A venerable downtown Fullerton restaurant has changed hands, but the new owners know the place — and the area food scene — well.
Ryan and Brianne Dudley have purchased Cafe Hidalgo in the historic Villa del Sol complex along Harbor Boulevard and renamed it Hidalgo’s Cocina & Cócteles.
The Dudleys are familiar faces. The couple own The Cellar next door, a venue celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. And Ryan tended bar when the original Cafe Hidalgo opened in 1997.
“With a new cocktail program, new menu, a specific vision and some very hard work, we feel we achieved our goal to create a new energy but bring the old vibe back of an era long gone,” the Dudleys said in an email.
Under the Dudleys’ ownership, Hidalgo’s is narrowing its broader Latin food theme to focus in on Mexican fare. Its chicken and cheese enchiladas are real standouts on the new menu. They contain a spicy mix of chicken, four cheeses and guajillo sauce topped by pico de gallo, scallion queso fresco and crema. Don’t forget to try the bacon-wrapped shrimp with goat cheese, honey, chimichurri and manzano sauce.
Behind the bar is Dustin Adams, who OCWeekly named Orange County’s top bartender. Adams’ menu focuses on tequila and mezcal drinks mixed with house-made syrups. The bartenders are so exacting that they don’t let the ingredients touch plastic, which can alter flavor.
I recommend the Head Ancho (pineapple, lime, ancho chili, habañero, blanco tequila) and La Luna (blackberry, lemon, Mayan honey, grapefruit and mezcal).
As a venue, Hidalgo’s is charming. The Villa del Sol complex is a beautiful example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture that dates to the 1920s. Hidalgo’s has been extensively remodeled with fresh interior paint, new furniture and kitchen equipment and a remade bar, as well as a newly landscaped back patio.
“You definitely feel the history from the building while you are in our courtyard, as well as when you are in the restaurant,” the Dudleys said. “The Spanish architecture plays really well with the vibe we were thriving to bring back.”
Return visit to CdM in Newport Beach
I recently returned to CdM restaurant in Corona del Mar, the “Creative American” establishment newly opened by the folks behind A Restaurant along nearby Mariner’s Mile. I had visited in February when the place was still under construction and chef Jonathan Blackford’s menu was still being figured out.
Now they’re cooking and handling the crowds, which, like me, have noticed what an amazing place this is.
I highly recommend starting with the Parker House rolls (with beurre de baratte, whipped A5 tallow and fleur de sel) and the Morsel + Peas (an anson mills polenta with creme fraiche, fines herbes and topped with a fried egg).
I particularly enjoyed the Fancy Pizza, an amazing pie topped with mozzarella, ricotta, potato, mushrooms, roasted garlic, truffle and arugula.
When it comes to drinks, CdM offers an expansive selection of craft concoctions, served at the ground-level restaurant and in the vintage-themed, super-cozy bar downstairs.
Be sure to try the hometown-inspired Tower #5 (Appleton Estate rum, Liquid Alchemist raspberry syrup, pineapple juice, fresh lime juice and Myer’s dark rum).
If You Go
Where: Hidalgo's Cocina & Cócteles, 305 N. Harbor Blvd., Suite 111, Fullerton
Hours: Saturday and Sunday Brunch, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Monday through Friday lunch, starting at 11:30 a.m.; dinner daily at 5 p.m.; daily happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m.
Where: CdM, 2325 E. Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar
Hours: Dinner daily, starting at 5 p.m.
Bradley Zint writes about food for TimesOC. Follow him on Twitter at @bradleyzint