Memphis Stare-Down at Memphis Cafe

Photo by The Mexican
Drink up!

I'm still missing Memphis at the Santora, the pioneering downtown SanTana restaurant that was my neighborhood locale for about a decade and tragically closed down earlier this year. I still haven't made the transition over to the original Memphis Cafe, even though it's just down the street from Weekly world headquarters. Call me a beast of habit: this generation of Weeklings only goes there en masse to bid one of us farewell, or to meet sources in order to scare our enemies...HA!

Nevertheless, Memphis Cafe is stronger than it has been in years. Breakfast is now daily, our own Dave Mau is back to managing the bar, and they're changing up the cocktail list for the better. Consider the Memphis Stare-Down.

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High Tide at Driftwood Kitchen, Our Drink of the Week!

Anne Marie Panoringan
Ode to a classic

Our primary reason to head to Laguna Beach is for a change of scenery; cooler temps and cruising on Pacific Coast Highway rank right after. We find gazing out into the Pacific more centering than yoga, so ending up at the right spot is most important. While we don't require sand between our toes, being perched right above the beach is ideal. One property that can accommodate such a request appears to have dual dining concepts--those lucky bastards.

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Kicking Venado at Diego's Downtown, Our Drink of the Week!

Photo by The Mexican
They just got moonshine, too!

True confessions: I was not that impressed by Diego's when it opened last year. The downtown SanTana restaurant tried too hard with dishes that had two ingredients too many, featured tiny portions too expensive by five bucks, and a pan-Latino approach that tried to reach across the region but came up as short as Mexican democracy. Harsh words, but true.

But over the past six months, owner-chef Richard Espinachio has worked out the kinks, leaving it grab the crown left behind by the late, great Memphis at the Santora as a place for great, innovative, humble eating. The chilaquiles are out of a tía's kitchen; banana fritters, out of Calle Ocho. And the bar is ramping up its offerings as well, eschewing clichés in favor of innovators like the Kicking Venado.

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Boathouse Sour from The Boathouse Collective, Our Drink Of The Week!

Anne Marie Panoringan
No filter

Last weekend, we became privy to a private space about to go public. While it is situated towards the ever-popular 17th Street in Costa Mesa, the exact location caught us off guard.

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Kuro Kirishima Shochu at Kappo Suzumaru, Our Drink of the Week!

Photo by The Mexican
Banzai or something...

Kappo Suzumaru in Tustin remains my favorite sushi spot in OC. Look, I know it's not the best--not even close. But it's where I took my wife on our first date (even though she says it technically wasn't a date), it's where I've had birthday parties, and it's where they still hang a review I did of them nearly a decade ago. And, most importantly? It's bueno to me.
Work doesn't let me come here as much as I'd like, but I've seen them expand their booze options over the past couple of years--first with some sakes, then wines, and now with a full-blown shochu program.

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Bottle Logic's Polarity Pils, Our Drink of the Week!

Photo by Cleo Tobbi

Fall-themed beers debuted in August this year, and breweries small and large across the country have sent cinnamon and nutmeg to the rescue. But, as delicious as pumpkin-spice amber ales and gingerbread stouts can be, Orange County just isn't ready for them yet.

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Soju Key Lime Margarita at Urban Seoul 2.0, Our Drink of the Week!

Anne Marie Panoringan
Soju think it's pretty tasty?

To a high school student, the term "2.0" might mean a "C" grade average; in the context of restaurants, "2.0" references the sophomore effort of an establishment. The opening of the first Urban Seoul in Irvine's Diamond Jamboree plaza presented the notion that Korean cuisine (if we're overanalyzing the name) could be more than traditional panchan or hotteok. It could be familiar, yet modern. In the kitchen of Kacy Jun, we're talking tapas and borderless possibilities.

A couple of concepts in the plaza have already folded and been replaced by a coffee bar and crawfish shack, but Seoul's fan base grew beyond the confines of their modest space. It was time to raise it to the next level. They not only kept the second spot close to home, but secured it in the mother of OC outdoor malls: the Irvine Spectrum.

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The VIP at Del Frisco's Grille, Our Drink of the Week!

Edwin Goei
Del Frisco's VIP.
I was at Irvine Spectrum recently in search of a private dining room for an upcoming small gathering of friends. I considered Paul Martin's and Capital as options, but then I realized Brio Tuscan Grille and Del Frisco's Grille, the two brand new restaurants where there was previously parking lot, just opened.

I walked into Brio first, asked the hostess about what they had in terms of private dining. She said they had a private room in the back, but had to confirm with the managers on its availability. I followed her into the main dining area where a few of the managers were standing. I was next to her when she spoke with this group of tie-wearing men. Without making eye contact with me, or acknowledging my presence, one of them told her that the room wasn't ready yet. She turned to me and repeated what he said. I thanked her for her time, then walked a few yards to Del Frisco where I would ask their hostess the same thing.

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Wasmund's Single Malt Spirit, Our Drink of the Week!

Photo by The Mexican
Drink (and shoot) up!

Every year when the chica and I travel to Kentucky for the 127 Yard Sale, I challenge meself to find a great booze that even Hi-Time Wine Cellars doesn't have. And I had a bumper crop this year: Kentucky rums, Tennessee white dog, even some crazy-ass Colombian coffee liquor that I picked up at the Willet distillery in Bardstown that had sat forgotten in a warehouse on the property for decades (the story is true: I can't find any traces of it online.)

But the drink I'm highlighting here is Wasmund's Single Malt Spirit out of the Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, Virginia. Hi-Time, God bless their souls, carries Wasmund's Rye Spirit, but not this beaut, which I found in the Hi-Time of the South: the gargantuan Party Source in Bellevue, Kentucky (note to Hi-Time: they have a liquor library where folks can buy shots for sampling. Hint hint?)

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Cucumber Collins at Catal Restaurant, Our Drink of the Week!

Edwin Goei
Cucumber Collins
You're in Downtown Disney. You want a cocktail. Maybe a bite of something small. Something like tapas. Is there tapas in Downtown Disney? Yes, in fact, there is. And it's been here all along. Catal Restaurant has offered a Spanish-leaning menu since there was a Downtown Disney. Sure, they call the patatas bravas "Brava Potatoes" just so it's a little more tourist-friendly, but it's served with toothpicks, a piquillo pepper-tomato coulis and slathers of garlic aioli. There's chorizo and chimichurri stuffed into the calamari, and goat cheese stuffed into the piquillo peppers. There may not be paella, but the rest of the apps is very Spanish where manchego and catalan olives rule.

And for drinking there is, of course, sangria--two kinds, in fact. But with the weather outside balmy you want something even more refreshing than sangria. Enter the Cucumber Collins, a drink that the menu actually bills as "the official drink of summer."

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