Newport’s Newcomers

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By Peter A. Balaskas

If there’s one thing we love in Newport—other than the beach—it’s good food and a warm, welcoming ambience. In 2015, more than 10 restaurants opened across town, offering a variety of cuisines that satisfy all tastes.

Restaurateur Ron Salisbury, whose El Cholo franchise took over the former Landmark spot in Corona del Mar this year, points out that Newport attracts a well-traveled clientele whose horizons—and palates—have been expanded and developed because of their exposure to culturally exotic dishes.

El Cholo Mexican restaurant took over the former Landmark space in Corona del Mar earlier this year. |  Photo by Jody Tiongco
El Cholo Mexican restaurant took over the former Landmark space in Corona del Mar earlier this year. | Photo by Jody Tiongco

“So, they will appreciate good food and service in an atmosphere that you’re drawn to,” says Salisbury, whose company also owns The Cannery. “But in the long run, they will return to outstanding restaurants that serve food they are most familiar with.”

Small chains comprise a good percentage of Newport’s newest restaurants, many with a focus on international fare. The first Orange County Sushi Roku, one of LA’s Innovative Dining Group brands, opened in June at Fashion Island to offer fresh sashimi, rolls and robata skewers; meanwhile, Glendora-based The Krave Kobe Burger (opened this fall in Newport Coast) also borrows from the idea of Japanese cuisine to create its burgers made from wagyu beef.

Those with a passion for Italy, however, will want to visit Sapori Ristorante, which opened an attached pizzeria in early 2015. There, culinary connoisseurs can indulge their appetites with gourmet pizzas fired in a wood-burning oven imported from overseas. And if you can’t choose just one type of cuisine, The Trough (hailing from Rancho Santa Margarita) on the peninsula has a sandwich assortment that can take you on a culinary tour of the world—inspiration comes from national tastes
like Philly cheesesteaks to Asian-inspired pork belly chashu.

But Newport Beach is also known for offering business opportunities to first-time restaurateurs. Brian Huskey, owner of Tackle Box on East Shore Avenue in Corona del Mar, avoided the temptation of creating a full dining restaurant. Instead, he harnessed his entrepreneurial vision by creating a short-order stand from the perspective of a restaurant chef, combining fresh food with reasonable prices, excellent service and a picturesque view of Big Corona.

“Now … I’m trying to bridge that gap of what $20 gets for you and redefine what awesome food is,” says Huskey, who was a top five finalist on season 11 of “Top Chef.” “I’m cooking a concept where I can hit every social and economic class, every demographic.”

Although 2015 was a boon for new restaurants, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more. Dory Deli co-owner Andrew Gabriel believes the peninsula, where his eatery is located, offers a lot of opportunity for aspiring restaurateurs to establish new businesses. “I think the McFadden Square and Newport Pier area need this influx the most,” Gabriel says. “As far as kinds of restaurants, I think anything that fills a void.”

As enterprising businesses and individuals help meet the ongoing demand for more eateries, Newport has developed a reputation for drawing innovative culinary concepts. And if 2015 was a success for the local restaurant industry, there’s no doubt 2016 should open the door for more epicurean delights.


The Ritz Prime Seafood opened this fall on Mariner's Mile, revamping the original Ritz Restaurant, which closed in 2014.  | Anne Watson Photography
The Ritz Prime Seafood opened this fall on Mariner’s Mile, revamping the original Ritz Restaurant, which closed in 2014. | Anne Watson Photography

A Look Back

Savor the latest flavors at some of Newport’s most buzzed-about new restaurants from 2015.

ParkStone Urban Kitchen & Taps
5180 Birch St.; 949- 476-3171;

Dory Deli
2108 ¾ W. Oceanfront; 949-220-7886;

The Trough
705 E. Balboa Blvd.; 949-673-1029;

2727 Newport Blvd.; 949-723-0034;

Wild Taco
407 31st St.; 949-673-9453

Pizzeria Sapori
1080 Bayside Dr.; 949-644-4220;

El Cholo
3520 E. Coast Hwy.; 949-777-6137;

Tackle Box
3029 E. Shore Ave.; 949-723-0502;

Hopdoddy Burger Bar
311 Newport Center Dr.; 949-640-2337;

Sushi Roku
327 Newport Center Dr.; 949-706-3622;

The Ritz Prime Seafood
2801 W. Coast Hwy.;

The Krave Kobe Burger
21133 Newport Coast Dr.;

(early 2016)

Publica by Zinque
(spring 2016)

(summer 2016)

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