Newport vs “Old”port

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The best restaurants in Newport Beach, from two differing points of view- By Kedric Francis

Naming the ten best restaurants in town is sure to start a debate that can turn into an argument that may result in a family feud. People are passionate about their favorites when it comes to something as intimate and essential as eating. But perhaps the biggest obstacle to coming up with an ultimate top ten list is this: discerning diners can differ, and what’s an amazing gourmet accomplishment for some is just expensive art on tiny plates with hard to pronounce ingredients for others.

And so it is in Newport Beach. So we created two top ten lists, one for Newport and one for what we’ll call Oldport—simple descriptors having little to do with age and with no offense intended.  The restaurants on the Oldport list are classics, with upscale interiors, often of dark wood and leather. They’re reliable, conservative and don’t follow the whims of fashion or trend. They offer big plates, rooms with a view and servers who don’t act like they’d rather be someplace else. You won’t hear the terms molecular gastronomy or locavore here.

The Newport list of restaurants change menus often, will note proudly which farm a product comes from and will offer dozens of “Martinis” on its cocktail list, but few made with gin. The servers will wax poetic and at length about the specials, the chef may have been on television, and there will be vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options for just about everything on the menu. So with little explanation and even less apology, here alphabetically are the top ten restaurants in town—twice!

The Newport top ten

A Restaurant
With a welcoming bar, intriguing menu and the fabulous Shelly Register running the market next door, this is the neighborhood place for a new generation.

The Resort at Pelican Hill’s signature Northern Italian restaurant satisfies the resort’s international clientele in style.

Taste Abe’s world-class sushi and forget the rest.

Crow Bar and Kitchen
O.C.’s first gastropub now has Chef John Cuevas at the helm creating a new kind of coastal cuisine.

It’s a Newport Beach-born steakhouse for a new century, with a crowd cool enough to try something new when offered—which is often!

The ladies who lunch at this super stylish Neiman Marcus café are among the coolest and chicest in town.

Palm Terrace
The newish interior is a bit old-school, but exec chef Bill Bracken’s menu is brilliant, and always changing.

Organic produce addict Richard Mead’s Eastbluff original is still his best, with some of the most creative dishes in O.C.

The restaurant that dragged Five Crowns into this century, this gastropub does just about everything right, from artisan beers to some of the best small plate bites in O.C.

True Food
Good, and good for you with pizzas made with spelt and flax seed crusts and healthy versions of street tacos.

the oldport top ten

21 oceanfront
Divine dining by the pier in this oceanfront historic landmark that’s a haven for adults amid the often chaotic peninsula scene.

The Arches
Dan Marcheano’s classic place has moved around a bit since it vacated the original space on PCH, but one thing hasn’t changed: his Semper Fi patriotism that supports almost every cause in town. And it still has one of the best staffs around.

A tiny, six-table restaurant tucked onto Balboa Island that features classic Swiss French cuisine? Why not! It’s one of those places you either fall in love with at first sight, or not. Most do.

The Cannery
Born as a commercial fishing cannery operation, Ron Salisbury’s restaurant honors it’s history well. The patio is one of the prime waterfront spots in California with traditional seafood fare, with a buzzing bar and sushi upstairs.

First Cabin at the Balboa Bay Club
A refined restaurant for ladies and gentlemen where Chef Joseph Lageder is justly famed for his creative continental

Kitayama Newport locals have been following Japanese businessmen and women to this place for a couple of decades for what insiders say is some of the freshest sushi around—arrive early for the sushi lunch special.

Mastro’s Ocean Club Though some of the rich who live nearby may be nouveau, this stylish restaurant is definitely cut from the old- school cloth. Men in Italian suits and ladies dressed to thrill, all in for some mega martinis, serious seafood and stunning

Quiet Woman Steak, lamb and swordfish have been the staples at this CdM landmark since 1965. And even if the QW almost was disqualified from the Oldport list for calling out the provenance of its pork rack chop (Salmon Creek), the family-style Sunday suppers put it squarely back in the top ten.

Tradition By Pascal
Pascal Olhats came to Orange County in 1988, and instantly everything was better. He’s the father of French cuisine in Newport Beach and a leader in giving back to the community.

The Ritz Restaurant and Garden
Known for impeccable service, classically inspired cuisine and a healthy pour at the bar, things have only gotten better since owner Ray Jacobi, former GM of the Island Hotel, took over. When the society ladies come to the lounge after a gala luncheon and they’re still there when the happy hour bar burgers are brought out, there’s no place we’d rather be.


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