Mario Marovic and Andrew Gabriel, named the Business Journal’s Restaurateurs of the Year in 2021 after several new additions to their local restaurant and bar portfolio, remain busy.
They are getting ready to add two more restaurants in downtown Fullerton to their culinary empire: Mickey’s Irish Pub at 100 N. Harbor Blvd., and High Horse Saloon next door at 102 N. Harbor Blvd.
The spots are at the intersection of Harbor Boulevard and Commonwealth Avenue.
“These buildings are roughly 100 years old and have not been touched in many decades,” said Marovic, who admitted that while he always undertakes unique and exciting projects, “some are planned, and some are not planned. We were not planning on doing it—and it’s not the most opportune time.”
He noted that due to the pandemic, many Fullerton bars and restaurants have not recovered, and he wants to “put a shot of adrenalin and add some confidence for people and reinvent downtown Fullerton. Downtown is the heartbeat of Fullerton, it’s always been a meeting place, it has that community-focused feel to it.”
Marovic said he was not looking to open an Irish pub and a cowboy saloon, but when the opportunity came up, he brainstormed on concepts, and names.
“Branagans closed. It was the only Irish pub in downtown, so we needed to have an Irish pub. We own Malarky’s and Muldoon’s in Newport Beach. Coming up with a name is harder than you think. Most Irish pubs are named after a person. We own Matador Cantina in Fullerton, it used to be a dive bar called Mickey’s, so why not bring back the name as an Irish pub.”
High Horse Saloon is a throwback to Fullerton’s history as an agriculture farm town, he said.
Marovic is also rebranding the Matador Cantina and changing the name to El Centro, or the center, another nod to downtown Fullerton.
There will also be a cigar room adjacent to Mickey’s called The Snug.
Due to the major remodel, Marovic said he brought in close friends as investors that are passionate about the saloon cowboy culture, and are excited to be part of it.
“If you’re not passionate about what you do, the customers can feel it. It all comes down to passion. You have to have a passion for the service industry.”
Marovic estimates the new restaurants will be open sometime this summer, although he said that staffing a restaurant has become a challenge during the pandemic.
“Staffing is hard, the struggle is real, all we can do is continue to be great employers, and give people a fun and rewarding place to work.”
Marovic is using AO Architects, the same company responsible for the downtown Orange Bosscat restaurant that took over a historic building, much like Marovic is doing in Fullerton.
Platinum X Construction in Irvine is also involved.
“The idea is to make a positive impact on the community and build something that will be here for generations to come,” Marovic says. “The level of details in the ambiance and décor is insane. It’s really cool architecture.”
Mickey’s is approximately 3,000 square feet and can hold 150 people. The pub is traditional Irish themed with dark wood paneling, hardwood floors, dark green accents, copper top bar, and a mix of seating including communal tables.
High Horse is around 5,000 square feet with a capacity of 250. High Horse is inspired by traditional old western saloon with reclaimed barn wood throughout, rustic concrete floors, wagon wheel chandeliers, and a copper top bar.
Both concepts are all ages and family friendly.
Mickey’s Irish Pub: 100 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, mickeyspuboc.com
High Horse Saloon: 102 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, highhorseoc.com