Food Porn From Mendocino Farms Costa Mesa - Opening Friday!

Anne Marie Panoringan
Summer Cubano

17th Street gets a new neighbor this week as Mendocino Farms goes into high gear starting tomorrow. Their hours will be daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., sharing a parking lot with one drive-thru Starbucks. So what do they serve? Mendo is essentially a sandwich market that also serves salads. Imagine (insert run-of-the-mill sammich chain here) going all farm-to-table, with an interior you actually want to hang out in. For all you hesitant diners, they offer chicken, turkey, steak, pork, tuna, vegan and vegetarian options. Breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy my pictorial overview.

One last thing before we salivate: Chef Judy Han said she, "kept the bread in mind" when formulating the menu. These are tributes to many meat 'n bread standards, reconceived and executed with flavors which may be slightly stronger than what you're used to. If you swap out ciabatta for Mom's seeded whole wheat, you've altered the flavor profile her kitchen intended. Maybe I'm just stating the obvious, but I'm a fan of disclaimers.

We start with one of their seasonal selections, the summer Cubano (pictured in the beginning). It's assembled with Prime honey ham, slow braised carnitas, spicy house mustard and dill pickles. Their Cuban mojo sauce is blended with cilantro and cream, served on Drago Bakery soft roll. They originally planned on doing plantain chips in-house, but found an East LA lady who specializes in them, adding a welcome crunch.

Anne Marie Panoringan
Drink up!

By now you're getting parched, so here are your beverage offerings. Flavors vary by location, but all are sweetened with pure cane sugar. Beware of frothy overflow when dispensing. Oh, and a friend mentioned that they taste a whole lot like Boylan's sodas. I opted away from bubbles and downed their passionfruit black iced tea.

Anne Marie Panoringan
Isn't it worthy of a hashtag?

Living so close to Westminster, I was pretty weary of trying Mendo's banh mi. But when an Asian chef says other Asians like her banh mi, I give it a chance. Not only their most popular item, but the most photographed, Chef Han's version was inspired by a friend's pork belly recipe. The meat from her Kurobuta is braised and caramelized, rendering the fat before being chopped into lardons. Vietnamese accompaniments include pickled veg, jalapenos and cilantro. A sturdy, grilled ciabatta and chili aioli round things out.

Anne Marie Panoringan
Do you feel like chicken tonite?

Not to discount their salad selections, we did try a bite of Santa Monica Chinese chicken. The spinach cabbage slaw and miso mustard sesame dressing livened things up, preventing it from tasting like everyone else's. As a lover of "stuff" in my salad, the supersized crispy wonton garnish might as well be bagged and sold separately. I could snack on those all afternoon.

Anne Marie Panoringan
Deep. Fried. Batter.

I saved my favorite for last. The "not so fried" chicken sandwich is good and bad (but really, I mean damn good) all at the same time. Good for the roasted free range chicken; bad for the krispies they roll it in. Know what those are? Say it with me: DEEP FRIED BATTER. Oh yes, it is! Dunk in a side of chipotle BBQ, and it's your sorta guilt-free meal.

My childhood was filled with mediocre sandwiches, so I dismissed them for the most part years ago. But give me more pronounced tastes, bread that complements its fillings and something unexpected but welcome-- I'll get in line.

Mendocino Farms is located at 450 E. 17th St in Costa Mesa, (949) 548-2500;

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