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Restaurant Review
Park Avenue: A 'Gem' Restaurant in Orange County

Friday October 31

Jay Beeler

It is hard to believe that a top-rated Zagat Guide restaurant is just a short, 12-minute drive from East Long Beach in – of all places – the city of Stanton. Yet the Park Avenue Restaurant has been there for almost ten years this coming May and boasts a steady annual growth in customers and sales. It is rated as one of the ten best restaurants in Orange County.

Park Avenue is situated on a five-acre land parcel just south of Katella on Beach Boulevard that was once the Ronnenberg Dairy and the Highway 39 Chicken Pie Shop, which co-owner/partner Clifford Ronnenberg’s family owned. It offers indoor dining for 150, patio dining for 55 and an Italian “il garage” restaurant – a former tractor garage – with seating up to 70 persons.

The classy interior reminds many guests of the mid-1950s fine dining restaurants that would be found in Hollywood, Chicago or on Park Avenue in Manhattan. Cleanliness is evident throughout the restaurant and grounds.

Even more amazing are the planter boxes next to il garage where many of the vegetables are grown for both restaurants, tended to by four staffers among the 55 employees. A well-manicured lawn separates the two facilities and serves as an ideal wedding site for up to 200 guests. It rivals those offered by the wineries surrounding Temecula and at half the cost.

Executive chef and co-owner David Slay serves “creative renditions of classic American cuisine.” He comes from a third generation of restaurateurs with roots in two St. Louis eateries. His father and grandfather were both chefs.

In the early 1980s David received apprentice training at Trois Marches in Versailles and the Beauvillier Restaurant in Paris. Just like the popular 1960s TV show “Beverly Hillbillies,” David, wife Gale and daughter Brittini headed west in 1989 to establish the La Veranda Restaurant in Beverly Hills. Over the next ten years it gained a reputation as one of the Best Gold Medal Restaurants in the United States as David built a name for himself as a restaurateur and “boutique” caterer to the arts and entertainment industry.

Now making a name for himself in Orange County, Chef David is listed in “Best Chefs America.” One of his secrets is keeping things simple; taking traditional foods like steaks and chops, then adding the techniques, spices and sauces that want diners coming back for more. For example, the popular Seared Wild Scallops costing $32 on the menu features grain mustard sauce, butternut squash, corn and pepper bacon succotash.

But David’s favorite foods to prepare are fresh fish from the East Coast and Northern Pacific waters. “A big part of my cooking is simplicity – taking a nice piece of fish and working with really good olive oil, fresh herbs, a citrus of some sort and simply grilling or roasting with leeks from the garden or fresh fennel,” he told one reviewer.

The fruits and vegetables grown in the garden are an excellent source of fresh menu items such as English peas with extra virgin olive oil, feta cheese, shaved radishes, beets with burrata and satsuma marmalade, squash blossoms with ricotta cheese and Italian broccoli puree drizzled with carrot top pesto, garden honey (yes, they maintain bee hives on the property), seared baby artichokes, garlic slivers and rosemary oil.

From just one garden item, the home-grown pomegranate, the kitchen staff creates molasses, sauces, marinades and dressings with a tart-sweet flavor. Park Avenue makes its own sauces, salad dressings, butter, mayonnaise, catsup, breads, desserts and even ice cream from scratch.

David changes his menu to provide variety for repeat customers. He estimates that half of the Park Avenue menu constantly changes, but not the staples in highest demand. Almost half of il garage’s Italian menu features items from the garden.

Park Avenue boasts a full bar, specialty drinks and several hundred affordable bottles of wine. Wineries, such as Zotovich Vineyard in Santa Rita Hills and Dragonette Cellars in Santa Barbara, might be featured at their monthly wine dinners, typically on a Thursday night. Five meal courses with five wine samplings costs $70 per person and accommodates 80-90 people.

The restaurant is open Tuesday through Friday at 11 a.m., Saturday and Sunday at 4 p.m. and closed Monday. It is located at 11200 Beach Blvd., Stanton. Reservations are suggested by calling (714) 901-4400. Learn more at their website: www.parkavedining.com and sign up for their emails on wine tastings and other special offers.

il garage is open year round for dinner and private lunches.
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