by Briana Denny
The infamous San Clemente triangle on El Camino Real is now officially a square. With its newest 21 and over addition of JD’s Bar and Kitchen, it is exciting news to announce that this place sets itself apart in a brilliant way.
Hapa J’s owner’s Justin and Danny have finally given us, what many thirsty residents have been longing for when it comes to a local night out and weekend place to hang. JD’s is a modern and trendy bar, fit for the entire neighborhood to come together.
This is no dive, and sorry, you won’t hear Stairway to Heaven playing endlessly over a jukebox. It’s a game changer, and the food and cocktails are delectable. After just over a month of operation, JD’s is closing down the town with a packed crowd going until 2am every weekend night.
Approaching JD’s entrance, in a classic 1934 Ole Hanson building previously housing the Mexican restaurant Tequila’s, patrons discover a large outdoor courtyard complete with views of El Camino Real. Seating there offers an option between huge comfy lounge tables enough for 10, and an extra-large fire pit to gather ‘round; sure to be difficult to snatch up on any given night. Outdoor TVs provide the perfect atmosphere for a day-time hang out, but it’s really what’s inside that makes this bar a “must check out” kind of place.
A fusion of American, Mexican, and Japanese, JD’s street food style menu is a creative dream when it comes to bar food. No typical chicken wings here. Twisting all-American favorites such as a Nathan’s jumbo hot dog, and topping it with anything from asada kalbi and kimchi, to ramen noodles and seaweed, you just won’t “get it,” until you taste it. Their Luchadore dog comes with bacon, grilled shishito peppers and onions, guacamole, garlic aioli, and cilantro. It is mind blowingly tasty. Other goodies on the menu include tortas, quesadillas, ramen, and a burrito. Just one burrito. Their elote grilled corn with cheese and chili powder is a must try, and is reminiscent of the days buying it from the guys selling corn out of shopping carts around LA. There truly is no bad menu pick here, and it is affordable at around $9-$13 for an entree.
JD’s also supports local California vendors such as Dawn patrol, who provides their fresh baked bread. The brains behind such a festive menu? The crew at Hapa J’s! Owner Justin Shea claims that these menu items are just a play on the food that the boys would throw together in the kitchen at Hapa’s. Some of these employees have even jumped over from Hapa J’s to JD’s, offering a familiar face and smile behind the bar.
JD’s specialty cocktail menu has many choices for whatever pallet one’s mood is in. Their Planter’s Punch, a spin off from a Mai Tai, is just too good to have only one. Plenty of choices for beers on tap, and a full bar. Their original Peanut Butter Milk Stout from Belching Beaver out of San Diego, has a hint of coffee favor, and the glass rim is lined with crunchy bits of Peanut Butter Crunch cereal and chocolate. The Hibiscus Margarita has a light flower flavor, paired with tasty house tequila.
More than just the food is great, so is the vibe, thanks mostly to the staff. Naughty By Nature Pandora station playing out the speakers, friendly and fun bartender’s pouring specialty concoctions while singing along to all the old school jams … one can’t help but to sing along too. Just know all egos should be checked at the door. This place is for having fun. A late-night spot for singles, friends, and couples looking for a night out, this place is for everyone.
The interior design work was carried out by the owners with help from Jorge from Libra Tequila. Giant Mexican Loteria cards are hung around the bar, each with symbols that hold special, personal meaning to the owners and employees. Floor to ceiling wallpaper with Japanese comic strips also line the walls, creating a vibrant and unique space. An LA type feel, all the while pairing perfectly and respectfully with the original Ole Hanson architectural details of the building, permeates the air.
The building was originally a residential home, then changed into different eateries over time. For now, we can all call JD’s the place that has brought the San Clemente bar scene into the modern world, and it is here to stay. The owners also have future entertainment plans for JD’s, of which we cannot speak now, but can promise it will be new and unique to the South OC area.
Currently open Monday-Saturday from 5pm - last call, and Sunday from 12pm-last call, with the kitchen open until 1am.
JD’s Kitchen & Bar
(949) 481-2115, scjds.net
215 S. El Camino Real, SC