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San Clemente Journal

Asada Cantina + Kitchen, Bringing Something New to Town

Oct 12, 2020 12:01PM ● By Mary Colarik

Scott and Rosemary McIntosh.

by Mary Colarik

Scott McIntosh, owner of the brand-new Asada Cantina + Kitchen located at the Outlets of San Clemente has been in the restaurant business for 45 years, he began working at Nik’s Coffee Shop in Long Beach when he was 15-years-old. Carl Nickoloff, the owner, and his son, Craig, went on to open and own the Claim Jumper restaurant chain, while grandson, Nick Nickoloff, owns the well-established Nick’s and South of Nick’s in San Clemente and Laguna Beach. So, McIntosh was indoctrinated at an early age into the joys and stresses of the restaurant business.
During his 26 years at the Claim Jumper restaurants he not only met his future wife, Rosemary, but oversaw the growth of the company locally and across the country”.

McIntosh has established several restaurant concepts in OC and has opened over 40 successful restaurants in his career, including launching the ever-popular Reunion restaurant in Anaheim Hills that he and his wife, Rosemary, opened in 2013-this establishment is known for its extensive menu and wonderful atmosphere. Their five daughters, Rachel, Ryan, Jordyn, Alex and Kayla have all been in the business since a young age and have experienced the ups and downs and disappointments with their family restaurant closures and reestablishments, especially during the last 10 years. They understand what their parents are doing, and how the family has also built strong relationships with their staff-who are like family. All five girls have attended college and the three oldest have opted to continue in the family business.

Three-years-ago, The Outlets at San Clemente approached Scott and Rosemary about opening a restaurant at the far end of the mall next to the AT&T store. They were given free rein and unrestrained design concepts. Amazingly, the McIntoshes Pre-Covid-19 design included a large outdoor pavilion with heaters discreetly built into the ceiling, and pull-down shades and awnings on the outside allowing patrons to enjoy this resort-like space year-round. Add the ocean breezes wafting up the hill, and the added bonus of sunsets easily seen from most of the well-spaced tables and booths … Voila! Pre-Covid-19 vision once again. And although the pavilion has lots of seating, it still feels cozy; with its subtle Spanish Colonial décor making it well-suited to its Spanish Village by the Sea location.

Originally, the plan was to open the restaurant for Cinco de Mayo, but that was delayed with the statewide “Stay-at-Home” orders; next the plan was to open for the 4th of July weekend, again, delayed. Finally, they were able to open August 17th, which has worked out well, allowing for them to train the staff slowly and put in place all the new protocols with social distancing and safety measures for their staff and customers. As an additional touch, they have included blue and amber hand sanitizers on each table. 

Most important, however, is the delicious food being prepared and served at Asada Cantina and Kitchen. Scott McIntosh’s many years of experience working the back of the kitchen and designing menus has taught him a lot about combining flavors and the melding of different foods from diverse cultures for a unique taste. This is a Mexican Style restaurant, however, he uses some Hispanic, French and other cultural influences to create the large, yet varied menu. So, although the menu features a lot of traditional Mexican items, enchiladas, guacamole, salsa, tacos, carnitas and chile rellenos, the recipes feature added ingredients that mingle in your mouth in a delightful manner.

My daughter, Cassidy (coming from New York to live with me for a few months) and I ordered a selection of yummy items from the large menu; which can be easily accessed by scanning a contactless QR code. We started with chips-light and crispy, skinny and long- hand-cut from tortillas, complemented with warm salsa from a kettle and margaritas. I had the Skinny Margarita made with the four Copas Organic Blanco and Cassidy tried the vibrant colored Hibiscus Margarita that had just the right mix of tequila and sweetness. Later, we both sipped on the Smoked Pineapple Margarita, made with fresh pineapple santo mezquila, Cointreau and agave. It was presented beautifully and not overpowering in spice - it did not disappoint. 
For our meal we ordered two appetizers, rolled chicken taquitos with guacamole and 
Tijuana Jerky, grilled Korean short ribs served with avocado poblano slaw. The chicken taquitos were light, crispy, and topped with a delicious sauce. The Tijuana Jerky was cooked to tender perfection and slid easily off of each bone. For our main entrees we selected Enchiladas Verde with blackened Mahi and Crispy Carnitas. The portions were large and yummy with lots of great, unique flavors, including, lime, cilantro and pickled onion-nothing overwhelming just the type of dishes that pack a tasty punch of flavor with each bite. 

The extensive menu offers Starters, Salads and Bowls, House Specialities, Asada Classics, Anytime Breakfast, Little Amigos, Dos Manos, Sides, such as grilled street corn and jalapeno refried beans and Sweets to finish off your meal. In addition, to the hand shaken margaritas and 60 plus tequilas, beverage selections include, signature cocktails, draft and craft beers, wines, sangria and bubbles, small batched cocktails on draft, Mexican Soda Pops and non-alcoholic drinks. 

We were extremely satisfied with our food and drink, plus, we had plenty of leftovers for our lunch and dinner the next day. Our server was attentive, and the food came out very hot without a long wait. My daughter and I enjoyed the well curated music playlist that was not playing too loudly.

After living for 25 years in Laguna Niguel, Scott and Rosemary have relocated to the Sea Summit neighborhood-just across from their new restaurant. They plan to establish themselves here in San Clemente and have hired local people, including several teens from San Clemente High School. We welcome them to our town and wish them much success in their new culinary venture.b

Located at The Outlets
225 W Ave. Vista Hermosa, (949) 561-1200