RESTAURATEURS MARIO MAROVIC and Andrew Gabriel—the talents behind Wild Goose Tavern and Dory Deli—are at it again. From the cutting-edge minds of two ultracool O.C. guys comes a trendy 21-and-over restaurant and bar that’s designed to be a modern-day social club. Fully equipped with gilded martini shakers, sports memorabilia, a VIP entrance and a killer chef-driven menu, it’s the duo’s third project together, and it’s hot, hot, hot.
The Country Club just debuted—it’s so new, in fact, that my preview occurred before the place was even open to the public. The original 1950s structure, situated on bustling 17th Street in Costa Mesa, was previously home to the storied Pierce Street Annex. While it was torn down, the A-frame was preserved to honor the history of the establishment. The roof was suspended in the air and Hatch Design Group—known for fine dining favorites like Water Grill—crafted a handsome 6,000-square-foot venue complete with an alfresco patio. Don’t miss the push-button retractable roof, which is opened by request, for a tasty night under the stars. Original wood beams, bookcases of artifacts and a black granite bar make the space feel swanky, thanks to local artisans, and there’s an intimacy about it that evokes thoughts of a supper club. With the decor eclectically gathered from the Rose Bowl to NYC, The Country Club has the beautiful dichotomy of a laid-back bar and chic hangout, along with an impressive chef, stellar food and a passionate libations list. Add live music and a dance floor to the mix, and you’ve got the perfect place for your next Saturday night.
Roll up to the bar or settle into your reserved table and peruse the cocktail list. Vintage concoctions, mindfully mixed in classic style, will entice your palate, or you can commit to starting the night by savoring a Ballast Point Rosé Sour, my favorite beer on tap at the club. The brew list is impressive, to say the least. You could also, of course, reserve a semiprivate space on the patio (or inside) and order up bottle service to impress your cronies.
And come hungry because partaking in chef Zachary Scherer’s culinary talent is a no-brainer. Hailing from Haven Gastropub and The Playground, among others, Scherer has a gift for designing a menu with craveworthy options and crafting delicious dishes. Start with the golden brown popovers, laden with two-year-aged Hooks Whitney cheddar for sharpness. Served piping hot, these heavenly pillows melt in your mouth, especially when slathered with an herbaceous housemade chive butter graced with a touch of honey. Continue with snacks like the lobster and corn flatbread that’s decked with chunks of crustacean, sweet corn and bacon, and dotted with sweet heirloom tomatoes. The crispy octopus sings with a supertender texture, and a delectable side of torn baked potatoes and luscious lemon puree.
The menu is succinct and elevated, and on your second Old-Fashioned, you’ll be tempted to taste the handmade agnolotti filled with painstakingly smooth butternut squash. Flavors of ricotta and caramelized onion add richness, while shredded bacon—cooked like carnitas—makes the dish a sensational mix of savory textures and flavors. The local white sea bass is masterfully cooked and offered with a bright mojo verde, highlighted with a bite of Champagne vinegar. Finally, set your sights on the beautifully plated 42-ounce rib-eye tomahawk steak with fresh horseradish and confit garlic. Pair the charred Angus brontosaurus with pan-roasted wild mushrooms (a mix of toothsome maitake and king trumpets infused with thyme and rosemary, topped with a sous vide egg and crispy garlic), and you’ll be dining in superb style.
The Country Club has an ubercool vibe and impressive gastronomic offerings going for it, and the Costa Mesa dining scene is once again turning heads. It’s soon to become the hottest hangout in O.C.; I see dinner, dancing and cocktail glasses clinking in your future. And at The Country Club, everyone’s a member.
THE COUNTRY CLUB
330 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, 949.281.2582
Starters, $8-$21; salads, $11-$14; entrees, $15-$48; shareable plates, $48-$110; sides, $7-$14; desserts, $9-$12
Brunch Sat.-Sun., 10am-3pm; lunch daily, noon-4:30pm; dinner daily, 4:30-10:30pm; cocktail hour daily, noon-6pm; bar daily, noon-2am