Posted: January 5, 2011 in Restaurant Reviews

“Coto Voice – Food Finds” – August 2010 issue

 What a great name for a sports tavern – Friends.  It reminds me of the fun, accepting tavern and TV show, “Cheers – where everyone knows you name”.   In Friends case, “You enter as a stranger and leave as friends.”  I even love Friends’ tag line:  “Eat, drink and meet Mary!”  Already I’m having fun and it’s just words!  Mary, the owner and a Coto de Caza resident, has really created a fun, inviting place to kick back, have a team meeting, or relax watching summertime sports like the Lakers Finals, the exciting World Cup, Angel games, or the Tour de France and eat amazing “tavern” food.  I believe Mary has redefined a “tavern experience”.

The Setting

Friends is located in the secluded Dove Canyon shopping center (by Gold Gym and the Water District), perched up on the hillside, overlooking Rancho Santa Margarita.  The patio setting is beautiful for a quiet breakfast, lunch, weekend brunch or intimate dinner.   The interior is ideal for any sports fan with a gazillion TV’s, free pool, electronic card games, and special booths with DVD players (so have the kids grab their favorite movie before coming).   

Fine Tavern Dining

 We’ve eaten at Friends before and have always had a welcoming experience.  The staff is very friendly, accommodating and really seems to enjoy their positions at the restaurant.  Our server, Kailea, was a fun personality.  We loved her description of the food there — “All of our appetizers evoke emotion.”  Wow!  OK!  We were ready to have our emotions be evoked!  First, Kailea told us that their Wings are the “top 5 in Orange County”.  Our husbands, Ken and Andrew were the judges:  and yes, to date, “these wings are very good, have great flavor, are easy and clean to eat, there is a lot meat on the bone, and yes, they would order them again.”  To munch on, we also enjoyed their homemade Chips with special seasoning salt.  Another appetizer addition we had was their Tempura Green Beans – green beans lightly battered and deep fried, served with a great Wasabi Soy Vinaigrette – so great and fun to eat!  For our entrees, Cindy enjoyed a NY Steak Special – a nice cut grilled, and topped with herb butter and red wine, served with cauliflower mashed potatoes – the cauliflower was different but we liked it.  I am not a cauliflower fan, but this was a nice way to get my vegetables.  Andrew ordered the Pan-Roasted Salmon – Salmon roasted with citrus buerre blanc and candied lemon, served on garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus — very good and a healthy choice!  Ken ordered the Seared Ahi Sandwich – Ahi, baby greens, avocado, cucumber, tomatoes and Mary’s lemon dill sauce — something I wouldn’t expect at a tavern, but something we would order again!  Sooo good!

I ordered their most popular item:  Prime Rib French Dip – oui, oui, mon ami! (yes, yes my friend!); it’s sliced prime rib with provolone, carmelized onions, horseradish cream and au jus — to die for!   Oh, and did I mention that we all shared the Pepper Crusted Seared Ahi Salad?  Ahi seared and laid atop baby greens with kalamata olives, shaved cucumber, red onion, tomato, capers and feta cheese, served with sherry vinaigrette!  {My taste buds are getting evoked again just writing this!} 

For dessert, we shared three amazing creations.  First, the Walnut Cinnamon Apple Crisp (a personal fall favorite of mine) is made up of warm apples, crunchy walnuts and cinnamon crumbs topped with vanilla bean ice cream.  Secondly, the Lavender Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee was a delicate and delicious crème, carmelized and served with fresh berries (oh mother!).  And finally, we tasted the Flourless Chocolate Cake – this decadent treat is served warm with vanilla bean ice cream and honey port syrup.   I’m sorry, but this is not tavern eating like my parents experienced back in the day – did they even know what honey port syrup was?  My emotions are evoking, here!!!!!

Oh and what Orange County kid should have to eat their hot dog on a plain, white, boring bun? Kailea highly recommended the Kids Hot Dog (for adults too!) – served on a pretzel bun!  The kids menu is full of kid-friendly favorites with special extra twists. 

“Friends Cares”

“Friends” is more than just a sports tavern.  Mary has a heart for reaching out to friends, or friends of friends, charities, teams, school fundraisers and causes through her “Friends Cares” program.  Fundraisers are available on weeknights, Monday-Thursday.  Set up the date and time with Mary or her staff and she will donate 10% of that evening’s sales to your special group. 

Happy Hour & Live Entertainment Calendar

There is so much more to write about and so little space.  Check out their web site for all their daily happy hour specials and their live entertainment calendar!

Personally I can’t wait for the U.S. Open tennis match, and football and hockey season to begin!  I ask you sports fans – what could be better than watching your favorite teams and players, with your favorite friends, topped off with great food and drink?  I invite you to come on in, leave your troubles at the door, have fun, relax and enjoy your friends, both old and new!  And when you go, say hi to my new friends, Mary and Kailea, for me! 


Friends — The Sports Tavern

31911 Dove Canyon Drive

Trabuco Canyon, CA  92679

{Dove Canyon Shopping Center}



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