On the Line: Jim Walker and Louie Feinstein of The Bungalow, Part One
Two big things were brewing as we sat down to interview Jim and Louie. The second topic can wait until tomorrow, but we were there to celebrate the launch of lunch at The Bungalow. What I liked most about their new service was the option to order ahead. Get your hands on the menu, call when you're about to leave work, and by the time a beverage reaches your table-- lunch should be ready to plate. Convenience and service during the busiest part of your day. Not too shabby.
One food you can't live without:
Louie Feinstein: Turkey. As a kid, I just loved turkey . . .especially turkey legs. Thanksgiving was something always big at our house.
Jim Walker: I probably would say that I'd be disappointed if I didn't have bacon. It's a good vehicle to put on almost any food. I also like crunchy peanut butter.
How would you describe The Bungalow to a potential diner?
L.F.: A great classic steak house with a New American twist. Dishes that have taken on some great flavors and style.
What is your beverage of choice?
L.F.: Single barrel J(ack) D(aniels).
J. W.: I generally have a vodka tonic, BUT lately I've been drinking Fireballs. I really like them. I cut it with Seven Up.
Favorite places to eat.
L.F.: I like Chapter One and The Corner (Huntington Beach). I am more into the gastropub-type places. I like little, hole-in-the-wall joints.
J. W.: It depends on what I'm craving. From the standpoint of ambiance and view, I like going up to Pelican Hill. From a lunch standpoint, I like R&D Cafe. They perform very well, and they've done a good job of creating a community. They do a good French dip and Asian salad.
You're making breakfast; what are you having?
L.F: Egg whites and spinach.
Most popular item(s) on the menu:
J.W.: Chilean sea bass is definitely in the top five. Our filet is the popular dish. I also think we have a great salmon dish.
Tell us about your culinary experience:
L.F: Started at 17 cooking at St. James Infirmary, a historical bar and grill in Mountain View, California. After 18 months, I decided that I belonged in the front of the house, and on my 21st birthday, became a manager. 40 years later, I am still at it.
Culinary speaking, Orange County has the best:
L.F.: I can honestly say we are a changing force in the culinary world. It won't be long until we will have worldwide recognition.
Your earliest food memory:
L.F.: Was not a good one. My mother made salmon patties every Monday night, along with stuffed bell peppers. Did not like them back then.
Favorite meal growing up:
L.F.: Going to SF to Original Joe's and having a Joe's Burger. It was a Sunday tradition for us, since my uncle lived right around the corner.
J.W.: I'm originally from the South. My grandmother used to make pot roast with parsnips and carrots and slow cook it. We would dip cornbread in the juices. It was a very healthful meal.
Where was your most recent meal?
L.F.: Memphis for the meatloaf.
J.W.: A significant meal I had recently was up in Monterey. I was with a bunch of golfing buddies, and we ate in the wine cellar of The Sardine Factory.
What are the challenges to owning and operating a single establishment versus managing a chain concept?
L.F.: Owning is always more challenging, as you have the financial responsibility to make payroll, pay bills, etc. You have no one else to fall back on. When you are part of a big company, there seems to be a larger financial cushion. But either way, you have to drive sales and make money.
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
L.F.: I had a guest tell me he could cook better than my chef. I gave him a try, and he got a real lesson on what it takes to cook in a restaurant and not at home. He never discussed it again.
J.W.: I don't know if it was a weird request, but years ago, I was running a coffee shop. This lady would come in and complain about the tuna. I said to her, "That's because it's Chicken of the Sea tuna." She never complained again.
Since renovating the outdoor patio, what other projects are in the works?
L.F.: This will be an exciting summer, as we are looking forward to also developing a Sunday brunch on the patio.