LA Times | Sarah Mosqueda
May 30, 2023

San Clemente gets Rare Society on board

Rare Society is known for premium meat boards that feature a family-style selection of cuts presented on a custom-designed, wood lazy Susan. (Courtesy of Rare Society)

San Clemente —  Diners have seen charcuterie boards and butter boards, but Orange County is getting its first taste of steak boards, courtesy of Rare Society. The open-flame steakhouse comes from a San Diego-based restaurant collective, Trust Restaurant Group, which opened its first Orange County location last week on May 24 in San Clemente.
“The idea behind Rare Society is still true to what our restaurants in San Diego are,” said chef and owner Brad Wise. “You are still able to share everything.”

Rare Society is known for premium meat boards that feature a family-style selection of chef-determined cuts, presented on a custom-designed, wood lazy Susan.

“Typically at a steakhouse, it is three courses: appetizers, entrees, desserts,” said Wise. “By creating these boards, you are sharing and interacting.”

Diners choose from a menu of 30 to 40 day dry-aged steaks or wagyu cuts, which are all on display in stainless steel meat cabinets. Steaks are grilled over a wood-fire Santa Maria-style grill and served with a choice of sauce like bearnaise, horseradish and Wise’s signature Santa Maria-style salsa.

Chef and owner Brad Wise leads the San Diego-based hospitality collective Trust Restaurant Group, opening its first venture in Orange County. (Courtesy of Rare Society)

The two-story, 5,500-square-feet location on 226 Avenida Del Mar will be the fifth for Rare Society, which currently has two locations in San Diego, one in Santa Barbara and one in Mill Creek, Wash. Rare Society tapped GTC Design to bring the opulent restaurant to life, with gilded hardware and rows upon rows of lights that take cues from Las Vegas and make the sleek dining room sparkle.

The entryway features a wine cellar behind glass doors that showcases the nearly 800 bottles of wine available.

“Our wine program is approachable, digestible,” said wine director Ben Zuba. “We are definitely trying to pick varietals, regions and flavors that really work well with everything that comes off the grill.”

Zuba said the wine list also pays homage to the birthplace of the concept, with big, bold, rich reds from the central coast, San Joaquin Valley and Santa Barbara County.

“What grows together, goes together,” said Zuba. “So wines from those regions go really well with the flavors of the birthplace of that wood-fired, Santa Maria, central coast-style grilling.”

A sophisticated bar program offers cocktails that carry the steakhouse theme through, like the restaurant’s signature Rare Old Fashioned, made with dry-aged fat-washed bourbon.

“All of our drinks are creative spins on steakhouse classics,” said bar director Colin Berger. “So cocktails you would expect when you walk in, like our spin on an old fashioned, a Manhattan, as well as a classic gin martini and then slightly more creative riffs beyond that.”

Besides steaks, wine and whiskey, classic steakhouse menu items like oyster Rockefeller, Parker house rolls, seafood towers and Caesar salad are also available.

Upstairs, 90% of the seats offer an ocean view, and a private dining room has gold curtains that can be drawn for privacy or left open.

Wise said a visit to south Orange County a few years ago convinced him O.C. was a market Trust needed to get into.

“I like this neighborhood a lot,” said Wise. “When we went upstairs and saw the views and everything this place had to offer, we knew we had to plant some roots here in San Clemente.”

Rare Society hopes to be the rare restaurant able to offer something exciting and new but still comfortable and familiar.

“Our filet is still our number one sold item; however, we give people the ability to try new things and still have a filet on the board,” said Wise. “In my eyes, that is what creates memorable dining experiences.”