The Dish List: Rooster Café

Peter Huynh | New University

Costa Mesa is a strange place. Located within city limits is a cross between a hipster oasis with its independent shops, vegan restaurants and an OC housewives paradise with South Coast Plaza, the largest upscale mall in California. And located across the street from The Lab, an American Apparel outpost, is Rooster Café.

With its brick red trim that spells out “Rooster Café” above the floor to ceiling glass windowpanes, the café is a pretty simple place. Armed with aluminum chairs and tables with kitschy black chalkboards displaying their menu, the place is unassuming — perfectly fitting for its offbeat and business park setting. Rooster Café in Costa Mesa is one of two locations, the other being in Corona del Mar, right on the beach.

Rooster serves breakfast and lunch all day from open to close. After they close at 3 p.m., Rooster Café transforms into Rooster P.M., but let’s save that for another installment of The Dish List.

For this trip to Rooster Café, I was hungry for a simple, lunch-appropriate sandwich, even though their breakfast options looked pretty appealing with items like the Early Riser that featured sourdough bread, fried egg, bacon and American cheese melted to perfection. As tempting as the Early Riser sounded, I settled for the Tuna Melt with melted cheddar cheese and albacore tuna smothered between two pieces of sourdough bread.

“All plates made to order; patience, grasshopper, patience,” reads at the bottom of the menu. Although it took a little while for my sandwich to arrive at the table, the outdoor atmosphere —  reminiscent of LA sidewalks for its industrial surroundings — makes it a nice place to pretend that you’re city slicking in the streets of LA, even though you’re deep in the OC.

The Tuna Melt made me melt. Served on a simple black plate, the sandwich came out hot with the bread toasted to the optimal almond shade. Pouring out the sides of the sandwich was the melted cheddar cheese atop the albacore tuna filling. The combination of the sourdough bread and cheddar cheese made for a deliciously tangy yet rich and satisfying mouthful of cheesy, bready goodness. The albacore tuna filling was a decent filling; however, it would have benefitted from a little more kick to contrast more with the cheddar and sourdough. I found that the filling was lost between the two pieces of bread.

The other lunch items on the menu were Rooster’s take on American classics like the BLTA, with the “A” standing for avocado, snazzing up the good ol’ BLT. The East Coast creation, the hot pastrami, also makes an appearance on Rooster’s menu and satisfies one’s SoCal taste buds with a non-greasy, but just as filling version. The pastrami is thickly sliced and smothered with mustard, which is just like the cheddar and sourdough on the tuna melt, perfectly complements the rye bread that it’s sandwiched in-between.

To drink, Rooster Café serves up a wide variety of offbeat beverages, including Mexican mocha, ice-cold Corona’s and the quintessential morning cocktail, the Mimosa, along with glass bottles of a variety of sodas.

The Mexican mocha was my go-to drink of choice. The chocolate and cinnamon flavors  blended quite nicely it wasn’t too sweet and was surprisingly refreshing when on ice. The only downside though was the price —  $3.25 for a small, teensy plastic glass.

Rooster Café’s menu is short and sweet. The items that come out of the kitchen are simple —  you won’t find any lavish mousses, aiolis or infusions. Rather, you’ll find a purely American and wholly simplistic menu, save for the huevos rancheros, breakfast burritos and tacos, but hey, one can argue that those are American creations. The food at Rooster is like a trendier take on what your dad cooks for breakfast and what your mom packs you for lunch —  no fooling around, simple but made with the utmost care.

Rating: 3.5/5