It’s been quite some time since I last visited Park Ave in Stanton. I remember my three visits very clearly — two birthday celebrations about eight years ago, and a Yelp event. Both birthdays were lackluster, but the Yelp event was a lot of fun. I think the dinners pretty much set the tone for why I never returned again — until now.
A friend of mine invited me to lunch this week. I was embarrassed to tell her it has been way too long since my last visit, and even more embarrassed about why I never returned. However, I’m keeping an open mind especially since I have many friends who absolutely adore this restaurant.
First of all, Park Ave is located in a strange area nestled between trailer parks and motels. The building is in a style prevalent to California during the 1950s and 1960s, and used to house Highway 39 Chicken Pie Shop. The first thing you’ll notice is the Googie architecture, then, once you step inside, you’ll see that the decor retains much of the same design from that bygone era. The booth we are sitting in is slanted, not exactly parallel, to the next booth, which in retrospect, is genius because you’re not sitting directly behind someone else, giving you added privacy while you dine.
The restaurant is packed when I arrive at noon. The hustle and bustle of the dining room emit a festive buzz of people exchanging presents and those enjoying lunch with family and friends.
We begin with two appetizers. PAG Crispy Greens Chard ($14) is a delicious bowl of greens such as chard, spinach, and tatsoi, flash fried so the leaves are crispy. They are then tossed with parmesan, sea salt, and served with a wedge of lemon. Whether you have young picky eaters, or older picky eaters, these crispy vegetables are sure to please. I think I ate most of the bowl.
Today’s Harvest of Beets ($14) includes red beets from the garden, morsels of goat cheese, orange segments, arugula, and candied walnuts. If you are not aware, Park Ave sits on the site of the Ronnenberg Family Dairy, from the 40s, also owner of the chicken pie restaurant. The farm relocated to Temecula years ago, but Chef David Slay utilizes the five-acre land to grow his own produce. If you thought that the “farm-to-table” movement, and having your own garden attached to your restaurant, is something recent, think again! The 11-year-old restaurant is the first in OC (that I know of) to do this!.
For our main course, my eyes gravitate towards Chicken Pie ($18), which I am told this pays homage to Highway 39 Chicken Pie Shop. The original recipe has been passed down to Chef David, so those craving a bit of nostalgia will certainly find this heartwarming. The portion is more than generous. Your server will ask if you want it turned upside down when he presents it, or left the way it is. I ask for it to be turned upside down so I can take a photo of it. When the bowl is placed before me, I see a creamy concoction of chicken, celery, carrots, all sitting atop a flaky chive biscuit crust. It is comfort food at its best, but most importantly, its hearty home-made flavors shine through! I take the remainder home and believe it or not, it is even better the following day.
Our second pick is Slay’s Steak House Sandwich ($20) a hefty sandwich using house-made toasted herb baguette and tender filet mignon, prepared to your perfect temperature. We ask for medium rare. The meat is so juicy and flavorful, with the havarti cheese adding another element of decadence to the mix. You have a choice of sides — I pick French fries. Definitely try the house-made ketchup! It is one of the best I’ve ever had (and I absolutely despise commercial ketchup!)
If you have room for dessert, the Chocolate Olive Oil Cake ($10) is light, but incredibly rich in flavor. Using Callebaut chocolate and Sage Ranch extra virgin olive oil, the cake will not leave you feeling bogged down, even after a big meal. The raspberry coulis is insanely bright and fresh, especially delicious when eaten with the chocolate cake.
I don’t have space for S’Mores Parfait ($10), but I am not able to resist ice cream! Served in an old fashioned ice cream sundae glass, the chocolate ice cream sits on top of marshmallow fluff, interspersed between chocolate sauce. Torched gourmet marshmallow squares and graham crackers provide the finishing touches on top. Sinful, decadent, but oh so delightful, I only managed two bites, but they were REALLY big bites.
I wish I had returned to Park Ave sooner than eight years. I wish I had given them a third chance after the first two mishaps so many years ago. I wish, I wish, I wish! However, to say I’ve a newfound love for this place is an understatement. If you haven’t yet visited Park Ave, please do so. It is a little out of the way unless you live in the area, but who knows? You might fall a little bit in love with it, like I have, even if it took me some time to get there.
11200 Beach Blvd
Stanton, CA 90680