Michael Dawson's resume looks a little different than that of the average winemaker. He earned degrees in biochemistry and cell biology, and went on to complete his medical degree and work in radiology. But as any grape-expert will tell you, viticulture is a scientific process—and Michael has proven himself more than up for the task. He draws on his technological background while bottling chardonnay, pinot noir, white rhone varietals, and other boutique wines for Seal Beach Winery. Those unique quaffs are available to sample in the tasting room, which also stocks bottles ready for visitors to take home and politely refuse to share. Those who aren't sure which bottle to select can opt to join the Wine Club in which Seal Beach Winery does the choosing for you. Customers can also take home merchandise such as wine-themed gift baskets, aerators, and tasting trays.
Wall-to-wall plasma TVs flicker with broadcasts of high-intensity sports as guests to Beach Club Sports Bar & Grill bite into burgers piled with pastrami, chili, or bacon. When not urging on their team, visitors can also create competition of their own, sending pool balls flying or throwing down a foam finger to challenge rival fans to a duel. On weekends, mimosas and bloody marys wash down morning breakfast fare on a sunlit outdoor patio.
The Red Barrel serves wines from around the world, but takes special care in the presentation: red and white sangria are poured into frosted carafes, and flights of bright white and dusky red wines are served on wooden paddles. Glasses glint off of the low, romantic lighting from candelabra-like wall sconces, and the dark wood tables clustered together invite whispered conversation. On most nights, live music ranging from a Latin jazz trio to a spunky young black-metal band completes the scene.
Knowing that every wine needs a pairing, The Red Barrel's chefs prepare seafood-centric fare in the style of a classic French bistro. The daily menu often changes, but wine-marinated clams, rosemary-crusted lamb chops, and filet mignon with buttered lobster often fill the intimate space with their inviting aromas. At brunch, French classics such as croque madame—french bread with prosciutto and a sunny-side-up egg—pair with refreshing mimosas.
When Sagi Rochman was drawing up the plans for his new restaurant, he knew he wanted it to be cool. So he named it Sababa, which is Hebrew for "cool"—a designation the chic lounge has easily lived up to. The space brims with plush curtains, modern art, and sleek couches, where groups sit as they sip on craft beers or one of Sababa's award-winning specialty martinis. The spa martini is particularly refreshing, a blend of cucumbers and freshly muddled strawberries that cools patrons as they sit on the outdoor patio under the rays of the Earth's only remaining sun. "The" Margarita is also popular with guests, an unorthodox mixture of tequila, Grand Marnier, freshly pureed passion fruit, and pineapple juice, which one regular swears is the best margarita outside of Mexico.
The cocktail list gets some stiff competition from the food menu. To build up the gustatory roster, Rochman enlisted the talents of celebrity chef Eric Greenspan, a contestant on Food Network programs such as The Next Iron Chef. Inspired by Rochman's heritage, Greenspan constructed a fusion of Mediterranean and Israeli flavors, resulting in dishes such as goat-cheese pizzas and seared ahi tuna with harissa mashed potatoes. There are plenty of small plates as well, including grilled eggplant with tahini and chicken kabobs with an olive-date sauce. As if the inspired tapas and lauded cocktails weren't enough, the lounge regales diners with a slew of events held throughout the week, including wine flights on Tuesdays and dance parties with live DJs on Fridays and Saturdays.
K.C Branaghan's menu puts burgers and sandwiches alongside five different boxty (Irish potato pancake) dishes and a hearty list of traditional Irish fayre, including fish and chips ($12.95), shepherd's pie ($12.95) and corned beef and cabbage ($13.95). To start, dig into a bowl of creamy house-made potato leek soup ($6.95 for a bowl) or a plate of Irish nachos, freshly made tortilla chips smothered with corned beef and melted cheese and topped with a jalapeño cream sauce with avocado ($10.95). Wrap mitts around a Stilton blue-cheese pub-burger ($11.95) before summoning a serving of the grilled Atlantic salmon topped with a raspberry-port coulis ($17.95). Branaghan’s special cottage pie is stuffed with vegetables and tender beef, slow-cooked with Guinness in rich brown gravy, and topped with mashed potatoes ($12.95). Pair your eats with a side of fresh homemade Irish brown- or soda-bread ($3.50), a glass of wine, or one of more than 12 draft beers.
Riley's Pub & Grill puts a spin on familiar pub fare with a menu of internationally inspired appetizers and entrees. Diners can dig into pulled pork tortas piled high with avocado and queso fresco, or savor grilled pizzas topped with mushrooms, feta, and balsamic vinaigrette. Comfort food favorites such as mac and cheese and chili share the stage with lighter salads topped with blue cheese, apple slices, and walnuts. Despite the eclectic, international menu, a traditional pub atmosphere pervades—the grill sizzles with juicy burgers, the beer flows freely, and the TVs buzz with broadcasts of professional athletic and knitting competitions.