Marie Callender's Grill

Orange County Business Journal
Vol. 28 No. 11
March 14-20, 2005

MARIE Callender's GRILL
12489 Seal Beach Blvd.
Seal Beach
(562) 596-2797

This is an Aliso Viejo-based chain that's big in the Western U.S. — almost too big for me to pay attention to it.

That said, Marie Callender's has worked hard upgrading its food in the last couple of years.

The company has floated a new concept that can be seen at its Seal Beach restaurant. They've added the work "Grill" to the name and redefined more of the menu.

While I don't bring this to you as a gourmet restaurant, I like what's happening at Marie Callender's in general. I now go to the chain's restaurants to eat instead of just to stop in to buy one of their always delicious pies.

The original Seal Beach restaurant dates back to 1971. In the rebuild, the location has taken on charming Craftsman style, Warm woods and lovely upholstery are inviting with friendly touches in the décor.

The open kitchen and the attractive — actually rather seductive—bar help the new upscale image. The patio is delightful.

The grill's innovative menu features several of today's flavors and foods. Featured new menu items include hickory smoked meats, USDA-certified Angus steaks, mesquite broiled seafood, signature desserts and specialty cocktails. The new menu also includes some of Marie Callender's classic recipes and famous pies.

Barbecue char-grilled chicken salad is a fresh mixture of corn, jicama, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, black beans, tortilla strips and ranch dressing.

Sliced barbecue Angus tri-tip features a very generous portion of hickory smoked meat that has been slow roasted for 15 hours. It's tender and still juicy. It is glazed with the restaurant's own recipe honey barbecue sauce and served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes topped with lots of straw fried onions.

The shrimp piccata Florentine has mushrooms, spinach, capers, artichoke hearts, pine nuts and lemon chardonnay sauce atop angel hair pasta. It's a winner.

Bob's smoked platter (I forgot to ask who Bob is) contains half a rack of hickory smoked baby back ribs, half a barbecue chicken, several slices of tri-tip and lots of those good straw fried onions.

All of the Marie Callende''s now have seasonal menus, which is a nice touch. At this time of year at the grill and elsewhere, there's the homey turkey breast pot pie.

A full pound rib-eye steak, mesquite grilled salmon, halibut in Samuel Adams beer batter for fish and chips, country fried steak, hot turkey dinner and twice-cooked lasagna with marinara and meatball sauce are but a few of the comforting foods on the new menus.

Of course, you wouldn't dare leave without a piece of pie. Only, which one to choose?