Monday, December 5, 2011

The Ramos House Cafe in San Juan Capistrano

Situated in a historic house in the oldest neighborhood in California, The Ramos House Café is a hidden gem of culinary perfection in an authentic rustic setting. The story of The Ramos House Café begins in 1794 when Los Rios Street was constructed to support the nearby Mission San Juan Capistrano. The Los Rios community began with about 40 adobe structures used to house soldiers and by 1881, the Ramos House was constructed. Originally, Los Rios Street was the main highway for the Spanish from Dana Point Harbor to the mission. Today, only 600 feet of the original street remain along with several historic homes. Most of the homes are now businesses, boutiques or quaint cafés.

The Ramos House is a board and batten home with a side patio where patrons are served. An expansive Mulberry tree offers cool shade on hot summer days. A red brick path flows from the street to the patio where a multi-level, corrugated steel roof, complete with metal gutters and creeping vines, provides shelter on rainy days. Corrugated steel planters hang about the rustic wood walls where old farm tools would look just as at home. Lap blankets are provided on every chair for crisp mornings along with several outdoor heaters. As if that isn't enough authentic country ambiance, The Ramos House Café is situated on the other side of the train tracks directly behind the San Juan Capistrano Amtrak Station. Every half-hour or so, an Amtrak train stops just a few feet from the dining patio, which we found to be entertaining and in no way an inconvenience. The whole experience was reminiscent of something you'd encounter at a Whistle Stop Café in the deep south, or what Mr. Knott was attempting to capture when he started building the Knott's Berry Farm theme park & restaurant. It is truly a trip back in time.

The Ramos House features Contemporary American Cuisine with a Southern influence. We enjoyed the Smoked Salmon Lox with Herb Sauce & Toast Points and Crab Hash with Scrambled Eggs & Sour Cream Remoulade. The portions were large, flavors full and presentation pleasing. The fresh sprouts were a perfect complement to the Salmon Lox. The Crab Hash delivered a hefty portion of crab that would satisfy any seafood connoisseur. Every restaurant should have a signature item that stands out from the rest. For The Ramos House Café, it's their Soju Bloody Mary. Adorned with fresh sprouts, pickled beans and a crab claw, their Soju Bloody Mary will have you coming back for more. Another signature item is their Hand Churned Ice Creams that are turned right out back... that we plan to sample on our next visit. The house itself still functions as it would have in the 1800's - the owner lives there, wines are kept in the cellar, the kitchen is where all the meals are prepared and all the herbs are fresh from the garden. They are open every day but Monday for breakfast and lunch. Saturday and Sunday includes a brunch menu. Dress is casual to business-casual and no reservations are needed for parties under 12.

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