Dave Castillo is the kind of guy who can speak without even talking (to quote a line from Middle Brother's "Blood & Guts.") His quiet cool demeanor is not that of a shy person, but of a person who's seen and experienced more of life than most because he decided to sit back and listen. That's because Dave is a thinker. A student of life. He's a sponge to new knowledge and information, whenever and wherever he is. Which is why it's not much of a surprise that he is a manager at the 320 Main bar, where knowledge and the preservation and furtherance of craft cocktails are prized highest; or that he and 320 Main owners, Jason & Rebecca, are such close friends outside of work. Meet 320 Main Bar Manager, Dave Castillo and listen up, you might learn something.
Q: How long have you worked at 320 Main?
Dave: For a little over two years.
Q: Are you from Seal Beach? How'd you end up here and why do you love it?
Dave: I am not from Seal Beach. I grew up moving around a lot. Once I got out on my own, I moved to Downtown Fullerton and lived there for seventeen years. I moved to Seal Beach about a year ago. I love the ocean, I feel drawn to it, like Hemmingway, so living so close to it is great. I also love the small-town feel of Seal Beach.
Q: Two words that best describe you?
Dave: Curious. Devoted.
Q: How did you meet Jason Schiffer?
Dave: I met Jason when he was working at The Continental in Fullerton. We got to know each other and had a whole lot in common; we’re the same age, had both been in the business for a long time, had both been tending bar for about the same amount of years, had a lot of the same goals and general outlook on things so we became buddies pretty quickly. Jason and Becca are two of my closest, dearest friends.
Q: What's your background in wine and spirits?
Dave: I’ve been into food, wine, and drinks for a long time. Being able to pair things - like a dish with a great wine - has been something of a hobby of mine for probably twelve years. Then in 2008 I did the schooling and became a Sommelier. I got to study under Michael Jordan who, at the time was only the 96th Master Sommelier in the United States; incredibly knowledgeable and passionate. Then about a year and a half ago I took a course called BarSmarts which basically mirrored the sommelier program only this time it revolved entirely around spirits, distillation, and classic cocktails.
Q: You're a bit of a cook yourself too. How'd you pick it up and what's your specialty?
Dave: That’s true, I’ve been cooking for over twenty years. I started out cooking because I had to. My mother used to work evenings and sometimes the graveyard shift. I had younger brothers and a sister who needed dinner. Later I would cook and people seemed to enjoy it which always feels good and inspired me to learn more. I also worked with a chef, Claudio Marchesan for about five years, who I would have to say taught me the most about cooking. He was incredibly talented and quite a heavy hitter; he helped start up Prego and Il Fornaio, also owned I think five places of his own. He’s up in San Francisco now. I guess because of him I’d say my specialty is Italian dishes.
Q: Favorite dish on the menu?
Dave: Hmmm… That’s tough, there are so many great things. I think the dish I eat the most would be the Salmon. Incredible flavor. But if I had to choose, I guess it would have to be our Pork chop. It is hands down the best one I’ve ever had.
Q: What's your poison?
Dave: Ooh, that’s tough one. I’ll be honest, I mix it up a lot and there’s not a lot I don’t like. There are things that influence what I’m in the mood for - like the weather. It’s hot now so something refreshing like a Chartreuse Swizzle is well in order. However, my favorite cocktail of all time is a good Old Fashioned. If you have one that’s properly made there’s nothing better. And we make a proper one, if I do say so myself.
Q: Best thing about 320 Main?
Dave: I love that it is such a small place and that the people who work here generally care for and enjoy each other. I think that when people come in it shows and they can feel it. It makes for an even nicer environment and better all-around experience.
Q: Secret to surviving a busy Friday night behind the bar?
Dave: Keeping your head; it might get crazy for a while but remembering that it’s only for a while goes a long way. That and doing your best to constantly multitask will get you through it.
Q: Tell us a little about your creation the 5th Stage. Where did the inspiration for that come from?
Dave: I tasted a punch that our friend Gabbi Dion made with absinthe a few months back and was blown away! It was fresh and bright - it was delicious. After that I wanted to do something along the same lines. It came to me one night lying in bed, call it inspiration. Then I tried it out the next day, and something that almost never happens when creating a new drink, something that almost never happens at all, occurred. I nailed it on the first try. I named it after the last - and only positive - stage from a model for loss or grieving by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross that was written in the seventies; because the absinthe I originally used was called Kubler. Cool thing is, as it turns out “The 5th Stage” is just a catchy name.
Q: What are you listening to these days?
Dave: Guess you heard I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to music. I’m always listening to music, and my taste is across the board. I’ve been really into Northern Soul lately: Dee Dee Sharp, Travis Biggs, Donnie and Joe Emerson. Their song “Baby” I listened to over and over for like three days. But the stuff I’ve been really into is some new, up and coming artists; “The Alabama Shakes,” Michael Kiwanuka, Nick Waterhouse, he’s this like 23 year old guy form Huntington Beach that’s recording great music that sounds like it was made 60 years ago! Awesome stuff. King Krule is one of my favorites too. He's 15, 16 years old maybe - and making great music.
Q: As a person who knows food and cocktails, what sets 320 Main's menu apart from the rest?
Dave: I think what sets it apart is that it’s creative, inspired, and first and foremost adventurous. Anyone can make a meatloaf but are they going to have the wheels to glaze it with Sriracha and put it on a Portuguese bun? Not to mention try to serve you something like a cocktail with whisky and Dijon mustard in it among other things? None that I know of.
Q: When you're not slinging cocktails at 320 Main what are you doing? (hobbies)
Dave: Oh man, I have so many. We already talked about the music thing which is good because I would have placed it at the top of the list. I used to sing in a band, and seeing a live show is one of my favorite things of all time. The cooking thing is way up there too. What else? I love to read. I also write. I’m an artist. Riding my motorcycle or almost anything outside. I love being active. I’m a huge movie guy; seeing them at the theater or at home. Cooking. Almost anything I can do to be creative. That’s why I love the whole craft-cocktail scene, it’s just another outlet. And of course hanging out with friends, they’re the most important people in the world to me.
Q: Any pets?
Dave: Not these days, but I am a bit of a plant geek and the few that I have any more keep me somewhat busy. I have a roommate that sheds all over the apartment!
Q: What days can we find you at 320 Main?
Dave: It’s pretty hard not to find me there. The one day I usually don’t go in is Sunday.
Other things about Dave:
• I am a car guy; I’ve had some cool ones, a 75 Bus, a 65 Falcon, I was restoring a 51 Dodge Wayfarer, but my ex-wife put a stop to that.
• I don’t have cable but when I go to my girlfriend’s house I love Mythbusters and Cashcab. Those are my favorites. We started watching Breaking Bad a few months ago and that’s awesome!
• I lived in Buenos Aires for a month once and went to Chile a couple times, plus Mendoza for a few days while there. I would like to go back to South America. Aside from that, I hope to keep learning. About what? Everything.