|Johnny's Saloon's words to live by.|
Johnny Kresimir has one of the most important jobs in Orange County: he's the promoter for Hootenany, the annual rockabilly-punk soiree that's a rite of passage for North and Central OC kids (with a couple of South County and coastal wimps thrown in). But what most of those 'billies probably don't know is that Kresimir is also a restaurateur. Can a punk cook a mean steak? This one can.
began as an outlaw country bar and steakhouse in Hemet in 1982, run by
his father, Johnny, Sr.. "My dad was passionate about food. Our
specialty was our prime rib, lobster, and crab," Kresimir said. "My dad
sold prime rib for $6.99 every night."
Kresimir grew up in
Orange County and went to high school in Fullerton. He developed a love
for punk rock that never left him. When he worked at his father's
saloon, he set up concerts after dinner. "We had a line out the door
four nights a week."
Johnny Sr. died in 1997.
Johnny took over the restaurant, despite the fact that he lived in
Orange County. He would commute every week by spending a few nights in
Hemet and a few nights at home. In 2003, Kresimir moved the saloon to
its current home in Huntington Beach off Beach and Slater.
the new location came a few changes, but the heart of the business
stayed true. "It started as an outlaw country saloon and steakhouse. I
grew up loving punk rock and so I added that to it."
"Hemet was more of a rough biker atmosphere. I call it the Wild Wild West. Huntington is just as fun. It has a great, laid back beach
The new Johnny's doesn't have a kitchen or a stage, but the large
lit sign advertises "Live Music" and "Prime Rib" on the back wall pays
tribute to their past. He traded in his stage for a punk rock juke box.
"We don't have live music here because you can go every night and not
have to hear a band you don't like. You don't have to sit through some
reggae band. Instead, we have a punk rock jukebox," Kresimir said.
"We're the place you go on the nights you aren't at a show."
After walking through thick black
curtains you're greeted by two life size Oompaa Loompaa dolls tattooing
each other in the corner. The bar is darkened by black walls and lit by a
red glow and candles that float and descend from the ceiling a la The
Haunted Mansion. One of Kresimir's latest additions to decor is the
infamous "Dirty Donald": a coin-operated children ride often found in
front of grocery stores of Donald Duck. You ride Donald's belly while
his bill is in a suggestive place. According to Kresimir, the ride was
actually made by Disney but soon after discontinued for obvious reasons.
"I'm into décor a lot. I don't paint well, but I do funny quirky things," he said.
there's the drinks. "Every bar has the same product," he says. "I don't see a reason to charge $9
a drink. We come from a blue-collar background. I want you to have a
good time and still leave with money in your pocket." Cocktails are
stiff and run about $5. There are no beers on tap, but
they have plans to put Jameson on tap soon. Kresimir's
brother, Bruno Nosic, created many of their signature drinks in what they call the candy
cocktail collection. Swedish Fish and Gummy Bear martinis have candies
at the bottom or the Pop My Cherry has a Pop Rocks rim. Others are named after rock icons such as the Iggy Pop,
Joe Strummer, Hank and Coke, and Loretta Lynn. Their latest creation is
the Killer Klown: a cocktail poured over dry ice and cotton candy in a
martini glass, bubbling and fizzing-ly sweet. Bruno
also infuses his own vodkas with flavors from Hot Tamales to cucumber.
warnings to Johnny Cash haters, hippies and Beatles lovers that hang
on the wall, Johnny's is actually a welcoming place. "Everybody is
always friendly, even though it may not look like it at first glance. We
have a Cheers vibe. We call ourselves the Twisted Cheers of OC. It's a
neighborhood spot where everyone knows your name. Everyone is welcome no
matter what you look like or the music you're into."
certain nights, guests get treated to a spectical when Johnny Cash's
"Ring of Fire" comes on. The bartenders will throw some liquor on the bar
and fire it up for the duration of the song.