Wednesday, December 26, 2007

JT Schmid's - Tustin

A lunch and dinner later, this is what I've summed it up as.

(Cheesecake Factory + BJ's Brewhouse) - (cheesecakes galore + deep dish pizza) + (spacious parking + outdoor fire pit) = JT Schmid's at The District.

A two location mini-chain, I've never been inclined to stop by the one near the Pond/Angel Stadium. Only one person has ever mentioned it to me. I had no opinion whatsoever. Then I found it so convenient to the homefront it was, as George McFly would say, density.

Visit number one was last month, right before the lunchtime rush. We are ushered to the side dining room. Away from the bar, we are able to carry on a casual conversation over the din of the flat screens. We relaxed into our suede-like booths with croc textured leatheresque seats. I am pleased by the breadth of their menu. I ask our server to guide us through the most popular selections. He decides on a salad/sandwich combo, while I salivate over their mac and cheese (which is nowhere to be found online).

Our platters arrive, and we break from our chat to satiate ourselves . His simple yet satisfying meal includes a Caesar plus half a chicken sandwich. My pasta incorporates radiatore, chicken, tomato, parmesan, bechamel, and bacon. Mmmmm....bacon. It was a hearty meal indeed. As we wrap up, I notice the tables around us filling up.

My most recent visit was this afternoon. Having just driven 400 miles (ok, he drove), we weren't in the mood to stray far from home. From the rental place, I motor us over there in about five minutes. It's about 4:15 and again, few tables are occupied. However, it's rather early to be eating dinner.

This time we are tucked into a massive booth with a landscape view of the main dining area. I have a great peoplewatching vantage point, and we are beneath an engaging ESPN competition of World's Strongest Man. Vicki is our server, and she mistakes Jack's two beverage requests as ordering for both of us. I can see how that can be interpreted, but I think it's the first time it's actually acted upon. She walks away while I take the opportunity to scan the drink list. Besides the beer and wine options, I spot the strawberry lemonade he ordered plus a regular and decaf iced tea (or was that regular?). Tea isn't normally listed like that, so I'm slightly thrown off.

We tend to order differently than most. There's his choice, my choice, and our choice. We order 1.5 meals between the two of us. 'Our' choice is something we are both leaning towards, but can't quite commit an entire entree to. His choice is the honey almond chicken. My choice is the barbecue chopped salad, and our choice is the buffalo burger. We can't wait.

The Muzak overhead bellows out U2, Kelly Clarkson, and other pop standards. My Arnold Palmer and his strawberry lemonade arrive but taste rather bland. Turns out the lemonade is running thin, and Vicki not only replaces but comps our drinks. In addition, she slides across some bread plates for rolls and butter. As our entrees arrive, we jump in with gusto.

My salad features field greens, feta, and tortilla strips (the one at BJ's includes black beans, romaine, jicama, and mozzarella) and has a larger chop. This particular blend of ingredients goes well with the BBQ/ranch blend. His tempura battered and honey coated pieces are sprinkled with slivered nuts. I believe his exact words were "It's like the orange chicken at Cheesecake, only better". Our buffalo was cooked medium, as requested. But you know, in hindsight I don't recall tasting the jack cheese nor the roasted red pepper mayo. He concurred. The sweet potato fries that accompanied were nice, but I am still loyal to the ones newly discovered at The Counter in Irvine (with horseradish mayo, please).

Vicki made a point of checking in with us periodically, but when we were ready to pay the cheque, she was nowhere to be found. We learned later that a crash of glass heard earlier was a beer mishap that ended up on her uniform. It was just one of those days, I suppose.

I wouldn't hesitate to go back here again, for the menu is agreeable and the accessibility very driver-friendly. It's a nice change of pace when claim jumping, factory hopping, and deep dishing just aren't cutting it.

JT Schmid's Restaurant and Brewery
2415 Park Avenue
714.258.0333 (you can also book on OpenTable.com)
http://www.jtschmids.com/

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