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
Butternut squash soup with bacon marshmallows. Lobster rolls piled high with fresh seafood. Endless choices of high-end wines coupled with cooking demonstrations from some of the most acclaimed chefs in the country. The Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival saw a successful year indeed. Hosted over the final week of September, the festival welcomed fall in gourmet style with a festive party in tow.
Two days of grand tastings at the Newport Beach Civic Center highlighted the weekend, whereby a collection of acclaimed chefs showcased their restaurants’ creative approaches to modern dining. Live music energized a fun-loving crowd that sipped to their hearts’ content [albeit maybe beyond their livers’], with perfect weather rounding out an OC-foodie’s dreamland.
Award-winning Chefs Hubert Keller, Richard Blais, Lorena Garcia, Melissa King and Brooke Williamson were among the many big names to showcase their skills live on stage. Highlighting the cooking demos, however, was the duo of Amar Santana and Katsuji Tanabe, two Top Chef alums whose humor and banter was almost as fantastic as their kitchen skill. On the wine side, four master sommeliers led tastings and wine education lessons. Given that there are less than 150 master sommeliers in the entire US, The Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival recruited one heck of a lineup.
Dozens of eateries came to play, and a few certainly stole the show. Nobu was an unsurprising standout with a steamed cod that melted in your mouth. Selanne Steak Tavern’s braised short rib with white polenta and bleu cheese foam was a huge crowd favorite, as was their butternut squash soup noted above. Broadway’s Lamb Confit and Driftwood Kitchen’s prime, farro and roasted corn griddle cakes continued the momentum, as did The Winery’s pork belly over risotto and Puesto’s tacos.
Wineries included Ancient Peaks Winery, Barlow Vineyards, Mondavi Family Wines, AIX, Duckhorn, Dearly Beloved, Navarro Vineyards and Roadhouse Winery among many others. Stella poured from three separate stations, ensuring everyone got their beer fix. Duke’s and Johnny Walker brought an interesting presence to the festival, as well as Blue Marble’s ‘ultra premium’ pre-mixed canned cocktails.
Dessert was surprisingly missing on day one, but made a beautiful appearance day two thanks to Mozza’s butterscotch gelato and Aven Table + Bar’s honey syrup doughnuts with pork belly. It was joined with plenty of sweet drinks, such as Bass Note Sangria and Tatratea, a Slovakian tea-based herbal liquer that packs a punch like you wouldn’t believe.
Numerous VIP events surrounded the grand tastings, such as a champagne and caviar tasting by Moet Hennesey and Petrossian. A panel of four master sommeliers, caviar expert Christopher Klapp and Chef Alan Greeley led guests through five pairings of labels such as Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot and Moet Chandon with some of Petrossian’s top caviars. Petrossian, for those who don’t know, is the Moet Hennesey of caviar.
More VIP events, private dinners and late-night parties allowed the Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival to effectively take over Orange County’s restaurant scene for the weekend, adding a great spark to celebrate the region’s sprawling foodie presence.
Guests may spend the next year visiting the restaurants they sampled over the weekend, but before you know it the 2018 festival will be fast-approaching. For more information visit NewportWineAndFood.com
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.