The Next Bright Culinary Star Emerges in Orange County
For experiential dining try Journeyman’s Food + Drink
If you’re like me, if you don’t have a personal recommendation for a restaurant, you like to Google or Yelp a restaurant before you book your table. Doesn’t matter if you’re a local, a newcomer, or a visitor. A spin around the Internet can give you some basic 411 about the restaurant, chef, location and décor.
I have a recommendation for you. Journeyman’s Food + Drink in Orange County. You won’t find it in Old Town. You won’t find it on restaurant row. You will find it in an independent hotel in Fullerton. It seems Fullerton is the setting for some of Orange County’s boldest next-level cuisine. Who knew?
You will find it lodged between the 91 Freeway and an industrial neighborhood near an abandoned rail line. It is located in The Hotel Fullerton which I know seems an unlikely spot for a restaurant – especially one that is on the precipice of challenging where we may think an extraordinary restaurant has to be located to succeed and survive. But have no fear, if you’re looking for an authentically new experience in dining, this would be it.
Journeyman’s is not cheap, but it is priced moderately for what you get. It has a zen quality about it. Its food is new and explosively unique. Bring an open mind, this is a prix-fixed menu. Step out of your car (plenty of parking). Walk to the impressive entrance. A greenery-lined pathway leads to an interior of dark woods with Asian undertones. If you judge a restaurant by the bar it keeps, you’ve hit a home run. The sleek bar takes up an entire wall. It’s big, it’s a show point, but it does not entirely define this place. Really the chef and his food does.
Make sure you ask to meet executive chef Zach Geerson. He practically lives there as he fine tunes what will best showcase his skill and passion to create unforgettable culinary moments. His seasonally (and occasionally daily and weekly) changing prix-fixe menu is probably best described as part deconstruction, part intuitive experimental technique. I think you’ll like that the plates are all about the composition and presentation. This is really a meal that is all about the experience of seeing what Chef has designed for you tonight. I enjoyed listening to the “ooh’s and ahh’s” of fellow diners. Take the time to discuss what you love and how the menu might exceed your expectations. Definitely choose the wine-pairing option. The staff is uber determined to bring you the best along – with the unexpected- through their selections. Wines are unique with an emphasis on small lot picks.
With the amount of grace and expertise Chef Zach Geerson brings to each menu selection, I was expecting to read a long detailed bio that would share a far reaching gourmet background. Not so much. He didn’t exactly grow up on five-star gourmet fare. He tells of cooking steaks until they had a consistency of leather. His first restaurant job was as a dishwasher at Cru in Ft. Myers, Florida. The first time Chef had a steak prepared properly was when another chef grilled him a steak without any seasonings, took it off the fire and let it rest. With sprinkled some fleur de sel on it, it was a life changing moment for him – and most likely for the rest of us.
Journeyman’s is open five nights a week, so check the website for correct days and times. Since the menu changes regularly, I hesitate to go on and on about what I ate and what to recommend. This is your experience, your moment of culinary wonder. As I said, meet the chef, talk to your waiter and go from there. I WILL say if a dish contains fresh Salmon, lamb or Pana Cota…consider it. Just saying.
27-year-old Zach Geerson, who was once a dancer and street artist is all that and more. This is your chance to see a star being born. His hands bear tattoos of “LOVE” and “FOOD. Why? Because he considers them to be the two main super powers in his culinary world. No kidding.
Did I mention Journeyman’s Food + Drink was named as one of Gayot’s 2019 Best New Restaurants in Orange County (CA)? They deserve it. It was also Orange Coast Magazine’s Restaurant of the Year in their just out Best New Restaurants issue.
ADD WINE PAIRINGS 50/PP
ADD WINE PAIRINGS 75/PP
Call 714 635-9000 to make your reservation.
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Photos by Allan D. Kissam
This reviewer was hosted by the owners of Journeyman’s, however the review was based not on the kindness of the hosts, but on the spectacular food and service provided by Chef Zach and his staff.