Jeff Smith noon, March 8
Please come to San Diego, Iron Press.
Orange County waffle sandwich restaurant is doing it right, so why not come to San Diego?
So, I was in Costa Mesa last weekend and I just happened to notice the Iron Press (3321 Hyland Ave, 714-426-8088). Installed in a bourgeois, OC mall and surrounded by corporate offices on all sides, it’s not like the restaurant picked a scenic locale. Still, the phrase “waffles and beer” drew me in like a moth to the firelight.
How to describe? Think Box’d meets Roscoe’s meets Blind Lady. They have the “waffle sandwich” thing perfectly worked out, but they’re not scared to fill them with fried chicken or smother with gravy. In addition, 30 taps of tasty brews and a ridiculously friendly bartender to pour them. Maybe they know something up in Orange County that we in SD don’t; something about how being a bartender doesn’t mean you get to scowl at people like the king of the hop-sniffers.
What can I say, it’s nice to feel welcome.
And the sandwiches were mighty fine. I tried one loaded up with fried chicken, cole slaw, and drenched (by me) with jalapeno maple syrup. Heck yes. An amazing mix of sweet, spicy, and salty. The waffle was conventionally American (not the ultra-crispy gaufrette or the yeasty Liege waffle), which made me think of my college dining hall on weekend mornings. That’s not the worst memory to raise.
“Is this a franchise or chain?” I asked the girl who served me.
“No. This is it,” she said.
“Well, are there plans for expansion? I’m here from San Diego and I’d love to hear that this is moving south!”
“No,” she replied. “We’re opening one in LA though.”
Damn. Damn. Orange County invents something awesome and they export it up to LA, where nobody will appreciate it. Why can’t we get a taste of the waffley goodness, OC? I promise we’ll embrace Iron Press with open arms. How about, instead of sending south some overwrought Hash House spin-offs, Orange County shares Iron Press and some of the other cool spots I hear about from time to time through the grapevine? I know there is talent and a few bright ideas up there, hiding behind the In ‘n’ Outs and Cheesecake Factories.