Gallery: Antoines, Red Fox, Cafe Mimosa [6 Images] Click any image to expand.
by Anne BattyWith Two Café’s and a Bar, Good Things Come in Threes for the Antoine Price Family
Successfully operating not one, but three establishments during an economic downturn is not only amazing, it’s inspiring. And managing three has definitely proven to be the charm for San Clemente’s Price Family – Antoine Sr., Veronica, Antoine Jr. and Vincent - owner/operators of Antoine’s Café, the World Famous Red Fox Lounge and Café Mimosa.
From Antoine Jr.’s perspective there are a variety of reasons for this success, among them … providing a simple, unique, great-tasting, and affordable faire; creating a comfortable hometown atmosphere; employing a longtime, loyal and trustworthy staff; as well as having an owner/operating family unit religiously on the job.
“Living in town, we are engrossed in our businesses 24/7,” Antoine Jr. said. “We oversee every detail in each establishment, and there’s even a little friendly competition between my mom and I that brings out the best of both establishments.”
Illustrating that competitiveness Price revealed an incident involving a recipe created specifically for Café Mimosa. As he tells it, he had put together a classic bistro French Onion Soup to be served in a specially selected and detailed lions-head-handled, porcelain bowl. One day while visiting the Red Fox Lounge for lunch he spied a server passing by with a mirror image of Café Mimosa’s French Onion Soup.
Confronting his mom he asked, “What’s up with that - this was my dish.” His mom’s reply, “well … I liked it.”
As the founder, mentor and nurturer of this successful food-service dynasty it certainly seems that right was hers to take.
As a young woman, Veronica grew up in Chateauroux, France working in discotechs, restaurants and bar lounges. Participating in all aspects of the operations from coat-checker to chef, she learned the ropes from the ground up.
During that period she was sent to America for a visit with Lillian Price, a friend of her mother’s who lived in Anaheim, CA. Lillian’s son, Antoine, was assigned to escort Veronica around town, and as the proverbial saying goes, it was “love at first sight.”
Upon Veronica’s return to France Antoine soon followed, selling his VW bus and Harley and moving to France to court her. At 18-years-old, Veronica left a note on her bedstand for her mother and flew to Las Vegas to marry Antoine.
Living in France, the union produced the first son, Antoine Jr., and as a youngster he began working with his mother in various food venues.
“I learned the restaurant business alongside my mom,” Antoine Jr. explained. “I washed dishes, bussed/waited tables, cooked … you name it, I did it. And one of my mom’s favorite expressions was, ‘while you’re standing there …’”
Like many old school families, a trade or business acumen, and strong work ethic was being handed down (usually from father to son), but in Antoine Jr.’s case it was from mother to son.
Settling in America
When Antoine Jr. was in his teens, the family moved to the United States, settling in Anaheim. Once there, Price Jr. attended a Catholic Military Academy, working in restaurant venues after school with Veronica while Antoine Sr. worked 8-to-5 in the transport business.
“Tired of laboring for other people and unhappy with the way they ran things, mom was eventually encouraged by dad to open her own place,” Antoine Jr. revealed. “When she found out a café was for sale in San Clemente, she investigated and they bought it.”
In 1990 when the Price family took over what was then The Half Way House, Antoine Jr. was a student at San Clemente High School. He and his mom commuted to work every morning for eight years until they finally moved to town. Before class they “broke fast” (breakfast) together, then after helping with opening, Antoine was off to school. And like any new venture that needs a back-up plan, Antoine Sr. continued working in the transport business, bringing home a steady paycheck, then joining wife and son week-ends to get the new enterprise off the ground.
“When mom was pregnant with my brother, Vincent,” Antoine Jr. stated. “She worked in the café right up until the day she went into labor.”
Applying their roots and strong work ethic, the Price family labored side-by-side to create a breakfast/lunch café, blending old-world style and comfort within, and beach-casual al frescoe dining without. Serving hearty American food with a touch of France in the mix (crepes included), they offered generous portions, mimosas made with fresh-squeezed orange juice, a great assortment of coffees from around the world, and a varied menu to please any palate. And while the business grew more solvent, Antoine Sr. - always open to a new venture - had his eye on the property located right next door.
The Red Fox Lounge
Touted as the first and oldest watering-hole in town - and having a history of serving LA/San Diego-San Diego/LA commuters stopping off or boarding at the old Greyhound Bus Station once located across the street - the Red Fox Lounge has become somewhat of a historical travel destination.
First and foremost, however, is its reputation as a locals’ hangout. So when the owner of the Red Fox Lounge decided to sell, Antoine Sr. didn’t hesitate. Mutually agreeing on the details of the sale, the two businessmen went directly to the mortgage company to seal the deal.
“Danny, the owner, told the mortgage company, ‘I have a bar, I want to give it to him, got it?!,’ and it was as simple as that,” Antoine Jr. explained. “No middle men, no hassle, a quick and easy exchange.”
Situated next door to Antoine’s Café, the Red Fox Lounge is ideally located for the transfer of food from the café’s kitchen to the lounge, giving customers access to the same great menu. And Antoine Jr. is quick to remind any ladies reluctant to enter a bar lounge, that they have the cleanest bathrooms in town.
“Drop in anytime and chances are you’ll see someone you know,” he also declares. “And if you’re around after hours, you’ll find the back room filled with white jackets, aprons, and chefs’ hats, as the other restaurateurs in town know it’s the place to come relax and unwind.”
While all family members are participants in the operation of both the café and the lounge, Veronica primarily oversees Antoine’s, while Antoine Sr. takes the reins of the Red Fox lounge, leaving Antoine Jr. and younger brother Vincent to help out in both places. But when the sale of the Library Café on Avenida Del Mar came up, Antoine Jr. encouraged the family to seize the opportunity. He was anxious to put his signature on another Price family establishment.
Located in an old two-storied home in the second block of Del Mar, directly across the street from the city library, Café Mimosa has been the upstairs residence for chefs from the Ritz Carlton, as well as restaurant owners from all around southern orange county.
Presently, it plays host to one of its owners, Antoine Jr., who with one of his many hats cocked atop his head, and a mischievous smile on his face says, “I not only work the businesses, I eat and breathe the life, and even live above one of them.” And backing up that devotion, he has emblems representing all three of the family’s establishments tattooed on the well-developed bicep of his right arm.
Since opening its doors in 2008, Café Mimosa has foot-printed itself as a traditional, classic French Bistro. Serving Crème Brulee French toast, house-smoked salmon tartines, chorizo scramble, and paprika eggs Benedict, the cafe has been touted in reviews as serving the best brunch in town. Week after week customers line up outside the bistro, mimosas in hand, waiting patiently to enjoy Sunday fare.
“My goal is that Café Mimosa is the place that locals come when the cupboard is bare … or just because,” Antoine Jr. remarks. “I want them to say ‘there’s nothing in the fridge, let’s go to Café Mimosa.’”
With the ambiance of a Paris café, the European comfort that invites one to stay awhile, and the food to match, this bistro is fast becoming the place to be. And after a wedding in October, Antoine Jr.’s high school sweetheart, Brittany Bell, will be joining him and the rest of the Price family in running Café Mimosa as well as all the other Price family enterprises.
Into the Future
Having also grown up in the business, for the next six months or so, Vincent Price will be overseeing a family Bed and Breakfast located in France. Along with assisting the cafes and lounge, the Price’s will also be involved in the remodeling of an old Ole Hanson home here in town.
And in his spare time, having spoken up in a recent chamber meeting, Antoine Jr., finds himself the food/beverage “go to” guy for the San Clemente City Chamber of Commerce.
In overseeing the operation of their three eateries - as well as other endeavors - hard work, perseverance, and involvement are the never-ending watchwords of Antoine Sr., Jr., Vincent and Veronica Price. And while the adage, “the third time’s the charm” certainly seems applicable to their presently owned establishments … the way things are going, stopping at three isn’t looking like it will be the end of it all.
Antoine’s: 218 S El Camino Real - (949) 492-1763 - antoinescafe.com
Cafe Mimosa: 243 Avenida Del Mar -
(949) 481-6780 - cafemimosasc.com
Rod Fox: 220 S El Camino Real - (949) 492-3403