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Old-school Country Club bar in Costa Mesa opens Tuesday

To stroll into the Country Club is to transport yourself back in time.

Way back.

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The 6,000-square-foot bar and restaurant at 330 E. 17th St. in Costa Mesa takes its design cues from early 1900s Americana. Its owners call it a “time-honored sports club” that celebrates the Great Gatsby-esque world of Prohibition, polo, golf and baseball. The drinks and food put modern twists on classic tastes.

“We just wanted old school,” said Andrew Gabriel, a Newport Beach resident who co-owns the venture with Mario Marovic. “It makes it fun.”

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The Country Club — no membership required, aside being of legal drinking age — is the latest concept from Marovic, who owns the Wild Goose Tavern down the street, as well as Newport Beach’s Dory Deli, Malarky’s Irish Pub and Stag Bar + Kitchen.

The venue replaces Pierce Street Annex, which closed in late 2016 after first opening in the 1970s.

Pierce Street’s 1950s-era building was distinctive for its A-frame structure, an architectural element kept by Marovic’s team.

The Country Club, though, bears virtually no other resemblance, thanks to the help of Costa Mesa-based Hatch Design Group.

Vintage items — an early 1900s catcher’s mitt, polo mallets, old sports trophies, book stacks, lacrosse sticks, photographs of presidents playing golf — line the walls. There’s even suggestive wallpaper in an area call the Annex Bar, a name that plays homage to Pierce Street.

“We scoured everywhere trying to find cool, old, unique things,” Gabriel said. “We didn’t want it to just feel like another O.C. spot.”

“There’s nothing like it in Orange County,” added Marovic.

To make the Country Club, a bar and restaurant in Costa Mesa's Eastside, the 1950s-era building was almost rebuilt. But the structure's distinctive A-frame, background, was kept.
To make the Country Club, a bar and restaurant in Costa Mesa's Eastside, the 1950s-era building was almost rebuilt. But the structure's distinctive A-frame, background, was kept. (Courtesy of the Country Club)

Behind him, a sign relayed a quote from Dean Martin: “If you drink, don’t drive. Don’t even putt.”

The menu is extensive. Highlights include a 42-ounce rib-eye tomahawk, white sea bass and a beets and berry salad (marinated blackberries, roasted baby beets, frisée, avocado and granola). For starters, there’s hamachi tacos (with jicama shell, avocado mousse, pickled jalapeño, lime slaw, micro cilantro and watermelon radish) and crispy octopus (with roasted garlic aioli, crispy potato and preserved lemon).

Shared plates include french fries, macaroni and cheese, crispy Brussels sprouts and charred cauliflower.

At around 75 feet, the Country Club’s bar is one of the longest around. A vintage boxing ring bell is mounted above it.

Some drinks are updated classics, like the Three-Hour Martini, which takes three hours to prepare so the olive can infuse the vodka.

Cocktails include Diamante Dunes (Agua de Cortes, mezcal, Bacardi 8, almond milk, rose, lemon and orange) and the Shinnecock (Eagle Rare bourbon, popcorn-infused Old Fashioned). Custom-made Highballs using house-made syrups are also available, as are a variety of wines and draft beers.

Like Pierce Street, the Country Club will feature live music and dancing, though the focus will be on jazz. There is also an outdoor patio with a fireplace lounge.

The Country Club staged soft openings for about a month, mostly for private parties and fundraisers. The grand opening is Tuesday — Repeal Day when, in 1933, Prohibition ended.

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