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New at The Camp, Part I: Old Vine Cafe

By Tiffany Montgomery
July 31, 2007 5:29 AM

Old Vine Cafe, at The CampOld Vine Cafe, at The Camp in Costa Mesa


I remember interviewing The Camp founder Shaheen Sadeghi in 2002 when the unusually designed shopping center just opened. Only a few stores were operating, but Shaheen definitely had a vision of how the center would look and feel and evolve.

Some stores and restaurants have come and gone over the years, and last month a spate of new restaurants opened.

Yesterday, I spoke with the owners of two. In both cases, the proprietors are young entrepreneurs working hard to make their dreams a success.

Brothers Brandon and Mark McDonald opened a sweet little space last month at The Camp. It's in the old Village Bakery location next to Aire Global Cuisine.

Brandon and Mark McDonaldBrandon and Mark McDonald

The Huntington Beach-bred McDonalds wanted to create an affordable restaurant for food and wine lovers. And they've poured their heart and soul into the place.

The dining room is small - eight tables inside plus the counter and four outside on the patio. It has a great window that swings open toward the roof which gives the room a nice indoor/outdoor feel. The best part is it looks over a common area of The Camp filled with soaring trees and open space. You'd never know busy Bristol Street was nearby.

The brothers love breakfast, they love wine and they love cheese so they are doing it all. Old Vine serves breakfast, lunch and dinner nearly every day; sells wine and artisan cheeses out of a small retail area; and offers catering.

Old Vine is Brandon and Mark's first restaurant. Mark is executive chef and does most of the cooking. Brandon waits tables and handles the front of the house.

Both started in the business waiting tables. Mark eventually went to culinary school in Laguna Beach and worked at Casa Laguna Inn & Spa. Mark sold his house and headed to Italy for four months last year to study regional Italian cuisine. While he was gone, Brandon, who had worked in the travel and food industries, took over his chef duties at the hotel so Mark would have a job when he returned.

They decided to open their own place and after looking around, settled on The Camp.

"It's nice to be part of something that's out of the box," Brandon said.

The whole McDonald family is helping the restaurant get off the ground. Mom Susan is the major investor and washes her sons work clothes, among other tasks. Little brother Jimmy, 25, waits tables.

Mark and Brandon are spending a lot of time together these days. They work 7 a.m. to midnight five days a week - and they even live together. Mark moved in with Brandon and his wife, Sarah, to save money as the restaurant launches.

"We're like a grumpy old couple," Brandon said. "We can argue, then five minutes later it's forgotten."

Sampling from the menu

Breakfast: BBQ omelet with pulled pork and smoked gouda cheese ($9); blueberry brioche french toast ($7.50); cheese mousse crepe with sweet ricotta cheese mousse ($6.50).

Lunch: porcini mushroom soup ($6); octopus carpaccio tossed with arugula greens and citrus vinaigrette ($11); beef and truffles panini ($13); ahi crisps ($12).

Dinner: current tasting menu, sauteed sea scallop with crispy leeks and tarragon chardonnay sauce; handmade fettuccini pomodoro seasoned with pancetta; four ounces of filet mignon and crispy fried onions with demi cream sauce; artisan cheese, a sliver of cheesecake and fresh berries garnished with honey. $60 per person with wine pairings, $40 without. A la carte menu available as well.

Wines by the glass: $6 to $10.

Bottles: $17 to $102 with lots in the $20 to $30 range.

Old Vine Cafe

2937 Bristol St., Suite A-102



Reservations recommended for dinner; last Friday they turned away 12 potential tables because they were full.

Tomorrow: 118 degrees

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