SeaLegs Winter Menu utilizes southern cooking to keep warm thriving on Davey Jones’ wine lockers and innovative comfort food.
Growing up poor on sugar water for Kool-aid, washing dishes at Arby’s, and eating his sister’s less-than-desirable cooking, Chef Ken McCaskill’s story comes through with his down-home food and Southern Hospitality that will make anyone share their sweet tea.
Chef McCaskill strides over dark wood floors with white trim; his reflection catches in the large mirrors lining the sides, reminiscent of portholes and a captain surveying his ship. Manning SeaLegs for almost a year, the most personable man in the dining room is also the one responsible for the vibe. Immediately, his affability spreads, and it works; it’s easy to feel at ease. Wine openers of Martin Ray and Stags Leap lubricate the conversation into Chef’s distant past and recent adventures.
In Ken’s family, his sister was the primary cook for the house, and his family worked in the food industry centered around airports, “…back when they served real food…,” Ken said. Coincidence SeaLegs has an LAX location? Perhaps not!
From New Orleans, McCaskills’ dishes have just the right amount of Southern heat. His fried chicken leaves behind a light cayenne aftertaste perfectly complimenting the house Habanero Margarita.
“The menu here wasn’t supposed to be comfort food, but that’s what I do! I add a little Southern twist,” Ken said.
SeaLegs Winter Seasonal Menu Features
GRILLED MAHI-MAHI is served with influences of Hawaii and the locals’ use of Spam. “When you go into a grocery store in Hawaii they have tons of different types of Spam. Their Spam inspired the Mahi rice with Kimchi,” McCaskill said.
LOBSTER & MILLIONARE’S BACON MAC & CHEESE has three cheese béchamel with SeaLegs signature “Millionaire’s Bacon” which pops up on the menu in a few dishes. Thick cuts of bacon marinated in brown sugar and chili flakes give a luxe taste without over-salting.
SHORT RIB POT PIE with braised Angus that has a super thin and flaky crust with a nice complimentary crunch with fluffy mashed potatoes hidden underneath it.
CAST IRON TIGER SHRIMP tossed in a fierce French-Creole style butter sauce that saturates the shrimp like a glass slipper.
The chef goes deep to stay true to his roots using canned peaches in his family recipe for cobbler because, “You can’t always get peaches in the south and you have to doctor the flavor.” Out here, Peaches are fresh and true Southern cobbler peaches are soft, not crunchy like fresh peaches,” Mccaskill said. That’s a peach cobbler he won’t be sharing anytime soon as he keeps some recipes sacred for his family.
The current seasonal menu takes advantage of peas, carrots, mushrooms and a healthy dose of competition.
“You have to stay fresh. When we first opened, there wasn’t much around here, and Pacific City changed the game. There are only two wine bars in the area, and SeaLegs offers a full menu. Eighty percent of our wines have a food pairing. We use Ingardia; everything is locally sourced. You have to stay creative. If someone drops off a box of vegetables, you have to think, ‘What am I going to make with it?’ It makes it more fun.”
The marble wine bar boasts 40 wine lockers engraved with their rightful owners’ monikers. Chef says, “A lot of our livelihood comes from regulars and members with wine lockers. Our regulars I relate to, they are laid-back and relaxed, and I feel like I can be myself. I’ve never had a restaurant where guests will text you, until now. The people with wine lockers text me all the time.”
Behind us sits a plastic surgeon, reputable for his work on ladies of Real Housewives of Orange County, who casually drops by our table and say’s “This is the best man in Huntington Beach!” Ken replies with a cheeky grin. “He’s only saying that because he doesn’t live in Huntington!” McCaskill said.
Martin Ray wines and Sealegs are working on a collaborative private label wine to be served at all Sealegs restaurants. “Martin Ray only does one other private label, and it’s for Nobu. We’re doing a chardonnay and pinot to start,” Ken explained. “The grapes were picked last week and will be ready for summer.”
A server comes up to refill our drinks and tells Ken the doctor, who had been eyeing our food, would like some fried chicken of his own. Usually only a Thursday night special, Ken easily obliged as we see another plate of fried chicken come out. There’s that down-home feeling in action.
Oh, and just for the record, it wasn’t Chef Ken that “stole” the Pazookie. “Some people thought I jacked it because I did a stint at BJ’s but it was here already. I said if you’re going to steal something you have to do it better. Now it’s the Seazookie.”
Closing out his first year at SeaLegs, Chef McCaskill holds onto his priorities. “At the end of the day, it’s about having fun.”
SeaLegs Wine Bar — 21022 Beach Blvd #105, Huntington Beach, CA 92648 — www.sealegswinebar.com