Change is good when it's done right. And two concepts built on spots where no previous restaurant occupied mean shiny 'n new places to look forward to. We may not be as skilled in the photography department as Brian or Bridget, but we can attack a new menu like no other. Here are a few shots of Orange County's newest eateries: Rich Mead's "field-to-fork" Farmhouse inside Roger's Gardens, and the second OC branch of Hopdoddy at The Market Place in Tustin.
The first of two concepts opening this week, we interviewed Chef Rich Mead late last year for the scoop on his latest development. Kitchen and dining staff fine-tuned their skills over fundraiser dinners and friends and family meals the last couple of weeks. We jumped on two open seats at the polished bar, since the rest of Farmhouse had a 45-minute wait on a Sunday afternoon (Note: Lunch service stops taking orders at 2 p.m.).
They ran out of the house cured salmon by the time we were ready to order, leaving us to debate our options. We chose a roasted beet salad ($12) with goat cheese, arugula and walnuts in a horseradish and dijon vinaigrette. Our particular order was all yellow, but the bartender informed us it's often a rainbow of beets— not that we're complaining. It just meant we'd be back for seafood.
Modeled after a French country farmhouse, attention to detail was in every corner. This is a seating area just beyond the dining room. We used it as a waiting 'room', kicking back on cushioned chairs and wooden benches. Rumor is this gazebo has a connection to Disneyland, but you'll have to ask the restaurant for the full story.
Dessert isn't listed on any menu off their website, but we overheard discussion of the lemon meringue. It did not disappoint. If field-to-fork cuisine isn't your jam, order this and a glass of wine. Did we mention how gorgeous the natural light is? While their advertised start date is Thursday, they're already serving locals.
Wednesday today, you may have spotted customers filtering in and out of the new Tustin Hopdoddy. Those were hungry invited guests, putting the staff to the test these last few days. Placing themselves next door to I-N-O is a bold move, but management is confident diners will be impressed by their quality. We were happy with reasonable prices for a sit-down establishment. Our burger of choice was called Primetime ($12): caramelized onions, brie and arugula on Akaushi beef.
Our guest took one for the team and ordered a frothy shake ($6). Using a cinnamon vanilla custard base, their selection included nutella & chocolate pretzel and a red velvet cake version. We went the cocktail route, sipping on a mini margarita nicknamed Little Larry (after their founder) and a fruity Sangrita made with pomegranate grenadine.
Although the bulk of their burger selections feature beef, our server also recommended Hopdoddy's chicken version, a.k.a. Thunderbird ($10). Seared poblanos, chipotle mayo, Tillamook pepper jack and apple-smoked bacon made this one flavorful bird. Also on the menu, the Goodnight/Good Cause burger. A partnership with Surfrider Foundation, $1 from the sale of this burger will be donated to the local non-profit. Angus beef, sliced jalapeno and hickory BBQ sauce are just a few more reasons to order one.
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It may read too good to be true, but we did watch a guy grinding meat in plain view. A batch of bread was coming out of the oven during service, almost burning our fingertips as they offered us burger bun to sample. A combination of high ceilings and windows along two sides meant a location that felt even more spacious than their Fashion Island counterpart.
According to their brand manager, Hopdoddy doesn't use frozen fries. In fact, their freezer is relatively small. If you prefer your fries with a little bite, order their green chili queso version ($6.75) which includes Hatch chiles. Pair with one of their local craft beer options (including an Anaheim Brewery Hef and Artifex Blonde), and you're ready for some burger action!