Chapter One – Review

Chapter One: The Modern Local

There are few things as wonderful as a good book; one that makes you want to curl up in a big cozy chair and lose yourself in its pages for hours. One thing that rivals a good book is a great meal with friends. At Chapter One: the Modern Local, a new gastropub in Santa Ana’s downtown Artist’s Village, every element is in place for you to have an exceptional evening out with friends.

Chapter One: The Modern Local – 227 N. Broadway, Artist’s VIllage, Santa Ana, CA
Reservations: 714.352.2225

Walking through the door, you are greeted by a smiling hostess, a warm contemporary space complete with fireplace and bookcases full of books, and the amazing scent of delicious food. The dining tables are a mix of booths, standard tables, and high pub tables. There are primarily two seating areas and an inviting bar that serves beer flights, hard cider, and cocktails. The hard cider from Julian is crisp and light, a real treat if you are looking for something different.

Having found Chapter One before their official opening, which happens to be tomorrow, Friday May 20, 2011, my friends and I have found ourselves returning more than once, as our taste buds led the way. We’ve had exceptional meals at both lunch and dinner, and between us we have sampled a fair portion of the menu. If you like comfort food with a contemporary flare, Chapter One is the place for you.

The menu is broken into a Foreword, Body, and Climax. In the Foreword section (also known as appetizers) the Potato Pear is a tasty work of culinary art, although it is only available during the dinner hour. One of the wonderful things about Chapter One is that the dishes taste even better than they look, and they look amazing.

Tempura Fried Fish and Chips with Shoestring Crisps and Slaw

Tempura Fried Fish and Chips with Shoestring Crisps and Slaw

From the main menu we have tried the Fish and Chips, the Italian Burger with Parmesan Crisp, the Island Pulled Pork, the Skirt Steak Chimichurri, the Mac and Cheese, and the Pad Thai, which is no longer available. Since Chapter One is a farm to table establishment, they use ingredients that are local and in season, which means a dish you think you might try next time may no longer be on the menu, like the Pad Thai (which was delicious by the way). Each dish that I have sampled has tasted delicious. The shoestring potato crisps that they originally were serving with many of the dishes were rather weak, but the owners listen carefully to their patrons, and they’ve replaced them with beautifully delicate thin cut french fries that are a vast improvement.

Each of the meals have arrived in beautiful forms to delight our palates, including the Skirt Steak Chimichurri, which sounded a bit unusual. The steak was cooked perfectly and the chimichurri sauce was yummy. (You may want to request a little extra.) The yucca fries were a little bland, although I enjoyed them more once I asked for some of their homemade catsup.

Mac and Cheese with Pearl Onions and Truffle Oil

Mac and Cheese with Pearl Onions and Truffle Oil

The burgers on the menu are works of art. Like all of the dishes on the menu, the chef works to delight your eyes as well as your palate. The Italian burger with portabella mushroom is stunning with its large parmesan crisp, and it tasted so good that I hated to see it disappear. I wasn’t the only one trying to delay the disappearance of my chosen meal, Nora liked the Mac and Cheese so much that she fears that she’s developing a bit of an addiction to it. Not your average Mac and Cheese, this dish comes baked with white cheddar and fontina cheese, pearl onions, bacon, panko breadcrumbs, and a touch of truffle oil – the magic ingredient according to my culinary daughter – and…. you can have it top with chicken if you’d like to add a bit more protein.

One thing I’ve noticed, each time I’ve gone to Chapter One, is the slow-meal syndrome. Once the food arrives, first everyone admires the appearance of the meals, then they start to eat them, and as they realize how wonderful it tastes, they begin to eat slower and slower, as they try to prolong the delicious experience. A wonderful sign of a delightful meal.

Milk & Cereal: Vanilla panna cotta, Cinnamon Toast Crunch ice cream, seasonal fruit

Milk & Cereal: Vanilla panna cotta, Cinnamon Toast Crunch ice cream, seasonal fruit

Out of the Climaxes (desserts) we’ve only tried one so far, which was Milk & Cereal, a Vanilla panna cotta, shredded kataifi, with Cinnamon Toast Crunch ice cream, mandarin oranges and
fresh juice caviar pearls. Yummmmmm! Sounds odd perhaps, but the flavors were in total harmony.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m a definite enthusiast. Chapter One has three owners, who have worked in all areas of the restaurant industry, from waiter to manager to opener for a chain of restaurants. This time around, they are doing it for themselves, and they are doing it right. As one of them said, “One of the nicest things is that we don’t have anyone to tell us no, when we want to make a change to improve something.” All three owners are on premises, and paying attention to details. They just took over an adjoining space and will soon have a private room available for special events and overflow on the weekends. Amazingly, after being opened only a few weeks, they could already use additional space.

If you are a night owl, you are going to be doubly happy, because Chapter One also has late night dining available until 2AM. So grab a friend or two or three, see a performance of a play or ballet, and then head over to Chapter One for a late night bite. Like a good book, you’ll be sad when it’s over, but it will be fun to revisit.

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