Monday, July 09, 2007

Chez Cary Restaurant

In Santa Ana, near the border with Orange, there used to be an upscale restaurant called "Chez Cary". It was located on Main Street, next to the old Buffum's store.

In it's time, it spared no expense in trying to be as upscale as possible. They provided foot rests for women, and they had a "women's menu" with no prices listed on it. They served many distinguished guests.

I wanted to make separate blog post for Chez Cary because we received so many comments from people who remembered it on our earlier post about Favorite Orange County Restaurants.

Some people seem to think that Chez Cary later was converted into another restaurant called, "Ambrosia". Apparently, this is not the case. However, the two restaurants share a connection, which the commenters pointed out.

Here are the comments. Click on "Post a Comment" at the bottom of this article, and submit your memories of Chez Cary...

Please, please, someone help me out here! It was the fanciest, priciest restaurant in Santa Ana, just across from Buffin's on Main Street. The women's menu had no prices. Two short words, think they were French. The mind is rotting away, so I really need your memory. Thanks.

By Anonymous, at April 09, 2006 8:07 PM

The restaurant is Chez Cary (prounounced shay ka'ree').

By Anonymous, at April 09, 2006 8:16 PM

Chez Cary later became Ambrosia (I think) it was also a very upscale resturant at the time.

By stuart wallach, at May 09, 2006 1:11 PM

The April 9th writer mentioned a pricy restaurant across from Buffums on Main in Santa Ana. It was Chez Cary, but it was across from what is now Main Place in Orange. The location is now a parking lot. It was owned by Cary Sinclair. The menu was very expensive at the time...around $10-$15 per person...strictly a special occasion place. It was not related to Ambrosia in Newport Beach. Chez Cary also featured a weekly musical showcase. One regular performer was Jennifer Warnes (Time of My Life with Bill Medley). Prior to it becoming the Chez, it was called The Parisiene. Very upscale, dark, and themed like an outdoor Paris Cafe. This would have been in the late 50's or early 60's.

By Anonymous, at June 25, 2006 1:43 AM

So now we know that Chez Cary is not currently Ambrosia, but there IS an Ambrosia restaurant in Santa Ana at the OC Pavillion. Any reviews of that restaurant?

By Anonymous, at June 29, 2006 1:43 PM

I worked for the Chez Cary Restaurant from 1975 to 1979. It was a great time. Daily I cooked real Dover Sole from the English channel, Froglegs, Abalone,Sweetbreads, etc etc. I was 16 when I started there and was trained by Swiss Chef Fred Hossli. One of the best Sauciers that I had ever known.

Names like Gabby, Henry, Johny Ahn, Hanz, Sean, Ray, Klauss, Doug Cull, James Sly all come to mind. The good old days!

By joeymac, at August 28, 2006 10:45 PM

One of my mom's favorites was the Chez Cary. She loved that her menu did not have prices and they also provided a little footstool for her feet.

By Linda (Hermon) Hayes, at November 01, 2006 9:53 PM

The Chez Cary was awesome, the bartenders made the best "Pousse Cafe's" - a beverage with leveled colors of alchohol. Unfortunately it was torn down for an ugly parking lot.

The new Ambrosia is located in the OC Pavilion - it is probably the best/fanciest restaurant in OC right now, even over The Ritz. I was just there and they seem to know you and take care of you as soon as you park the car and walk to the building. The atmosphere is quite nice inside and I love the small trio band that plays while you eat. Be prepared to spend at least $100 per person - easy... but it is worth it.

By Anonymous, at November 17, 2006 2:36 PM

there seems to be a lot of confussion over the chez cary and the ambrosia,the chez cary was first opened under the mgt of cary sinclair prior to that sinclair had managed the villa fontana. sinclair left the villa and opened the chez cary for nathan rosental, a big wig I believe in the teamsters . ask guido to be continued

By Anonymous, at December 01, 2006 9:58 AM

joeymac this is guido falco I worked with you at the chez Im in woodstock Ga. Im in the book lets talk

By Anonymous, at December 01, 2006 10:09 AM

Sinclair left the chez cary under suspicious circumstances, geril and gus muller took over the helm of the chez cary a few years later they openned ambrosia a carbon copy of the chez cary down to the crushed red velvet chairs. I actually worked in both restaurants, the ambrosia in the early seventies and the chez in late 70's . they were the most high end eateries of there time I believe both of the muller brothers are gone now. and by the way cary is pronounced like drew cary the guest were allways changing it to Karee it was never pronounced as a french word. Everything was prepared tabele side or finnished at the table 6 tables and 3 servers the likes of which nyou will rarely see anywhere today. the check average was well into the 60 $ range or more the wine list looked like a bible. more later ask guido any old friends out thier

By Anonymous, at December 01, 2006 10:19 AM

the ambrosia was started by geril and gus muller both danes gus was cool geril was a bit of a prussian but if you proved yourself you did ok by him. they had a capitol partner {no idea who} . geril had a son who I believe is still in oc the restaurant was set up just like the chez I think it was just a tad smaller than the chez cary and it had originally held karems an upscale restaurant of similar style both the chez cary and ambrosia catered to the shakers and makers of oc society, on any given sunday or monda y tues... you could run into the duke{john wayne} chuck heston or the reverend shuller with the like of diva beverly sills burl Ives and many more, richard nixon and even the governor {regan} . more later ask guido

By Anonymous, at December 02, 2006 10:17 AM

I dined regularly at the Ambrosia restaurant in Newport Beach. The Ambrosia was created by brothers Gus and Geril Muller who brought fine dining to Orange County. These two restaurateurs were innovators and created dining experiences which have never been duplicated since it was closed in the mid 80's. I had many enjoyable evenings at the Ambrosia from Geril's narrated la Chaine des Rotisseurs dinners to political fund-raisers; every dinner was flawless. Every time we were at the Ambrosia someone interesting was having dinner from politics, film or business. Geril and Gus groomed their nephew Howard Kent to one day take over the restaurant. I recently ran into Howard who still lives in Newport Beach and he told me that Geril doing great. My wife and I wish that the original Ambrosia was still around.

By Anonymous, at February 09, 2007 11:11 AM

There hae been several comments about the Chez Cary & original Ambrosia. They indeed were the creation of Geril & Gus Muller. And yes, Geril is doing well. I just wanted to clarify that the new Ambrosia in Santa Ana is not related to the original Ambrosia as many articles have claimed. The trademark was copied from the original Ambrosia and some of the amenities, but it does not have the creativity or the heart of the Muller brothers in it.

By Anonymous, at March 18, 2007 2:38 PM

I was married to Cary Sinclair in 1970. I visited the Chez Cary on our honeymoon and met the Rosenthals. I never knew about his wrong-doings in California. Can anyone tell me?

One day he showed me a newspaper where they quoted: "Drop charges against Sinclair" Not knowing enough English limited me to understand what this meant. He opened a sucessful steak and lobster operation in Acapulco, Mexico where I am from, with his partner Carlos Mendoza. After our divorce in 1977, I moved to Texas. He opened 4-5 more restaurants. His original Black Beards was very sucessful. I remember him welcoming Henry Kissinger, Roger Moore, Johnny Carson (I never knew until later, who they were)... :[

I learned from friends in Acapulco that he went broke.

I think he still operates one of the restaurants... I am in contact with him off and on through the Internet... Ex wife, Elvia

By Elvia Wallace-Martinez, at May 28, 2007 7:29 AM

Geril Mueller was a great guy, my Dad supplied both the Chez Cary and the Ambrosia and he and Geril were very good friends, the Muellers were nice enough to have us over to their home one time. Whenever Geril needed an emergency delivery, my mom and sister would ride along with my Dad and I and Geril would bring out a long stemmed, chocolate covered strawberry for each of them as a thank you!

By teeoc, at June 28, 2007 12:28 PM


  1. Chez Carey,
    Ahh, how sweet it was! Chez Carey, The finest of the fine in resteraunts.
    It was the place to take your date for Prom or Homecomming. Your date knew she was in a special place when the waiter with a french accent asked, "Would the Lady like a pillow for the feet?" I remember noding in the affirmative to my date Leslie and quitly saying, "Oh yeah, gotta have that."
    After dinner there was that cigar rack on wheels my buddy Mike Ableman had been scoping. Tableside, We each bought two of the largest cigars on the display. One to smoke immediatly and one for the memories.
    I remember watching intently as the gentelman whipped out a device with blades flipping around while dipping the cigar in, "something". I tried to smoke that monster but it was hopeless. But how Leslie enjoyed my breath.

  2. Cary Sinclair is my uncle and he opened a restaurant (steak and lobster) in acapulco called the Embarcadero. He later called my dad inviting him to join in a partnership together with his other partner called carlos mendoza. My dad originally built mamas wich was built next to blackbeards and was the called mimis. My dad also built D'joints wich was a very famous prime rib house. All this was in Acapulco.

  3. This is Jennifer Warnes!
    Where is Cary?
    Please tell him to write me via my website and say hello!
    Yes, he gave me a great job and treated me very well.
    Rudy Gernrich had a couture show at Chez Cary once. I never forgot that. The women were all dress up like birds.
    I learned about elegance from Cary.
    Give him my warmest and kindest regards!

    1. I remember the Gernrich trunk show ..... Rudy and I were friends, my ex-wife, Ginger King, who worked at Apropos, was one of Gernrich's models. Ginger left Apropos and went to work for Broadway as their in-store and photo ad designer....she's retired now.

      Rudy was really an interesting guy - always thinking about fashion. He was certainly different from main stream designers.

      Anyway, I knew Cary from my association with him when he managed the Villa Fontana for Howard days.

      Cary graduated from Wilson High School in Long Beach in, I believe, 1950 or so. His real name, so he said to me, is William (Bill) Whitehead. Don't know how or when he became "Cary Sinclair".....but a great "front" name.

      You should email me at: majskyking at gmail dot com I cannot show the complete email address here, but I'm sure you'll be able to figure it out.

      Bob King

  4. It was pronounced Cary, rhymes with Cary Grant.

  5. Little Red Inn by Tustin High School: The owner, Al, did all the cooking. Best onion rings and french dips! How about Smitty's Pancake House in Santa Ana and The Zoo, on the way to Corona Del Mar?

  6. We had just moved to Lemon Heights in the Tustin area. My husband was on a business trip...I was lonely, tired, grumpy and needed a lovely night out with my young sons. A neighbor suggested Chez Cary as the finest restaurant in the area.

    Because the boys were very, very young, I called to make the earliest possible reservation for that evening. I told them to change their clothes into Big People Restaurant clothing and off we went.

    They ordered frogslegs. Mom, 3 and 5 year old sons were having a lovely evening.

    A small string group was playing at the tables. They stopped at our and asked if we had a request. The 5 year old asked if they knew Speed Racer. The gentleman offered a small bow, said "but of course" - he stepped back and they played a classican rendition of the tune. Sons applauded enthusiastically.

    After a truly enjoyable evening and meal, I asked for the bill. There wasn't one. A guest, so charmed by well-behaved children AND their musical request, had taken care of it "with pleasure" I was told.

    Chez Cary, it was more than a restaurant. It was an most pleasant experience.

    Charlotte Alexander

  7. I am so disappointed to learn that the Chez Carey is no more.
    Does anyone know of a comparable restaurant? My husband and I were there in the '70's and I wanted to give my son, who lives in the area, a gift certificate for his birthday. I cherish the memory.
    Everyone should have that dining experience at least once in a lifetime.
    Thanks for any help!

  8. What we remember especially, was the extreme personalized service, including:

    Match books waiting for you at your table, preprinted with your name on it;

    Getting your car for you without being asked, when you asked for your bill, so that it was ready and waiting for you when yo got to the front door.

    The food preparation, service, and ambience were the best. Our only negative was that in those days we couldn't afford to go there very often. But oh what wonderful memories.

  9. I found this site by accident while looking up information about the Japanese Deer Park, and how nostalgic I feel! I remember going to Chez Cary for a pre-prom dinner, and I was one of the strolling violins at Ambrosia, both in Newport and when it later moved to Costa Mesa. Best job I ever had, with great tips! I remember playing at a function that had an ice sculpture of Ronald Reagan's

  10. I'd take mild exception to Anonymous, at February 09, 2007 11:11 AM in his claim that fine dining came to Orange County via Chez Cary. While our area has never been a gourmand's paradise, there have long been very good and interesting restaurants here.

    The most notable is The Cellar in Fullerton, in the basement (or cellar) of the old California Hotel on Harbor at Wilshire. Restaurant lovers do indeed come from hundreds of miles to dine at The Cellar, which is one of the highest rated restaurants in the United States.

    Another I'd like to mention, although not nearly as good for food, was Mona's Castaway on the bluffs above Newport Harbor. It was a restaurant and nightclub started in the 1930s, and reached its peak during World War Two and the years immediately after. In those days it was the only place of its kind for many, many miles around. It was a favorite of officers from the Santa Ana Army Air Base and other local bases and military airfields. It was located right about where East 17th Street in Costa Mesa turns into Dover and proceeds down the hill to PCH. A fire around 1958 or so destroyed the Castaways, and now it's all but forgotten. Local visitors or part-time residents including Errol Flynn, Peter Lorre, Bette Davis, Andy Devine, James Cagney and others would occasionally stop by. John Wayne didn't come around until many years later.

  11. I'm surprised no one has mentioned Gustav Anders just north of South Coast Plaza, but it must be because it wasn't a place from the old days. The food was magnificent and the bread in particular was spectacular. For several decades it was the second finest restaurant in Orange County, behind The Cellar in Fullerton. It closed about 3 years ago, unfortunately.

  12. I worked for KWIZ Radio in the late 1960's and had lunch at Chez Carey all the time. Fabulous, declectable dining on for instance, Beluga aviar on toast points and good Russian vodka One time the chef invited me into the kitchen to watch him make chocolate souffles. Those were the best and possibly the most continually costly dining experiences I've had..but we were young and my boyfriend was very rich and life was a wonderful game. There was another great restaurant near there called Villa Fontana. How well I remember Buffums. I was later a publicist for the Irvine Company when there were but TWO towers in Fashion Island. I wrote press releases and even named some of their housing developments. I recall writing the press releases for the new golf club Big Canyon and thinking, who would pay 2000 dollars to join this club. What is it now to join? $300,000 or something. Well, I could go on and on about the good old days in Newport Beach and Santa Ana...things have changed....haven't they?

    1. should email me about the "old days"......we could OD on nostalgia.

      I did not work for KWIZ (seems as if everyone else did!), but I did work at the Gourmet Room at the Disneyland Hotel - it was the second job I had after my discharge in 1956.

      Fun stuff and great memories!!

      Bob King
      majskyking at gmail dot com ......cannot show the full address, but I think you can figure it out.

  13. We still tell our friends about Chez Cary. The food was great but you can get good food at a lot of places. Chez Cary gave you personalized boxes of matches at your table, a staff of captains and waiters who made sure you never used one of those matches (they appeared out of nowhere to light your cigarette). After dinner cigars were offered from a leather bound case and dipped in cognac. Everything, from cocktails to dessert was a ceremony. When you left, your warm car was at the exit door, no waiting, it just magically appeared.
    Aside from the invasion of the smoke nazis, there are a lot of service tips that could be adopted by today's restaurants to attract diners, differentiat them from the competition and help justify their prices.
    I attened their 10 year anniversary dinner and will never forget it, even though I still dislike sweetbreads.

  14. I was 15 or16, when I worked at the Chez Cary. I believe it was 1974 to 1976. My Father had worked there as a chef, many years prior to me. They called me a "Pantry Chef" . I shucked oysters, made salads, soups, desserts, etc...
    It was a great time. The only waiter I recall was a very tall, Asian Gentleman by the name of Sidney...what a nice guy! There was also Stania, and of course the ever VOCAL Fred Hossli (Reminds me of Hells Kitchen). Klaus was a very kind, patient chef who was always checking on me :).
    Anyway, I just wanted to post my thoughts, since I was fortunate to have experienced this bit of OC History.
    I am now happily retied in Chino Hills, CA.
    Warm Regards,

    1. Chez Cary has there own facebook page. It has pictures of employees and past employees

  15. My Mother, Doris Winckler did much of the publicity for the Chez in the early 1970's. A time when Mary Lou Frazier and her late Brother Roy Christler were in charge--(passed away in early '80's). I recall the many articles written on the Chez--especially Fred Hostler. A true tradition of Continental Cuisine few can match to this day.

  16. This is the finest restaurant I could ever imagine! I used to go there about once a month for an uncommon experience either with a date or special friends.
    The signal points were: a cushion for ladies feet, extraordinary tapestries hanging on the walls, a wine list that was nothing short on unbelievable, menus that were a visual feast (and only the host had one with prices on it!), the valet had my car always waiting at the front door (I could never figure out how he did it!).
    I had a friend of means who lived in Los Angeles and New York City, spent many weekends in Laguna Beach, and asked me for my favorite restaurant and of course I told him "Chez Cary." We played golf together the day after he and his wife had dined there and he gushed about it......"I have dined at the best in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc. and Chez Cary is the Best!
    Too bad it's gone.........

  17. Our marriage was decided at Chez Cary in 1975.... We wish we could return on our anniversaries.

    Bob & Sue

  18. 24 August 2008
    I worked at the Chez from 1973 to 1989, leaving just before it closed. First, it is pronounced Cary, as in Cary Grant. Second, it was founded by Nathan Rosenberg of San Diego. He had nothing to do with the teemsters--he actually was involved with Meyer Lansky, although just to what extent I will not say here. He bought the old Paris Scene restaurant from the owner's widow after a deal to purchase the Villa Fontana from Howard Lawson fell through in early 1965. In return for Howard Lawson's welching on the deal, Nate hired away the entire staff of the Villa, including Cary Sinclair, Klaus Dornen, and Gus and Geril Muller to run the new place. After about a year, Cary was advised to leave the country for his health. It seems there were certain unexplained shortages, and Nate was in no mood for excuses.

    At this juncture, Gus and Geril Muller,who had been captains at the Villa and the Chez, became the GM and maitre d', and were there until late 1972.

    Rosenberg died in 1970, and the Chez, along with numerous other properties, was in a trust adminsitrated by Arthur Aptel, J.D., C.P.A., offiices in Beverly Hills. There was a power struggle between the Mullers and Aptel until he fired them on New Year's Eve of 1972. At this point, Aptel appointed Mary Louise Frazier as GM. She had been the office manager/bookkeeper since 1967.

    In May of 1973, Gus and Geril opened the Ambrosia in Newport,
    with every intention of putting the Chez out of business. It didn't happen. As it turned out, there was more than enough high-end clientele to keep both places going for many years.

    Mary Lou Frazier ran the Chez until 1978, when Sean Lewis, a former captain and maitre d' took over. He was the manager until early 1988, when he had a dispute with that irrascable old curmudgeon (and trust administrator) Arthur Aptel. At that point John "Hans" Stahler, former captain, sommelier and maitre d' took the helm.

    Children's Hospital had been after Aptel to sell them the property for many years. However, the price was always ridiculously high. In March of 1990,they unexpectedly met Aptel's price, and by 21 April 1990, the Chez was shuttered forever.

    This is a truncated version of a very long and quite fascinating story. We did have one Chez Cary reunion party in 1991, and another get-together when Sean Lewis passed away in 2005. Seems like the only time we get together anymore is when one of our brethern passes on to that great dining room in the sky.

    The Chez is not entirely gone - I still have a set of red velvet high-back chairs as my dining room set at home.

    John "Hans" Stahler
    Chez Cary, 1973-1989

  19. I went to the Chez Cary a few times during the mid-1970's, when I lived in Orange, and it was always an incredible experience. In all those times, I don't think I ever saw anyone fill my wine or water glasses, but they were always "up to the proper level" when I would lift one to have a drink. Every dish brought to the table was an exquisite work of art for both the eye and palate.

    On one occasion I had brought a date who had trouble with grape skins...didn't care for the texture...who knows, but the waiter got wind of this, peeled and brought to the table a bowl-full of Red and Green seedless grapes served with a mild cream cheese dressing--on the side--for her to enjoy.

    I made sure he knew how much we appreciated that over-the-top gesture. ...only at Chez Cary.

    1. "A wine glass, like a cruise ship, should be only half-full."

      Old, old adage from back in the days of dining style and grace.

  20. Cary Sinclair Creations
    Villa Fontana, Orange county
    Chez Cary, Orange County
    Later opened 8 extremely successful
    Restaurants in Acapulco.
    He retired in 2001 and now lives close to his daughters in USA

  21. I have a box of matches and when I was about to use the last match I took a trip down memory lane. It is a small box red foil with Gold foil writing "Chez Cary" on the front and the address "571 So. Main St. Orange, California" on the back along with a gold foil name plate where they would engrave your name for a souvenir of your visit. My special occasion was Prom night 1975 and my date worked at the Chez although I'm not sure in what capacity. His name was Ladislav "George" Korbel and his mother was Stania Korbel I think she was the pastry chef but I'm not sure. I knew Roy Christler as he and my date (soon to be husband) were friends. The restaurant was amazingly intimate and prided itself on pampering its guests. I remember the red velvet cucoon dining chairs that made your experience very private and the tiny little footstool/pillow that they put under your feet. And yes the womans menu had NO prices!! The most amazing part was the Epinards Flambe Salad made right at your table. It also seems as though they served a Cafe Diablo but I was under age and unable to order it. I ate at a number of wonderful restaurants after that run by Roy Christler and his friend Ron (can't remember his last name) George and I moved to northern CA and got a divorce but I believe he's living in Texas now. loved reading this website and all the OC memories it brought back. Thanks for the ride Jessica Parson, Korbel, Mang

  22. I am delighted to say I am Cary Sinclair`s daughter. I grew up in Acapulco Mexico and enjoyed my fathers restaurants all my childhood and teenage years. El Embarcadero was a masterpiece place, built on lakes with waterfalls and tropical plant islands..The dining was delicious with a Prime rib to die for and a bounty full salad bar that I went crazy for every time.
    To dine delicious Huachinango Red snapper next to waterfalls and boat like atmosphere was an experience that will be etched in Acapulco`s heart forever.
    Never mind the frozen Coco lulus and Margaritas made with tropical zest!
    In the 1990s it became a very hip place when we opened right next door in the same property Texas rose specializing in smoked mesquite meats.
    Then a few years after we opened Cheetah club that matched perfectly with the decor of El Embarcadero`s elegant and natural atmosphere.
    It has been a gift from above to be a part of the family and friends who worked there or dined there.
    I have heard many stories of Villa Fontana and Chez Cary from my dad. I even have some of the menus and I treasure them with all my heart.
    I will go to California soon and look up 571 So. Main Street Orange California..
    Thank you to all who worked with my father and got to know The Skipper!
    God bless,
    Ana Carla Sinclair

    1. Ana Carla .....what a sweet piece.

      Yeah....I knew your father, as most people have stated on this site.

      Knew him from Villa Fontana days.

      VF was right next to a women's couture salon called "Apropos" and my ex-wife worked there. I attended the VF many, many times. What a great place and what great memories I have of it.

      Your father, at one time, told me that his real name was "William 'Bill' Whitehead" and that he graduated from Wilson High School in Long Beach, California in 1948 or so. I believed him.

      Email, if you care to, and we can kick around some info.

      Bob King

    2. Ana Carla .....reply to me at: majskyking at gmail dot com

  23. I have the fondest memory of Chez Cary. In 1970 I was 8 months pregnant and 18 years old. I was invited to dinner at this lovely restaurant with my husband and a business associate. It was a very elegant experience. I was then given a beautiful 6 1/4" crystal bud vase that was purchased from their collection. I was told that it was Baccarat. I "found it" among my collectibles, and noticed that it does not say Baccarat on it. There is etching on the bottom that looks something like "Tip(m)4 S(C)arpancva. It is difficult to read as it was etched by hand. I would appreciate it if someone could identify it for me. Thank you.

  24. CynthiainSanJose, CASeptember 30, 2009 3:38 PM

    I was engaged to my huband (of 33 years) back in 1976 when we were fortunate enough to dine at Chez Cary twice. We've travelled a lot since then, and ate at many upscale restaurants, but none will match the elegance of Chez Cary. No where else could one feel sophisticated yet comfortable and unpretentious. What woman will not remember the proffered footstool! I also remember the second evening we dined there a lightbulb went out above us. We were offered many apologies as a white-gloved employee asked if he could please replace the bulb. And a woman's menu w/o prices - *sigh* those are days gone by. More is the pity, more is the pity. Thank you Chez Cary for a lifetime's memory of grace and elegance.

  25. While I've never been to Chez Cary, as I was just little runt, I remember my parents eating there with some friends and telling me how the bill was like $200 for 4 people and that the menus had no prices on them. I was so impressed. Two hundred dollars! That was probably around 1980, or maybe a little earlier, and back then that was an astronomical price for a meal. (at least, for us it was. It may have been one of my dad's rich friends that took them out to eat.) I was like, "wow!! You guys should have brought me home a doggy bag!" I'm sure I was under 10 years old, at the time.

  26. Chez Cary had a great talent showcase every week. As I remember, it was early evenings in the lounge. Hosted by Bing Starr (who was married to Gwen, Society Editor of The Register). Jennifer Warnes performed often as did many other talented people. I was one of the drummers in the backup trio. This was probably late 60's or early 70's.

  27. says ....My first ex-wife (yes, I flunked marriage twice) worked for a-Propos (owned by Bill Waxman and his wife and prior to their opening other stores)located right next door to Villa Fontana. Cary Sinclair (believe Cary's real name is Bill Whitehead and he went to Wilson High in Long Beach) managed the VF for Howard Lawson. My office was located just down the street. Fortunately, Ginger and I were able to dine at VF often, simply because of the location and proximity to our places of employment. The Villa was great and Cary ran the place, in my opinion, very well. Seems as if Lawson and Cary didn't get along very well ....Mr. Lawson told me one time that Cary owned nothing and that he, Mr. Lawson, owned "every damned knife, fork, spoon and napkin" in that restaurant. He was a truly irascible old fart. Nevertheless, the VF was fun and a great experience. Geril was a fantastic Captain, smooth and ever so efficient .... one would think that Geril was Austrian, that's how good the guy was. Now ....the CC was another experience altogether ....guests were spoiled rotten ....great little nuances presented with style and grace. The Chez was a little pricey for Ginger and me, so we weren't able to dine there on a 'regular' basis, but the times that we were able to go were a fantastic dining experience. Ambrosia was great, too. There were a number of 'fine dining' restaurants in OC in the early sixties ....and on into the 70's, 80's and even the 90's. Mercy. Most are history now, but still in my memory banks. I welcome anyone who wants to email me to chat about restaurants, etc. In 1957 I worked as a bar-boy at the Gourmet Room at the Disneyland Hotel. Anyone out there remember that place? Fine dining, for sure. Haven't had a decent Monte Cristo sandwich since then! Ciao for now.

  28. Really fun to read all of these wonderful memories. During my Orange High School days and beyond, Chez Cary was THE PLACE to go, such a grand reputation. In the early 80's Klaus bought my Cheese Pie to serve in the dining room (topped with Lingonberry Sauce) - I was so honored to have my "fare" accepted by my favorite restaurant. Chez Cary was my first customer which gave me the confidence to approach Las Brisas and others. Eating there was a divine experience and the memories live on.

    1. Only place I know of for Lingonberry stuff is IKEA!!

      Correct me if I'm wrong.

      Bob King

  29. I remember the Gourmet Room. My parents used to take us there. The New Orleans restaurant inside Disneyland does a good job with the Monte Cristo ~ my favorite sandwich. Hard to find anymore, and even more difficult to find it done well.

  30. In 1967 I lived in the city of Orange and my friend next door "Rick Maestas" had an older brother that worked there as a waiter. He made some bank!! Enough to by a brand new 67 Volkswagen, not bad for an 18 year old.

  31. To Anonymous..
    When Mr. Sinclair retired to Acapulco..He was much to young to retire and within 5 years he conceived, designed, built and personally operated along with his proteges 8 great restaurants...I believe they were BLACK BEARDS/DjOINT/90 PROOF/NICK THE GREEK/SUNSHINEBOYS BEACH CLUB/EMBARCADERO/SIAM GARDENS/TEXAS ROSE. HE FINELY RETIRED TO TEXAS.

  32. While going through my mother's estate I found a very old Chez Cary Dinner menu. It is printed on beautiful beige parchment paper bounded with a gold cord. Under Hors d' Oeuvre there is Scampis Glace Comtesse (Casserole of shrimp in creamed sherry sauce) for $2.85. Soup of the day was 1.00. The most expensive entree is Chateaubriand for two - $19.75. Flaming Crepes Suzette was $2.50 and a Pot of Sanka was .50. Remy Martin Louis XIII was $7.00. Hennessy V.S.O.P. $1.50. Sales tax was 5%. I wish there was a year printed somewhere on it, but unfortunately there is not. I never had the chance to dine there, but for those of you who did, I'm sure this brings back fond memories! I would be happy to donate this menu to a historical organization in Orange, if they would like it. I can be contacted at

  33. I remembered the pride of working there. Normally, people are not proud of telling friends that they are working for a restauant, it's not a big deal, but this place made you feel that you were the artists, serving the diners was such a pleasant experience. I still keep my last two work tuxedos and sommelier cup for souvenir. For those "kids" who spent their prom nite dinner @ Chez Cary should thank your parents giving you such memorable moments. Once in a while I get angry when I try Spanish Salad, or Caesar Salad in "gourmet" place, there's no match to my tableside preparation @Chez Cary, not to mention my mouth watering dessert flamed in front of your eyes. When it cames to price, it's worth every bit of the extremely good food quality.

    1. Steak Diane, prepared at tableside. Cafe Diablo, ditto.....great memories of style and grace.

      Can't find that at many places.

      I always enjoyed Francois' in Huntington Beach. I went to school with Frank Richmond and always seemed to get special service while dining/drinking .....often as much as five times a week!


      Bob King

  34. I’ve been wondering for years if Chey Cary was still there. I remember my father taking me in the 70’s and I have never forgotton. Yes the girls/women had red velvet menus with no prices and the men were given blue velvet menu’s which had the prices. And true were the huge high -back red velvet booths with foot stools for the women. I also remember them placing a book of match sticks on the table with our last name embossed in gold foil that ran along the side of the matchbox “I kept it for years”. My father was always impressed with the valet service, as it didn’t matter how much time you would let pass after getting the final check, when you walked outside…. Your Car Would Be Running & Waiting For You! He loved that! He could never figure out how they knew exactly when we would leave as he almost always wanted another drink for the road… Those were the days! I also remember a violinist playing “Greensleeves” and a cart with cigars. For everyone who had anything to do with Chey Cary, Thanks for the Memories!
    Brenda Anderson, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.

  35. What fun to find this blog!
    Yes, I had the privilege of dining there only once.
    And I know it is a small point, but may I point out that Chez Cary was across the street from Bullock's Santa Ana, (Buffums was down the street a bit.) As a former Bullock's Associate in the Dining Circle, I remember when the Chez closed. How sad. I also remember Jurgensen's gourmet market that was in Fashion Square, J Herbert Halls, Shelly's Tall Girl Shop and of course I. Magnins. The Jolly Roger had a restaurant there too, I think. I remember the copper hood over the kitchen area.
    At Bullock's we had the Tea Room, of course, with their famous Chinese Chicken Salad and popovers. As an employee, I was thrilled to find out we could get them in the employee cafeteria. As I recall, they were only 75 cents, and you got a pat of butter with it.
    Thank you for all who fleshed out the names of the principles of the business, and the link to Ambrosia and Villa Fontana.
    For those who enjoy fine dining, may I suggest The Hobbit on E. Chapman in Orange, or Melvyn's inside the Ingleside Inn in Palm Springs. Melvyn's still prepares Steak Diane tableside, as well as other dishes. :) Lisa in Orange

  36. zafer turkel
    i have worked with chef Fred Hosli in his late years at the Anaheim Hilton and Towers for years. he was in charge of the meat cutting department;what a talented chef definitliy VERBAL.
    i remember talking about the Chez Cary with him many times; which i happened to work with the chefs from the Chez;we had a lot to talk about.

  37. FYI...Geril Muller passed away in February 2011.
    He was retired and lived in the Hemet area. He
    was a strong supporter of the Southern California
    Restaurant Writers and remains one of the most influential gentlemen in the industry.

  38. Geril Muller did pass away in February of 2011.

    He was a great man. So was his brother. I have learned many things from him. This is because he is my Great Grandfather. :) He will be missed.

    It was fun reading everything that people had to say about him, his brother, and the restaurants. I Have chosen to write my paper on my grandfather for my Culinary Arts Final. All of your posts have been very helpful and memorable.

    thank you.

  39. Dear Jessica…

    I very much appreciate you grandfather Geril Muller assisting me organise the late Christine Jorgensen’s highly successful “Life was a ball - have a party not a depressing funeral..." 1989-06-11 memorial party at Laguna Niguel's Crown House Restaurant…

    My sincere condolences to you and Geril’s surviving family…

    Brenda Lana Smith, D.
    Cornwall, Britain

    1. Wish I had known about the Jorgensen affair......that had to be a memorable occasion!

      I'm old enough (77) to remember the trials and tribulations of Christine.

      Bob King

  40. Dear Jessica…

    I very much appreciate you great-grandfather Geril Muller assisting me organise the late Christine Jorgensen’s highly successful “Life was a ball - have a party not a depressing funeral..." 1989-06-11 memorial party at Laguna Niguel's Crown House Restaurant…

    My sincere condolences to you and Geril’s surviving family…

    Brenda Lana Smith, D.
    Cornwall, Britain

  41. It was BULLOCK'S in FASHION SQUARE across Main St. from the Chez Cary. BUFFUM'S was down around 10th on main, very near to where the new AMBROSIA is. TO JESSICA and the entire Muller family, my sincerest wishes, Geril and Gus were two of the best restaurant operators Orange County has ever seen. I worked at Ambrosia in 1981-1982 with them and it was to this day the cleanest, most organized, and friendliest place I have worked. That shows the qualities of their leadership. All the names from my past listed in this column bring me very fond memories of my times working in the kitchens and dining rooms of Chanticlair, Chez Cary, Ambrosia, and the Cellar. We need to have a revival of that style of food and service.

    1. Mike .... Chanticlair, Ambrosia (you may or may not be aware that Ambrosia opened a store on, I believe, 31st or 32nd Street just west of Newport Boulevard. Don't think it lasted long. It became the Lido Cafe ..... a jazz restaurant. It didn't last long either. Now, it's part of a condo complex.), Cellar, The Hobbit .....many, many fun and elegant restaurants which, for the most part, are now just memories.

      You'll never live long enough to see a revival of those days in Orange's too hectic and tables must be turned and burned. Seems to me at my age, 77, that most restaurants are staffed and patronized by people with Attention Deficit Disorder....or is it just me?

      Respond, if you care to: majskyking at gmail dot com

      Bob King

  42. Don S wrote.....
    The Chez was such a special place that I used their expertise to help present a very special engagement ring,which they did with great flair, surrounded by fresh flowers on a very large dome-covered silver tray, while the Chez Strings played the Hawaiian wedding song. That was on March 17, 1977 and that August the Chez Strings played for us again on our wedding day!
    We have very fond memories of the Chez Cary as we celebrate 34 years together next month!

  43. This was by far one of the most elegant restaurants I had ever frequented. The abalone was excellent and the orange soufflé was definitely worth the wait.

    And speaking of waiting, does anyone know how the Valet's always knew when to have your car waiting at the door even before you walked out? That one is still a mystery.

    So why did they close?

  44. My wife and I had dinner last evening with Beverly Rosenberg, former wife of Nate, who started, and owned "Chez Cary". She is now 94 years young and still sharp as a tack. She remembered your stories and chirped in repeatedly to supplement them and add her own comments.
    Anyone wishing to pass on a message to her can do so via my e-address:
    Thanks to all of you for sharing these wonderful experiences with us...

    Michael R. McCrae, dpm

  45. I can remember deriving past Chez Cary when driving to work in downtown Santa Ana, and wondering how in the vbloody hell did they fit a fine gourmet restaurant into a hatbox? It was a tiny square building, I figured they had five tables,max!! I used to joke that the head chef probably doubled as the valet parker. We finally decided that even though property taxes were high, that little building saved them loads!! Never went there, sorry its gone now!!

  46. I've made plenty of comments in the "reply" sections.

    I'd appreciate hearing from anyone who worked at a-Propos, Chez Cary, Ambrosia, Disneyland Hotel, KWIZ, Francois' Huntington Beach, Victor Hugo (any, but especially the Long Beach store), Chi-Chi Clubs (any, but especially the Long Beach store), Chanticlair, Dante's, Anastasia's, Cafe Lido .....and a whole bunch of other places.

    Bob King
    majskyking at gmail dot com

    1. Just out of college in the 60s, I opened a Mexican furniture store. I received a phone call one day that a restaurant was being formed and needed an elaborate front door. So I designed and imported their front door. I dined there on many an occasion. There will never be anything even close ever again. Strolling violinists and the best of cognacs in the world. I miss it so much.

  47. It will be thirty years ago my husband and I went to Chez Cary,after our wedding on Dec.18th. It was just wonderful food and service was just great and the friendliest waiters made it so special. I finally found a book of matches with our name on it and I have been searching for this resturant so I could celebrate our 30 years .Sad to hear it is no longer in service.

  48. I was a waiter at the Chez in 1977-1979 and part time til1 1981--then joined the Marines (I am a Marine still-colonel). I was the youngest waiter/youngest employee at the time I arrived. Only Joe Mac was close.

    I want to re-open a Chez next year or two--maybe in Tahoe or Palm Springs/Desert. Call or email me if interested in investing. 617.216.7193 or I worked for Gerry ? and then Hans S. and sometimes Gabby. Dana Albert

  49. Valets had the car ready once the waiter brought the guest's name tag to them. When the customer was seated, the 3-man team was slipped a small name tag with the customer's name--e.g., Doctor Smith. Once we presented the bill to the custom, we would then walk the name tag to the valet station; they would then pull up the car with the door open.

  50. Valet was mine--Dana

  51. Only women's menue had no prices, red I think--blue were ??? men or vice versa.

    A deuce (2 people) averyage price was between $80 and $100--late 70's. Best restaurant ever. I've only found one other--the Peri Palace in Istable to come close.

    Dana Albert, former Chez waiter

  52. Back in the late 70's.. my boyfriend and his family took me to this restaurant. I was 14. I still how nice it was...I was so nervous that I hardly ate. Such memories :)

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  55. Carolina deserves a raise in Rancho Bernardo.

  56. Wow... memories.. started going to "The Chez" for prom in 1974 and continued until it closed with my wife. All the great places seem to have closed (except The Cellar, Fullerton). All my favorites in Los Angeles closed too, Chasen's, L'Orangeorie (sp), Perino's and a French restaurant atop the Transamerica Building? I worked at a high profile catering firm "Five Seasons" owned by Julie Farlotti who previously owned the Hurleybell in Corona Del Mar (now The Five Crowns). I have all the recipes and since I've experienced the best restaurants.. now I recreate the memories at home the best I can. I will never forget the style and elegance of those days and those places... it was great finding this blog... God Bless You All!

  57. I went to this restaurant one time the spinach salad was really good they cooked it at your table. Shuan was the Maitre D' then he moved onto work at The Celler Restaurant, which has also been sold to another proprietor. I worked at The Celler as a wine inventory person. And I worked for Rembrandt's Beautiful Food who bought the Flambe equipment from Chez Cary when they closed. Restaurants have a abnormally short life span in Orange County. I know why they closed their doors but it is better to keep quiet if your still working in the industry.


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