From rooftops and ocean vistas to garden settings and picturesque patios, skip cooking at home this summer in favor of enjoying an alfresco meal out on the town.
By Ashley Ryan
Newport Beach is the perfect place for backyard entertaining. But whether you’re tired of finding new recipes to serve or simply want a break from all of the preparation that goes into hosting, local restaurants have got you covered with endless opportunities to dine in the open air. Read on to find your favorite or try them all as you soak up some summer sun.
While there aren’t a ton of rooftops to visit in Newport Beach, the few that exist are worth the visit. Summer vibes are strong at Topside, Lido House hotel’s rooftop deck. “Spend the day soaking up the sun with a warm ocean breeze or catch a stunning summer sunset at night,” suggests Riley Huddleston, executive chef and partner at Lido House. With plush seating, cozy fire pits, strung lights and 360-degree views of the surrounding peninsula, this spot is ideal for sharing small plates. The bar recently launched a cold menu filled with yellowtail ceviche, oysters, shrimp aguachile and Hawaiian tuna to pair with favorites like baked feta cheese, Jidori chicken skewers, hummus, crispy avocados, a blue corn steak quesadilla and more. Pair these with Topside’s signature Champagne from France or refreshing cocktails like the Lady Guava, adorned with a tropical flower; the Puttin’ on the Spritz, which combines vodka and Lillet Blanc with notes of cherry, yuzu and watermelon; or the Topside margarita, served with a seasonal ice pop that is perfect for summertime.
The rooftop balcony at Lighthouse Cafe, situated just below the tower leading to the lighthouse-shaped building’s lantern room, offers an elevated view of Marina Park and the Newport Harbor. Start with a martini, such as the tropical Sunburst or the lavender lemon drop, or a frozen drink like the pina colada with a rum float sitting on top. Then decide on something to dine on. For dinner, seafood just feels like a great fit at this coastal spot. “Lighthouse features its Coastal Catch nightly, with a choice of several fish options, cooking styles and sauces as well,” says Tad Belshe, managing partner of the restaurant. Choose from swordfish, mahi mahi or salmon that is grilled, blackened or crusted with macadamia nuts, in sauces like mango-chipotle or citrus beurre blanc for a meal to remember.
For dining by the water, there are so many eateries to turn to. One spot where fresh fare abounds is Lido Marina Village. Lido Bottle Works is a comfortable spot nestled along the waterfront in this area. “Diners can enjoy the serenity of calm bay waters and admire the yachts … while dining on unique, creative food,” says Brett Karas, operating partner. Dishes on the menu remain while the ingredients change to feature local, seasonal and sustainable items. Try the vegetable appetizer with hummus, burrata salad, croquettes, seasonal pasta or the Lido Catch, and don’t forget to order a cocktail, all of which have surf-inspired names—like the new Reef Cuts, made with beet-infused fermented gin, ginger and egg whites.
Malibu Farm is another spot with fresh, organic ingredients. Catch similar views as you nosh on crab cakes, spaghetti squash lasagna, seared branzino tacos, Korean short ribs or a variety of salads, paired with a lavender latte, a flight of immunity shots, vegan smoothies or simple cocktails with names like Smoke or Papaya. Husband-and-wife duo Helene Henderson and John Stockwell, who own Malibu Farm, recently opened Skal Pizza next door, where wood-fired vegetables pair perfectly with pizzas like the barbecue corn, butternut squash and sage or avocado varieties.
Also at this stylish complex is Nobu Newport Beach, a well-known sushi spot from Japanese chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa. Beautiful views from the waterfront patio complement expertly plated dishes like toro tartare with caviar, wagyu beef, lobster ceviche and new-style sashimi as well as nigiri and “maki,” or sushi rolls. The eatery also offers two omakase tasting menus for surprise specialty dishes.
On the Lido peninsula, Bluewater Grill remains a favorite. Dock and dine options abound, so pick up orders for out on the water or park your boat and stop for an alfresco meal. “You can often see our boat, pulling up and delivering fresh … fish and wheeling it through the front door of the restaurant,” notes Bluewater Grill co-owner Jim Ulcickas. “… We will be featuring fish from the Pacific this summer, like Alaskan halibut, local sablefish—black cod—and, of course, our swordfish.” Pair your seafood-focused meal with summer-inspired drinks like the cucumber mojito, an Aperol spritz or a glass of rose.
Ocean views can also be found along the harbor behind West Coast Highway, where numerous eateries sit adjacent to the water. Dine at The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar, Louie’s by the Bay, Billy’s at the Beach or the Rusty Pelican, or head down to Balboa Bay Resort’s A&O Restaurant & Bar, which Executive Chef Prabeen Prathapan says is inspired by the Italian Riviera. “Step outside and you’ll find an expansive wrap-around patio with striped umbrellas, white resin stone tables, wicker chairs and multiple fire pit tables,” he adds. For light, fresh selections that “emulate the spirit of summer,” Prathapan suggests the VR Farms local summer salad, grilled and stuffed artichokes or the seared salmon with gnocchi along with a glass of rose or the mezcal-fueled Mr.Pablo. Or visit while A&O has its tequila bar going for unique sips from rare bottles.
Also on the water is Sol Mexican Cocina, where the ocean breeze complements the eatery’s Baja-inspired fare. Sol boasts naked guacamole, grilled sweet corn, party-size margaritas and more, but you can’t go wrong with tacos—like the Taco Vampiro, spicy from serrano chiles and chipotle sauce, or the Canarditas Duck, with deep-fried duck leg confit in a tequila-blackberry-serrano salsa. For a summer cocktail, you can’t beat the Frozé, which blends rose wine with frozen margarita and guava nectar.
For those looking to dine at the beach, a meal on the deck at The Beachcomber at Crystal Cove will put you right on the sand, with the sound of waves crashing in the background. A great option for breakfast, guests can dine on crepes, beignets, egg dishes or savory meals while sipping mimosas or the famous Big Bad Bloody Mary, or return later in the day for soups, salads, pasta, seafood or high-end meats.
Local hotels also have alfresco patios with stunning views of the Pacific. At Vea Newport Beach, the lanai at View Restaurant & Lounge overlooks the coast while offering breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night menus, with dishes like the tuna crudo, Dungeness crab salad, sushi rolls and the Lost Coast Farms Burger Royale; make sure to also grab the Tropical Knockout cocktail for a fresh, fun drink. Edge Bar, also at the resort, is entirely outdoors. You can’t miss the ice pops here or cocktails like the anejo-filled B.A.N.A.N.A.S. or Notorious P&C. You can also order snacks like sushi, salads, tacos and dessert.
Set further up on the bluffs along Newport Coast, The Resort at Pelican Hill is another stellar spot. “The breathtaking view from the Pelican Grill patio of the Pacific Ocean is incomparable,” says Claude Herscovici, general manager of the restaurant. Enjoy dishes like whole roasted sea bream, lobster roll or wagyu filet with beverages such as the Oaxacan Fresca, with mezcal and grapefruit, or the Newport Cosmo, made modern with strawberries.
Those looking for somewhere to relax and unwind can head to Tommy Bahama Restaurant & Bar this summer to enjoy regular live musicians, fire pits and a peaceful patio this summer. “Dining alfresco allows our guests to experience our wonderful SoCal climate in the shaded comfort of our dual level patio,” says Daniel Anthony, general manager at the Corona del Mar location. “We have umbrellas, heaters and bistro lighting throughout the patio to create a magical ambiance and make it comfortable year-round.” The brand is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, with special designations on the menu noting favorites like the World-Famous Coconut Shrimp with papaya-mango chutney, the grilled chicken and mango salad, the blackened mahi mahi tacos and the macadamia nut-crusted halibut to commemorate the occasion. Some other must-trys include the warm goat cheese dip, Kona coffee-crusted rib-eye, truffle burger and the unique seared scallop sliders, plus cocktails like the Pineapple Paradisio martini, the Mango Nada with Tajín and the new raspberry jalapeno paloma.
New to town, Joey Newport Beach made its debut at the beginning of the year and the patio is definitely a main attraction. At nearly 2,000 square feet, there’s plenty of space to socialize amidst the communal fire pit, full-service bar and live tree that makes this patio an outdoor oasis for connection. Find light, shareable dishes throughout the menu, like the yellowfin tuna salad, a crisp option with seared fish, avocado and mango, or the roasted corn guacamole. Joey also has a sushi program, so you can opt for the seared salmon sushi, served in a pressed style, or the unique sushi cone, made with tempura prawns and spicy mayo. And, as they’re especially fitting for summer, make sure to order one of Joey’s Super cocktails, which are topped with lemon-lime slush that can’t be beat during the heat of summer. Other drinks here include the spicy passion fruit margarita, peach bourbon tea, signature sangria or the Joey 75 Champagne cocktail.
While rooftops and ocean views have their own appeal, dining in a garden setting is special in its own right—and always a wonderful experience in the summertime. Enjoy the breeze amongst the plants, rustic furniture and twinkling lights at Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens. “The Farmhouse location and ambiance are unbeatable and truly one-of-a-kind,” says Rich Mead, owner and executive chef at the restaurant. The menu, too, is riveting, as Mead visits farmers markets weekly in order to procure fresh produce that fills dishes like the Farmhouse Market salad, the grilled Asian beef short ribs, the rotating Today’s Pizza and the many vegetable-forward items, as well as the accompaniments for entrees like Icelandic cod, spaghetti squash enchiladas, flat iron steak, albacore tuna sandwich and herb-roasted Jidori chicken. The ever-changing cocktail menu is also filled with simple-ingredient drinks made with high-quality herbs and produce to accompany your meal, though Mead says chilled wine, freshly squeezed lemonade or iced tea with fruit inside can also be great additions to your meal.
Then, over at Sherman Library & Gardens, 608 Dahlia offers more farm-to-table options nestled amongst the stunning flowers and fountains that adorn the property. The plates here look like actual artwork: filled with color, but also decorated as if they were meant to be masterpieces. From the seasonal vegetables with garden flowers to the vibrant beet risotto with green herb gremolata to the grilled flat iron steak with a garden chimichurri sauce followed by passion fruit custard or a fresh fruit tart for dessert.
No matter where you choose to dine out this summer in Newport—and there are plenty more outdoor spots than we were able to list here—you’re sure to find light, refreshing options to complement the season with views and vibes that can’t be beat.