I have been a David Wilhelm fan for many years, and the reason is simple: The chef-turned-restaurateur created some of the most memorable restaurants in Orange County. In fact, his Culinary Adventures restaurant group was based in Newport Center, a perfect location to supervise his coastal restaurant empire that once stretched from Huntington Beach to Laguna Beach.
His French 75 restaurant in Laguna Beach (now home to Selanne Steak Tavern) was one of my regular haunts. Their French 75 cocktail and shrimp cassoulet were my go-to items.
His Chat Noir restaurant in Costa Mesa near Segerstrom Center was another favorite, featuring live jazz music and creative cuisine.
Other notable local restaurants that were Wilhelm originals: Kachina, Bistro 201, Barbacoa, Diva, Sorrento and Sorrento Grille, Savannah Chop House, and Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern.
On the heels of those successes, in 2019, Wilhelm opened Tavern House Kitchen & Bar (where 3Thirty3 once held court) overlooking the Newport Beach Marina. The menu reflects Wilhelm’s greatest hits (including his famous French 75 onion soup) along with many new dishes. If you haven’t tried his fried chicken yet, it’s among the best in OC.
Now, Wilhelm is expanding his Tavern House concept to San Juan Capistrano, which has become the new darling of the dining community.
Wilhelm has purchased Cedar Creek Inn in San Juan Capistrano’s historic Mission Promenade. Now at the helm of the kitchen, Wilhelm has revamped the menus at Cedar Creek Inn as he gears the restaurant up for a remodel and relaunch as Tavern at the Mission early next year.
The addition of the San Juan Capistrano restaurant makes sense. Wilhelm and his business partner Gregg Solomon are both longtime residents of San Juan Capistrano. In November of 2022 they entered into a purchase agreement with the owners of Cedar Creek Inn.
According to press information, extensive renovations are planned but the duo is committed to preserving the location’s historical integrity and old-town charm. The reimagined space will include changes to the dining rooms and bar and an enhancement of the large outdoor patio including the addition of live music.
“As a San Juan Capistrano resident, I’m personally invested in maintaining the community’s historic charm,” said Wilhelm, who’s lived in San Juan Capistrano for nearly five years. “Our town has a uniquely rich history, and I couldn’t be more excited to share a concept that reflects my own history as a chef and restauranteur with my community.”
Wilhelm has already revamped the food menus, drink and wine lists at Cedar Creek Inn. Guests can now enjoy Wilhelm’s popular New American cuisine and comfort food classics. The menu at Tavern at the Mission will focus on California’s multicultural history, drawing inspiration from Mexican, Spanish, and European cuisines. Guests can look forward to some of Wilhelm’s signature Southwestern creations, including his Maine Lobster and Corn Crepe ‘Burrito’ with chipotle cream sauce.
And for Cedar Creek Inn fans, a selection of best-sellers and fan favorites from that restaurant, including the Monte Cristo Sandwich and Coconut Cake, will continue as menu mainstays.
“Cedar Creek Inn has been a staple in this community for more than twenty-five years,” comments Wilhelm, “We’d like to honor that history and the loyal patrons who’ve frequented over the years by continuing to offer some of their most beloved menu items.”
Much like the Newport Beach location, the libations program will offer a selection of elegant martinis, handcrafted margaritas, and specialty seasonal craft cocktails.
Cedar Creek Inn is located along San Juan Capistrano’s historic Mission Promenade (26860 Old Mission Road). For more information on Tavern House Kitchen & Bar and Tavern at The Mission, please visit the website at https://www.tavernhousekb.com.