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LJ's Bistro Open, Owner Says Hello, Laguna Niguel

After a 6-month delay, the European-style restaurant opened its doors on Tuesday despite a few kinks still needing to be ironed out.

Despite a few more kinks to be ironed out, LJ's Bistro finally opened its doors on Tuesday.

The European-style eatery took over the former 3,000-square-foot New Mandarin Garden space at 29971 Alicia Pkwy. The colorful menu offers "healthy yet comfort cuisine," ranging from big burgers to plentiful pasta, and succulent seafood.

More than 25 diners stopped by for lunch, according to owner/chef Paul Braunschweiler, who has opened several award-winning eateries including Omaha, Neb.

"It was a pretty good day considering we put out no information and really didn't tell anyone," he said. "It was a long, tough road and one thing after another. There have been lots of problems and I had to change construction companies twice."

But after a 6-month rollercoaster ride, he said he was happy to open and is excited to be in Laguna Niguel.

"We still have a few things to do construction-wise, but this is where we wanted to to be and I am happy to bring my style of cooking to the community," he said.

The restaurant is aptly named after his daughter, Leah Jean, 22, who is also in the food services business. She is currently in Nebraska but will soon help run the Laguna Niguel restaurant, Braunschweiler said. 

"She's getting more experience and she was here last week," he said. "She needs to come, I told her, afterall, the place is named after her."

As for Braunschweiler, who was born in Switzerland, he lived for about a year in Costa Mesa, worked in the L.A. area for a while at the Beverly Hilton, Verdi's in Santa Monica, and Adriano's on Beverly Glenn. In addition, he lived in Switzerland for 27 years, then worked on a Norwegian Cruise ship for four years, followed by some years in the Midwest. 

The hours for LJ's: Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to close.

Vic C September 13, 2012 at 12:41 AM
New place so I stopped in for lunch. Friendly greeting, nice variety on the menu, and the food was fresh and seasoned perfectly. I had the burger and fries. At $10 it's a little pricey for lunch, but it was prepared medium well as ordered, and was very juicy. My waitress checked in with me at the proper moments, and kept my Coke glass full. The design offered an inviting atmosphere, and the background music was from the Rat Pack and American Songbook days. Martini anyone? There is a large open bar, a lunch counter, tall bar tables, booths and bistro tables available to accommodate your mood. The open lunch counter area allows you to see the chef at work. I discovered this is a chef owned restaurant, which means he has a reputation in the game. I'd say he's winning and I'll be back often.
Jeri Johnson September 16, 2012 at 03:01 AM
We just ate at LJ's Bistro for dinner and everything was perfect from the moment we walked into the door till we left. Our food was fabulous. Our waitress was friendly and efficient always had a smile on her face. I had the Brie & bacon on a brioche roll totally fabulous, my husband had the meatloaf with mushroom gravy and he loved it as well and my daughter got the salmon ceviche and for dessert we all shared the chocolate mousse yummy! The food at this restaurant is award winning and the service is awesome. I wish them the best of luck. They will be seeing me around because I will be around to try other wonderful mnue items!
joanne October 05, 2012 at 04:16 PM
The food is fantasitic, the portions are just right and the service is great! Thank you to LJ's for raising the bar for higher quality food in OC!!
barbara joannes January 29, 2013 at 03:22 AM
I am one of Paul's biggest fans. My husband & I started eating at his 1st restaurant in Omaha, Ne.The name was Spanna, we went the first .month he was open, the food was wonderful. Spanna became one of the best restaurants in Omaha. Spanna closed after a number of years. Paul came back to Omaha and opened Prima 140, all of his fans came back to the same wonderful food & service. We miss him in Omaha and were sad when he left. Laguna is very lucky to have Paul and his new restaurant. Give him time everyone will be please. Hello.Paul. BJ Prima 140
Paul Braunschweiler March 21, 2013 at 05:23 PM
Thanks, BJ, good to hear from you, Paul

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