A SEAL BEACH GEM FOR BAR & BITES
Seal Beach? That’s what some L.A. proper residents may ask and bemoan when looking for a killer spot for drinks and supper. But expand your reach, spread your sites and make sure to have a designated driver because Seal Beach’s 320 Main is a real jewel when it comes to good eatin’ and heavenly handcrafted cocktails.
Serving hearty American comfort food with a modern twist, owners Jason and Rebecca Schiffer have long been crafting first rate drinks (think of 320 Main as OC’s 1886 Bar—not to compare one to the other but just to say that they’re both leagues above the competition). And kudos to barman Schiffer for his no sour mix policy, instead, he only uses homemade simple syrup. Nice touch!
Jason Schiffer’s Antique Lemondrop was praised by LA Weekly; the publication actually called 320 Main the best SoCal bar for absinthe cocktails. With its intimate dining room that sits 25 lucky diners, things have now really picked up with the addition of Chef Jamie Carrano—formerly of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Beverly Hills, and Charlie Palmer’s fine restaurants. Carrano’s menus feature a delicious offering of accessible dining, utilizing impeccable technique and the freshest and finest of ingredients.
During our recent visit for dinner, we had to start with the Bacon Dates from the bar menu. Come on, bacon wrapped over dates equal deliciousness. Does it really get any better than this? Well, at 320 Main it does.
Looking for a cocktail to start things off, we had to go with the championed Antique Lemon Drop, made with lemon-infused Bols genever, lemon, sugar, maraschino liqueur, and an Absinthe mist on top. The drink definitely lives up to its reputation. While I’m not a fan of sweet drinks, I can never say no to a sugar rim, that’s just me. And this drink blends the elements of a refined stiff drink with the fun, familiar flavor of sweet sugar. Cocktails are all about balance and they got it right with this drink.
A great starter item includes the daring and delicious Grilled Octopus Salad, prepared with white beans, pickled jingle bell peppers, upland cress, and parsley vinaigrette. The presentation is really great on this dish as a grilled octopus actually tops your greens.
Fans of hearty fare free of any kind of guilt (my kind of eater) will consider the Pork Belly Mac & Cheese a must have item. Prepared with beeler’s pork, cantal cheese, and Tillamook cheddar, this is decadent comfort food at its best. Just in case you thought it couldn’t get better than bacon and dates, pork belly and mac n’ cheese really takes things up a notch.
Time for another round of drinks and we went with the classic Army Navy, a savory mix of Beefeater gin, lemon, lime, orgeat, and Angostura bitters, and the wonderful Negroni’s Loss, made with Bols genever, Gran Classico, and Italian vermouth. Keeping things simple in construction and not taste, both of these fine cocktails are soothing, yet hardly too sweet or too overpowering.
While there are so many tempting entrée selections, the two that stood out over the rest for this first-time diner were the 320 Burger, and the Duck Pot Pie. Yes, I said Duck Pot Pie but more on that in a second.
The giant badass that is the 320 Burger is a wonderful mixture of grass fed beef, American dressing, shredded lettuce, cheddar, and onion rings, served with fries of course. And to make things even better, we added a fried egg to the burger. Just one look at this no nonsense burger and you know you’re in for a treat. One bite and you’re taste buds are off to nirvana. Consider this a must-have!
Being a chicken pot pie kind of guy, I couldn’t believe it when I heard 320 Main serves a Duck Pot Pie. It’s all I could think of on the way to Seal Beach. Prepared with duck confit, sweet potato, carrot, and celery root, this is pure genius in my opinion. I was a little disappointed it’s actually a casserole and not a pie as there’s no crust on the bottom (a real pet peeve of mine) but I gave them the benefit of the doubt because they put frickin’ duck in a “pot pie.”
Time for another round of cocktails and the Clockwork Orange, a terrific blend of rye whiskey, Italian vermouth, Gran Classico, and angostura bitters, along with the Detroiter, made with Cynar, Laird’s bonded apple brandy, lemon honey, and IPA really livened things up—like they weren’t already. While I’m not the biggest beer fan, the Detroiter is a savory and stiff IPA drink that really impressed me.