Costa Mesa is a foodie mecca. There are so many good restaurants around town. We could easily ‘dine out’ for every breakfast, lunch, dinner – plus happy hours, Taco Tuesdays, brunches, suppers and tea times – and still not make a dent in all the eateries our mouthwatering Mesa has to offer.
(Although, forks up!… we’re sure gonna try.)
So when we heard that Season 11 Top Chef Alumnus, Brian Huskey, was serving top-shelf burgers, sandwiches, salads and seafood – in a casual, pub-like, ‘grub shack’ environment – we knew we had to tackle that, stat.
This Costa Mesa location is the fleshed-out evolution of the Tackle Box concept, which began as a small, walk-up snack shack in Corona del Mar.
Season 11 Top Chef Alumnus, Brian Huskey, at his Pub – Tackle Box – Located at SOCO in Costa Mesa.
Photos: Brandy Young
“The first Tackle Box in Corona del Mar was a true ‘grub shack,'” said Chef Huskey, from a cozy, corner booth at his SOCO Costa Mesa location. “Here in Costa Mesa, we’ve expanded the menu and made it more of a ‘coastal pub.’ This location is like the older, more mature sibling of the original. We’re open seven days a week. We’ve got 25 beers on tap – mostly local brews. As far as food goes, we serve a little bit of everything.”
As Huskey explains it, the name ‘Tackle Box’ is a nod to his menu’s wide variety… the way a fisherman’s tackle box has a little bit of everything, wrapped up one place. And despite being billed as ‘pub vibes,’ Huskey is quick to point out that Tackle Box has a chill, comfortable atmosphere that’s totally family-friendly. (A dog-friendly patio, too.)
“Come in for the awesome Tuna Melt, the Korean BBQ Burger, the Salmon Poke, the Buffalo Cauliflower,” said Huskey. “We’ve got a wide-ranging menu, but at the same time it all falls under the umbrella of ‘American comfort food made with global influences.’ I’m not back there assembling food with tweezers and doing all that foo-foo stuff. This is delicious, accessible food – the kind that goes great with a cold beer on a hot day.”
Tackle This: Fresh Ingredients, Filling Portions, and Flavorful From Start To Finish.
Photos: Brandy Young
Huskey’s choice to do casual food is a conscious one. (Goodness knows he could go the tweezer route if he wanted.) Young as he is, he’s already got an impressive restaurant résumé – which includes competing on Season 11 of the Bravo hit TV show Top Chef, in 2013.
“I came in fifth place on the show, so I appeared in a lot of episodes,” said Huskey. “That’s when I realized the power of weekly television – it was pretty wild. I was living in Downtown LA at the time, and for a good six months I couldn’t walk out my front door without people recognizing me wherever I’d go. Nowadays, that’s settled down. But I feel like I’ll forever be a part of the Top Chef fraternity – it’s pretty cool.”
Huskey credits the show for building up his confidence.
“You’re under so much pressure, and the time constraints are brutal,” he said. “So after Top Chef, I became a lot calmer about catering gigs, or flying somewhere to do my thing. If you can get through all those stressful challenges on TV, you’re looking at everyday life and thinking, ‘Man, compared to Top Chef, this is easy.'”
“Chill, Comfortable Atmosphere,” at Brian Huskey’s Tackle Box in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Photos: Brandy Young
“The difference between the way I cook – and how others do it – is in my intention and purpose,” said Huskey. “Anyone can sleepwalk through life and make a decent go at it. The ones that are really successful, that actually make a footprint, are the ones with intention behind everything they do.”
For Huskey, that intention shows up in the thoughtfulness behind each dish.
“We don’t just throw ingredients at a plate and say, ‘Ok, here’s our burger,'” said Huskey. “It’s exact layers, proportions, balance. To look at our menu, it might seem kind of simple. But it’s that labor of love behind it that makes our food go the extra mile. It’s why our sandwiches are so much better.”
Huskey has clear intentions for the restaurant itself, too. He wants it to be a regular, community gathering spot for Costa Mesans.
“A causal, kid-friendly, gathering place where you can meet friends and eat well,” said Huskey. “Watch the game, just hang out.”
So bring the family in the early hours, then come back for date night on Fridays.
“That’s when we bring in live DJs, which is really fun,” said Huskey. “We’re not a club or anything, but Tackle Box does get very vibey on Friday nights.”
Photo: Brandy Young
Huskey has lived in Costa Mesa off and on, over the years. Currently, he’s on.
“I’ve been living over by Avenue of the Arts for about three years, now,” he said. “The thing about Costa Mesa is it’s the city that keeps the rest of Orange County together. All the freeways intersect here, which makes it a really accessible place.
“Costa Mesa is like the glue between Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, coastal Orange County and North County. We’re right in the middle of it all.” ♥
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