Frank J. Fitzpatrick: The Cowboy
Silverado Canyon is as far removed from the tanned, plastic cougars of Newport Beach as it's possible to get and still be within the limits of Orange County, and Frank J. Fitzpatrick, the owner of 5 Bar Beef, is the living embodiment of the place.
"As a boy, I wanted to be a cowboy," he says. "I just never grew out of it." Born and raised in the canyon, Frank went to Orange High School, where he participated in Future Farmers of America. He went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, then headed up to Idaho and Oregon during the summers to get some real-life experience.
Fitzpatrick is not some imagined relic from a Sam Peckinpah film, though; while he has the hat (and the cattle to back it up) and the truck, chews tobacco, and is a successful calf roper, he's also a prolific user of Facebook, wears those hipster five-toe shoes as often as boots, and is a health nut who's convinced that our love for white flour, sugar and processed crap is the reason we're obese. (Is he wrong?)
That's not all, either: Fitzpatrick is a yogi. After a horse fell on him and drove the saddle horn into his left leg—not exactly an injury we incur a lot down here in the flats—he took up Bikram yoga to regain his range of movement. It worked; watching him rope calves and clamber up and down into the bed of his pickup truck, you'd never guess the guy was turning 65 years old this year.
Eventually, after goofing off for a decade (by his own admission), he got into real estate, made some money and started buying cattle. He made his way around the West, raising cattle as far north as Oregon and as far east as Winnemucca, Nevada, before returning to Orange County.
Now that Fitzpatrick is home, 5 Bar Beef has 400 head of cattle, split between a ranch in Hemet and his land in Silverado. All his cattle are grass fed from the time they're weaned—none of this fake "grass-finished" green-washing. They're born in Hemet, then moved to Silverado before being sent off for slaughter. You can tell the difference, too; the meat is leaner and somehow beefier, almost bison-like. Ask how to cook it, and you'll get the official Frank Fitzpatrick sermon (it's even written on his business cards) about low and gentle heat, lest you turn the beef into jerky in a frying pan.
While much of his meat is sold to the trade—Esteban Nocito from the Barcelona On the Go luxe lonchera uses 5 Bar Beef for a "Local Burger" with OC Produce vegetables and a locally made bun—it's at local farmers' markets where Orange County gets to know Fitzpatrick. He's out every Friday at the Laguna Hills Farmers Market, every Saturday at the Irvine (UCI) Farmers Market and every Sunday at the Great Park Farmers Market, selling directly to the public. It's impossible to predict what he may have at any given market: steaks, ground meat, offal sausage. It's best to go in with an open mind and listen to his suggestions, then stay a while and chat with the most interesting cowboy in the county.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Orange County dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.