Day Trip: Hell’s Kitchen & Cook’s Corner

Yeah, I know:  this is a very popular and somewhat clichéd ride, but if you are visiting Orange County/Southern California, you kinda have to do this one.  I hesitate to call this one a “Day Trip” as it is just too short, but it makes for a nice afternoon run.

From the parking lot of OC Motorcycle, get onto CA-73 and then head south on I-5 toward San Diego.  Exit at CA-74 in San Juan Capistrano and turn left, following the famous highway for approximately twenty-two miles.

Highway 74, or Ortega Hwy, has a bad-ass reputation, even inspiring bumper stickers that read “I Survived Highway 74”.  This is mostly because of the amount of four-wheel traffic and/or sport bike riders who get going around the curves a little too fast.

That aside, Hwy 74 is no slouch in the way of fun twists and turns, steep climbs and a few 180-degree turn as well as some spectacular scenery including Lake Elsinore and Mt. Elsinore and the valley below.

Once you reach Lake Elsinore, Hell’s Kitchen (now called Hell’s Kitchen Motorsports Bar & Grill) will be on your left.  You’ll likely be in good biker company here and although it has a reputation as more of a Harley or cruiser destination, many sport or dual sport bikes stop here as well.  Many group rides make Hell’s Kitchen their destination, so you’ll be able to meet riders from all over Southern California.

Unfortunately, this place was gutted by a fire in July of 2021, however they are open as of November 2021 with tents outside for dining.  Although no one was injured, the owner, Frank Opp’s, 18-month-old husky, Kodi, was killed. Prices have increased a bit so be prepared to pay for the experience.  I suspect that this is due to the loss of revenue and the cost of rebuilding, so they can use your support.  The photo is the most recent one I could find and is from November 2021.

The weekends can be busy here, so expect a crowd if you go out on a Saturday or Sunday.  Keep in mind that they are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  Prior to the fire, there was seating inside, out front and out back, which was my favorite place to sit as there was a nice deck with picnic tables shaded by the beautiful big oak trees.  Hopefully some of the trees remain.

From what I can gather from the Internet, they are open for business utilizing tents for seating; food and even drinks are available.  Please be sure to confirm their hours of operation by calling them at (951) 457-4448.

While the service could be be hit and miss (long wait time is the main complaint) prior to the fire, their food portions are very generous and the food is decent enough.  Worth a stop for sure.  Often, there are vendors in the parking lot or other events happening.  Check their Facebook page for more information.

If you choose to head over to Cook’s Corner in Trabuco Canyon, you’ll realize that this ride isn’t a loop.  Because the ride up Ortega Hwy (Hwy 74) isn’t a long one, I thought I’d throw Cook’s in as a second and popular biker destination in the general area.

Head southwest on Hwy 74 for about twenty miles and then turn right onto Antonio Pkwy, then right on Oso Pkwy.  Turn left onto CA-241N for a few miles and then exit at Portola Pkwy.  Keep right and then make your first right onto Glen Ranch Rd, then your fist left at Saddleback Ranch Rd.  At Ridgeline Rd turn left again and then left at Santiago Canyon Rd.  Cook’s is on your left.

We rode up from Orange County for lunch on a Friday, arriving around 11:00-11:30.    The place is what would be classified (lovingly) as a dive bar-small, rustic with cheap bar food (burgers, burritos, tacos, fries, etc).  They have tables and benches out front, which is typically where we sit.  As you would expect, many motorcycles of all kinds are parked outside, but the crowd is sometimes mixed with bicyclists and scooter aficionados.

Cook’s has always had live music (including an Open Mike Night) and still do so check their Facebook page for details.  They also have a Bike Night every Wednesday (as well as a $8.00 spaghetti dinner complete with garlic bread and salad).  They have an extensive menu and reasonable prices, so you’re bound to find something good to eat here.  Saturday and Sunday they have a Bike Wash, beginning at 7:00 AM and going all the way until 5:00 PM.

Getting back to OC Motorcycle is easy from here.  Just go back the way you came and then go down Bake Pkwy to the 405N and then merge onto the 55S.

OC Motorcycle is your premiere source for service and sales in Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Corona Del Mar, Huntington Beach and all of Orange County! OC Motorcycle is now an authorized Moto Guzzi, MV Agusta, Triumph and Vespa/Piaggio dealership in addition to already offering the most diverse line of used motorcycles including Harley-Davidson, Indian, BMW, Ducati, Triumph, Honda, Kawasaki and more!