Photos by CJ Parel
I’ll start with a little disclaimer. Although The Crosby in Santa Ana’s Artists Village may be the only restaurant / bar / gallery / late night drinking den I’ve been to in Orange County, it’s my number one spot. I’m a fanboy. It’s everything you could want and way, way more. Co-owned by my good friend Chris Alfaro aka the music producer and visual artist Free The Robots, two-years-ago Chris invited myself and label cohorts at Earnest Endeavours - Tom McCarthy and Alex Stevenson - to eat, drink, be merry, kill our jetlag and DJ at The Crosby for one of their famed OBEY Radio parties. It blew my mind that this young crew of artistic reprobates that included Chris and his partners Phil Nisco and Mark Yamaoka, whilst working at the now defunct Subject Matter gallery, knew they needed to go it alone and went out and did just that. And after a year of scheming at the gallery, they opened what would be their own award-winning restaurant with another crazily young, super talented multi-tasker, head chef Aron Habiger.
“With the way things were run at Subject Matter we knew things couldn’t continue,” explained Chris. “For the last year of working there, everyday was spent doing research, brainstorming ideas, going to happy hour, skating and somehow, out of all the mess, and the endless Acid-9 ideas, everything fell into place.”
That night we ate so good. Aron’s gone on to create a wild menu that’s constantly on the roll, but that night I’ll admit that night we went in on their late night menu and we filled up on American comfort food. We’d just landed after a long flight from London to Los Angeles, add to that the hour-and-a-bit drive from LA to The OC and all we wanted to devour was a mountain of table mac, insane sweet potato vegetarian chili fries and a burger that burnt the burger bible to ashes. A blasphemous slap in the face of the simple meat-and-salt-patty combo everyone seems to swear by, The Crosby burger ground a ton of seasonings and spices into their meat and topped it with a fried egg.
They guys were only 26 when they opened. “We built the place from the ground up and did a huge amount of the day and night labour ourselves,” said Chris. “Trying to juggle construction, permits, zoning, food and liquor licenses and the million other things you need to open a restaurant, while getting the run around by the city, was pretty intense. The restaurant industry is known to be one of the toughest businesses to get in to. And doing something this unorthodox in Orange County was very risky. Somehow we pulled through it, and were still going strong.”
Fast forward two years and The Crosby has just celebrated their fourth birthday, and are currently developing their new OC restaurant, The Grilled Cheese Spot and will be penning an upcoming guest column for On Plate, Still Hungry to document and give you a proper, inside man view of starting a spot from scratch to success.
by Terence Teh