Fresh off their win at the Golden Foodies Awards for Most Delicious Dessert, Maro Wood Grill is a tiny gem in Laguna Beach whose 95% loyal local patrons would probably like to keep it a secret. When you visit you’ll see why – Maro Wood Grill offers a casual, yet sleek dining experience on the stylish patio that seats up to 22 and there’s room for 8 at high tables and counter seats overlooking the open kitchen inside – so it can get crowded quickly.
Not to keep you waiting – the winning dessert is their Grilled Banana Bread Pudding with Dulce de Leche (there’s the Argentinian flair) and Bourbon Cream Sauce. The firm pudding is made with artisan brioche, all organic ingredients (bananas, cream, eggs) and caramelized in the wood fire grill for an unforgettable rich indulgence of sweet, caramel, smoky flavors and textures. Worth a trip to Laguna for sure – especially since high tourist season is past; traffic is bearable and parking can be found.
You may want to start with dessert first but, hands down, the most popular item is the grass fed beef Maro Burger. The Maro Burger is made with locally sourced, grass fed beef from Paso Robles and prepared with artisan, organic and house made items. Accompanying this natural mesquite wood fired beauty is aged Vermont cheddar, Nueske’s applewood smoked bacon, artisan potato bun, organic lettuce and Rosso Bruno tomatoes, and house made pickled onions and aioli. The combination of the local grass fed beef, the natural Mesquite wood fire and hand picked organic ingredients truly make this one burger not to miss.
My brother and I were there for lunch and knew going in that we would have to order the Maro Burger – apparently so do the majority of guests. All but two or three diners that I observed had burgers brought to the table. My brother, who took most of these photographs (his first foray into food photography), declared it the best burger he’s had in years.
The Maro Burger has been voted the best burger in Laguna Beach and, FYI, the only burger not from a burger shop vying for the OC Golden Foodie award for Best Burger. For me, it’s the winner. You absolutely cannot beat the authentic wood fire grilled flavor imparted to the meat and no other method can create the charred, crispy exterior surrounding a beautiful hunk of juicy, yet lean, grass fed beef. And the lightly-dressed slaw with a little kick of cayenne was the perfect foil for the rich flavors of the burger. Here’s another look – perfectly cooked medium. Here’s another look – my mouth is watering…
Going Argentinian for a day, we ordered two empanadas as a starter ($3.50 each)versus the Edamame of grilled soy beans, house pickled ginger and sea salt ($8.00) or the Picada Plate of cheese and meats which we felt would be too heavy given the entrees we were eyeing (Maro Burger and one of the grass fed beef selections – Argentina is known for beef, after all). The empanadas are attractive and baked, not fried, with a doughy crust rather than the more flaky crust I’ve had in the past. The Spicy Chicken Empanada would have excited me more if it had been spicier. We both thought the Mushroom Empanada was more flavorful with organic mushrooms, onions and mozzarella cheese.
Next time I’m ordering The Picada Plate – I can’t wait to try the Smoked Pheasant Pâté that’s being featured on the Autumn Picada Plate along with Fra’Mani Salumi, DrunkenGoat Cheese, Maytag Blue Cheese, House Made Peach Hatch Chile Compote, Organic Gala Apples, House Made Membrillo, Marcona Almonds, Candied Pecans, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Raisins on the Vine, Dried Tart Cherries, Grilled Ciabatta ($25.00).
My bro had just returned from 19 months in Afghanistan and was ready to sink his teeth into some good quality beef. Of the three choices, a Baseball cut, Hanger Steak or Skirt Steak we chose the 8 ounce Paso Grass Fed Hanger Steak ($33) because it was paired with chimichurri and I figured Maro’s had to be great. Grass fed beef is leaner than corn fed beef and cuts like Hanger or Skirt Steak are popular with chefs and restaurants for their meaty flavor more than their tenderness. The steak was a little chewy but the smoky, robust beef flavor combined with the fresh bright piquant chimichurri was excellent.
With a focus on sustainable, fresh ingredients, and simple, wood-fired cooking, Maro describes their concept as creative, sustainable, thoughtful, spontaneous, community based food. Owner Maro (short for Mariano) Molteni, Executive Chef Debra Sims and grill master Mariano Rivero are cooking up fresh organic cuisine with an Argentinian twist like baked empanadas and mesquite grilled meats. Molteni and Rivero are Argentinian born and raised (Buenos Aires). Executive Chef Debra Sims hails from Colorado and is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu. Molteni and Sims both appreciate and understand that great ingredients from dedicated farmers, ranchers, and artisans are the key to great dining as is simply prepared food that allows the ingredients to shine.
Maro’s varied menu is available at lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday, they are closed on Monday. In addition to the amazing Maro burger and steaks the menu features a variety of empanadas, locally sourced organic salads, grilled fish, lamb with house made chimichurri, and roast chicken. And, you absolutely must save room for Chef Sims’ award-winning Grilled Banana Bread Pudding, organic chocolate chip cookies or dulce del leche cake when you visit.
1915 South Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651