Restaurant Review: Hatch (Tustin, CA)

Our adventure started because Lynn and I wanted to see the Batman Lego movie. Lynn had just read the March/April Westways Magazine’s (AAA of California’s magazine) 14th Annual Cheap Eats Dining Review. There was a review of Hatch in Tustin’s Union Market at The District and the movie was showing there as well. Our date was set.

As the article said: “You can’t exactly stumble upon Hatch.” That is an understatement. You have to hunt real hard to find it. But the good news is once you find it you will be charmed by the retro, mid-century Tiki décor, Disneyland-inspired “Enchanted Tiki Room” wallpaper, and cool retro lights. It is small and quaint with only a handful of tables inside plus a bar that seats about 10. There is also outside dining perfect for most nights.

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The menu is quite simple. Their specialty is sliders, but these are not your local sliders. These are gourmet, craft, creative sliders. You can order a combo on the menu of 2 sliders and a side for $14. The menu is creative as the sliders are broken into Moo, Oink, Flap, Swim, and Sprout. There are 3 different sliders in each category.

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The Hatch slider is their signature item. It’s an all-beef patty, fried onions, Hatch sauce, a Portuguese bun, and a slice of crispy grilled cheese hat. It was a fantastic burger, and I am still amazed by that thin sheet of grilled cheese. How did they do that?

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I had a Hatch and a Buffalo Chicken slider. The buffalo chicken is buttermilk fried chicken, parmesan, Sriracha buffalo sauce, with carrots and celery. Both were so different and so flavorful.They also have sliders with Japanese style fried pork, duck, salmon, soft shell crab, oyster, and more. Lynn had the soft shell crab and said it was fantastic.

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They consider themselves a Rum Bar and have the theme oriented glasses. They also have a full bar, wine and beer. I always order a bourbon drink (my name is not Rum or Tequila Bill, its Bourbon Bill). I ordered an Old Fashioned and it was perfect. An Old Fashioned is good with any food. But riven that rum is their specialty, I would suggest you try the house rum drinks. They also have a list of 26 creative and different craft beers.

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I would highly recommend Hatch. We are looking for an excuse to go back very soon. There are also a number of interesting restaurants around Hatch.   Tustin’s Union Market has become a great little destination for dining!

Maker’s Mark Holiday Red Line Event

If you are not a Maker’s Mark Ambassador, and are a Maker’s Mark fan, I have one question. WHY NOT? Being an Ambassador is easy – you literally just have to register on their website (info below).

Ambassadors receive Maker’s Mark distillery, product, and new release information. There are also invitations to special events including local events like the Holiday Red Line event I attended last week in Los Angeles.

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For years there were street cars in Los Angeles and it was called the Maker’s Mark Holiday Red Line. This event was put together by Katie Bronow of Beam Suntory. She named it the Makers Mark Red Line in honor of the Red Line that used to run through Los Angeles, which was also a very creative tie in to the red wax every Maker’s Mark bottle is dipped into for its distinctive look (working in packaging, I’m extra appreciative of these things!). The Pacific Electric Railway Company (Red Cars) was started by Henry Huntington in 1902 and the last car ran until 1955. For some California railway history (bare with me here) — in a tie in with another piece of LA history, our bar hop ended at “Bunker Hill” Restaurant and Bar on Bunker Hill. In 1901 Col. J.W. Eddy built “Angles Col. J.W. Eddy,” a funicular inclined railway up the steep incline of Bunker Hill to give residents better access to their homes.

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But back to the event. About 40 Ambassadors and their guests gathered at Salvage Bar & Lounge first for a Gold Rush.

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(Not me – just another festively dressed Ambassador!)

The Gold Rush was created by Alex D’ Alessio. It was made with Maker’s Mark Bourbon ($31 through the ReserveBar website), Honey, Fresh Lemon Juice, and Ginger Beer.

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It was very refreshing and a great way to start the evening. It was fun getting to know the other Ambassadors and learn what brought them to the event and what drew them to bourbon.

After about an hour we walked to Spear Steak & Seafood House which featured the “Key to the City,” created by Mat Lim.

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It is made with Maker’s 46 Bourbon (on sale for $31.99 through Hi-Time Wine), Lemon Juice, Strawberry & Blueberry Puree, Cardamom & Allspice Syrup. (Check out the cute little sweater on the Maker’s bottle in the picture below!)

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It felt like the holidays and paired very well with the food appetizers provided. We had crispy calamari, different sushi rolls, one being seared salmon truffle roll, flat breads, way too much to remember.

Our last stop was Bunker Hill Bar & Grill for a Cask Strength Old Fashioned, created by Jose Balderas. (Cask Strength is $53.99 at BevMo!) WOW, what a way to finish the evening with an Old Fashioned in a miniature Julep Cup with a Maker’s Mark logo. (How many times have I said on this blog I am a huge Kentucky Derby fan?) The food there included Crispy Garlic Brussel Sprouts, Lobster Mac N’ Cheese, Korean BBQ Wings, Sweet Potato Fries, and more.

What a fun evening of fellowship, new friends to go along with fantastic cocktails, and good food. And on top of that my own miniature Julep cup at Bunker Hill to go along with the Maker’s Mark bottle Sweater from Spear, and the T-shirt we got at Savage. Merry Christmas y’all from Maker’s Mark!

Do yourself a favor and become a Maker’s Mark Ambassador. Or even better buy a friend a bottle for Christmas and suggest you both join. They put on great events. A Merry Christmas to all from Bourbon Bill!

Note: This is not a sponsored post. I am just a Maker’s Mark fan!

Bar Review: Dry 85 (Annapolis, Maryland)

My family traveled to Annapolis and Baltimore for last weekend’s Army Navy Game. What a weekend! It was great having our family back together. We always love spending time in “Naptown.” After wandering through shops downtown and along Main Street, we decided to stop by Dry 85 for a drink before dinner. (If you’re seeing a trend, Lynn and I always try to experience a Bourbon/Whiskey establishment when we visit a town.)

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Dry 85 is, “A modern industrial take on a Prohibition-era speakeasy. The back alley garage where someone today would sneak a bourbon, beer or gourmet comfort food meal.” Dry 85 opened in January 2014. It has a cozy atmosphere with a good selection of bourbon and whiskey.

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They have a nice selection of craft cocktails. Combine that with the friendly wait staff and fun atmosphere of Main Street in Annapolis and you have an instant winner. We really enjoyed our visit.

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We had 6 different combinations of drinks. I tried something I normally wouldn’t – a Buffalo Trace Sugar Plum. I guess the Christmas season and thoughts of the Nutcracker that Friday got the best of me. BUT for a guy who drinks his bourbon neat it was a very refreshing drink. The Sugar Plum is made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, House-made Plum Puree, and Freshly Squeezed Lemon it. My kids did laugh though because it was served up and was bright pink. My daughter and son-in-law had their soon to be famous Old Fashioned made with smoked maple syrup and said it was done to perfection. It looked great. My son and his wife both had drinks with fig (blanking on the name of them) which were very different and not the biggest crowd pleasers, but props to them for going out on a limb and trying something different. Lynn had a Manhattan, which was perfectly made.

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All in all, we would definitely recommend Dry 85. We didn’t eat there but the food looked good. Between their extensive whiskey selection and unique craft cocktails, it’s a great place to meet up with friends, stop in for a quick drink, or visit after dinner for a relaxing drink.

If you haven’t been to Annapolis go, especially in December when the whole town is decorated with garland over all the shops and restaurants, wreaths on all the doors, and the big tree by the bay. I’ll be back later with a visitors guide to Annapolis! We have been too many times to count and always find new things to do each visit.

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(Lynn in front of Blackwall Hitch – another good restaurant in Annapolis)

Bourbon AND Bourbon Bar Review: Bourbon House and Pinhook Bourbon

When you are Bourbon Bill, and in New Orleans, you end up in a bourbon bar on Bourbon Street (Note: I did not go at night time!).

If you have been reading my blog you know that some historians give New Orleans credit for coining the term “bourbon.” When they would ship their whiskey down the Ohio River from Kentucky, specifically much of it from Bourbon County, the barrels were marked bourbon. New Orleans residents starting asking for that “bourbon” whiskey. They liked it better than other whiskey they were importing.

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Wee walked from our hotel in the French Quarter to 144 Bourbon Street and Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House. The food looks outstanding and it has gotten great reviews. But we didn’t go there to eat.

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We went there for the incredible bourbon selection. As you can see by the picture of the list on the wall, it is quite extensive.

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Lynn immediately ordered a Manhattan. Her Manhattan made with Blanton’s was excellent. I tried a sip but I had to spend some time looking at the list. I looked and looked for something I had not tired. Then I spotted 2 bottles on one of the back bar shelves. They had racehorses with jockeys on them on the labels. I had to find out what bourbon was in those bottles. It turned out to be Pinhook Bourbon.

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First think to note about Pinhook Bourbon is the name. A “Pinhooker” is an individual who buys a young racehorse with the express purpose of reselling the horse for profit. They do this through some training, fixing some flaw to enhance its value. The term is also used for speculators in tobacco, produce, or today even yard sales. Derived from the Spanish verb “pintar,” to paint or ripen.

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Now back to the bourbon. Pinhook is crafted from a mash of 75% corn, 20% rye and 5% malted barley. It has been aged at least 6 years in American oak and bottled at 90 proof. The 20% rye helps make it very smooth. It has hints of vanilla, salted caramel, and finishes with the warm taste of toasted nuts. If you can find it, buy a bottle. They only produce about 5,000 bottles each year. The bottles labels showcase a horse owned with by Bourbon Lane Stable LLC.

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Having enjoyed sitting at the bar at Bourbon House and talking with other bourbon lovers was a kick. What a great atmosphere, wonderful selection, and, as I said before the food looks amazing. Plan to spend more time than we did and enjoy a Pinhook bourbon with some of their authentic southern seafood.

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Bar Review: The Post at Lamar Park (Corpus Christi, Texas)

While visiting our son, Burch, and his wife, Sara, in Corpus Christi a few weeks ago, they took us to a great spot called “The Post.” It’s a fun bar and restaurant in what was a United States Post Office in Corpus. AND, they have an excellent whiskey selection!

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Lynn had a Manhattan, and I had an Old Fashioned. Burch had a Texas Mule. All were excellent and you have quite a selection of Bourbon and Rye to select from for your drink.

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They have a fun “Classic Cocktails” section on the menu which includes the drinks we had plus a Mint Julep, Sazarac, Boulevardier, and more. If you don’t want whiskey (but who doesn’t!?), they have a good selection of beer and wine.

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After we ordered the drinks we went right into the Nosh, Graze, and Grub sections of the menu. Wow, what a fantastic selection. We were all hungry and ready to graze. We love to eat appetizers and small plates. We ordered the crispy brussels sprouts with house-cured bacon. What a great way to start, they were really good and everything is better with BACON. Next we had the “3 Little Piggies.” The 3 little piggies is just that, three 12 hour smoked pork shanks, with a sweet bourbon glaze. They are good sized pork shanks but 3 disappeared very quickly. I could go back and order 2 orders of those just for me. I am getting hungry just writing about them! The “Street Tacos” were next and equally good, I just love tacos from anywhere. We also had “The Hot Mess”– American aged cheddar, aged gouda and goat cheese, served on house made bread, grilled to perfection and served with a tomato basil dipping sauce. We added the Dr Pepper glazed ham to it. WOW, I better hop a plane and get back there. I am not done yet. We ended our meal with the “Beef Tenderloin Sandwich” with parmesan fries.

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But, if you know me, dinner is never the end of the meal — we had to have dessert. Dessert was a fantastic “Whiskey Cake” and 4 spoons. It was demolished in a very short order.

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If you ever find yourself in Corpus or North Padre Island, go to the National Sea Shore National Park, and eat at The Post at Lamar Park. What a great experience, classic drinks and whiskey, excellent food, and a fun atmosphere to enjoy friends or watch your favorite game. I have to use a post office cliché, “Don’t mail it in,” go and experience The Post in person.

Bar Review: King Street Oyster Bar (Leesburg, Virginia)

Serendipity is sometimes the best part of a trip.  We have gone on vacations without hotel reservations or knowing where our travels might lead us.  On our recent  trip to Virginia we landed at Dulles and before heading to our hotel wanted to explore the area a little bit. We landed in Leesburg.

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In Leesburg we did a little shopping before dinner and saw a cute place called King Street Oyster Bar.  It’s a small restaurant and bar set up in an old storefront right downtown, and, it turns out, had only been open a couple of months.  Lynn likes to get good shellfish when she is on the east coast and this looked like a fun place to start.  Me, well, I was looking for a bourbon drink!

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We sat right in the front window and decided to drink and graze.  They have a fun menu with a good selection for anyone.  We started with a “New York Sour.”  It was made with the bourbon of your choice,  lemon juice, simple syrup, and topped with red wine.  It was really good and very different.  They have a good bourbon and whiskey selection and a very friendly staff to help with you with your choice.  And great happy hour prices on drinks and oysters.

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Speaking of selection, the apps and food options were terrific.  We started with the “Bleu Cheese Chips” which are potato chips (looked home made?) topped with basil aioli, marinated tomatoes, and warm bleu cheese.  You can see by the picture it’s a meal itself.

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For dinner, Lynn then had 2 varieties of raw oysters followed by “King Street Oysters” – which were grilled oysters with blue crab, Tasso ham, and roasted corn.  I am so sorry I didn’t get a picture, they tasted and looked amazing.  I also had fish and chips, which were very good.


If you are looking for a little history, some fun shopping, and a taste of Virginia near Dulles Airport, try King Street Oyster House.  The patrons and staff were all very friendly.  We were so glad we stopped in and I am sure you will be pleased as well.

Bar Review: The Whiskey House (San Diego)

Last weekend, we drove down to San Diego for a Padres game with our good friends Ray and Jeannine, who own Highland Valley Vineyards (they make some incredible red wines at HVV, and well worth a Sunday afternoon to visit their vineyard). They promised that after the game we would stop in the Whiskey House in San Diego. I knew it was going to be a killer experience when I looked in the door and all the walls were covered with lighted shelves and whiskey, after whiskey, after whiskey!

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They had so many whiskeys I was in awe. They claim to have over 1,400 whiskeys, and I am not going to dispute that claim. WOW I was in “Bourbon Heaven.” Lynn, Jeannine, and Ray had ordered craft cocktails and they were all good. Lynn had an Old Fashioned, and Jeannine a Manhattan. I was just memorized by the list; I had to try bourbon that I had not experienced previously.   The list is huge! Many seemed very reasonable but $299 for a pour of Pappy seemed a little steep.

From their website:

The Whiskey House features over 1,400 whiskeys, craft cocktails, 20 international draft beers, an eclectic wine list and a delectable menu of house made fare. We specialize in house made sausages, fresh ground burgers, exotic cheeses, and charcuterie and downtown’s newest breakfast café, just next door… The Lazy Hippo, offering healthy breakfast items and savory favorites, along with fresh squeezed juices and smoothies.

By the time we got there after a long but successful Padres game the clock was about to turn to AM so we did not try any food but it looked really good. This will be a regular stop for me when in San Diego. The atmosphere is very dark, warm, and inviting. There are is kinds of seating from bar stools, tables, to sofas so you can enjoy your favorite spirit in a relaxed environment.

The next day we took in the races at Del Mar and on Saturday we saw California Chrome win the Pacific Classic. What a great weekend of baseball, whiskey, wineries, horses and good friends. When in San Diego you must put this on your to-do list!