Father’s Day, SoCal Edition

There’s no question this year of what to get dad for Father’s Day. A necktie was never a good idea, but after the last 15 months, the idea of business fashion is more ridiculous than ever. This year, more than any before it, is the perfect time to take your old man out for a relaxing meal, and get back home in time to catch the last few holes of the big golf tourney. 

With that in mind, here’s a trio of the best joints around with an eye toward sustainability. These are mini-chains that operate with guiding principles should be modeled throughout the industry. I’ve selected three local areas to represent: L.A., Orange, and the 805 (I’m throwing Santa Barbara and Ventura into a single basket with apologies to both fine counties). Each restaurant has multiple locations, so check for one in your area (dine local). 

Let’s begin down south and work our way north, shall we?

Tour of Kentucky Whisky Flight at Eureka! (Photo by Scott Bridges)

Orange County

Eureka!

If you’re not familiar with Eureka!, it’s essentially a high-end all-American burger joint with an amazing craft ber and cocktail program. They source their products locally and make everything in house. It’s a chain of 25 restaurants with locations throughout California, as well as a handful of other Western states. And they tend to set up shop near college campuses or tech centers, so they naturally attract a lively and fun group of patrons. In fact the OC location I’m recommending is right next to UC Irvine (they also have a Huntington Beach presence). 

For Father’s Day, the restaurant is putting on a prix fixe menu that includes a choice of starter and burger, and a whisky flight. Choose between Crispy Glazed Brussels Sprouts, Truffle Cheese Fries, or Mac N’ Cheese Balls. I’m partial to the sprouts, but it’s hard to argue with those fries, particularly because of the delicious dipping sauce they come with. 

The entree options are the Fresno Fig Burger, Spicy Chicken Sandwich, or Cowboy Burger. I can never pass up a good spicy chicken sando, and this is definitely a good one. It could be spicier, for my taste, but then, I like ghost chili heat. Your dad could eat this and probably not have to pop an antacid afterward. If you want something gourmet-style, the Fig Burger has a harmonious combination of bacon, arugula and fig jam that’s mouthwatering. 

Finish with a sampling of small-batch whiskies. The Tour of Kentucky whiskey sampler will take dads on a culinary adventure to the birthplace of bourbon with Eagle Rare 10-year, Four Roses Single Barrel, Rittenhouse Rye, and Sazerac Rye. I have a preference for the ryes, but you get to try all four, so who cares?

The deal is $40, and is available Friday, June 18 to Sunday, June 20. 

Eureka’s Crispy Brussels Sprouts will line Dad’s stomach well. (Photo by Scott Bridges)

LOS ANGELES

Urban Plates

With plenty of locations throughout Southern California, including several in the greater L.A. area, Urban Plates features weather-controlled patios at each, so dad can enjoy the summer weather. Make it even more enjoyable with a nice ocean breeze by heading down to the Runway Playa Vista location. 

If you’re new to the restaurant, you should know that it’s an ingredient-driven menu with an ethical ethos. Highlights include braises and bowls, as well as decadent sandwiches and plant-based options. Their beef is grass-fed and grass-finished. And of course, there’s no antibiotics or hormones, or corn feed. 

For Father’s Day, Urban Plates is featuring a variety of their best steak dishes at about $15-and-under. Here’s a sampling:

  • Grilled Grass-Fed Steak Plate: grilled medium rare, served with any two sides and grilled rustic bread;
  • Grilled Grass-Fed Steak Sandwich: with slow-roasted tomatoes and chimichurri aioli;
  • Chimichurri Grass-Fed Steak Plate: grilled medium rare, served with any two sides and grilled rustic bread;
  • Blue Cheese Grass-Fed Steak Plate: grilled signature grass-fed steak, medium rare, topped with housemade blue cheese sauce;
  • Grilled Steak Salad: served in a lettuce blend, with pineapple-mango salsa, jicama, mint, coconut-roasted cashews, hand-tossed with scratch-made mild jalapeno-lime dressing, with a side of grilled rustic bread.

Then again, there’s a spicy chicken sandwich, which prompts my eternal dilemma. And this one has some heat. It’s a pair of crispy jumbo buttermilk-tossed chicken fingers (cage-free, certified humanely raised, never frozen, antibiotic- and hormone-free, of course) tossed in Nashville hot sauce, served on a grilled crunch roll with lettuce, orange basil aioli, honey dijon, and something called chow chow relish. Voila! The Nashville Hot Tender Sandwich.

How do I possibly pass on that? 

Steak, potatoes, rustic bead, and… you guessed it, Brussels Sprouts! (courtesy photo)

The 805

Natural Cafe

With multiple locations in Ventura and Santa Barbara County, Natural Cafe is among my go-to lunch spots whenever I’m up the 101. My location of choice is on State Street, which has been closed to traffic during the pandemic, and I cast my vote to keep it that way permanently. Nobody needs to be driving that stretch of road; rip up the asphalt and plant some grass… sorry, I digress. 

If you’re unfamiliar with Natural Cafe, it’s one of those places that has something for everyone. It offers vegan and veggie entrees as well as meat proteins. It has a fridge with an array of beverage choices, including beer and wine. The cafe also specializes in healthy smoothies. But before ordering — at the register, casual-like — ask about the soup of the day. There’s alway a couple, and they’re always delicious. Dads like soup. 

And since there’s no hot Nashville spicy crispy chicken sandwich to lure me, I usually go for The Local Favorite. Picture, if you will, generous thick slices of creamy avocado, a layer of alfalfa sprouts, crisp red onion, a firm leaf of lettuce and a juicy tomato on whole wheat bread with the zing of garlic mayo. Slice it diagonally and serve with blue corn tortilla chips and house salsa. That’s good eats. Itl pairs nicely with an ice cold Virgil’s root beer. 

Assuming you’re vaxxed, feel free to dine indoors again. I tend to prefer the patio and the Mediterranean marine climate. Better yet, grab your picnic blanket and head to one of the nearby parks. It was surely a father who invented the picnic after all. Just make sure you get him home in time for the back nine at Torrey Pines. 

Or get him a necktie. I’m sure it won’t be his first disappointment. 

Happy Fathers Day to all you dads out there, and particularly mine

Father’s Day, SoCal Edition

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