Nearly 50 restaurants and dozens of wineries, breweries and distilleries gathered together to wow guests at the 19th Annual Taste of Huntington Beach. The event, held at the Huntington Beach sports complex amidst the town’s Central Park, was about as SoCal as a food festival can get short of taking place with an ocean view. Full-fledged food festival on one side and concert venue with open seating on the other was more than enough to attract a jovial crowd, lawn chairs in tow, to enjoy a festive vibe amidst bottomless tastes and pours.
Many local hotspots—some native to Huntington Beach, others spread across Southern California—came out to showcase their signatures. Simmzy’s bleu cheese bacon burgers, flame-grilled to melty perfection and topped with fried onion straws, paid an early hellp to the summer bbq season. Bruxie’s fried chicken sandwich was right on par in its crunchy goodness. The Shorebreak Hotel’s diver scallops and black rice added an elegant touch to the afternoon, and 2nd Floor’s meatloaf added an equal dose of American comfort.
The wide array of food offerings each found a pairing with an equally extensive lineup of wines, beers and other creative libations. Honey Pot Meadery, Boochcraft Hard Kombucha and Tree Branch Cider House highlighted these off-kilter purveyors, with strong takes on their namesake drinks. The Dudes’ Brewing Company, Calidad Beer and Riip Beer Company, as well as Ascension Cellars, San Antonio Winery and Vinemark Cellars were just a few premiere beer and wine selections.
Sweets were of course a critical component to Taste of Huntington Beach. Café Cup’s cinnamon rolls, Whata Lotta Pizza’s dessert pizza, Mangiamo Gelato’s hula pie gelato and TeAria’s Thai tea gave dessert-seekers more than they could’ve asked for.
Live music and a fun display of old-school VW buses rounded out the afternoon. All proceeds from Taste of Huntington Beach go to benefit the children’s department of the Huntington Beach Public Library. For more information, visit TasteHB.com.
Slater’s 50/50 rose to fame with its delectable half beef, half bacon patties, then spread across California and neighboring states with a tried and true mantra of burgers, bacon and beer…extra emphasis on the bacon. Now, in an effort to appeal to more of the masses, Slater’s is branching slowly and methodically out of its core menu offerings. New entrees and seasonal menus reach a broad spectrum of palates, with plenty of—dare we say—[more] healthful options.
While seasonal offerings have changed since the time of this writing, expect a lot more green and a lot fewer carbs than you’re used to on a traditionally heavy menu. Bun-less burger bowls have made their debut, and will likely continue in some form or another. The ‘impossible’ vegetarian patty is an option for any burger on the menu. Slater’s is also putting solid emphasis on ahi tuna in appetizers and salads.
Those still seeking decadence should fear not. Slater’s is still going full throttle with unreal burgers, some of the best milkshakes out there, and more bacon than you know what to do with. Hard to argue with the lone star smoke burger, complete with bbq sauce, garlic aioli and thick onion rings stacked high, or the sriracha burger, which uses enough of its namesake ingredient to make that happy birthday shake all the more necessary.
Not all of Slater’s menu additions are healthful, showing that the franchise is staying true to its core audience that favors all things bacon. Nothing showcases this more than the bacon chocolate lava cake, finished with a large strip of bacon drizzled in chocolate and caramel. Just pretend that ordering a burger bowl will cancel it out and you’ll leave guilt-free.
Slater’s 50/50 has locations across Southern California, Nevada, Texas and Hawaii. Hours vary. Average out-the-door price for burger, fries and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$42/person. For more information visit Slaters5050.com.
Old Vine Kitchen and Bar, an Orange County favorite that began as [the award-winning] Old Vine Café in 2007, has recently reopened with a fresh look. Located in The CAMP in Costa Mesa, right next to its original location, this Italian destination holds an elevated but homey feel, where fine dining doesn’t have to sway guests from being themselves.
The redesigned restaurant features a long bar and adjacent lounge space, with an intimate dining room and heated patio. The open-space concept is tastefully sectioned using custom metalwork from sculptor Mark Gerardi. The walls are lined with paintings by artist Paul Cole, who also hand-painted the restaurant’s menu canvases.
Chef-Owner Mark McDonald has curated breakfast, lunch, dinner and happy hour menus that integrate Italian favorites, including daily hand-made pastas, with a touch of Latin and Asian influence in various places. Partner Sommelier-Owner Kate Perry completes the experience with an intriguing wine selection as well as a full cocktail program to go with that new bar. The duo comes together with four tasting menus with wine pairings, including dedicated vegetarian and vegan menus.
While the look may be new, Old Vine Kitchen and Bar picks up right where the café left off in terms of community engagement. McDonald and Perry continue to partner with local farmers, participate in nearby food and wine events, and lead twice-annual trips through Italy, known as the Splendors of Italy tours.
Old Vine Café is located at 2937 Bristol St. Suite A-103, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Open daily for breakfast and lunch from 9a – 3p. Open Tue – Sat for dinner from 5p – close. Bar open 9a – midnight Sun – Wed, 9a – 1a Thu – Sat. For more information, call (714) 545-1411 or visit OldVineKitchenBar.com
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.