Hidden Gem: Rustic, California Cuisine at Arroyo Trabuco is a Can’t Miss
“I like to think of us as a restaurant at a golf course, as opposed to a golf course restaurant.”
The above quote is how Chef Jeff Platt describes his restaurant, O’Neill’s Bar & Grill at Arroyo Trabuco GC in Mission Viejo. And nothing could be closer to the truth. O’Neill’s boasts everything about a golf course eatery you love: proximity to golf, spectacular views and food and beer. But what’s even better is that O’Neill’s could very well be a standalone restaurant, not sacrificing quality of food and a diverse menu for convenience.
“I really try for a casual, California ranch cuisine,” says Platt. “We have a slight emphasis on upscale BBQ, but also play around with the menu on a regular basis and make changes. It keeps it interesting for our repeat guests.”
What he’s doing is clearly working; O’Neill’s has become a go-to spot for Arroyo Trabuco golfers as well as the local community just looking for a dinner spot. Recently, the establishment was ranked as the No. 2 19th Hole in all of Southern California by SCGA members.
So what makes O’Neill’s stand out? Upon entrance, it’s the ambiance. Just minutes away from the heart of Mission Viejo, driving onto the property at Arroyo Trabuco makes you feel like you’re well away from the busy-ness of Orange County. It’s tranquil, and the design and architecture of O’Neill’s enhances that, with a rustic feel inside and a serene outdoor patio overlooking a lake.
But it’s the menu and food that keeps you coming back for more.
“We have a lot of businessmen and women who are taking clients out to play golf here,” says Platt. “They are looking for a nice meal afterwards, and we want to keep them here, as opposed to having them leave to go to a steakhouse or something like that. Plus, I’d put our steak up against any other!”
He’s right. On a recent visit we indulged on the Double R Ranch Filet Mignon, which was served with sautéed root vegetables and sage, herb butter. It was as good as any we’d had elsewhere, and only $32, a steal for that quality of meat which, by the way, was cooked to perfection.
The All Natural Duroc Pork Chop is another favorite of that caliber, and sells for only $20. And might we suggest grabbing a side or two as well, starting with the Sprouting “Lollipop” Kale if you find it on the menu. The Kale, which eats more like a Brussel sprout in this dish, is served with a sweet tahini sauce, feta cheese and Fresno chili. Plus, the wine list is expansive; one of the best you’ll find at any public golf course across the country.
“For the wine list, we really wanted to create some diversity,” Platt says. “We have a broad range of guests and want to show off a bit with our wine list.”
Those looking to stay away from the fine dining options have plenty of options, too, such as a classic like a Tri Tip Sandwich, Pulled Pork Sandwich, Steak Burger and Tri Tip Salad, none of which sacrifice a bit of the quality Platt infuses into his more eloquent options.
Then there’s also the bar area, which has a vibe of its own, with 10 rotating craft beers, along with a bottle list, several TVs and a bit more noise.
“The bar definitely has its own feel to it,” Platt says. “It sings more to people just coming out for a casual meal or to hang out for a bit.”
Happy hour runs daily from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m., and offers affordable menu options such as street tacos, chick wings that come with kung pao, buffalo or BBQ sauce, flat bread and onion rings.
“For a lot of people, this has become their hidden gem,” says Platt, who has worked at O’Neill’s for more than six years. “I keep telling them, stop hiding it, bring your friends! I’m proud that we’ve really seemed to create a local, comfortable vibe. I’ve lived in this community for 12 years, and I wanted this to be that vibe and that restaurant that you could go to and get a good mix of quality food. I feel like we’ve done that.”
O’Neill’s is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. They also offer a Champagne Brunch on Sundays with live entertainment from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. For more, visit arroyotrabuco.com/oneills.