Try brunch, cocktails and a new dinner menu at Outpost Kitchen


Aussie scramble, steak and egg skillet and deviled eggs. Photographs by Emily J. Davis

When the indie, laid-back Outpost Kitchen expanded to its second location, a sunny location on Bristol Street, the neighborhood was buzzing. Performing arts stages had full hours, South Coast Plaza stores had record sales, and the surrounding office towers were full of security workers. It all came to a halt within a week in March 2020, and founder Jay Lewis saw his thriving target market disappear while the paint was still wet on the parking lot lines.

While relaxing over jazzy cocktails during dinner on the terrace in May, I realized that the venue’s aborted grand opening was actually a revival now in its third year. Finally, dinner is served – a first for this brand praised for its clean meals with an Australian accent. Lewis seduced Westside Costa Mesa in 2015 when locals fell in love with the vibrant food inspired by his roots in the Gold Coast surf town.

Expanding on five successful years made perfect sense. Until it doesn’t. To survive the pandemic, both venues had to take careful steps to reopen with breakfast. Now the shiny new site is serving dinner to go along with its breakfast, lunch, and brunch. It’s here that Lewis and his longtime executive chef, David Osborn, have the infrastructure to elevate the offerings — think lunchtime burgers, steak dinners and all-day cocktails.

The Fried Egg Brekky Sandwich I’ve loved for years tastes even better when paired with Bloody Mary Howling Wolf Bone Broth. The ever-popular blueberry pancakes, light as a feather and gluten-free, call for a fizzy pear kombucha with coconut bitters. Gunwhale Golden Ale suits the hearty Glitter & Gold skillet with eggs, mashed potatoes and spinach, and plant-based sausages. An excellent toast of scruffy country bread rides a shotgun – the same bread reappears in an avocado toast with feta and sassy peppadew relish.

Lunch choices are mostly variations of a sandwich, like wraps, tacos, and a burger. Lamb braised 48 hours and cut into tender slices is the heart of The Kingswood, a satisfying ciabatta stack with harissa pesto, goat cheese and arugula. The Chicken Pesto Sandwich is a yawn compared to the sultry Tantra Wrap – plump with curried grilled white meat, cashews, dates, red onion and umami mayonnaise. Captains Ahi Wrap is also a winner, dressed in lemon, dill and greens that make the fresh tuna shine. Date Mate salad is a mainstay at Outpost because the magical blend of Medjool dates, chicken breast, goat cheese, pecans and kale is unmatched in these regions.

“Always striving for the best in the world” is the credo behind Lewis’ insistence on local, organic and sustainable food. And that’s just the start of a scratch kitchen that takes it a step further by preparing every little thing in-house: chutneys, jams, cold-pressed juices, pickles, syrups and infusions. There’s no freezer here: everything is fresh, and Lewis reports that deliveries are made twice a day. A dozen creative smoothies, bowls and juice mixes cater to every whim and fancy. If Looks Could Kale wins the eyeroll award for corniest name. But cheeky, light notes convey the Aussie charm of this breezy operation. The plates are often pink. A printed cocktail napkin has a lip print and “Call Me” scrawled above the logo. A pint glass declares “Nectar of the Gods”.

Dinner service was still finding its marks on several visits in May. The menu is stripped of daylight offerings, though drink options remain plentiful. The seasonal cocktails are superb, so consider starting there or with a draft beer from an admirably 100% local list. Garlic hummus under veal meatballs is the best of a list of four entrees, unless squeaky fresh oysters are your jam. Ask for the tangy mac and cheese side dish for a sneaky workaround. The buttery Chilean sea bass is expertly cooked, with a pan sauce of oaky maitakes. It’s tastier than Pacific halibut and more delicate than rich, wild-caught king salmon. A succulent 12-ounce Kurobuta pork chop with a honey-maple sauce is packed with rich flavor. Grass-fed ribeye steak looks lean and clean. For the herbivores, there’s a center-cut roasted cauliflower steak. For dessert, a passable apple strudel has one big flaw: it’s the only dessert. Apart from the after dinner Negroni.

A close up of Jay’s Burger.

Obviously dinner is new and the least realized meal here. Locals don’t know yet, so kindly waiters have time to spoil you, unlike brunch where service can be stretched. The pandemic recovery is wobbly on many fronts and will progress at an unknown pace. As the South Coast metro area wakes up to its next normal, it’s heartening to see that the brave Outpost Kitchen has prevailed against formidable odds.


Outpost Kitchen

3420 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa, 714-852-3044

PRICES

Lunch/dinner/brunch: $9 to $26

Dinner: $12 to $44

BEST MOUTHS

  • Blueberry pancakes
  • The Kingswood
  • Maté salad with dates
  • Kurobuta Pork Chop
  • Hummus & meatballs

FOR YOUR INFORMATION

The corkage fee is $25.


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