Uniquely Rich History, Old Town Charm and Unrivaled Culinary Creations
In the business world, turnover can be challenging. In the restaurant industry, attrition happens more often than you might expect. But what happens when an iconic location becomes available for the first time in a quarter century? Magic.
The new tenant, brainchild of longtime friends and business partners David Wilhelm and Gregg Solomon, recently moved into the heart of San Juan Capistrano’s glittering mission district. Directly across the street from the Mission itself, home to the incredible swallow migration, Tavern at the Mission brings a signature taste and happy hour exclusives to boot.
Longtime South County denizen, Chef Wilhelm is a highly respected icon himself on the Orange County culinary scene – renown for scores of concept restaurants he’s had a hand in creating over the years, including Kachina, Bistro 201, French 75, Sorrento Grill, Savannah Chop House, Chat Noir and Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern.
An attempt to maintain the original character of a place while also infusing it with new life was no small feat when planning major renovations, but a must for Wilhelm and Solomon in their mission (pun intended) to preserve the location’s uniquely rich history and old town charm.
The menu here is characterized by innovative New American cuisine and quintessential comfort food classics – those that draw inspiration from the region’s multicultural roots (think the flavors of Mexico, Spain and Europe) and Wilhelm’s own signature creations like French 75’s onion soup enhanced with a thyme, sherry, Gruyere glaze.
For starters, the grilled-to-perfection filet mignon skewers paired with forest mushrooms, pearl onions and bernaise sauce are worth writing home about, as are any of the Tavern’s generous dinner salads (curried chicken and papaya, Santa Fe Caesar, Maine Lobster and Shrimp Louie).
Popular entrees range from seafood specialties (a flaky pan-roasted Mahi accompanied by spinach with crispy sweet garlic, seared Day Boat Scallops atop creamy Parmesan polenta and a BBQ spiced salmon) to delicious options designed to satisfy even the most discriminating of meat eaters. My husband, who falls firmly into the latter category, thoroughly enjoyed the flavorful “French Onion” filet mignon that arrived in its own cast iron skillet and is looking forward to a return visit to sample the short rib stroganoff.
Fan favorites of Cedar Creek Inn’s Monte Cristo sandwich and ridiculously decadent Coconut Cake will be delighted to find them both menu mainstays. Among my favorite finds on my first foray to the Tavern? Live music Thursday – Sunday on the charming Mission-view patio.
Sign up to become a VIP to receive updates on exclusive events, secret menus and special offers. And while you don’t have to be a VIP to try the Tavern’s signature dishes, like D’ Honey Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Coconut Crusted Shrimp with horseradish-marmalade or the half-pound, prime Angus sirloin Tavern cheeseburger … but I certainly wouldn’t pass up the opportunity.