As morning meals continue to surge in popularity, Newport Beach restaurants answer with uniquely delicious dishes.
By Ashley Ryan
It’s been years since the craze hit and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down—but why would it? There’s something both thrilling and relaxing about a laid-back, boozy brunch on weekend mornings, gathered around a table laughing with family and friends.
While it seems no city is left untouched, the brunch scene in Newport Beach is especially exciting, with a vast number of restaurants launching morning menus to whet locals’ appetites. The trick is trying to decide between the over-the-top experiments, health-conscious dishes and traditional classics. Here, we cover a little bit of everything and offer up some options for brunching by the coast.
Eggs Benedict is definitely a classic that is constantly given new life with interesting ingredients, sauces and more. At Lighthouse Café, located right by the water of Newport Harbor, a classic Benedict is offered with Canadian bacon on an English muffin, but an elevated Lighthouse Benedict is also available. Like the traditional iteration, the eponymous variety is smothered in hollandaise sauce, but the grilled muffin is layered with a bed of fresh arugula, topped with prosciutto and a poached egg, then finished with the sauce and a balsamic glaze. “This Benedict stands apart from most as a result of the prosciutto and the combination of other flavors—the creaminess of the hollandaise and the sweetness of the balsamic,” says Tad Belshe, managing partner of the restaurant. The Lighthouse Benedict has been a favorite since it was added to the menu in 2019; Belshe shares that there is a secret, off-menu salmon variety available as well for those who prefer a seafood option. (949-933-1001; lighthousenb.com)
A combination of sweet and savory, the fried chicken and doughnuts are sure to impress. “When chicken and waffles … became a red-hot trend, we had already hit the ground running with our maple bacon doughnuts,” says Scott Floyd, Great Maple’s corporate chef. “So we elevated this with our own modern take. … To us, this was the epitome of American comfort food with whimsy and a twist, which is our philosophy.” The doughnuts serve as the base of the dish, crafted with the eatery’s signature maple bacon glaze and sprinkled with pieces of thick-cut, pecan wood-smoked bacon. They are then topped with chicken thighs that have been seasoned in a buttermilk bath for 72 hours, then dredged, fried when ordered and finished with fresh chives—and voila—the dish is complete and ready to be savored. (949-706-8282; thegreatmaple.com)
Bosscat Kitchen & Libations
Sometimes, you’ve just got to go for that over-the-top, sweet treat, and Bosscat Kitchen & Libations has just the thing. Enter the apple cheesecake waffle, which is studded with pearl sugar and topped with a caramel apple cheesecake mixture and whipped cream. “We were working on an apple pancake dish and we didn’t feel it was moving in the right direction,” notes Peter Petro, executive chef and partner at Bosscat. “After about 20 versions of the pancake, we landed on a waffle. Anyone can make an apple waffle, but we decided to go with a cheesecake element to really make it pop.” Finished off with graham cracker crumble, the cheesecake flavor shines through for a sweet and creamy dish that will have you feeling like you’re eating dessert for breakfast. (949-333-0917; bosscatkitchen-newport.com)
Tupelo Junction Cafe
Those looking to keep it healthy while still enjoying some pizazz should head to this Southern-style restaurant on the peninsula. The wild mushroom, asparagus and black truffle cheese scramble, served with a baby green salad, is the perfect blend of nutritious and luxurious. “I love this scramble,” says Amy Scott, the restaurant’s owner. “We use the best white truffle cheese with black truffles marbled through it—very expensive and high quality.” This unique cheese is scrambled with eggs, shiitake mushrooms and asparagus tips, then plated with a green salad with sliced cherry tomatoes and a house-made red wine vinaigrette. To top it all off, diners may choose from a buttermilk biscuit with jumbleberry jam, fresh cornbread with honey, or whole-wheat sourdough toast. Other unique brunch dishes at Tupelo Junction Cafe include huevos rancheros with pulled pork and chili-style black beans, cheddar-jalapeno grits with shrimp and lobster gumbo sauce and an eggs Benedict with honey-baked ham. (949-877-0280; tupelojunction.com)
Balboa Bay Resort
For a breakfast buffet to remember, visit Balboa Bay Resort, which recently launched its Sunday Seafood Brunch. Presented in the hotel’s new Lighthouse room, guests can pair views of the harbor with the finest seafood. Although there is a carving station for rosemary and garlic strip loin, a bakery display, eggs cooked to order and much more, the seafood display is sure to be the highlight of this meal. “It is low in calories, it pairs nicely with Champagne and wine, and it elevates the overall quality of the meal,” says Prabeen Prathapan, executive chef at Balboa Bay Resort. Enjoy fresh-shucked oysters served with a mignonette sauce and lemon wedges, as well as both snow crab claws and king crab legs, poached prawns accompanied by a house-made cocktail sauce, Mexican-style ceviche with marinated fish, and a selection of sushi rolls and sashimi with wasabi, ginger and soy sauce. (949-645-5000; balboabayresort.com)