Restaurant Review: Turf Supper Club

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We joined our friends Ray and Jeannine at a San Diego Padres game a few weeks ago and following their win they said they had a fun place for dinner. Knowing I like horse racing and a great bar, they knew we’d love the Turf Supper Club, a “Grill Your Own Steakhouse” is in the historic Golden Hill neighborhood of San Diego.

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Nothing pretentious or Turf Club stuffy, the Turf Supper Club is right out of the 50’s: campy fun.  You can see by the neon sign you are in for a treat. There is long bar with plenty of stools, photos of horses, old style lamp shades with horse shoes, red lights, and carpet, and classic wallpaper. It has been described as comfy and friendly – and that is true.

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What makes this restaurant truly different? You cook your own steak on the grill in the middle of the dining room. But don’t let me get ahead of myself. The bar has a very classic drink menu. For bourbon drinkers they have an Old Fashioned, Manhattan, or American Thoroughbred. They also offer a Gimlet, Esquire Martini, or Cosmopolitan, just to mention a few. With good bartenders and a good selection of liquor you can’t go wrong. Lynn started with a Manhattan and I had an Old Fashioned. Our drinks were very good and quite reasonable with prices from $7 to $11. If you just read my Bourbon blog for fun, they also have beer and wine.

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Steaks start at $11.75 for a Top Sirloin with a top price of $22.75 for Filet Mignon. I was impressed with Marinated Flank Steak I ordered. If you don’t want beef there are kebobs, pork, chicken, or salmon. All steaks and kebobs come with a large slice of garlic bread. The “Extras” as they call them are a side salad, baked potato, or potato salad.  You can end your meal with a selection of cheesecakes.

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I recommend The Turf Supper Club for those who like bourbon, steak, and a fun evening with friends, new or old. Next time you are in San Diego step back in time with a classic cocktail and steak at the Turf Supper Club. On Sunday nights they have live music in the Piano Bar. I felt like George Woolf or Johnny Longden was going to walk into the place before we left.

Restaurant Review: Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern (Southern California)

Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern has become a favorite of Lynn’s and mine when we are in the Brea area. Many refer to it as “JFAT” which they use on their website, napkins, and use the logo generously on all branding. The food is good, the drinks creative, and it’s a fun atmosphere. They have five locations in Southern California – I’ve tried their Brea and Dana Point locations

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The idea for Jimmy Famous Tavern, or JFAT, grew out of the idea of the English taverns that made their way to New England. These were primarily drinking establishments that had limited food options. Jimmy wanted to create this atmosphere where people would gather for great brews, cocktails, and wine. But to enhance the experience Jimmy wanted to add excellent food to his taverns. His concept was to use fresh ingredients, blending tradition with creativity. They use the best ingredients prepared fresh daily from scratch.

We had heard about JFAT from a friend who raved about their Dana Point location. We have been there 5 or 6 times now and we have always been pleased with our experience. The food and drink are always impressive.

The Brea restaurant, like the others, has a very warm feel to it. There is a lot of wood, warm colors, low lighting at night. One of the architectural features of the Brea location is it opens up onto a park like setting in the Village at La Floresta. The window and doors from the restaurant and patio open up to create an open air restaurant. On a warm southern California day or evening it is awesome. If you are there on a chilly evening they close those windows and doors and with low lighting you feel the warmth of a Pub setting.

We both started with a “Boulevardier” which I would describe as their version of an Old Fashioned. But this is not your father’s Old fashioned. It has Bulleit Rye, Aperol, and Carpano Antica in it. And they finish it off with the orange peel and a life changing dark sweet cherry.

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We skipped the starters because we had a big lunch. I would suggest you start with “Warm House Made Salt & Pepper Potato Chips.” They are drizzled with Maytag bleu cheese & scallions. Or try the Brussel Sprouts, or Whiskey Shrimp. I can’t list them all but try as many as you can.

Lynn ordered the Signature Grilled Santa Fe Salad for dinner. It is made with grilled romaine, corn, salsa fresca, avocado, topped with green chile caesar dressing and grilled flat iron steak.

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I couldn’t decide what to order and our waiter Joshua suggested the French Dip and he was spot on. It’s prepared from mouthwatering prime rib, then topped with Swiss cheese, crispy onions, with creamed horseradish on a Ciabatta roll.

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My mouth is watering writing this review. I think we need to go back for lunch or dinner in the next few days! Go for a drink, go for appetizers, or go for dinner. JFAT offers great drinks, food, and service.

Bar Review: Vaca (Costa Mesa, CA)

Lynn and I have been wanting to eat at Vaca in Costa Mesa, CA, ever since we saw Amar Santana on Top Chef. We have been to his restaurant Broadway in Laguna Beach several times. The food is amazing and the bartenders are friendly and very knowledgeable. We love to sit at the bar to eat and enjoy talking with the bartenders and other restaurant goers we have met from all over the world while sitting at the bar (I have embarrassed our kids for years because I will chat up anybody that will listen).

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We had tickets to see “Finding Neverland” at the Segerstrom Center and decided to have some of the Tapas at Vaca before the musical. Vaca is very conveniently located literally around the corner from Segerstrom, so it was easy to park for the musical and then walk over to the restaurant for dinner. Well we had a great time. Vaca has a nice long bar with a back bar with shelves and bottles 20 feet tall.

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Writing these blogs is always an education for me and hopefully you, my readers, as well. To go along with Amar’s Spanish cuisine, he has also replicated Spain’s love of the ultimate Gin and Tonic. Their signature drink is the “The Vaca Tonic” made with Brooklyn Gin, Frozen Gimlet, Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic, and Basil Blossom. What they don’t include in the description is their amazing ice. The drink was served with a handmade, perfectly clear round ice cube. I watched them make it, what a work of art. It was a very refreshing drink and went well the Ensalada de Remolacha, a roasted beet salad with cana de cabra, and walnuts. We followed it with the Pulpo a La Gallega, a warm Spanish octopus, with fingerling potatoes, pimenton, and Spanish olive oil.

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After those 2 dishes and finishing my gin, it was time for a bourbon drink and some pork. First I ordered the “That’s the Spirit” which is made with Baker’s Bourbon, Bittermans Hiver Amer, Clear Creek Cranberry Liquor, and Lemon. My drink was very refreshing.

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Lynn had an excellent Spanish Tempranillo from the wine list. Both were a nice compliment to the pork and beef we ordered.   We tried the pork belly which was amazing. For our last dish we tried the La Bola, crispy potato balls with ground beef, aioli, and spicy tomato sauce. All were amazing and all so different.

We enjoyed the environment, company, food, and drinks. I would heartily recommend Vaca. We want to go back soon and enjoy some steak. Steak is not something you normally describe when talking about Spanish restaurants but Amar focuses on steak, tapas, ham, paella, and Spanish wine. If you plan to be in the area, make reservations. If you are not in the area, make a trip. Go to theatre, or shopping and end the day at Vaca.

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!

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)

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.