It hasn’t taken long for Greg Daniels, Owner and Chef of Harley, to make a name for himself in the illustrious yet competitive Laguna Beach culinary scene. With his roots in American comfort food, Chef Greg has used Harley as his platform to reimagine what comfort means on an emotional, relational, and of course, gastronomic scale.

With a farm-to-fork approach built upon locally sourced protein, seafood, and produce, Greg and his team at Harley offer guests a revolving seasonal menu based on availability, creativity, and spontaneous inspiration.

For Chef Greg, curating the perfect dining experience isn’t just about creating exceptional flavors—it’s about service, aesthetics, and positive vibes.

From their 2-pound Creekstone Farms Bone-in rib eye, to their roasted beets, to their GoneStraw Farms chicken potpie, Harley delivers a dining experience that impeccably blends bold and memorable flavors with a homey atmosphere in a community first environment. And did we mention their enviable wine list and distinctive cocktail program? Elevated was more than happy to belly-up with Chef Greg to get a mouthful on what’s happening in the world of Harley today.

You named your new restaurant Harley after your grandfather. Tell us what the inspiration is behind the name and how it reflects upon the menu.

My Grandpa Harley was a hardworking man—but he knew how to balance hard work with fun whenever he could! He and my Grandma, Mary, always brought friends and family together for a great time at their home. I wanted the same level of hospitality I felt at their place to translate into my restaurant. There was always music, laughter, food, and drinks. I look back at those times and it makes me smile. Our menu reflects those experiences through the love in our dishes—familiar and new flavors making your mouth sing combined with our inventive cocktails. We have fun whenever we can and that’s a big part of our style.

All chefs are unique in their style and approach. Tell us how your history and experiences inform your vision at Harley.

I grew up in a household that didn’t branch out too much when it came to food, but we ate together at the table regularly. Our menu was mostly made up of beef, chicken, and pork. Fish usually came in stick form—unless we were camping and my Dad would catch something. Then we’d eat the fish begrudgingly because it was so foreign to us. While I do have many food memories from a young age, I really branched out in my teens and 20’s having been exposed to new flavors by my wife’s family. From there, I fell in love with cooking at home while I was bartending. My approach to a menu is to always have some dishes that allow even the pickiest diner to find something approachable.

Farm-to-table. Reel-to-plate. Harley prides itself on its fresh ingredients and offerings. But everyday, there’s something new in season or something out of season. From a creative standpoint, how do you build a menu that seamlessly blends flavors in an ever-changing gastronomic environment?

We do this by always staying true to who and what we are. We don’t have to be anything we don’t want to be—but we always have to be genuine. We can’t have every new vegetable we see at the farmers market on our menu, but we look for inspiration. We highlight the flavors and ingredients we think our guests will love and that stoke our passion at the same time.

Harley offers up bold and exciting twists on American comfort food. But defining how our minds and bodies react to comfort food is impossible without somehow separating ourselves from our culture and upbringing. So, what is it about Harley’s menu that makes us feel so…comfortable?

Honestly, it’s a combination of several things we do that speak to comfort. Great food makes you feel good. Warm flavors, kind service, textures, and colors all play a part. The lighting or the fireplace burning in the corner lounge all affects your perception.

What menu items are you excited about for the fall?

We haven’t delved too far into our fall menu yet, but it always feels like it’s the best time of year. We’ll start bringing in some wild game
where we can, and you’ll see more braises and pastas on the menu.

Let’s talk a little about wine. Anything new you’re particularly proud to serve?

I’ve been drinking lighter style whites lately. Silkman semillon is probably at the top of my list right now on our by-the-glass menu. It
has that round profile you get from semillon, but balanced with the acidity you’d find in a sauvignon blanc. You can easily pair it with so many of our vegetable and seafood dishes. Semillon doesn’t sell itself, but it’s having its moment at Harley. This one comes from Hunter Valley, Australia, and the husband and wife vintner team have been making these beautiful boutique wines there for about 10 years.

I know chefs are pretty secretive about their recipes, but how about giving us something simple, yet delicious we can all whip up at home?

I’m never secretive about recipes because while you can make anything at home, how it’s made and served at the restaurant is always coupled with the experience of being there. Also, most of what we do as chefs isn’t really about recipes, but techniques, seasoning, and finding balance with acid. So, how about a quick Chimichurri for home?

Herbs, garlic, shallot, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. If you only have lime juice, which everyone always has, use lime. Don’t have red wine vinegar? No problem. Leave it out or use a splash of just about any other vinegar you have, except balsamic—stay away!
Grab fresh herbs. You’ll want at least one bunch of parsley, but you can throw in some mint and cilantro if you want too. A lot of traditional recipes use oregano. You should have about 1 cup of herbs after you’ve minced them all. You can use the stems of the parsley and cilantro as well. Mince two cloves of garlic and one whole shallot. Juice one lemon. Toss it all together in a bowl and begin adding olive oil, stirring it in with a spoon. You’ll probably use about a half-cup of olive oil, but adjust to whatever thickness you want your sauce to be. Season with salt, pepper, and about one tablespoon of red wine vinegar. Put in on your veggies, chicken, steak, eggs. Chimichurri can find a home anywhere and will hold for at least a week in your refrigerator.

What were some of your favorite meals growing up?

Tacos. Always tacos. We had tacos every Friday night—total gringo style. Half-fried corn tortilla—because the oil was never quite hot enough—ground beef with “taco seasoning,” shredded cheddar cheese, diced beefsteak tomato, shredded iceberg lettuce, and sour cream. My Dad and I would load them up with Pico Pica Hot Sauce and see who could eat the most in a sitting. We’d usually tap out at 7 or 8. There was always a certain amount of care that went into adding all of your toppings in the right order to create your masterpiece. I get the same feeling now when I’m plating a dish.

It’s 2 a.m. after a long Saturday night at Harley and you’re starving. What are you making yourself and what’s the cocktail to go with it?

This is where some might get all fancy with what they eat late night, but I approach it with simplicity. If I’m eating that late, it’s usually leftovers and I usually eat them cold. If I’m making something at home late at night, it’s probably going to be a grilled cheese sandwich! I usually open a bottle of red wine when I get home, or pour whiskey on the rocks, or both.

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