Diatribe With Dave: 5 Reasons Why the OC Food Scene has Flourished Despite the Great Recession
Every second and fourth Wednesday night of the month, legendary bartender/chef/restaurant insider Dave Mau hosts Dinner with Dave at Memphis at the Santora, where he treats drinkers to a free meal and live music as the evening progresses. To remind ustedes of this great night, Dave treats us every Wednesday morning that he's on to a random OC food or drink musing of his choice. Enjoy!
If garlic is the thinking man's ketchup, then the culinary world must be the thinking man's Mixed Martial Arts and its fans are just as dedicated as those flat-brimmed, trucker hat knuckleheads that pollute downtown Huntington Beach. The OC food scene has blossomed in spite of the Great Recession and there are some interesting angles on how and why it happened.
Don't get me wrong; it has been far from sunshine and roses around here if you own a restaurant. The ones with a decent price point and dedicated regulars rode it out well enough, but if you had an unknown mom and pop burger or sandwich shop you probably fell prey to the carrion bird called closure. Some biggies have gone down as well, mostly overpriced corporate joints that couldn't hold on to their transient base of clients or were teetering on the brink anyway. It was also a lot easier for people to eat out seven days a week when they were making boatloads writing bad mortgages or selling overpriced cars.
In general, even the most culturally remote parts of our great country have seen it happen to one extent or another (try rolling through downtown Lincoln, Nebraska and tell me what you think), but what's occurred here has its own distinct OC flavor. And, much like the current local music scene, our food world is dynamic and flourishing. Here are some of the reasons behind it.
1. Cash strapped municipalities are making it much easier to open restaurants and bars
It didn't take cities long to figure out the best way to make up for lost properly and other tax revenue during the recession was to make themselves amenable to new restaurants. The spectre of crowded parking lots, tipsy patrons on the street or police overtime doesn't seem nearly as bad when you're having problems paying the bills. The revenue generated from permitting and taxing a restaurant versus a retail space is quite a stark contrast and we all know money talks. Cities that once shunned gentrification now embrace it. Some have done a better job than others; in my opinion, Orange has shown the proper restraint while Fullerton has allowed their downtown to turn into a drunken orgy of Sodom and Gomorrah-esque proportions (and let's not get started on their cops.) Anaheim is giving it the ol' college try but first they are going to have to convince the people that live in Anaheim to stay there and spend money. We'll see how that goes.
The Food Channel sure changed things and I'm not always sure it was for the better. The upside is that it opened individuals' minds up about what they are eating and where they are eating it. Some, however, take the foodie-ism thing a bit far, droning on and on for hours about it to the exclusion of any other topic of conversation. I also think calling yourself a foodie is possibly akin to giving yourself a nickname or throwing a roast for yourself (Wait! I did that!). It's better and more humble to let others refer to you as such, but I digress. Foodie-ism made people consider eating something besides Taco Bell and McDonalds and gave them enough knowledge of foreign cuisines that they're probably going to feel comfortable ordering at Thai Nakorn even if their server doesn't speak a lick of English. And it certainly gave them the motivation to try all the new spots that have opened up.
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