There is something about a shiny, new restaurant that draws folks in. Already established in Ladera Ranch, the group behind BLK Burgrz scored a coveted space off Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach. Bigger digs meant an expanded menu and design makeover. However, one thing that remained the same was the staff. Atypical of most changeovers, Jamie Fischer isn't your typical businessman. This week, we learn more about what makes his business acumen akin to Midas' golden touch.
Okay, how do you pronounce the name? Is it an acronym or abbreviation? And what's the difference between the two BLKs?
Most people pronounce it "B-L-K", but it is an abbreviation for black, which is the color of the highest quality line of American Wagyu and Kobe beef in the cattle industry. This is our specialty, in both steaks and hamburgers, and we always have our certificates from Japan available in case someone asks where our beef comes from.
BLK Burgrz (in Ladera Ranch) focuses on American Wagyu and Kobe beef burgers, where customers can order a signature or stuffed burger, or create their own unique burger. Then there are salads and a few other items on the menu, like Mary's chicken, filet tip kabobs and grilled salmon.
At BLK Earth Sea Spirits, we've elevated the BLK brand and experience. The focus is on steak, seafood and poultry, but we also have the great hamburgers and sliders made popular at BLK Burgrz, as well as a variety of starters, lobster mac n cheese and terrific salads. And, of course at BLK Earth Sea Spirits, we have one of the largest patios in the area with an unbeatable ocean view.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Orange County has a lot of great, laid-back restaurants, especially up and down the coast. There is a wide variety of good cuisine, but we definitely have a great selection of quality, gourmet burgers in Orange County.
Most undervalued ingredient:
We're more about quality of ingredients than using items that are rare or what may be considered undervalued. We don't have many unusual combinations, either, although we do use peanut butter in one of our pancake presentations. As part of our breakfast menu served on Sundays, we have bacon peanut butter pancakes, which is two large pancakes filled with bacon and smothered with sunflower seed, peanut butter and topped with maple syrup, powdered sugar and whipped cream.
Tell us about the parent company, Skydoor Restaurants Entertainment. What other concepts do you handle for them (in addition to both BLKs)?
Skydoor is the parent company of a variety of casual restaurant concepts where we focus not only on great food and service, but where live entertainment is also an important component to a great customer experience. We have weekly entertainment at most of our restaurants, and we're currently under construction on a new concept in Scottsdale that is primarily an entertainment venue.
In addition to BLK Earth Sea Spirits and BLK Burgrz in Ladera Ranch, we also operate Casa Ranchero in Ladera Ranch, as well as Gallagher's Pub N Grill, 2nd Floor, and Thunder Burgrz N Pizza, also in downtown Huntington Beach. I oversee the menu development at each of these concepts. We're looking at expanding both the BLK concepts and Thunder Burgrz N Pizza.
Give us an example of your thought process when creating a new item, and how you work with your chef, Jesus.
When creating a new menu, we as partners discuss the concept and the focus of the menu. All of our restaurants have menus designed for each concept with a few signature dishes that cross over. Once we as a group decide on the menu, I move forward writing the menu, and then I start researching restaurants in the same market (and locally, too).
From there, I list the staple items that we as a company want to offer. And then I add dishes that I have been thinking about or testing as a company as specials. I then sit down with our corporate chef, Jesus Munoz, and review the menu. The challenge then begins for Jesus. I let him know which dishes I am looking for and then we start to create a dish. For example, BLK Earth Sea Spirits has an appetizer I wanted to add, which was coconut shrimp. Jesus took a few days and then presented a few versions and our favorite version is now served at BLK Earth Sea Spirits. For us, our menu offerings are a team effort.
Any item or dishes you had to have on the menu?
For the BLK Earth Sea Spirits menu, I wanted to offer an amazing lobster tail to go with the breathtaking ocean view, as well as a perfect traditional dish to complement our Kobe filets. But my version of traditional is a 16-20 ounce lobster tail to make the perfect surf-n-turf.
What do you recommend for first-timers to either location?
As an appetizer, I would recommend them all, but the go-to items are the edamame and the tuna tower. For an entrée, of course any of our Kobe style steaks or Mary's bone-in oven roasted chicken are great. For someone looking for an amazing home-style entree, then I definitely recommend the meatloaf. It is one of those dishes that people enjoy every last bite.
Where was your most recent meal?
PF Chang's is our daughter's restaurant of choice, and my wife and I always order their spicy chicken stock velvet style and add a side of garlic snap peas.
Favorite places to eat.
My favorite place to visit is in Las Vegas and when there, I always go to visit my favorite restaurant Mon Ami Gabi. I always feel like I'm at a family restaurant and feel at home, even though I'm in Vegas.
Prior to working on the BLK concepts, you were with House of Blues in Anaheim. How does that experience influence what you're doing now? And what do you think about HoB's plans to move locations?
The experience I gained over the years with HOB was priceless. Throughout my career, I have never experienced anything close to the HOB concept, which had multiple revenue streams. The benefit of being at such a concept and spending eight years in Anaheim (a tourist location) provided me the experience to grow as a person, a manager, and to continue growing our business model. As far as HOB moving locations, I believe it's a great move for many reasons and glad to see that HOB Anaheim will continue on for the staff and the brand.
Were there any challenges in opening the Huntington Beach spot?
Outside of the short notice from when the location was offered, to starting construction 10 days later, we experienced the normal construction hurdles of contractors and permits. The bigger challenge was being open every night during construction [Editor's Note: The previous brand, Spark Woodfire Grill, remained in business up until BLK opened].
One food you can't live without:
I am not much of a sweet tooth person but more of a creature of habit. Whenever I am at a location I will put my order in as "chicken something" I look forward to see what our cooks create. "Chicken anything" is my weakness.
BLK Earth Sea Spirits is located at 300 Pacific Coast Hwy, Ste 202, Huntington Beach, (714) 960-0996; www.blkearthseaspiritshb.com.
A contributing writer for OC Weekly, Anne Marie freelances for multiple online and print publications, and guest judges for culinary competitions. A Bay Area transplant, she graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management from Cal Poly Pomona. Find her on Instagram as brekkiefan.