Though its name evokes an under-the-radar Prohibition-era speakeasy, The Blind Pig in Rancho Santa Margarita is 100% legit, the ambitious project of Jarryd Graaff and Tony Monaco, 25-year-old entrepreneurs who grew up in nearby Coto de Caza. Before opening last month, the restaurant space was completely remade and redesigned, including its large patio overlooking Lake Rancho Santa Margarita.
“We’re a bar with a restaurant feel,” says co-owner Monaco, and the luxurious, comfortable space, in combination with sophisticated food and handmade cocktails, certainly sets that tone. “We’d like to be a place where people spend the evening, not just eat and go.” Craft beer flights and shareable small plates encourage lingering—and don’t forget that lovely lake view.
Orange County craft cocktail czarina Gabrielle Dion, from Charlie Palmer and Broadway by Amar Santana, created the drink menu, which includes the RSM Sour ($11), with Fighting Cock bourbon and a proper meringue float, and brandy crusta ($11) with Maison Rouge Cognac, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice, and Angostura bitters. (In the photo you can see the sugared glass that gives this cocktail family its name, and contributes a touch of sweetness to this complex, delicious drink.)
Chef Joshua Han, also a member of the Charlie Palmer-Broadway tribe, takes on executive chef duties for the first time at The Blind Pig. He aims for familiar concepts delivered with a new twist, for instance a salad of golden beets, which he likes for their slight bitterness ($9), and sharp cheddar cheese, instead of the usual red beet-blue cheese combination. Blue cheese does appear with the bone marrow ($15), providing a hit of saltiness to complement the unctuous marrow and sweet smoked shallot marmalade.
With the addition of The Blind Pig, the small, lakeside courtyard that’s also home to Carmelita’s and Pizza e Vino is practically becoming a dining district. Something that’s way overdue in this extremely underserved part of O.C.