The 12-ounce prime flatiron steak was like butter. OK, a slightly chewier version of butter, but tender and perfectly cooked. It was offered on the menu with cajun seasoning, but if a steak is good, then it should stand on its own. The staff seemed puzzled, but accommodating, when I said I wanted the steak without the seasoning.
I was eating a larger-than-usual lunch later than usual because I was going to a sporting event that night. Needless to say, no matter how much you like ballpark food, you're better off eating before the game and somewhere else. The steak did the trick, but there was time to spare between the end of lunch and the first pitch. What to do?
I know you've already figured this out, but you have lunch at a cigar-friendly restaurant. Now, in Southern California, like many places around the country, that's not easy to do, but The Winery in Tustin does provide a very comfortable patio on which to enjoy not only a cigar after lunch, but lunch also should you want to smoke while eating.
The Winery is a restaurant in the heart of Orange County (located in The District shopping center), where you can order one of four prime steaks ranging in size from eight to 18 ounces. Some dressed-up versions of classic steakhouse side dishes are also available. The spinach is sautéed with garlic and roasted almonds; the Brussels sprouts have crispy pork belly bits tagging along. Mashed potatoes are dotted with black truffle. You get the idea. The steaks are very good, but at one dinner I had scallops and shrimp on a bed of risotto. The scallops and shrimp, particularly the scallops, were large and perfectly cooked; the risotto a little gummy.
The Winery does not bill itself as a steakhouse and that is correct. Nor does it call itself a cigar bar, but does title the cigar patio the "Havana Room." There are a half-dozen cigars in the restaurant's humidor covering most strengths, but not a lot of geography. An Ashton Classic Magnum sells for $24; an Avo Heritage Robusto is $22; and a Rocky Patel Edge Torpedo is $12.
I told the bartender I'd like to sit on the patio and have a double espresso and do a little work. He was enthusiastic about offering me a cigar, but I had my own with me. You should have no trouble finding a suitable Scotch, Bourbon or rum to sip with your smoke.
The Winery is a multi-year recipient of Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence, most recently being recognized in 2012. The wine list itself is extensive, more than 30 pages, and fairly priced, with a good number of half- and large-format bottles. Understandably, the list is heavy on California wines, but includes many that are difficult to find in other restaurants. I liked seeing two Turley Zinfandels on the list, as well as the David Arthur "Meritaggio." Also available are five Spanish wines from Vega Sicilia, one of my favorites, and a large Tuscan red inventory.
The décor is that of a formal restaurant, but The Winery is not a stuffy place. The restaurant counts a former Los Angeles Angels baseball player among its partners and sports pictures populate the walls along with large wine bottles and awards certificates.
The Winery recently opened a second location, this one with a view of the ocean in Newport Beach. More on that one soon. For the time being, add the location in Tustin to your cigar-friendly sanctuaries in Southern California.
Alejandro Benes lives and writes in Southern California
The Winery, Tustin
2647 Park Ave.
Monday through Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Saturday: 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Sunday: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
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