Skip to main content

San Clemente Journal

San Clemente Trio Open Gastro Pub

Mar 12, 2015 08:52AM ● By Jamie Brinkman

MRK comes from the three friends/partners’ first names - Moriah Robison, Rayne Frey, and Kai Robison.

by Jamie Brinkman
photos by: Rachel Fleischer  | RAFphotography © 2015

MRK opened its doors in September of 2014 offering a finer version of the counter service dining experience featuring local breweries and creative menu items with an incredibly affordable price point. And MRK is just the thing San Clemente was craving, but didn’t know it yet.

Though the name might sound a bit confusing, it is actually inspired from the idea of the old public houses or pubs that served as the local watering holes for after work drinks and food. The MRK comes from the three friends/partners’ first names - Moriah Robison, Rayne Frey, and Kai Robison - all of whom are chefs at the restaurant. 

These three friends have known each other for quite some time, having all grown up in San Clemente. What brought them together was their mutual love of cooking.  At different times and places, all three had decided to further their cooking talents by attending culinary school, and after graduating the trio began their careers as chefs at Tabu Grill in Laguna Beach. Then switching gears they decided to try their hand at high end events in Los Angeles. 

“The experience in both fine dining and high-end events, gave us a lot of experience in preparing really good food, but with quick turnaround time,” says Frey.  

Finally ending up back in San Clemente, the trio began to throw around ideas about opening up their own restaurant. They wanted to do something different, something no one else was doing. So they came up with the idea for a sandwich shop, but a really good sandwich shop. However, when the former Love Burgers’ space became available, their idea started to evolve into something they didn’t think would be possible for many more years - a restaurant that featured all of the high-end tastes with great beer and wine, yet with quicker turnaround time.

“The space transformed our idea”, says Robinson, “it made so much more possible for us because the area was so large and all of the equipment was already there”. Once the site was obtained, however, they realized how much of that equipment needed to be replaced so they began to work tirelessly every single day redoing the floors, fixtures, and plumbing. Slowly but surely, the space began to transform into what they had always dreamed.

The dining experience at MRK was inspired by the friends’ personal take on the Gastro Pub trend, a term coined for the idea of a stripped down fine dining experience, where the food and drink is great, the atmosphere is casual, and the dining experience is quicker.

Frey explains, “We wanted this to be a place that people could come and hang out after work, and have a really great beer, or come on date night and linger over several courses.” 

The beers change weekly, and boast to be from mostly local breweries. The wines were individually chosen based on what would pair well with the items on the menu. 

All items on the menu were handcrafted by the three chefs together, created with intent and great thought put into each and every ingredient. The chefs say they specialize in every item on the menu so that every time it is ordered, it will be amazing; there are no so-so dishes served here. The idea is that with a smaller menu and smaller plate size, the chefs are able to make everything from scratch every single day - even the ketchup is hand-made each morning. 

“We wanted to focus on fresh production and fast turnaround,” says Frey. 

The menu puts a unique high end spin on many of the bar classics such as the burger. You gotta have a burger at a bar right? Yet this one is all dressed up with Applewood smoked bacon, white cheddar, romaine, pickles and it is meant to be eaten that way - with every one of those ingredients on it.

“We make all of our items with the intent of balance because eating is an experience and balance is important in how you experience the dishes.” 

Get ready to embrace the hybrid experience when you visit MRK l Public. Check out the menu on their website before you go in so you know what they have. Park in the private parking lot, stroll past the carefully crafted wall of succulents, and walk up to the smiling face at the counter. Order a $5 pint of craft beer or a fine wine and a bowl of hot roasted nuts or perhaps some fresh poke. And while you’re at it, order the burger as well. 

Take a seat at one of the numerous booths with a sprawling ocean view or a nice outdoor table with a heater above and wait as a smiling server brings you fresh filtered water, plates and silverware. Enjoy every sip of your choice of libation while you wait shortly for your entree to be freshly prepared. And when that entree comes, relish in the incredible balance of flavors that have been hand-selected and freshly prepared just for you. Then go back to the counter if you dare, to order one or both of two scrumptious desserts that are both rich and light (lemon ricotta beignets anyone?) and try to figure out when you can come back next.b 

Open everyday, you can contact MRK l Public @ (949)441-7621 or visit

Current Issue Online





Facebook Page