Bites: Fountain Valley’s Recess Room

Five boys who played handball on a Fountain Valley school playground three decades ago and became lifelong friends have reconvened for another activity—launching a restaurant in their hometown. They gave the former Coco’s space subtle design touches inspired by their youth: a ceiling over the bar that resembles a 1960s redwood basketball floor and a planned chain curtain to mimic playground swings. Their ethos extends to chef Sergioivan Ortega (Social, Arc), who offers a playful menu of “Modern American tapas” including beef-tendon chicharrones, bone-marrow mac and cheese, double-decker mahi-mahi tacos, and veal dumpling, above—not to mention seriously good blue-crab beignets and elaborate Japanese-style skirt steak. There is an on-site herb garden, and the bar program features whiskey lockers and 24 craft beers on tap. Mixologist Carlo Navarro hails from luxury Las Vegas hotels. 18380 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, 714-377-0398,

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