It's been 3½ years since Corona del Mar resident Steve Geary opened . It has become a hot spot in town, mostly because it's a nice bridge between fine dining and a local pub.
Chef John Cuevas is a newbie at Crow Bar, coming aboard just six months ago. He was born and raised in San Diego and classically trained in French cuisine. He has worked in such restaurants as the St. Regis in Dana Point, the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach and most recently the Montage in Beverly Hills. Cuevas said he is happy to make the transition from Los Angeles to Orange County life. "The restaurant scene in Beverly Hills is different than O.C. It's very localized for the people of Beverly Hills," Cuevas said. "Here, more people want to try new things. They're a little more adventurous, not so in their box."
Geary and Cuevas are both interested in moving forward and always changing to keep things fresh at the Crow Bar. "John brought us to a completely different level than we were before, which is positive. The reaction from the guests and staff shows that we are reaching new heights," Geary said. "I want to continue to grow, and John has definitely stepped in and taken a giant leap. It's a seamless and successful partnership."
is a romance of , and a comfortable and relaxing neighborhood-like atmosphere.
"The beach mentality is different from the city mentality. People are a little more lax. They have time to sit down and eat. Beverly Hills is suits and ties, O.C. is shorts and flip-flops or All-Star Converse," Cuevas said.
Geary is a businessman who has been involved in real estate consulting and investment for the past 25 years. But his passion for and led him to start his own restaurant.
"Steve is very savvy. He knows what's hot and fresh and allows me to handle it from the kitchen," Cuevas said of his boss. "There's a lot of brainstorming to keep up to snuff in what's trendy, especially in his genre of restaurants."
The restaurant is packed house on a nightly basis; a seat at the bar is like getting a Golden Ticket from Wonka. Another measure of its success: Many Crow Bar-like establishments have opened with the same gastropub concept, such as Sidedoor, A's Restaurant and Haven.
Geary has lived in CDM for more than 10 years and saw a void in the industry. "This space just fell into my lap. As long as I can remember, the places around here had the same menus for the longest time," Geary explained. "Nothing changed. We change things all the time, offering the freshest, seasonal ingredients and the best products."
The daily specials of grilled cheese sandwiches, , tacos and soup are gourmet creations and differ day to day, with updates posted on the Facebook page.
Since Cuevas' arrival, new items have been added to the menu, including new flavors of gourmet burgers.
"The whole burger explosion with fine-dining chefs—they are starting to use the hamburger as a vehicle for almost any type of flavor," said Geary. "It's the quintessential American ethnic food."
Which brings up Geary and Cuevas' next big thing: Crow Burger, scheduled to open at the end of this month on the peninsula. "It's still a gastropub but more burger-centric," Geary said. The idea is for the new space to be like the Crow Bar but smaller and to offer gourmet burgers and the same quality beer list as the CDM location.