Johnny Kresimir has one of the most important jobs in Orange County: he's the promoter for Hootenany, the annual rockabilly-punk soiree that's a rite of passage for North and Central OC kids (with a couple of South County and coastal wimps thrown in). But what most of those 'billies probably don't know is that Kresimir is also a restaurateur. Can a punk cook a mean steak? This one can.
Johnny's Saloon began as an outlaw country bar and steakhouse in Hemet in 1982, run by his father, Johnny, Sr.. "My dad was passionate about food. Our specialty was our prime rib, lobster, and crab," Kresimir said. "My dad sold prime rib for $6.99 every night."
Kresimir grew up in Orange County and went to high school in Fullerton. He developed a love for punk rock that never left him. When he worked at his father's saloon, he set up concerts after dinner. "We had a line out the door four nights a week."
With the new location came a few changes, but the heart of the business stayed true. "It started as an outlaw country saloon and steakhouse. I grew up loving punk rock and so I added that to it."
"Hemet was more of a rough biker atmosphere. I call it the Wild Wild West. Huntington is just as fun. It has a great, laid back beach crew."
The new Johnny's doesn't have a kitchen or a stage, but the large lit sign advertises "Live Music" and "Prime Rib" on the back wall pays tribute to their past. He traded in his stage for a punk rock juke box. "We don't have live music here because you can go every night and not have to hear a band you don't like. You don't have to sit through some reggae band. Instead, we have a punk rock jukebox," Kresimir said. "We're the place you go on the nights you aren't at a show."
After walking through thick black curtains you're greeted by two life size Oompaa Loompaa dolls tattooing each other in the corner. The bar is darkened by black walls and lit by a red glow and candles that float and descend from the ceiling a la The Haunted Mansion. One of Kresimir's latest additions to decor is the infamous "Dirty Donald": a coin-operated children ride often found in front of grocery stores of Donald Duck. You ride Donald's belly while his bill is in a suggestive place. According to Kresimir, the ride was actually made by Disney but soon after discontinued for obvious reasons.
Despite warnings to Johnny Cash haters, hippies and Beatles lovers that hang on the wall, Johnny's is actually a welcoming place. "Everybody is always friendly, even though it may not look like it at first glance. We have a Cheers vibe. We call ourselves the Twisted Cheers of OC. It's a neighborhood spot where everyone knows your name. Everyone is welcome no matter what you look like or the music you're into."
On certain nights, guests get treated to a spectical when Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" comes on. The bartenders will throw some liquor on the bar and fire it up for the duration of the song.
In 2010, Kresimir ventured back into the food business with three business partners; Wendie Huffman, Jamie Fischer and Kevin Johnson (who he met at Johnny's). "We had this concept of a restaurant/ art gallery fusion. We want to provide a creative atmosphere for art and artists."
2nd Floor, located upstairs on Main Street in Huntington Beach, combines gourmet food, fun cocktails and edgy art. Chef Huffman was the executive chef at the House of Blues Anaheim and the Honda Center. The kitchen is "99% scratch." she said. "A lot of integrity goes in to our food. It's not processed. We make all of our own seasons and sauces and cut all of our own meat."
"We have amazing food created by Chef Wendie," Kresimir says. "I want to share her creative recipes with downtown Huntington Beach and do something different down here. There are a lot of great places here, so why do the same thing as everyone else?"
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Huffman left her job at the House of Blues restaurant to start 2nd Floor. "We left stable jobs to pursue something we were passionate about," she adds. "It was a leap of faith; none of us knew. For the first month we worked fourty hours straight but right off the bat we found success and we are so thankful." She added that the risk was worth it. "I won the culinary lotto. I get to do what I want to do everyday."