Foraging around Orange County for unique food and craft beer is becoming easier thanks to modern technology. I still find word of mouth is best to find the true gems. Yelp? Yeah, it’s handy to find places, but the reviews are written by self-proclaimed foodies that rate everything either a 1 or 4 and rely heavily on adjectives like “awesome” or “yummy”.
Thanks to word of mouth from friend and food writer Richard Manning; he suggested we try Chapter One: the Modern Local in the Artists Village of Santa Ana. What once was a culture rich beautiful Hispanic area of Orange County is fast becoming a hipster enclave with some decent art and restaurants scattered about. Monument-like historic buildings anchor eateries such as Memphis (contemporary Southern cuisine), Proof Bar, and Lola Gaspar (Tapas). Nearby sits the Gypsy Den (cafe), Original Mikes (trad American, Creole) and The Crosby (lounge). Chapter One is nestled nicely in this mix. Don’t let the hipsters scare you off, there’s some really good food to be had at all of those places!
My draw to this place was knowing Jeff Hall from Haven Gatropub in Orange was part owner. That alone makes it a worthy spot! Aside from the crafted “culinary” cocktails, interesting appetizers, and a diverse menu with gourmet comfort food, the beer menu is flocked from Beer Advocate’s Alström brother “A” ratings. Nothing wrong with that! I foolishly started the night with an Avery Dugana, an American Double IPA, and prayed it wouldn’t wreck my pallet as a DIPA can do.
We stopped in on “Tentacle Tuesday”, which sadly had no reference to Hentai Tentacle Porn. After seeing my blonde waitress’ widely opened low cut blouse, hooo boy, my dirty mind went there in a bad way. The special was Octopus or Squid Tacos paired with whatever Pilsner is on tap. Funny story from my inaugural visit a few months back: On the menu was a small pasta dish with squid ink: “What can I get for you?” asked our Waitress. For some reason I involuntarily gestured the milking of a squid by pinching my fingers in a downward motion, “I’ll have the pasta with Squid Ink” (ala Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents). “Did you just gesture the milking of a Squid? BAHAHA!!!”. I watched our waitress echo the story to the kitchen staff and they all burst into applause. Well done, Greg. Oh yes, that’s how I roll.
As the evening rolled on, my 8.5% ABV Dugana began to buzz as the pre-storm weather turned ominous outside. A litter of lawyers deliberate at a table nearby from the Santa Ana courthouse. Two artists top a nearby parking garage painting the eclectic Santa Ana landscape as the sun peaks under the clouds.
I order from the OC Beer Week menu which consists of several tapas and beer pairings. I grab the Stuft Squid (stuffed with Kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, and mushrooms, breaded and served with a tomato coulis dipping sauce. The beer pairing was Maudite Unibroue Belgium Strong out of Quebec Canada. I’ve never had a Canadian craft beer, and beer geeks probably know that this beer scores an A+ from the Alström bros at Beer Advocate. The beer is soft on the pallet like a rose petal; very subtle hints of spice and clove. The Stuft Squid is also mild and the beer attenuates the flavors ever so slightly without changing directions. The beautiful thing was how delicate and un-salted it was. The Kalamata Olives fill that role nicely. $10 for the pairing and worth every penny.
Speaking of beautiful rose petals, my lovely wife ordered the Mini Mac with La Fin Du Monde Belgium Tripel also from Unibroue of Quebec (another A+ from BA!). I dare you to say this out loud without salivating: Bacon Panko Crusted Mac and Cheese. <DROOL!> The beer had more of a lively carbonation than mine which is great for cutting richness in a dish. She, of course, loved it and enjoyed the pairing.
I heard Chapter One wasn’t kid-friendly, which I totally get, but our experience was great with our girl! They served her a lidded and watered down lemonade in a plastic cup (per request). She also ordered the $5 mini-mac and enjoyed some duck fat fries. She was incredibly close to ordering Escargot as I explained that’s what Madeline (French themed kid’s show) would eat; in two straight lines no less.
- OC Beer Week menu runs through 10/8.
- Parking is easily done across the street in the parking garage; $1/hr. Avoid the meters as SA tediously tickets tardiness.
- Also check out the area on the first Saturday of every month for the Artist Village open house. Click for details.