town, where people seem to love to soak up the atmosphere of the passing trains and music wafting through the air.

Out of five mousetraps, (because the building that houses this restaurant dates from 1894, which is also the same year that the mousetrap was invented), five being best to zero being worst, Trevor's at the Tracks gets 3 mousetraps.

For more information about Trevor's at the Tracks, head to their website here:

Saturday, April 13, 2019

A Full House at Bobby V's

Buddy V's Ristorante
3327 south Las Vegas Blvd. 
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Last year when we were in Las Vegas with my parents for a hockey game, they had wanted to visit Carlo's Bakery. No, make that, they were adamant that we visit Carlo's Bakery. Apparently, they are very big fans of this place because they watch Cake Boss, a reality show that features the bakery that Buddy Valastro runs with his family in Hoboken, New Jersey. I've never seen the show, but it must be a hit because there are now 18 Carlo's Bakery locations spread throughout the US. The show also spawned the place where we would be eating dinner on our first night in Las Vegas, Buddy V's Ristorante.

Buddy V's is located at the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian, right across from Carlo's Bakery. This hotel property has some of my favorite restaurants in Las Vegas; Canaletto, Bouchon, and Grimaldi's, and others that I am very excited to try in the near future, (Yardbirds, PrimeBurger, and more). Another added bonus about eating at Buddy V's was that we were able to make a reservation for our party of six on Open Table, so there was no waiting around for our table to become ready.

With reservation in hand, we arrived at Buddy V's at 8pm on a recent Friday. The restaurant was very busy but it was more of organized chaos. Not sure why, maybe it was the black and white tiled flooring, the wafts of Italian food being brought out to the tables, or something else, but the inside of this space reminded me of a slightly more upscale Maggiano's. Lots of people at the bar, a very open and active kitchen, and a display of some of the good looking cakes from across the hallway immediately caught our attention.

We were seated in the back row of booths, near the window featuring a fantastic view of the north side of the strip. The layout of the restaurant was pretty spacious, with plenty of room between tables, so you did not feel like you were on top of other parties. Even with the extra space though, it was really quite loud in here, which helped me drown out what I assume was a boring conversation at the end of the table.

The menu here is predictably broken up into starters, salads, pizzas, pasta, main dishes, sides, and of course since this is the Cake Boss's restaurant, desserts. Prices are pretty modest by Vegas standards, with entrees ranging between $25 to $46, pasta dishes hovering around the $25 mark, and pizzas going for $18. Let's see how this evening's dinner turned out for us.

Since Katie's brother and sister in law were staying at another hotel farther south down the strip, they were delayed waiting for their Uber, so we started with three appetizers to keep us occupied. The Macaroni and Cheese Carbonara ($13)  was a good way to start things off. This dish exuded hominess with its smoked mozzarella and fontina cheese blend, egg, pancetta, and peas rounding it out. It was delicious, but the consistency was just a tad too soupy for my taste. A little better was Grandma's Meatballs ($13). Six meatballs made up of a mixture of veal, beef, and pork and then bathed in a marinara sauce with a sprinkle of parmesan. The meatballs were fork tender and the marinara was a great accompaniment, as it was not too acidic, with just the right sweetness to the sauce. I dreamed of having these in a sandwich, which they offer only during lunch. The Grilled Garlic Bread was another winner. They use the same cheeses on this bread as they use in their mac and cheese, fontina and mozzarella, and it gets nice and bubbly underneath the broiler. Very crunchy on the sides and soft in the middle, just like a good piece of garlic bread should be.

I was pretty full from the appetizers and the lobster roll I had earlier in the day, so I did without my usual Caesar Salad ($12), but luckily someone got one so I could snap a picture of one. It looked pretty good, with plenty of dressing, a sprinkling of parmesan and fresh romaine. The menu says they use polenta croutons, which I would have liked to have tried. Katie got a Dinner Salad ($9) which featured mixed greens, a variety of tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, and a vinaigrette dressing. Pretty basic, but she seemed to like it well enough.

Entrees were up next, and we'll start with Rachel's selection on this evening, the Cheese Ravioli ($23). This pretty traditional ravioli was filled with ricotta and dusted with plenty of parmesan and a Pomodoro sauce. Rachel said she picked this because it seemed like the lightest of all the dishes here, and she was right about that. The six ravioli was one of the most manageable meals, as you will see as you scroll down.

Another pasta dish was next, as Katie tried the little heftier Orecchiette and Italian Sausage ($24). This pasta dish had a lot of flavors included in it. The well made orecchiette and subtle sausage was joined in the bowl with broccoli rabe, basil, pecorino, tomatoes, and a very good pesto sauce. Katie loved the pesto sauce at Buddy V's, as it went well with the freshly made pasta. The sausage was not as prominent in this as she imagined, which lead to a lighter tasting dish.

I was a little surprised by Lynn's selection on this evening, the Chicken Marsala ($27). She usually goes for a smaller meal, but maybe since she was in Las Vegas she was going a bit wild. The tender chicken was under a bunch of mushrooms and a delicious and rich marsala sauce. She put a pretty good sized dent in this, but could not finish it. This also came with linguine on the side, not that she needed it with this big plate.

Definitely, the best looking of all the entrees was this Nonna's Lasagna Al Forno ($26). This brick sized square of lasagna was made up of all things good; Italian sausage, pork, beef, mozzarella, provolone, and ricotta. This was a fantastic version of one of my favorite of all Italian dishes. It had a good balance of meat and cheese, the noodles were nice and firm, and the sauce covering this was a nice compliment to the rest of the dish. Dennis had no chance of finishing this but gave it a noble effort. Better luck next time big guy.

My smart-aleck brother in law thought he could slip a middle finger in the picture of his Quattro Formaggio Pizza ($18) but I cut around it. Got ya, buddy. Anyways, this four cheese pizza included ricotta, mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, and was finished off with a touch of truffle oil. This was definitely an elevated cheese pizza. Good, crispy crust and the cheeses were of course fantastic. Nicely done.

When I perused the menu at Buddy V's, there was really only one thing that I just had to order, the Valastro Sunday Gravy ($28). This Italian combo plate came with meatballs, sausage, lamb, and pork covered in a zesty tomato sauce. The meats were wonderfully tender and I loved all of them. This came with a bowl of rigatoni that I really did not even bother with because I knew there was no way I was going to finish this plate. I was totally right.

It's been our tradition when we are making reservations in Las Vegas to let the restaurant know we are celebrating a birthday, even if it's still quite a way in the future. This time it was our beloved Rachel that had her faux birthday dessert. Buddy V's sent out a Canoli ($9). which was piped with sweet ricotta cream and studded with pistachios and chocolate chips on separate ends. I confess I did not try any of this because I was pretty uncomfortable with everything that I had eaten here. Everyone else really enjoyed this dessert, but next time I'd like to try their Nutella Cake, which I hear is amazing.

I'd say the moral of the story of our time at Buddy V's is to show up very hungry or be prepared to split meals because most entrees can be easily split between two very voracious eaters. This being Vegas, you also don't want to be lugging leftovers all over town with you. I'd characterize the food here as better than my last few trips to Maggiano's, which I used to love. This is stick to your ribs Italian cuisine. Italian food that makes you well aware that you just had a gigantic meal before going out and hitting the tables or seeing a show. Service was professional and moved things right along at a pretty good clip. Prices were not out of control based on the size of the meals. The next time we are in Vegas and have the cravings of Italian food dancing through our heads, we'd make a beeline right back to Bobby V's.

Out of five cakes, (since this is the Cake Boss's restaurant after all), five being best to zero being worst, Buddy V's Ristorante gets 3.5 cakes.

For more information about Buddy V's Ristorante, head to their website here:

Friday, April 5, 2019

Look for Luke's Lobster in Las Vegas

Luke's Lobster
3200 South Las Vegas Blvd. 
Las Vegas, NV 89109

It was another jaunt through the desert for a quick Las Vegas getaway. Katie wanted to watch a live taping of her favorite podcast with her brother and sister in law, and I wanted some time away from work. Of course, it also gave me a chance to try some more restaurants in the desert oasis that is Las Vegas.

After the four hour trek, Katie needed a quick nap before our first night's festivities, which included dinner with her mom and dad, (who also happened to be in town for one of their many visits to Las Vegas), drinks back at the hotel where her brother was staying, and of course a little gambling or as many call it, donating.

As Katie slept off the effects of driving, her mom, dad, and I went out for a quick bite, and to see what kind of trouble the three of us could get into on this late afternoon. I had eaten a Double Western Cheeseburger at the Outlets in Primm, so I was not overly hungry, and Lynn and Dennis just wanted a little something to tide them over until dinner. On our way to the Wynn, we spotted a place that would be the perfect spot for a quick bite, Luke's Lobster.

I had Luke's on my list of places to try for a while now, but we haven't been to this end of the Strip in forever. I guess I had not done my homework, as I was a little shocked that this was little more than a kiosk located in front of the Fashion Show Mall, facing busy Las Vegas Boulevard. Okay, a kiosk might not be the right way to describe this place, maybe small shack is the way to go here. Luke's is  245 square feet, with a tiny covered patio that features five small tables, just large enough for ten or so people.

Another thing I did not know about Luke's is that they are a chain restaurant based in Maine, which just happens to be the state that harvests the most lobster in the US, a staggering 40 million pounds a year. Luke's Lobster started 10 years ago in New York and has spread out to 38 locations, with most being on the East Coast, but they also have outposts in San Fransisco, Chicago, Taiwan, and Japan. Luke's buys directly from lobsterman so they can trace where their seafood comes from. When we were here the lobster came from Maine, the crab came from St. John's Newfoundland, and the shrimp was from Quebec.

The menu here is pretty straight forward. They have shrimp. lobster, and crab rolls, which come in the standard quarter-pound size, or you can go for the jumbo version, which includes fifty percent more seafood in each roll. You also have the option to get your roll as part of a combo with one side item, or with a side soup. There are a couple of seasonal items and sides of chips or poppy seed slaw. Now that you know the lay of the land, let's see what we thought of our quick afternoon snack.

Much like eating in a Mexican or Barbecue restaurant, I figured the best way to try out more stuff at Luke's was to get the Luke's Trio ($29) which came with a half of a lobster, shrimp, and crab roll, cup of soup and a drink. The seafood comes out chilled and served in a buttered bun with mayo, lemon butter, and a dash of their secret seasoning. I'm always partial to heated seafood, but understand this is how it's served back east. Out of the sandwiches, my favorite was the shrimp, which I did not think would have been the case before eating here. It had the most flavor of the three. The lobster and crab was definitely fresh but lacked that spark that would hook me in. I liked the buns, which were heated a bit, but these sandwiches needed to be dressed with a bit more of the mayo and lemon butter to help make the seafood shine a bit more. There are two soup options at Luke's and my father in law got the Clam Chowder. The soups are made by Hurricane Soups, which is based in Greene, Maine. They have won numerous awards for their chowder and we could see why when we tasted this. It was full of clams and cubed potatoes, in a very creamy chowder base. Very good on a chilly late afternoon. I look forward to trying their lobster and corn chowder next time.

I look at this visit to Luke's Lobster as an initial test. The trio of sandwiches that we had was a little too small of a sample size for me to truly get a firm grasp of what they have going here, especially since I split each small sandwich with Katie's mom. I did like what I had but was not blown away. I'm always in favor of quality seafood becoming more available to the greater public. Not how it was when I was growing up, where the only options for seafood were either a Filet O' Fish at McDonald's or the fried stuff from H.Salt Fish and Chips. Back then if you wanted good quality fish, you had to make reservations at a restaurant with a white tablecloth. Places like Luke's Lobster have changed that, and it's an encouraging trend. We will definitely be back when we are back at this end of the strip and craving lobster and don't want to pay a fortune for it, especially after we lose all our money playing craps.

Out of five toothpicks, (because Luke's Lobster is based in Maine, and that state produces 90 percent of the nations toothpick supple), five being best to zero being worst, Luke's Lobster gets three toothpicks.

For more information about Luke's Lobster, head to their website here:

Monday, April 1, 2019

Too Many Irons in the Fire?

Flights and Irons Urban Kitchen
376 Camino De Estrella
San Clemente, CA 92672

It was another adventure with our good friends Tom and Daniele. I love them so much, but they have become one trick ponies. Every time we make plans to go out to eat, they automatically suggest their favorite all you can eat sushi place. Sushi is fine, but I do not love it as much as they do. It's also pretty difficult for me to write about. So, I usually counter with a list of restaurants I have not been to yet, and then we eliminate them as a group until we end up with where we are going to be headed. On this particular Friday meetup, we decided to try Flights and Irons Urban Kitchen in San Clemente.

I put this restaurant on my list after reading some very positive reviews in both the OC Weekly and the OC Register. They do not take reservations, so Katie and I arrived a little bit before our mutually agreed upon time of 7pm, and were met with a very packed restaurant. We were quoted a wait time of about a half hour, which was fine because we were still waiting for the perpetually late duo of Tom and Daniele to arrive. Just as they arrived, ten minutes later, our table was all ready for us.

Opened less than six months now, Flights and Irons has a great local following. The reason for their name is really quite simple. With their extensive and unique wine and beer lists, they like to steer people towards their flights, which allow patrons to try small samples so they can find their favorites. The iron part of their name is due to the fact that a large number of their menu items are cooked in cast iron and then finished off in their wood burning oven.

The darkened dining room on this evening was crowded and very loud. Tables were pretty close to each other. The chairs were not the most comfortable we have sat in, so maybe request one of the half-booths near the back of the restaurant and then draw straws to see who gets to sit on the hopefully comfier booth side.

The menu at Flights and Irons features a small irons section, which is their appetizers, a small selection of soups and salads, sandwiches, big irons, which are their entrees, and the menu is finished off with a trio of sides and three desserts. Prices for the entrees range between $23 to $36 for the most expensive, the Ribeye. Appetizers will only set you back $10 to $13. I was really torn as to what to get here, as a number of the items sounded appealing. Let's see what the four of us ended up trying on this evening.

I was not really feeling like any of the appetizers, so Tom, Daniele, and Katie ended up picking this Fire Roasted Tomato and Brie Cheese ($12). In the skillet were fire-kissed grape tomatoes, garlic, and basil. The sliced bread was drizzled lazily with balsamic and a wedge of brie cheese was also included on the plate. All three of them liked this dish and made quick work of it. I did try a slice of the bread with a tiny sliver of the brie and thought it was fine.

Both Tom and Daniele got the soup on this rather chilly evening, and both ended up really enjoying their selections. Daniele tried the French Onion ($8), which was a pretty standard presentation. It had a blanket of Swiss cheese keeping the onions, broth, and large crouton scaldingly hot underneath there. Great flavor and lots of cheese made Daniele a very happy girl. Tom could not stop gushing over his Irons Tomato Soup ($8).  This creamy tomato soup was brought to an even higher level with the addition of jalapeno and coconut milk. The spice of the jalapeno was tempered by the soothing coconut milk, a little yin and yang thing going on here, which Tom really enjoyed. Our favorite couple gave plenty of praise to the soups at Flights and Irons.

Just by looking at the picture above, I bet you could not guess what kind of salad this is. It's the F and I House Caesar Salad ($14). Yeah, I wouldn't have guessed Caesar either. A romaine heart was topped with red onion, tomatoes, pepitas, a pepita lime dressing, with some roasted corn and croutons scattered about the plate. This deconstructed salad was not bad, but I would have liked it to be chopped up a bit for easier eating and it needed more of the better than average dressing. Not really a Caesar, except for the fact that it uses romaine, but I still like that they tried to make this Caesar their own. 

Katie very rarely orders burgers, but that's the way she went when she ordered the Flights and Iron Burger ($14). This half-pound burger came with two slices of cheddar, some house spread, and lettuce, tomato, and red onion on the side. This burger was okay but reminded both Katie and me of a burger we recently had at Coco's. There was nothing that really made it stand out. Not enough of their house spread and the burger patty itself was not seasoned near enough. Good bun though, but who orders a burger for the bun alone?

From the salad section of the menu came Daniele's choice on this evening, the Ahi Salad ($18). Seared ahi was joined in the bowl by a spring mix of leafy greens, diced tomatoes, and a balsamic and wasabi vinaigrette. The highlight of this salad for Daniele was the very fresh and well-executed ahi. She was not a big fan of the dressing, which at first she feared would be too overpowering with the wasabi, but it turned out to be just the opposite, as it was too sweet for her palate. The serving size was pretty good here, even if most of this was just the spring mix.

After some great debate, I went with this Shepard's Pie ($23). I should have gone with what our server had suggested, the pork chop. This was a pretty boring and awkward shepherd's pie. The top layer of mashed potatoes was way too soupy and did not cover the whole top of the skillet. I love pork belly but was not sure why the need for the strip to be floating in one big hunk over the rather mundane bottom portion of this Shepard's pie. There was not nearly enough beef filet included in this to become noticeable. I like a much more structured Shepard's pie. This was a very disappointing entree that I had such great hopes for.

The best entree of the bunch, and most unexpected was Tom's choice, the DD's Fried Balonga ($13). It's not every day that you find a fried bologna sandwich on a menu in OC, and this one should not be missed. Ignore all of your preconceived notions of the bologna you get on the lunch meat aisle of the supermarket, and think more in lines of a more mellow, freshly sliced deli pastrami. This high quality sliced fried bologna is piled high on toasted bread with lettuce, pickles, mustard, pickled onions, and red-eye mayo, which is a southern staple of coffee and mayo and is used prominently by David Chang of Momofuku fame. Tom called this the best sandwich he has had all year. He loved the textures and different layers of flavor on this one. He would not hesitate to get this again.

People on Yelp rave about the butter cake at Flights and Irons, but according to our server she said they could not keep up with the demand due to the size of their oven, so they scrubbed it from their menu. So we had to go with our second choice, the S'Mores Skillet ($9). I did not really get the s'mores vibe with this skillet dessert. The cake portion of this, which supposedly included both chocolate and graham cracker was way overcooked and dry. The marshmallow, which was the only part of this that resembled a s'more to me, (and my least favorite part of a s'more) was a few seconds away from being burnt. The only thing that saved this was that we had ordered a scoop of Cinnamon Ice Cream ($3) with this, which helped moisten it up and mask the burnt pieces of the marshmallow and dry outer ring of cake. I hope they find some way to bring back their butter cake.

I was pretty disappointed with our visit to Flights and Irons, but even more disappointed in my choices this evening. I should have listened to the suggestions of our server, instead of going with what I had my heart set on. Maybe the pork chop would have left me with a better taste in my mouth at the end of the evening. Serving sizes and prices are definitely out of whack here as well. You can't look at my salad and tell me that is anywhere close to a $14 salad. The Shepard's pie was also on the small side for $23, as I was done way before the others, and that's even after I had to let it cool down for a few minutes. Service was pretty good on this evening, and the owner was very hands on making sure her guests were well taken care of. Glad we could finally catch up with our good friends Tom and Daniele, and I'm sure they will suggest sushi the next time we meet up.

Out of five skyscrapers, (because Adrian Smith is the architect for the worlds tallest building, 163 stories in Dubai, and he grew up in San Clemente), five being best to zero being worst, Flights and Irons gets 2.5 skyscrapers.

For more information about Flights and Irons, head to their website here: