Around the holidays, The Blind Pig is my favorite personal cocktail service animal, blindly guiding me on my quest to beat the holiday blues. Although I recently went into the restaurant expecting to crank out a “holy cow, they have $8 tiki cocktail night and $3 tacos on Tuesday” type of blog post (which is indeed awesome), I left feeling it would cheapen the whole experience. So, I’m going to climb to the top of Saddleback Mountain and shout as loudly as possible: I think The Blind Pig has one of the best bar programs in Orange County. Let me explain.
Reason No. 1: Like most of Orange County, there are dense pockets of great bars, breweries, and wine bars where competition is fierce. Then there’s the fringe… places like Rancho Santa Margarita where finding a perfectly crafted adult beverage is limited. An average eatery is lifted by lack of competition, where service can get cocky, and prices can skew based on its remote location. Then there’s The Blind Pig, which breaks the mold. Its main competition is itself, and the proverbial bar is raised for everyone.
Reason No. 2: What makes a great bar program isn’t necessarily what is or isn’t on the top shelf. It’s the style, the attitude, the knowledge, the palate, and most importantly, an ear to what customers want and the knowledge to sometimes steer a guest in a better direction. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with wanting a cosmo, but it takes a special bartender to unpretentiously suggest something outside a guest’s comfort zone and deliver something unexpected and delicious.
My first question of a new guest is if they want something spirit-forward, bright and fruity, or what they typically drink. My favorite response is when a guest responds with, “this is exactly what I wanted and I didn’t even know it. – Bar manager Ryan Autry.
Reason No 3: Ice blocks are broken down in-house, meaning your old fashioned looks like it was made for Superman inside the Fortress of Solitude. Giant hunks of clear ice in my drink? Yes, please!
Reason No. 4: On my visit, a beer distribution rep came in to sell some kegs and I overheard the conversation. Bar manager Ryan Autry speaks beer. He visits breweries. He hugs local brewers. Everything on his tap wall is balanced for style, alcohol, and freshness.
Reason No. 5: The events. Aside from the previously mentioned $8 Tiki-Taco Tuesday, with crazy good tacos and rum-forward, authentic drinks served in festive mugs, the Pig has a combo wine/whiskey Wednesday and kill-the-keg Thursday, where $5 pints of selected beers are on tap until the keg exhales its last breath of beer foam. If you’re lucky enough to get the last pour, you win the coveted collectible shirt!
I could go on and on about The Blind Pig, but the ultimate question I hear is, “is it worth the drive to Rancho Santa Margarita?” Although I look forward to its Yorba Linda location coming in 2018, I have to answer with a hearty “yes.” Great food, wine, beer, and cocktails are waiting.
The Blind Pig is at 31431 Santa Margarita Pkwy., Rancho Santa Margarita // theblindpigoc.com