Puck’s Tavern is part of a major food remodel at the Anaheim venue.
After pulling most of his brands from Orange County years ago, celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck is giving Honda Center a shot at showcasing the next concept in his food empire.
The 260-seat Puck’s Tavern opens Tuesday Dec. 18. (Updated 3:25 p.m. to reflect change in opening date.)� at Honda Center, which has overhauled its food and beverage operations. Two Puck-branded eateries, the full-service Tavern and a concession stand, are the final pieces of a makeover that includes a new members-only dining club and revamped food stands.
While the Grand Terrace is exclusive to paid members, Puck’s Tavern will be open to the public during Honda Center events. The premium dining restaurant is playing it smart, opening next week when family-heavy audiences are attending the first of several “Disney on Ice” shows. That gives the Tavern several days to work out the kinks before the Ducks return Dec. 28.
In an exclusive interview, Wolfgang Puck, owner of the legendary Spago in Beverly Hills, said the Tavern menu is subject to tweaks.
“We’ll see what works,” said Puck, 64. “At the beginning, we don’t know 100 percent of the customers there and how much money they want to spend. We’ll change a little bit in the first month so we know what sells and doesn’t sell.”
Karl Matz, who has worked for Puck for 10 years, is the executive chef. The Tavern, on the ground level below the Grand Terrace, is geared for people who love to go to sporting events, Puck said. Menu items include poutine fries, chicken wings, agnolotti caramelized butternut squash, gourmet pizzas and glazed bacon doughnuts. The 12-seat bar will serve signature cocktails and a variety of wines and draft beers.
“We have to do food which is easy to execute, so people can get on time to the hockey game or the concert,” he said.
Some items are signature dishes, such as Puck’s smoked salmon pizza topped with dill crème fraiche, American caviar and chives.
The Window at Puck’s Tavern, a food stand near Section 210, will serve made-to-order pizzas, poutine and draft beers. Some of the pizza choices will be pepperoni, margherita, barbecue chicken and fennel sausage.
Puck talked about Orange County dining, where he likes to eat and his thoughts on social media.
Q. You have a restaurant at South Coast Plaza. But the Honda Center tavern marks a big return for you to Orange County.
A. I’m still looking to open an upscale restaurant here someday in Orange County. We were talking five years ago when recession hit to do something where the Ritz is now. But that didn’t work out then. So maybe one of these days we’ll do something if we find the right place. There’s definitely enough wealth down here to warrant an upscale restaurant.
Q. What are you hearing about Orange County’s food scene?
A. I don’t think in L.A. you really hear a lot about Orange County. It has its own identity. L.A. is so big. We’re just like you. We have a lot of young chefs opening small restaurants. Interesting food.
Q. As you travel around the world, what trends are you seeing?
A. The world has become one. What has changed the most, you can get everything everywhere now. What surprises me the most is how savvy people have become, you know. Even in places like Cleveland. In Cleveland, you go to a store and they have 10 or 12 different fresh mushrooms.
Q. What are you doing in Cleveland?
A. I go to Cleveland often. We do a thing for the university hospital – a big benefit for the cancer clinic every two years. I invite 30 chefs. I’ve been doing it since 1987. (Note: The event is the Five Star Sensation at the University Hospital’s Seidman Cancer Center.)
Q. Where do you like to eat in Los Angeles?
A. I’m a creature of habit. If I take the kids, we often go to Angelini (Osteria) on Beverly Boulevard or we go to Matsuhisa. I don’t go out that often. On Sunday, we go to Hotel Bel-Air where we have a restaurant. I love fried chicken and we have fried chicken on the menu on Sunday nights. It has become a really popular thing.