Five Things We Like About Mission Viejo's Anchor Hitch

House miso clams
House miso clams
Anne Marie Panoringan

Despite being one of the last tenants to sign on with Union Market Mission Viejo, Anchor Hitch managed to be the first eatery to open its doors this week. And while their official grand opening date isn't until June 4, we headed south to sip and chew on their limited menu. We jotted a few notes to get you started. Note #1: They're currently serving dinner only.

Location, location, location
Beach cities and resorts are often where the good eats are at. Hitch is just off Crown Valley and the 5 freeway, on the top floor of Kaleidoscope. There's even multiple levels of parking and more than one way out. We're not used to that, but we'll gladly take it.

Fresh-squeezed apple martini
Fresh-squeezed apple martini
Anne Marie Panoringan


Beverage service
Besides a full bar, we discovered 10 beers on tap. No bottles, and all California (7 Orange County ones, to be exact). The range includes a Nom Nom Mango Hefeweizen from Barley Forge Brewing and White Oak crafted by The Bruery. Neighborhood friend Cismontane holds down two taps, but expect a custom collaboration between the two in the near future. Also noteworthy are their iced teas, courtesy of specialty beverage shop Milk Box.

Mood
Decked out in true blue shades and custom murals, it's definitely less mall, more urban dwelling. Fishing cages morphed into light fixtures, an intricate room divider and upbeat soundtrack are not what you'd expect in Mission Viejo. Walking the space, we realized this Union Market has a much more open layout than Tustin. An area designated for cornhole-type games exists, but we digress.

Abalone and uni with your panna cotta
Abalone and uni with your panna cotta
Anne Marie Panoringan

The team
If you want the lowdown, ask for Kyle. He's their leading man with the details. Anchor Hitch's head bartender is linked to both Tustin's Central Bar and the central watering hole for this market. Our server was attentive without being annoying. And Chef Michael Pham is genuinely enthusiastic about each dish.

Dining
Our abalone panna cotta reminded us of another seafood experience— Providence in Los Angeles. And for good reason: Pham previously worked for Chef Cimarusti. Visually, they serve works of art. Whether it's meaty Nueske's bacon in our clams or tiny rice crisps in our creamy dish, chef knew how texture plays a role in every bite. Our favorite bite was their Tom Yum Agnoletti, stuffed with shrimp and eaten with maitake mushrooms. Bring a friend, because their dishes are best shared (or risk getting in a seafood coma).

We don't know if we love Anchor Hitch yet, because another half of the menu is yet to come. If it's anything like what we've tried so far, Mission Viejo will be our next food hall destination.

Anchor Hitch is located inside Union Market Mission Viejo, 27741 Crown Valley Pkwy, (626) 757-3471; www.eatanchorhitch.com.


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