Dining on All Fours in California
These days it seems like more and more pet-friendly restaurants are popping up.
It makes sense when you consider that 78.2 million dogs alone are owned in the United States. Most humans treat their animals like a family member: Dining with them, traveling with them, and generally carting them with everywhere they go. Therefore, I am sharing just a handful of outstanding eateries that cater to your canine.
CHAPTER ONE IN SANTA ANA
This restaurant is an excellent contribution to the culinary scene in Orange County. Chapter One, the modern eatery, fits right in with the trend of using local produce and seasonal fare when creating inventive combinations and flavors. They also house an ultra-unique handpicked selection of beers, wines and truly thoughtful spirits from around the globe.
I felt good synergy from the onset, primarily because of my history in the city. Back in the ’90s, I had a live theatre nearby and was on the Arts Council. We fought to transform this stretch of downtown into an Arts Village, so it’s a real treat to see modern establishments filling the area. Another ironic tie-in: I found out that my food-savvy nephew/godson, Kobe, frequents and loves the place; he even held an event here!
As we walked up to the attractive corner, I noticed a great patio seating area for guests with pets up front. We were greeted and seated by the tiara-clad hostess, Lauren, followed by Desi, our server who is studying to become a elementary school teacher -- to whom I felt an odd familiarity. I blurted, "Is Donna your mother?" Stunned, she said yes, and as it turns out, her mom and I went to high school together.
My nephew said to be sure to order the Moscow Mule, a spicy house-made ginger beer, Russian Standard vodka and muddled lime served in a traditional copper cup; such a clever blend and thirst-quenching. John my companion had a Saint Veran Chardonnay from France and really enjoyed it. To start I had to try the Bourbon Scallop, one jumbo scallop, bourbon maple caramel, caviar, bacon-infused powder, caramelized bacon spear -- divine is the only way to describe it.
Next, the delightful Étouffée Fries: Spicy Cajun roux, lime, cilantro, peppers, smothered over house fries -- OMG!
The brilliant visionary and Owner Jeff Hall came over and said hello. I complimented his phenomenal restaurant concept. He insisted we try their dreamy Mac & Cheese: Intermingled white cheddar, Fontina cheese, smoky bacon, and topped with caramelized onion relish, toasted panko, and truffle oil. I am so glad we did -- this was melt-in-your-mouth suprem goodness. Executive Chef Jason Montelibano has truly created an ingenious menu.
Next, John enjoyed an Heirloom & Buffalo Caprese Salad, comprised of local heirloom tomato, buffalo mozzarella, fennel, basil, prosciutto, garlic basil oil, balsamic reduction, adorned with parmesan crostini. I tried the Steak, Feta, Arugula Salad, a thoughtful combination of Arugula greens with marinated grilled steak, feta, red onion, cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomato and a basil vinaigrette topped with fresh butter croutons, another home run. Dark and Stormy grabbed my eye on the menu: It’s an electrifyingly sexy cocktail consisting of Blackwell dark rum, ginger beer and a lime squeeze!
Entrées were a tough decision, but we narrowed it down to the Tuna 2-Step, a sesame-panko crusted Ahi filet on a bed of stir-fried organic vegetables, with spicy ginger citrus oyster soy sauce, accompanied on the plate by tuna tartare blended with roasted corn, scallions, cilantro and ginger vinaigrette‹a perfect pairing. I was intrigued by the Tempura Fish & Chips, Panko-crusted South African Hake, wasabi and Sriracha sour cream, plated with an Asian slaw and duck fat fries, such a rainbow of flavors.
The Red Velvet Donut was our dessert destiny, with its strawberry red velvety flavor and Kampot-pepper-ginger cream cheese frosting; it was fantastic, just like this place.
Chapter One is located at 227 North Broadway in Santa Ana. For more information or to make reservations call 714.352.2225 or go to chapteronetml.com
LA PALAPA IN LONG BEACH
Dining here was extremely enjoyable for many reasons: The prime oceanfront location is off the charts, full beach views from the huge patio and pets are welcome. We sat right near the sand and enjoyed the sunset while sipping on delicious cocktails; I the Cadillac Margarita and a classic Kenwood Chardonnay for my dining partner.
I am a fan of Coconut Shrimp and La Palapa’s were huge and tasty, with guava dipping sauce and French fries. The Hawaiian Ahi Poke Stack, followed: Raw tuna marinated in a Sriracha soy sauce with wontons, avocado and a Wasabi cream sauce that was off the charts. Next, we decided on the Tortilla Soup, very soothing because of the thoughtful ingredients: Chicken, fresh vegetables, topped with Jack cheese, avocado and tortilla strips.
For entrées, John went for the Grilled King Salmon, slathered with a lemon and garlic butter wine sauce accompanied by rice and sautéed veggies. The Grilled Rib Eye was a hearty cut topped with Pisco-tamarind demi-glaze amid mashed potatoes and sautéed veggies.
For the finale, a Coconut Crème Brûlée made with Malibu Rum, topped with toasted coconut and coconut whipped cream was a dream.
La Palapa offers a reasonably priced Bow Wow Menu. Each selection is served with a doggie bone. For biggest to the smallest puppies: Doggie Chicken Grilled Chopped Chicken Breast & Veggies, The Doggie Scramble, Doggie Carnitas & Rice or Doggie Meat Lovers Dish. And they always have live music for you and your furry companion.
La Palapa, 4020 Olympic Plaza in Belmont Shores. For more information or to make reservations, call 562.433.5702 or go to lapalaparestaurant.com
3DOG CANTINA IN HOLLYWOOD
I have discovered some extraordinary restaurants over the years, and 3Dog Cantina is no exception, with its inviting décor done in a sort of Spanish Gothic motif. Having opened just under a year ago, the celebration of fresh, innovative, regional Mexican cuisine and stunning cocktails inspired by Mexico’s culture is going strong.
A great deal of the success of 3Dog goes out to a winning team: First Michael Abruscato, who helped launch the restaurant as a bartender, then quickly became the bar¹s manager. The second asset is Manager Amanda Creighton, an Indiana native, and Chef Efrain Cuevas, who runs the kitchen and is the heart of the 3Dog. His right-hand man is the talented Chef Marcos Varo from Mexico, who has worked hard for many years to become the sous chef and runs the kitchen when Cuevas is away. The menu is the star attraction, and contains extremely fresh, sophisticated Latin flavor profiles.
They also have a great patio where your pooch can indulge in the restaurant¹s delightful Doggie Bowl, free to your pet with chicken, rice, and veggies.
Carl Silva, an actor/writer from Austin, Texas, was our terrific waiter, and set us up with the Cucumber Mint Margarita: Don Julio, lime, fresh cumber juice, agave nectar and mint, one of the best around. John tried the White Wine Sangria, tastily-filled with flavorful fresh fruit. Carl prepared the creamy alluring Guacamole Molcajete at the table in a traditional stone bowl; it just doesn¹t get fresher than that.
Well, actually something else did... Their newly-shucked, Oysters con Ceviche: Lavish Pacific Oysters topped with Vallarta ceviche and salsa Tamazula, followed with another order with chipotle mignonette -- so fresh, I’m certain they were still breathing.
For our main course, I chose the Shrimp and Steak Fajitas -- still sizzling, and the meats were quite tender. Carl recommended the Enchiladas Rojas, two warm corn tortillas filled with shrimp and crab, Chihuahua cheese, with Guajillo sauce, queso fresco and pickled red onion. We were tempted to lick the plate, the sauce was so good. It also comes in a vegetarian version, as does much of the menu.
I normally don¹t indulge churros, but these Housemade Churros were dusted with cinnamon and sugar, then served with mole caramel and Mexican hot chocolate. What a finish!
3Dog Cantina is located on 1615 North Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood. For more information, or to make reservations, call 323.465.1750 or go to 3dogcantina.com