What inspired you to set up SeaLegs? Was running a restaurant a goal of yours?
After working for years in the events, entertainment, casino marketing and venue development world in Las Vegas then getting pregnant with my daughter, I knew I wanted to create something for my own local Huntington Beach where my husband and I would raise our family. I wanted to do something that fulfilled my passions — and I’ve always loved food and wine! I kept a journal and began writing down all of my ideas. From there, the concept for SeaLegs Wine Bar was born. It was based on a whimsical place to leave your worries at the door. I didn’t always know that I would be a restaurateur, but now I can’t imagine being in any other role.
Have you always had an interest in food and wine?
Absolutely! I’ve always had an interest in food and wine, but after opening SeaLegs, my ‘interest’ has turned into a full-on love affair.
How would you describe your style of food? Is it influenced by any travels you have made or the local area?
At SeaLegs Wine Bar, our executive chef, Alexander Dale, provides an exceptional culinary experience with a fresh, California cuisine shared plates menu. We update our menu seasonally and have a sustainable focus. Chef Alex even finds inspiration based on the weather here in Orange County. Our seafood menu, in particular, is influenced by the fresh and local selections available at Dory Fleet in Newport Beach. Our style of smaller, composed dishes is made to be a dining experience — for people to share and appreciate together. Whenever we travel throughout California, we always keep our palates open to anything that may influence a dish or wine offering at SeaLegs.
Tell us about your chef Alexander Dale. Has his vision helped to shape SeaLegs?
Chef Alex is AMAZING, and his forward-thinking, culinary wisdom has deeply shaped the vision of SeaLegs Wine Bar. We collaborate on and he oversees our entire award-winning menu. Chef Alex has an incredibly rich history in the culinary arts, starting as a young boy. He was raised in the kitchens of The Villa Nova, where his grandfather founded and operated the historic restaurant that once served Italian classics in Newport Beach. Fast-forward past his time at the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and other local eateries, and he is now my rock at SeaLegs Wine Bar and will also oversee the menu for our second concept restaurant, SeaSalt Woodfire Grill, which is under construction now in Huntington Beach.
Do you have a signature dish you are particularly proud of?
I take pride in all of our incredible dishes. Each season our menu rotates seasonal items, and we have daily chalkboard specials as well, but we do have some regular menu standouts that our guests keep coming back for. Two of our sharable side dishes that are to die for include our Mirin Glazed Brussels Sprouts and our Stinky Fries, a three-cheese garlic fondue experience topped with shaved Parmesan and truffle oil.
You have received many accolades. What is your proudest moment in the restaurant business thus far?
In 2012, when we had been open for less than one year and we received our first Golden Foodie Award for Best Californian Cuisine. It was an epic moment to realize how big of a success SeaLegs would truly become! We were so proud, humbled and honored! We have since won this award three times. Another very proud moment was when we opened our second SeaLegs Wine Bar location to welcome a global audience at the Los Angeles International Airport, Terminal 2. Plus, we are very excited to be opening a new concept restaurant early next year, SeaSalt Woodfire Grill, which will offer Santa Maria-style ‘farm-to-fire’ grilling.
You have an extensive wine collection. How do you select them?
As with every respectable wine bar, the wine list takes center stage, and we are proud to hand select all of our wines. While the wine list offers selections from around the world, it pays homage to California wines with a focus on limited production wineries. We offer a Captain’s List, which highlights cult wines and keeps guests ‘wanting more’ on what will be added next. But, overall, we pick wines based on the tastes of our customers and what we think is dynamic, all while keeping a commitment to help low production wineries build their business.
Your restaurant is designed by the renowned Kenneth Ussenko. What do you think this adds to SeaLegs?
For us, a wine bar is more than a place to get a drink. It’s a gathering place to live in the moment and unwind from the day. Our designs are inspired by a Hampton’s nautical feel with classy yet comfortable décor featuring rich dark woods, contrasted with bright touches of a mirrored backdrop, white washed marble and crystal chandeliers that gives our wine bar an inviting and warm feel. For us, that is a big component of SeaLegs — the ‘feel’ our guests have when they visit. We offer a community table and stand-up bar, as well as tables and a cozy lounge. Our design creates the perfect mix of energy where every evening feels like a special occasion.
What can we expect from SeaLegs in the future?
Only the best! We will continually evolve our menu for each season to feature exceptional shared plates and libations. Plus, each year we continue to make our signature events better and better, including our Monte Carlo New Years Eve, a black-tie affair, and our Annual Yelloween Masquerade where we partner with Veuve Clicquot.
If you could have a meal cooked for you by one chef in the world, who would that be?
I’m lucky to have that everyday… Chef Alex! He is a culinary genius, and I love being the taste tester for our incredible daily specials and evolving menus!
The SeaLegs Wine Bar is one of the winners of The Culture Trip’s California Local Favorite 2015 Award. The Local Favorite badge is awarded to our favorite local towns, restaurants, artists, galleries, and everything in between. We are passionate about showcasing popular local talents on a global scale, so we have cultivated a carefully selected, but growing community.