Dock & Dine

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Dining at Newport Harbor

Newport Harbor offers a host of restaurants that invite boaters to cruise on up and enjoy a meal. – By Rich Manning

To some people, the act of piloting a ship through Newport Beach’s bustling harbor may appear to be an ideal symbol of leisure. Yet a day of fun in the sun, navigating through the waves of electric Duffy boats, private yachts, corporate tour ships and other random crafts can work up a huge appetite. Fortunately, Newport Harbor is lined with several special restaurants that utilize dock and dine services that allow hungry captains and their passengers to tie up their boats and stay a while.

The Cannery
Housed in one of the harbor’s most historic buildings, this popular spot usually needs every inch of its massive 225-foot dock to meet the demands of boaters looking to indulge in the restaurant’s acclaimed selection of seafood and sushi offerings. “We feel very fortunate that we have our dock to offer our guests,” says Stevie Cruz, The Cannery’s special events coordinator. “We think it’s an extension of who we are, and it is definitely something that we like to highlight.” Those renting a Duffy or hosting a private seagoing party can also utilize The Cannery’s special Savor by the Sea menu; a special listing of seafood platters, wrap sandwiches, cheeses and fruits that can be enjoyed from the comfort of their vessel. (3010 Lafayette Rd.; 949-566-0060; cannerynewport.com)

The Dock
With large bay windows and arching glass ceilings, the inside of this al fresco dining experience known for its infused continental cuisine feels very much like an extension of the ambience organically created just beyond its walls. As one may derive from the name, the restaurant does contain a strip for boaters to park their vessel. However, calling ahead to reserve a space for your craft is essential, especially during weekends and their spectacular Sunday brunch. (2816 LaFayette Ave.; 949-673-3625; eatatthedock.com)

First Cabin
Arguably, no harborside venue captures the essence of Newport Beach’s opulent soul better than this breathtaking venue, located within the confines of the exquisite Balboa Bay Club & Resort. While the marina is private and does not accommodate large boats, there is enough space available to accommodate Duffy boats on a first come, first served basis for those who have reservations at the restaurant. (1221 W. Coast Hwy.; 949-630-4145; balboabayclub.com)

Harborside Restaurant and Grand Ballroom
If this restaurant feels significant, it is with good reason; its home is in the Balboa Pavilion, the legendary century-plus-old building that is just as iconic as Newport Harbor itself. The venue connects its name to its surroundings by offering a place for patrons to tie up Duffy boats or small crafts with the help of dockside valet, a service that is utilized by savvy locals looking for an efficient way to drop by for Sunday brunch or their prix-fixe, multi-course “First Seating” menu. “We have quite a few regulars that routinely use our dockside service,” explains Justin Turner, Harborside’s general manager. “They have discovered it to be a good way to avoid the traffic on Balboa Peninsula.” (400 Main St.; 949-673-4633; harborside-pavilion.com)

Villa Nova
This legendary Italian eatery has been inviting guests to tie up their boats since 1967. While they extended the dock in 1996, they still have certain restrictions on the books; for example, boats over 35 feet are prohibited on weekends. Still, the restaurant’s skilled stable of dedicated dock valets will prevent people from feeling crowded, while the charming, rustic waterfront decor creates an ambience to further enhance the dock area’s liveliness. “The dock’s decor is important to us,” says Susan Emmett, Villa Nova’s general manager. “We know it’s a great luxury to have, so we want to make it feel like it’s an extension of being in Newport Beach.” If you are merely looking to snack on something while tooling around the harbor’s breathtaking expanse, you can pick up one of the restaurant’s sumptuous appetizer trays with a 24-hour advanced order. (3131 W. Coast Hwy.; 949-642-7880; villanovarestaurant.com)

Woody’s Wharf
Open since 1965, this lively spot is marked with one of the harbor’s most colorful histories. For example, Chuck Norris—yes, the Chuck Norris—was a former owner who once hired a young protégé named Jean-Claude Van Damme to be a doorman. A healthy dose of seafaring regulars and Duffy boat renters flock to the steak and seafood restaurant’s small docking area for lunch, dinner and weekend Champagne brunch (which is served dockside), so be sure to reserve a spot in advance. (2318 Newport Blvd.; 949-675-0474; woodyswharf.com)
Bluewater Grill
The stellar reputation of this venue extends well beyond Newport’s waters, as they have had vessels from as far as British Columbia drop by for their daily changing selection of seafood delights. Fortunately, the restaurant is blessed with an ample docking area to welcome its mix of locals and travelers, not to mention a very helpful staff. “Everyone wearing a uniform is considered dock help,” says Jim Hyde, Bluewater Grill’s general manager. “If a novice boater is having trouble tying up to the dock, all our staff is trained to get involved and help out.” The restaurant also satisfies the appetite of Duffy boat day-trippers by offering them a host of delectable platters to enjoy on their trip through harbor waters. (630 Lido Park Dr., 949-675-3474; bluewatergrill.com)

In a way, these dock and dine experiences perfectly symbolize the diversity of aquatic pleasures that locals and tourists can enjoy within Newport Harbor’s waters. Much like the dining venues that hug the area’s shoreline offer an eclectic array of ways to satisfy your appetite, the desire to explore the blue playground adjacent to the eateries can be fulfilled in a vast number of ways, from the powerful whir of an electric rental to the majestic grace of a large public ship. Yet regardless of where you visit and how you get there, each journey is bound to the fact that Southern California’s premier nautical adventures play an integral role in your adventure. NBM

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Obviously this list of restaurants that accommodate guest duffys is quite dated. Where may I obtain an updated list?

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