Dining in rock star excess in Fullerton

Jennifer Mur, Orange County Register
February 26, 2009

FULLERTON Ever wonder what a rock star's dream brunch would look like?

Think huge portions of gut-busting comfort foods, barbecued meat and goblets brimming with bottomless mimosas. Tattooed waitresses wearing studded belts and short shorts, pouring more bubbly before your glass gets empty. A lady in sweatpants singing along to Pantera, nearly interpretive dancing by herself at the bar.

I know this is how rockers, shall I say, roll because it's exactly what I experienced during 'Sunday Funday' brunch at The Slidebar Rock-N-Roll Cafe in Fullerton. For $26.94 a piece, four of us grazed on rich (and random) buffet items and sipped cheap bubbly (J. Roget Extra Dry) for nearly 31/2 hours. (Real kids eat for $10.78.)

It's hard to miss the place's rock star roots since they're plastered all over the walls: Signed pictures and instruments from musicians like Adrian Young and Gwen Stefani of No Doubt and Dexter Holland of The Offspring, menus that look like records, tables made of cases for carrying instruments.

Slidebar is co-owned by musician Jeremy Popoff, guitarist of the famous pop rock band Lit, and Fullerton nightclub entrepreneur Sean Francis, who also owns my favorite local bar, The Continental Room. Local bands play packed-house shows at Slidebar some nights. On others, it's smashed-full of young delinquents downing drinks, smoking cigarettes on a massive back patio and hooking up. I've been to the drunkfest once on a late night, and it's not really my scene, so I was skeptical when I heard the food here was actually good.

Executive chef Walter Rowin has a solid resume. (He plays the drums too!) The Garden Grove native has risen through the culinary ranks by cooking for stars such as Christina Aguilera, Barbra Streisand and Gavin Rossdale.

His menu at Slidebar is a playground for adults — comfort foods mixed with refined selections — all of which include that add that extra dollop of sour cream, gooey mass of cheese or sugary topping your mom would never let you have as a kid.

Our brunch group splits up for round one of the buffet, and I head straight for a table packed with foods I'd love to eat individually, but maybe not together: French toast sticks we used to eat with our fingers at Carl's Jr. as a kid, shredded pork in chile verde sauce, eggs Benedict.

I scoop a hunk of thick mac n' cheese onto my plate, grab a couple strips of bacon, and heap on some shredded meat before moving over to the omelet station. I'm excited I can choose chorizo as one of the ingredients, and I order my eggs well cooked and packed full with the salty sausage, onions, green and red peppers and cheese. A scoop of sour cream and salsa later, and I'm ready to eat.

Most notable on my plate is the mac n' cheese — a heavy blend of Fontina, cheddar, Velveeta, Jack and Parmesan-lookalike Grana Padano mixed together with cream. Topped with Panko breading, these elbow noodles ranked among the best macaroni and cheese dishes in Orange County in a Register review last year. Each bite coats my mouth in a rich, creamy film that immediately ignites a craving for another.

Nothing else on my plate shines, although it's definitely good enough to keep eating.

So for round two, I sneak in another cheesy scoop before heading outside to choose from my options on the grill: Tri tip, polish sausage and salmon. The tri-tip is juicy and tastes best, you guessed it, coated in mac n' cheese sauce.

But the salmon is way undercooked and tepid — a disappointing end to a really enjoyable brunch.

Menus for Sunday Funday (from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) say the barbecue includes carne asada and that build your own breakfast burritos are available. I'm bummed those options weren't there during our meal.

For dinner, Slidebar is a surprisingly mellow hangout for an after-work meal. And the menu is an interesting, satisfying mix. There's a grilled cilantro and ginger marinated swordfish ($25), pepperoni pizza Panini ($8), a Danish Blue Cheese Burger ($12) and Portobello mushroom ravioli ($11).

I love the Irish nachos ($9), a greasy bar food classic with a smoky twist. Thick French fries come smothered in melted cheddar and jack cheeses, applewood smoked bacon and green onions. Ranch dressing is on the side for dipping.

Also interesting (although I haven't tried it yet) are the deep-fried pickle ($8.50) and the crab and shrimp taquitos ($13).

"Your mom's beef stroganoff" — yes that's what they call it — is made with sliced filet mignon and mushrooms. For $16.50, you get a rich, beefy bowl of pasta topped with a mound of sour cream that's coated in grated Parmesan cheese. It's a solid dish and feels like a solid brick in your stomach if you manage to eat much of it. That might be because of the noodles, which are thick and dense. I wish this would have been made with light, homemade fettuccini noodles like the ones I crave from Old Vine Caf�.

While hyperbole fits in well with the rock star theme, I've got to disagree that the meatloaf is the world's best. We ordered it on the meatloaf sandwich ($10), topped with mushroom-sage sauce, caramelized onions and saut�ed mushrooms on a French roll. The mushrooms and meatloaf created a deep, satisfying flavor. I prefer my grandma's sweeter version. The abundant juices make this meatloaf sandwich messy eating.

I couldn't leave without trying one of the most impressive creations in excess I've seen on a dessert menu: The Whammy Bar ($7). Talk about living the dream, or living on the edge, or living wherever else rock stars like to live.

Chocolate chip cookie dough is sandwiched between two thick brownies then dipped in funnel cake batter. As if that's not enough, there's a heap of vanilla bean ice cream on top, drizzled with raspberry and chocolate sauce.

Um, yum.