Indulge your cravings with these delicious beachside treats from local eateries.
By Ben McBee
After a long day of lounging on the sand, playing in the surf and soaking up vitamin D, most people’s stomachs begin to grumble as they towel off and pack up. When it comes to snacking by the sea, it’s all about satisfying those nostalgic cravings. Nothing can cap off (or start) a fun day of memories quite like digging into some delicious beach eats in Newport Beach. With countless casual restaurants just steps from the ocean, grabbing a bite is an easy task; choosing where to go, and how to enjoy your treat, however, is the hard part. Oftentimes, sitting down for a breather is a must, or maybe a mobile morsel better meets your needs. Whatever you decide, you’ll be sure to find something to hit the spot with these tasty selections.
Sit Down and Stay Awhile
Spending hours in the sun can deplete your batteries. If that’s the case, recharging might mean catching the sunset with a full plate in front of you and a drink in hand. There’s arguably no better place to appreciate the pastel sky reflecting on the water like Circle Hook Fish Co. in Lido Marina Village. With ample outside seating for looking out on the bay, and nautical decor inside, the vibe is charmingly maritime. Rightly so, fish is on the menu: fresh, local and sustainably caught. Standouts include their take on fish and chips, as well as wonton poke tacos. Of course, when it comes to entrees, you can’t go wrong with the local fish of the day, such as the red snapper.
A few blocks away, Sessions West Coast Deli has an acclaimed signature sandwich that’s well worth a visit when you find yourself in the vicinity of 28th Street. The Summer Zephyr with Shaka Spuds is certain to brighten your day and excite your palate: fresh mozzarella, marinated tomato, pickled onion, basil aioli, arugula and balsamic served on a French roll. Executive Chef Max Schlutz suggests adding turkey or bacon as well. “The sandwich features several fresh vegetables, just a bit of healthy fats and, lastly, a few carbohydrates to give you enough energy to hit the surf without weighing you down,” he explains. Every hero needs a sidekick. “Our potato chips [dubbed Shaka Spuds] … are cooked with fresh sage and rosemary leaves. They are then nicely seasoned with our habanero salt. … At the very end, we shave fresh Parmesan over the top to give them great tang.”
Down the road, nestled in Marina Park with large windows that look onto the harbor, the aesthetic at Lighthouse Bayview Café may be light and airy, but any meal there must kick off with the rich, hearty, oh-so-scrumptious lobster mac and cheese. This succulent, salty dish is a heavenly union of seafood and noodles, crafted with tender lobster knuckle and claw meat, Ditalini pasta and a three-cheese blend. Follow it up with another absolutely necessary plate: the halibut fish and chips, which are flaky, flavorful, battered and fried to ideal crispiness. Enjoy indoors or out, with plenty of patio space to soak in views of the water.
Also on the peninsula, Mutt Lynch’s becomes one of Orange County’s best dive bars when night falls, but the eatery serves up a mean morning meal, too, dishing up everything from breakfast quesadillas to hash browns with bacon, cheddar cheese, green onions and sour cream. Where the eatery really hits its stride is the omelet parlor, where you’re free to concoct your own or choose from house creations like The Newport, filled with plump bay shrimp, green onion and pepper jack, and topped with hollandaise and guacamole.
For those who find themselves at Crystal Cove State Park, the obvious choice for refueling is The Beachcomber. Although it’s built on the beach, it’s not a feet-in-the-sand kind of place as the patio is up a few steps, but the oceanfront views are spectacular. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available with dishes like ahi tacos, Korean grilled chicken skewers, clam chowder, a variety of salads, shrimp pasta and the Beachcomber Kobe Burger with sun-dried tomato aioli.
Grub to Go
For lunch or dinner from a higher-up perch, the Shake Shack serves up burgers, fries, shakes and more on the bluff above Crystal Cove. Set up at an umbrella-shaded table and watch the sky become streaked with pinks and purples as the sun dips below the horizon—or take it to go and enjoy on the beach.
Other grab-and-go options can be found on the peninsula as well. As you’re walking up and down the boardwalk, you might not want to stop for a full meal. That’s when it’s time to choose a mobile option. Sancho’s Tacos offers bites are that are handy for those on the go and also pack some serious flavor. The Flounder Pounder sports grilled marinated fish, cabbage, cilantro, sour cream, salsa verde and the trademark Chubbie Sauce, a sweet, mild salsa. Meanwhile, the Flaco Taco is a vegetarian’s delight, full of artichoke hearts, mushrooms, spinach, fresh avocado and green salsa. Of course, another local landmark for fish tacos is Wahoo’s Fish Taco, although it’s a bit off the beach path. If you happen to veer inland to Fashion Island, the restaurant offers tacos, enchiladas and burritos with your choice of meats from chicken to pork, beef, shrimp and wild-caught flounder or salmon, plus beach-perfect snacks like taquitos, loaded nachos, Cajun fries, Maui onion rings and more.
Meanwhile, burger lovers who can’t shake daydreams of buns stacked high with beef and toppings need to head to Dory Deli for the Figgy. This handful of goodness boasts house-made beef with goat cheese creme and caramelized onions on a brioche bun. Or try the Dory Burger, featuring Swiss cheese, horseradish-beet sauce, caramelized onions and pickles. For the purists, TK Burgers can provide a more classic lettuce-tomato-onion combo.
The Tackle Box beach shack at Corona del Mar State Beach is another quintessential grab-and-go beach eats experience with the buffalo cauliflower and shrimp roll proving to be two gratifying selections. For the latter, chef and owner Brian Huskey chills the daily poached shellfish, tossing it with Old Bay aioli and chopped celery, serving it with shredded romaine lettuce on a butter toasted potato roll. The buffalo cauliflower, on the other hand,is an effort to re-create a veggie-inspired version of hot wings for the summer, without all the messy chicken bone waste. “We brine the cauliflower in buttermilk overnight then dredge it in a special flour mix,” Huskey says. “The buffalo cauliflower will be bold and crunchy. We only make flavor bombs at Tackle Box.”
No one would blame you if you want something sugary after spending so much time in the saltwater and, thankfully, dessert in Newport Beach is very much on the table. Seaside Bakery serves up the city’s best doughnuts 24/7, all within sight of Newport Pier. Maple bars, glazed twists or an old-fashioned are all great choices to satiate your sweet tooth. Not far away, Chocolate Bash whips up confections such as crepes, dipped fruits and cream puffs. For a frozen treat, plenty of ice cream and gelato places abound, but Banzai Bowls’ famous acai bowls are a healthy yet indulgent option, with toppings like blueberries, bananas, strawberries and kiwi, plus granola, coconut and honey on a smoothie-like base of mashed, frozen acai mixed with hemp or coconut milk and other fruit to help cool you down after a day in the sun.
Every good beach eat needs a thirst-quenching drink. Here are three perfect pairs for your next meal by the sand.
Tackle Box’s SEASONAL AGUA FRESCA: The eatery offers a delicious rotation of chilled fruit juices. Watermelon is a particularly satisfying summertime flavor.
Babette’s SMOOTHIES: In Crystal Cove Shopping Center, Babette’s sells smoothies made with organic, wholesome ingredients. The pear, almond butter, banana, coconut and pineapple variety is refreshing and filling.
Billy’s at the Beach MAI TAI: Island vibes are in the air thanks to this spot’s famous Mai Tai, made with Bacardi rum, orange Curaçao and the restaurant’s secret mix.