Gastropub is the word used for restaurants and bars that pair food with beer, which began in London in the early 1900s. It started with using an existing pub, hiring a gourmet chef, serving food that was above the traditional pub food and then suggesting how to complement that food with beer. Gastropubs are fairly new to Orange County, but listed below are some of the best spots to check out.
House of Big Fish
540 S. Coast Highway #200
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
The House of Big Fish, with beautiful views of the Pacific ocean, features a wide range of fresh fish and casual fare paired with a vast selection of ice cold beer. Choose your brew from over 70 choices. This family-friendly restaurant is a great place for watching sports or having a fresh lime margarita or pitcher of sangria at sunset on the patio. Its happy hour, extending into the late evening, features a selection of seafood specials and discounted beer.
3801 E. Coast Highway
Corona del Mar, CA 92625
The SideDoor gastropub, housed within the Five Crowns Restaurant in Corona del Mar, resembles a cozy pub in an English countryside. From appetizers to dessert, the restaurant pairs the eatery’s small-plate delicacies with each of the 12 imported and domestic draft beers and 18 bottled beers. These brew options are changed on a two- to three-month cycle to provide customers with new tastes. Diners can order the chunky avocado dip with a citrus mixture topped with black lava salt and fresh chives. When paired with the Franziskaner Weissbier, rich and malty with a biscuit-like taste, the beer brings out the toasty components of the pita chips and the citrus in the avocado dip.
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Haven Gastropub Orange
190 S. Glassell St.
Old Towne Orange, CA 92866
The Haven Gastropub opened in September of 2009 and has grown to be voted among the best gastropubs in Orange County. The Haven serves freshly-prepared food including steaks, seafood, pork, rabbit and prawns at reasonable prices. Each dish is perfectly paired with a unique selection of craft and bottled beers that include cider, IPA, lagers, sour ale, stouts and porters, as well as imported beers. The happy hour has a special menu of gourmet comfort foods with $2 off all draft beers.
2325 E. Coast Highway
Corona del Mar, CA 92625
This rustic Corona del Mar gastropub attracts a 30-something crowd, providing various ways of pairing food and beer to make the dining experience more enjoyable for the clientele. The Monday-night special pairs Crow Bar’s duck-fat fried chicken, potatoes, melted leek and green beans with its special Stone Pale Ale. The chicken will cost you about $16 and the ale is $5 per glass, but this is money well spent as evidenced by its great popularity.
220 E. 4th St.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
This gastropub-style restaurant in downtown Santa Ana went from a food truck to a brick-and-mortar dining place. The Playground is an American, small-plate restaurant with a focus on interesting combinations of food with rare beer. It is one of the only restaurants that has a beer expert on staff, ensuring only the best brews are offered. Servers are also beer certified and they offer tastes to help diners decide which beer they would like to choose from the 15 that rotate on draft and the 60 on the bottle list.
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Mona Graham is a freelance writer, writing for Examiner.com. Mona has lived in Orange County since 1958 and has a great familiarity with the area. Her hobbies are travelling, writing and photography. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.