When its fourth Orange County location opened Thursday, Mendocino Farms did more than merely add a 14th restaurant. The Los Angeles-based mini-chain now has a model for the future with its first store-within-a-store concept, inside Whole Foods Tustin. Since Mendo, as aficionados call it, tends to attract crowds, placing it right up front with its own entrance, next to the also-new Hangar Bar, is good planning—any lines that develop can be managed without impacting separate Whole Foods shopping.
Co-owners Ellen Chen and Mario Del Pero, on hand for the Tustin opening, wonder if the “street cred” the company enjoys in Los Angeles carries over to Orange County customers. I think so! At least, I seem to hear from a lot of local fans. People appreciate the insistence on local and sustainable ingredients, like Drake Family Farms goat cheese and Pitman Farms poultry, and the breads made just for them by Drago Bakery. The Whole Foods relationship, a very simpatico pairing indeed, confers yet more integrity.
As part of the Tustin grand opening, Mendocino Farms is partnering with chef Yvon Goetz of The Winery, a near neighbor at the District. (Goetz’ other Winery is on Newport Beach’s Mariner’s Mile.) For the Mendocino Farms menu, he created a special sandwich that will be available until Sunday, Dec. 4, with all proceeds benefitting Tustin Public Schools Foundation. The $12.95 sandwich hosts multiple luxe layers, starting with Goetz’ famous Zinfandel-braised short ribs, continuing through Swiss cheese, smoked gouda, applewood-smoked bacon lardons, pickled red onions, watercress, and truffle mustard aioli, all on a roll that gets gently subjected to the panini press.
(Photo courtesy Mendocino Farms)