A fixture of nighttime eating and drinking in OC, Dave Mau has come a long way since manning the fryers at McDonald’s in his early 20s. He has learned through his toils that the simplest dishes have the boldest flavors; for Mau, it’s all about the garlic and bacon fat. “If you make really good frijoles borrachos—which is a simple Mexican bean dish—you can use beer for the broth and add some bacon fat,” he says. “It adds flavor, of course, with the fantastic roasted garlic that’s chopped and sautéed.”
His most personal dish is beef chile Colorado with dried pasilla and Anaheim chiles. Last year, Mau’s brother Chris passed away, but he left behind the chili recipe. Mau lovingly re-creates the dish, inspired by memories of his brother. “Food was an integral part of our relationship. I wouldn’t be where I am at if it weren’t for him. He was a better cook than I will ever be, and it has inspired me to carry on,” Mau says. Plenty of Orange County residents think Mau is pretty inspiring in his own right. Besides his popular Dinners With Dave at Memphis At the Santora, they also love his cooking at the Retreat, Vermilion Valley Resort and Two Brothers BBQ catering, as well as his bartending at Memphis. Plus, he’s a professional photographer. It sounds like a handful, but he always maintains balance. “I can manage to juggle everything really well,” he says, “but it’s freakin’ bananas.”
1. Go Where the Cool Bands Are.
“It’s funny because live music used to be such an integral part of my life. I worked at Linda’s Doll Hut back when Social Distortion and Bad Religion were playing, but now it’s Detroit Bar—it’s just a nice room.” 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0600; www.detroitbar.com.
2. Book Cool Bands At Your Own Events.
“Allensworth is such a great band to listen to while to you’re hanging out with your friends. The New Limb . . . well, I guess more people pay attention to them. I don’t want to start a piss fight between the two bands [over] which one is better.” www.myspace.com/jamieallensworth. www.myspace.com/thenewlimb.
3. Watch Young Musicians Grow Up.
“I’m not giving Billy Kernkamp a gratuitous plug just because he’s hot right now. Billy used to play at Linda’s Doll Hut when I worked there, but he was too young to even come in back then. It’s cool to see someone playing alt-country and getting it across to the hipster kids.” www.myspace.com/billykernkamp.
4. Find a Siesta Spot.
“If I were to chill out one afternoon and do nothing at all, I would drink two pitchers at Super Mex and take a nap in Huntington Beach. If you’re a bartender or chef, part of your job and persona is to party. I get paid to have a good time.” 17210 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, (562) 592-4849; www.supermex.com.
5. Know Where Your Salsa Is.
“I couldn’t live without La Reina Market in Orange because I get a lot of my cooking stuff from there. They make really amazing salsa roja—it’s seriously the best.” 909 N. Tustin St., Orange, (714) 997-9525; www.lareinamarkets.com.
6. It’s Okay to Self-Promote Just a Little.
“It’s not just because I work there, but Memphis At the Santora is such a bitchen little oasis. I could hit the lotto, and I’d still bartend. I started as a bartender, and I moved to bar manager, and it introduced me to the food-and-beverage industry.” 201 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 564-1064; santora.memphiscafe.com.
7. Stay In Shape.
“I work out every day at 24 Hour Fitness. I have to because I am old. Stupid aging process! I hate you.” 3600 W. Orangewood Ave., Orange, (714) 385-0024; www.24hourfitness.com.
8. Eat Some Meat.
“The New York strip is amazing at La Cave—the steak is so great. It reminded me of Sid’s in Newport Beach. Oh, my God! It’s been closed for years. They didn’t have ketchup on the table, but it was the best freakin’ steak you’d ever have.” 1695 Irvine Ave., Costa Mesa, (949) 646-7944; lacaverestaurant.com.
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9. Eat Some More Meat.
“At Anjin, you cook your own Japanese raw meat. I think that was the most memorable and eye-opening food experience for me in Orange County.” 3033 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714)-979-6700.
10. Get a Friend With a Great Bar.
“I like to let loose at my friend Sandbar’s house because he has an amazing bar that’s well-stocked. It’s as good as any restaurant.”