The Iron Press in Costa Mesa is the food party lovechild of co-founders Jeremy Saenz (Lucky Habanero Salsa) and Leonard Chan (California Shabu Shabu). Tucked into the once furniture store-dominated shopping plaza South Coast Collection (SOCO) next to the 405 freeway, the restaurant specializes in waffle sandwiches and top quality, California-brewed craft beers. Whether you come for the beer or come for the waffles, you’ll stay for both.
Let’s start with the waffles. Most items on the menu are waffle sandwiches. I was very tempted by the prosciutto and gruyere waffle sandwich and the country madame, but elected to order the country style buttermilk fried chicken. This actually wasn’t a sandwich at all, but rather fried chicken tenders topped with gravy, sitting on a freshly pressed Belgian waffle. Being the breakfast food fan that I am, I threw on extras of bacon and a fried egg on top. Traditionally, this comes served with a side of maple syrup (it did), but to kick it up a notch, I was also given jalapeño maple syrup to pour on my chicken and waffles dish. Even though there’s just a subtle difference, the spiced up version is definitely the way to go.
Though everything works together, if I had it all to do again, I would have elected to forego the gravy. It’s fine in and of itself — smooth and creamy — but I would have liked to let the crispy texture of the fried chicken get more appreciation. This was no fault of the dish; I can only blame my mind for adopting the attitude of “did somebody say gravy!?” The egg yolk didn’t run as much as I usually expect from fried eggs, but then again how much liquid does one want on his waffle?
On the side and begging to be shared were the Imperial IPA Irish Nachos. A beer lover’s take on one of the heaviest snacks ever, the Iron Press version actually tastes light and fresh. The cabbage, prosciutto and jalapeño are simmered in an imperial IPA before being placed on waffle fries and topped with lager cheddar sauce and sliced avocado. Between the sauce and the simmering, they actually manage to sneak almost a whole beer into these nachos. What makes the dish feel lighter are the crisp waffle fries that aren’t overly oily as their drive-thru counterparts usually are. The cheddar sauce is used sparingly so as to not make the fries soggy, and everything is fresher when you add avocados! Ketchup is provided on the side, but you won’t need it.
If you’ve conquered your waffle sandwich and skillfully shared your nachos, you’re ready to move on to dessert. There’s a Cap’n Crunch Berries-infused waffle and a S’mores waffle just ready to complete your ascension into food coma heaven. On this occasion, the Wookie called to me and I answered. Using the in-house cookie dough, a waffle-shaped chocolate cookie comes warm off the iron and is topped with ice cream. Again going the extra mile, I got mine topped with strawberries and bananas and drizzled with chocolate. Say what you want about me being fancy, I have no shame. This dessert can feed a bigger group than one might expect, though it gets a little tricky gathering your bites together on the plate. The cookie is crunchy rather than chewy, since it’s cooked thin on the waffle iron, so it’s brittle and breaks apart easy.
Opening in 2012, the place quickly became known for their events and evenings focused on breweries and craft beers. Every month, the bar hosts a Tap Takeover Tuesday with local brews, including many exclusive and limited varieties. In October, the bar featured Mother Earth beers from Vista, California. This is the night where the beer big boys bring their A game.
The Iron Press recently opened a newer location at the Anaheim Packing District, spreading its loaded waffle point of view across Orange County.
Note: This meal was hosted.