The Rooftop Kitchen + Bar certainly aimed high when it chose to open during the Swallows Day Parade in 2022.
The downtown spot has lived up to that ambitious start, as it was chosen as Best New Restaurant by The Capistrano Dispatch readers for our 16th annual Best of San Juan Capistrano People’s Choice Horseshoe Awards.
“First of all, I’m absolutely stunned and surprised to hear that. It’s a great surprise to hear we made some kind of impact in the community over here,” co-owner Archie Hami says of the recognition. “The year went by really fast. We’re still learning. We’re still making ourselves better.”
“The sky’s the limit when it comes to becoming better with food, service and everything else,” Hami adds. “We have a very good family dynamic over here. We care about our customers. We care to locally service our items over here, whether it’s food, salads, desserts, seafood as well.”
Located around the corner from the Regency Theatres movie theater—where Ruby’s Diner previously sat—The Rooftop is one of several new restaurants adding to Downtown San Juan Capistrano’s growing reputation as a foodie destination.
It’s also joined in that regard by its neighbor and island-themed brunch spot Breezy, which captured the Silver Horseshoe for Best New Restaurant.
“We are so grateful for all the support from the amazing San Juan Capistrano community,” Breezy owner Jasmin Gonzalez says. “We’ve only been open for a short time, but we really feel the love and are thrilled to be a part of such a wonderful city.”
Breezy opened in late 2022.
For The Rooftop, its name is an apt description of the restaurant’s location, because it is right above Selma’s Chicago Pizzeria. Patrons can enjoy a bird’s-eye view of Camino Capistrano and Swallow’s Inn across the street during their meals.
Tables sit low to the ground and chairs are comfortable to sit in, giving the area a mellow feel—somewhere you might hang out with friends after work or to enjoy a solo weekend lunch.
Menu items include truffle cauliflower, coconut shrimp, Ortega nachos and Verdugo pork chop.
Hami and business partner Marc Resnick, with whom he opened the restaurant, describe the eclectic offerings as modern American comfort cuisine. They aimed for the restaurant to reflect a San Juan vibe.
Hami says he feels the restaurant has settled into the downtown scene. He is no stranger to the area, as he has been visiting Mission San Juan Capistrano since the fourth grade and has seen San Juan grow considerably since then.
“It’s been a good little experience. We’ve still been challenged, just to figure out what people really want over here sometimes—but that’s a good kind of challenge, I call it,” Hami says of how The Rooftop has come along since opening. “We want to see where we stand with the other restaurants, what people think of us.”
To keep up with evolving demands, The Rooftop changes its menu every season so as not to get stale—figuratively and literally.
“We always try to make sure everything we have is seasonal and fresh for everyone,” Hami says. “I’m a true believer in that.”
Hami takes customer reviews into account, good and bad, and is open to feedback.
“The first menu we had, we were testing out to see what people wanted. I think we were more sandwich-heavy the first time around and salad-heavy at first,” Hami says. “We realized people wanted a little mix of meat.”
The pulled pork sandwich and burgers—the latter being their No. 1 selling item—are an example of more meat.
“Then, we’ll, of course, throw in our own touch. For the season, we have the seafood bread bowl,” Hami says. “It’s basically a nice big bread bowl. We open up the center and serve seafood chowder with salmon, clams and shrimp.”
The Capistrano chicken—continuing the local name theme—is fire-grilled chicken with cilantro rice and vegetables on the side.
Weekends, of course, tend to be the busiest time for the restaurant.
“San Juan Capistrano, as a whole, is more of a weekend town. We have live music on the weekends. We’re open now for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.” Hami says. “There’s more people out in the area with their families, walking around downtown, commuting with the train, going to the Mission and Los Rios Street and Zoomars.”
Live music adds to the ambience, which can complement the views of the sunset and Mission, Hami adds.
As for what’s ahead, The Rooftop plans to celebrate the Swallows Day Parade again on March 25—particularly because it will mark its one-year anniversary.
“We have Yachty by Nature playing for our music that day,” Hami says. “We still have the best view in town. We’re going to be much better and much more prepared this year with everything.”