Last Tuesday, November 15th marked the soft opening of Downtown Santa Ana’s hottest new restaurant, The Playground. Located in the heart of Santa Ana’s latest up-and-coming area, the East End Promenade (across from the Yost Theater), The Playground is taking the notion of ‘pub food’ to an entirely new level, dazzling diners with out-of-this-world cuisine.

As The Playground’s Owner & Executive Chef, Jason Quinn puts it, the vision for his menu was simple: “New American small plates. Ingredient-driven. Technique-driven. One great burger, epic chicken wings, delicious pork belly, awesome vegetable preparations, sous-vide hanger steak, interesting flavor combinations.” And, together with his team of insanely-talented, young chefs (Brad Radack, Frank Deloach, Karl Pfleider and April Ventura), this vision has quickly become a mind-blowing, delicious reality.

And, food is only part of the story at The Playground.  Beer-lovers, brace yourselves. With the help of Jarred Dooley, one of approximately 200 Certified Cicerones (a.k.a., Master Beer Sommeliers), The Playground boasts a world-class craft beer list with 15 rotating beers on tap and a 60+ bottle list — needless to say, there’s a little bit of something for everyone. And, in the spirit equality, all draft beers are $5, all the time. They simply come in 15, 11 or 8-ounce pours, depending on cost and alcohol content – but, no matter what, are always 5 bucks. Gotta love that!

A mind-boggling craft beer list consisting of 15 rotating beers on-tap and 60+ bottled beers

On Tuesday, November 15th The Playground opened their doors to family & friends for an evening of menu tasting and celebration, and I was there to capture some behind-the-scenes action both on the dining room floor and inside the kitchen. Below, feast your eyes on a small visual taste of what The Playground menu has to offer. Then, be sure to come out & ‘play’ next time you’re in Santa Ana – I promise, even if you don’t live locally, it’s worth the trip!… Hope to see you all there soon!

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Left: Pre-opening, the staff of The Playground samples the menu;  Right: Jason Quinn describes the menu to staff
Shishito Peppers and Edamame;  As the Soy-Sambai sauce reaches caramelization
Shishito Peppers and Edamame served in a Soy-Sambai Caramel
A colorful assortment of house-made pickles
Kurobuta Pork Belly Individual Piadina sandwich with Charred Scallion Crema and Salsa Tigre
Left: Jason Quinn expediting with Brad Radak in the Kitchen;  Right: Karl Pfleider & Brad Radack workin’ their magic
Hands-down the best cheeseburger I’ve ever eaten in my life. Ever.  50% Wagyu Beef / 50% Eye of the Round, 60-40 meat-to-fat ratio, ground fresh on-site daily. Served with Torchon Foie Gras, Tomme de Savioe Cheese, Maple Bourbon Caramelized Onions and Baby Arugula. This Cheeseburger = Heaven on a Plate.
Hand-cut fries served atop Green Tabasco Aioli, sprinkled with…. BACON FAT POWDER. Yesssss.
Left: Brad Radack, Karl Pfleider & Frank Deloach;  Right: Brad Radack
Prime 6-Ounce Hangar Steak with creamed spinach and garlic chips – This steak is cooked a perfect medium-rare and is so tender, it melts in your mouth like butta’
One of the coolest, most interactive items on the menu, “Our Bread, Your Butter” – just shake the mason jar and the marbles inside turn the cream into fresh, salty, perfectly-handmade butter after 40 seconds of shaking
Left: Frank Deloach;  Right: Jason Quinn expedites
Karl Pfleider & Frank Deloach, kickin’ a** & takin’ names
Handmade Lemon Ricotta Gnocchi in Mushroom Ragu (yep – even the Ricotta is made in-house!)
Frank Deloach & Brad Radack, turnin’ up the heat in The Playground kitchen
Orange Jidori Chicken Wings with fried rice; Jidori is the Japanese term that literally means “Chicken of the Earth”  – a.k.a. vegetarian-fed, free-range chicken that is delivered within 24 hours of slaughter, guaranteeing its freshness. So fresh & bacteria-free, you could eat it raw. (Not that you have to – but, you could!)
Brussels Sprouts with Prosciutto di Parma and a whole-grain mustard vinaigrette
Left: Jason Quinn;  Right: Karl Pfleider
PEI Mussels with white wine, crema, perfectly-caramelized onions and plenty of thick toast for dipping
Left: April Ventura;  Right: Brad Radack
Desserts by Black Market Bakery.   Left: Thanksgiving Woopie Pie;  Right: Farmers Daughter Pudding