Much to the relief of local diners, the Grande Dame of Coronado restaurants, Chez Loma, re-opened last week, under the capable hands of owner and architect Andres Girault, Executive Chef Celestina Ford, and General Manager Heather Nunnelly.

Girault, who had been dining at the restaurant since his father first introduced him to the establishment when he was just 8 years old, originally took over the space 12 years ago, reviving the 1889 building to create a space that serves as one of the most romantic dining spots in Southern California.

Girault notes that the space is quaint and perfect for first date, marriage proposal, or anniversary dinner, and indeed, many customers who were engaged in one of the private corners long ago have returned regularly for 40 years.

While the spot is indeed quaint, and the food elegant, it is not stuffy, and patrons are treated like old friends and family members.

It is a spot popular with the locals, and Nunnelly, who also owns and operates Crown Town Tipis and has had years of restaurant experience, proudly notes that the restaurant is also staffed largely by locals, including her own daughter, a recent Coronado High School graduate. Many young people who had their first jobs at Chez Loma as hostesses, bussers, and wait staff have gone on to open their own successful local businesses.

Long-time employee and local surf legend Stan Searfus, who tragically passed away in a surfing accident in 2018, is rightly honored with a specialty drink named for him, the “Chez Loma Stan Margatini”, a tropical tequila drink with a bite, which debuted on June 4.

Ford, who grew up and still resides in Coronado, has refined the menu while still ensuring that the much-loved classics like Boeuf Bourguignon, Steak Frites, and Soupe A L’Oignon are still available, will be offering weekly specials to ensure that patrons can experience new culinary adventures.

I’ve had the opportunity to sample some of Ford’s exquisite dishes, which arrived at the table so beautifully plated it almost seemed a shame to dive in with the fork and knife.

The peppered filet steak, beautifully studded with coarsely ground peppercorns and served with luscious golden mashed potatoes and king trumpet mushrooms, was perfectly prepared, tender, and loaded with rich beefy flavor.

For those with lighter appetites, both the beet salad and the Caesar salad are perfect options. The beet salad features three types of colorful beets, served with delicate butter lettuce, lemon-fennel dusted goat cheese, and glossed with a light, bright dressing, with each ingredient complementing another. It’s a sumptuous work of art on a plate.

A heartier salad that’s still on the lighter side is Ford’s updated version of the Salade Niçoise. This French classic, which traditionally features green beans, canned tuna, hard boiled eggs, and tomatoes, is elevated to a substantial main dish here with the addition of baby potatoes and a generous portion of seared fresh ahi tuna. It’s summer on a plate, satisfying, and largely guilt-free.

Though it’s technically summer in Coronado, thankfully our cooler evenings still allow for enjoying Boeuf Bourguignon. It’s quintessential French comfort food, and Ford takes this simple stew to a swoon-worthy level.

If you’re looking for a quick bite, such as the locally famous duck tacos, after a walk on the beach, the breezy bar and sidewalk dining areas will be open for a more casual dining experience. You can nosh and chat as you enjoy a little people watching on Loma Avenue.

Chez Loma is located just off Orange Avenue, at 1132 Loma Avenue. Hours are 5 to 9 p.m. daily, with brunch and happy hour service coming soon. For more information visit: https://www.restaurantji.com/ca/coronado/chez-loma-/

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