Back in May, Los Angeles-based Mendocino Farms planted its first O.C. location in the middle of Costa Mesa’s restaurant row. Mendo, as it’s known to its legion of fans, inhabits half of a sort of duplex shared with Starbucks—an excellent strategic position for a restaurant that doesn’t serve coffee, instead encouraging its customers to visit the specialist for an espresso or Frappucino.
Oh, there are beverages at Mendocino Farms, of course—real-sugar sodas, lemonade, and brewed iced teas, but what everybody’s there for is proprietary, well-crafted sandwiches and salads, everything made from scratch with named-provenance ingredients.
Recently, what a lot of them are ordering is pastrami. And not just any old brined-and-smoked brisket, but one Mendocino makes itself in its West Hollywood commissary, inspired by the artisanal meats of third-wave delis like San Francisco’s Wise Sons. It might be the smokiest pastrami I’ve ever tasted, sandwiched on slices of classic, crusty rye baked by Drago Bakery, as are all their breads. Rye is a difficult bread to get just right, and this one is very very good, nicely supporting thick, hand-cut slices of pastrami topped with cabbage-apple coleslaw and Swiss cheese ($13.95), with ultra-tangy “Moppin’ Mustard” sauce on the side. In the world of pastrami sandwiches, where fans are more like fanatics, it is definitely a contender.
The company is building a full-sized smokehouse, and pastrami’s not the only thing benefiting from long hours over a pecan-wood fire—at the moment the seasonal fall menu includes a smoked turkey sandwich on a pretzel roll ($9.85), too.