Meet Wild Goose Tavern

Costa Mesa is about to call "Fowl!" once Wild Goose Tavern publicly opens its doors on November 9th. Of course, it won't be because anything is wrong. It's the contrary for local Orange County residents who have already entered the tavern; they find themselves so at ease there. A neighboring bartender even praised, "If I could dream up a bar to work in, this would be it." Costa Mesa will call fowl for the large wild goose on the wall and be quite transfixed by the other creatures that have gone under a taxidermist's hands. The venue's decor takes one back to rustic Americana and is the culmination of a vision between Mario Marovic and Andrew Gabriel to create just a "neighborhood bar."

I spoke with the co-owners over the phone about this concept that looked unique to Orange County and asked them about its vision. Their insights really painted a backstory for the tavern.

How did you two meet and form this partnership?
Andrew: "We connected through mutual friends 15 years ago now so we've just been best friends ever since and obviously Mario...I had seen him work from his first bar to his sixth and now to be a part of this latest venture." 
Andrew himself is part of his family's business in Mountain Water Ice Company and as he references, Mario does own several other establishments including ones you may have frequented such as Malarky's Irish Pub and District Lounge. In addition to being friends, they also are both interested in architectural restoration, collecting, and flea markets!

How did the Wild Goose Tavern get its name? 
Mario: "As far as the history of the bar, the name goes back to the 1970s. I'm a second generation restaurant bar owner. My family's first business ever was called Wild Goose Tavern in Anaheim. My mom would cook in the kitchen, and my dad would be at the front of the house every day. I've been running to work with them ever since I was six years old...Andrew was nice enough to appreciate the name." 
What a great way to pay homage to his parents who have worked hard owning their own business and have taught him what he knows now. Coincidentally, the two owners' shared interest in American restoration matched the tribute of a name with a hunting lodge ambiance in the new tavern.

Where did all the decor come from? 
Mario: "Items came from all over the place - different flea markets, antique shops, mainly in Southern California. All the pieces have a story behind them. The lights over the bar are chicken feeders turned upside down with drilled holes in them. The other lights are from European ships so they are boatlights. The backbar is all reclaimed barn wood from a barn in Tenessee. One of the pieces on the wall is a one-of-a-kind bronze American flag by a European craftsman from Croatia who now lives in Costa Mesa and is a family friend. All his work is hands-on blacksmith style and it's the only piece in the entire world." 

What's the story behind the taxidermy? How'd you get that wild goose piece?
Mario: "The sheep was one that my father shot 20 years ago when he dragged me out with all his buddies. The goose, we ended up getting that from a family friend in Santa Barbara. It was a goose that he shot many years ago and he was downsizing from a larger home to a smaller home. I always admired it and coincidentally when we were going to open the bar, the goose was available."
Be aware - the mighty jackalope is also in the room.

House Dogs including Beer Brat, Chicken, and Jalapeno Cajun

Tell me about your food and drink. 
Mario: "Ultimately it's a tavern but we do have a full menu. Everyone who works in our kitchen actually has a culinary background - everyone who cooks on the line went to culinary school. Everything on the menu is made in house, handcut, etc and has full thought behind it. We'll have an extensive whiskey menu - 75 different whiskeys, bourbon, scotch (from Japan, Canada, etc)."
They quite possibly will have the largest whiskey menu in the area. Housemade foods include even their sauces and condiments!

What would be your signature cocktails? 
Mario: "We spent a lot of time creating a very unique signature cocktail list with house-infused ingredients like our own cucumbers in gin, mango in tequila, our own simple syrups, and all the juices are hand squeezed. We've been working with Kevin Eyles, our house mixologist, for six months even before construction on the concept and drink menus. We've gone through at least 20 revisions." 
Full cocktail list downloadable by clicking here.

Mango Habanero Margarita with house-infused habanero tequila, organic mango puree, fresh lime, & mint

What's your overall vision in the years to come? 
Mario: "We want to be a neighborhood bar. We're in one of the most invaluable neighborhoods in OC. The general feel is like you've been here for 50 years. People will commute from cities around to check it out but for years to come, we want to have a positive impact on the neighborhood."
With the reception they've already had from the community, this looks easy to achieve. Early visitors have talked about just how comfortable and at home they feel with the relaxing ambiance and refurnished decor.

Pepper Dew Cheeseburger with oven-dried tomatoes, arugula, and garlic aioli

What are the differences in the people who will come out to this tavern vs. your other restaurants' regulars?
Mario: "Where I am in my life, married with children, I wanted to create a concept that our friends and family would come to, the late 30s to 50s phase that we're in in our lives. The difference is really the demographic that we're seeking is an older demographic, not interested in us doing entertainment, doing dancing. We just want to be a neighborhood tavern with great food, good ambiance, creative cocktails, phenomenal service, and an educated staff. That's where we're at in our life." 

Any last comments? 
Mario: "One thing we've left out is the trends - the craft cocktail and beer trend is at an all-time high. I'm an avid traveler and saw that even 10 years ago, the handcrafted cocktails idea in London really caught on here. It's nice to embrace that and develop a passion for that." 

The Wild Goose Tavern's construction is 100% finished, and the co-owners have been spending their time training the staff. You can find them at 436 East 17th Street, Costa Mesa, Ca 92627 once they open!  Though I don't fit into their targeted demographic, I myself am excited for their opening. My thanks to Rob of 714 Media, Mario, and Andrew for taking the time to speak to me. See you at the media preview!

All photography courtesy of Wild Goose Tavern.