A New Era

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The newly reinvented Village Inn brings a more contemporary flair to the rooted establishment.

By Alli Tong

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Pan-seared Loch Duart salmon

When Daniel and Jessica Miller bought the Village Inn (or the VI, as they prefer to call it) in April 2012, they saw the great potential in the relaxed dive bar, rooted in downtown Balboa Island for more than 80 years. While locals warmly refer to it as the “Cheers” of Newport, Dan and Jessica saw more than just a place to grab a beer; they saw a place where anyone could walk in, have a leisurely meal and conversation, and walk out with a memorable experience. Now, a year and a half later, they’ve reinvented the menu, space and service to bring a modern flair, yet keep the community feel.

One of the key elements was to bring in a seasoned chef—Victor Sandoval, who comes with a wealth of experience and culinary mastery. Take for instance the elegant ahi poke appetizer, made with fresh tuna, poke sauce and avocado, and served with house-made wonton chips. “We want to change people’s minds and perspectives,” Victor says, adding that their dishes are all made from scratch.

The approachable, contemporary American cuisine includes savory staples such as the Blue Burger, a juicy 8-ounce Angus beef patty topped with blue cheese crumbles, caramelized onion, tomato, lettuce and a house-made spread, and served on a fluffy brioche bun. There’s also the pan-seared Loch Duart salmon with a tarragon beurre blanc, sauteed vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes. The Village Inn doesn’t skimp on salad, either—the flank steak salad boasts savory flank steak, grilled vegetables, egg, tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles and balsamic vinaigrette, all tossed in greens.

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Salted brownie sandwich

The restaurant’s cocktails got an overhaul, too. Guests can sip on innovative drinks such as the Sandy Feet, made with pineapple-infused Don Q Cristal rum, mint, lemon juice, simple syrup and Caravella limoncello. Owner Jessica helped to concoct the signature VI bloody mary, hand-mixed with 10 ingredients and Sobieski Vodka, and garnished with celery and lemon—a perfect complement to breakfast served on Saturdays and Sundays.

No meal is complete without dessert—and chef Victor created a truly tooth-licking sweet treat: the salted brownie sandwich: a house-made brownie  with sea salt, topped with rum-infused caramel, and served with cinnamon ice cream.

While the food is reason enough to linger, the restaurant also has live music every night, and happy hours run Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m., making it the ideal place to watch football this season. The VI also offers private transportation Friday and Saturday nights (complimentary on the island, and from north Huntington to south Laguna, as well as Costa Mesa and Irvine), ensuring guests safe rides home. While the VI may be the “Cheers” of Newport, it’s also paving the way as one of Balboa Island’s premier dining destinations. NBM

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