There’s a new restaurant just across the Newport Beach border in downtown Huntington Beach called Great Bites that’s serving what co-owner Josh Crater calls “healthy nutritious real food that actually tastes great and everyone wants to eat, not like boring bland traditional health food.”
Crater’s quote perfectly sums up the stigma around “health food.” The phrase conjures images of kale salads, fake meat or tofu, quinoa bowls and sprouts.
Great Bites serves what Crater and his renowned chef partner Ray Martin like to call California coastal comfort food. Translation: burgers, salads, sandwiches, tacos, burritos, bowls, and entree plates filled with delicious and nutritious organic ingredients that taste amazing.
“We are all so used to vegetables and proteins with such a lack of flavor, it’s refreshing to taste clean organic chicken that actually tastes like chicken,” said Crater of his cuisine. “And instead of regular boring flavorless tomatoes full of pesticides, we have organic heirloom tomatoes bursting with natural flavor.”
Having grown up in Huntington Beach (I graduated from Edison High School), my favorite cuisine of choice was usually fast food tacos and burgers, mainly because there was never an option like Great Bites which uses the best quality premium organic and natural ingredients.
Great Bites is a fast-casual concept that serves fine dining-quality food. You order at the counter with a team member or on their modern touch screen kiosk and they bring your food to your table.
My first time at Great Bites I didn’t know what to order because everything looked so good (there are photos of each dish on the Great Bites website). I went with one of the most popular items: bacon and avocado cheeseburger made with premium Wagyu beef, on a handmade brioche bun with organic shredded lettuce, organic heirloom tomato, cheddar cheese, applewood smoked bacon, sliced avocado, and organic secret sauce. I added seasoned crinkle cut fries with organic ketchup and their Baja ranch for dunking to complete the order.
When the burger came out I took one bite, then another. And another. This is a ridiculously good burger. The bacon is perfectly crisp yet not dry, the avocados added another dimension of flavor, the bun was soft yet held up to the burger which was cooked a perfect medium rare with juices slowly oozing out.
I have devoured burgers at restaurants throughout Orange County, and this one ranks with the best.
“Most people have our burger and fries on their first visit and then they return to try other things,” said Crater. “I can’t tell you how many times we have a new customer come in for lunch and then return the same day for dinner, saying it was so good they wanted to come back right away. For every ingredient on our menu, we tasted tons of options and selected only the best. When you buy ultra-premium ingredients and put them together it’s the difference between just good bites and Great Bites.”
According to Crater, he tried several different hamburger buns and he selected the best tasting one. He also sampled several different bacons and organic beef options, until he found the right ones.
“We source only the absolute best ingredients—that’s really important to us,” stated Crater.
In creating the Great Bites menu, Crater worked with his partner Ray Martin (formerly the Corporate Executive Chef at Cheesecake Factory and BJs Pizza & Brewhouse). Crater explained to Martin that he wanted to do something with an organic restaurant concept but broaden it for the masses.
“I thought about what do most people actually like to eat on a regular basis, and it came back to the greatest hits of comfort food: tacos, burgers, burritos, and salads,” he said.
“Combine McDonalds, Chipotle, and a fine dining restaurant into one fast casual concept and you get Great Bites,” explained Crater, who has worked in the luxury fine dining food and wine business for over 20 years, although this is the first restaurant he has owned.
Crater also owns and operates three other successful businesses in mortgage, real estate, and artificial intelligence software with offices in Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Irvine, but those businesses have slowed down due to the current high interest rates, lack of housing inventory, and the challenging economy.
When Crater found extra time on his hands, he knew it was the perfect time to reach out to his longtime friend Chef Martin to help him launch his original concept, which was a 24/7 drive-thru serving organic food. However, finding an available drive-thru restaurant in a decent location proved impossible.
Crater, who lives in Huntington Beach, found a prime location in downtown Huntington Beach just off Main Street, although it was not a drive-thru. Another restaurant that had a space on Third Street just two blocks for the beach went out of business, so Crater snapped it up, but he did not get the keys until June and the restaurant took two months to get everything ready to open, meaning Crater missed the coveted summer business.
“It’s very difficult to open a restaurant—I gave up my entire summer to get this open,” said Crater. “I was a little devastated, but thankfully as soon as we opened our doors the reception was instantly great. If your food is great, people are going to talk about it.”
With almost 100 five-star reviews already on Google and Yelp and so many people talking about Great Bites on social media including several popular Facebook groups including HB Quarantine Cuisine and HB Local (both devoted to locals supporting locally owned restaurants), it’s obvious Great Bites is doing something very special.
Among the many different menu items at Great Bites are a barbacoa sandwich with garlic aioli, and wild Alaska salmon.
The salmon and mahi mahi are line caught and can be enjoyed as an entrée or inside fish tacos, which is how I had mine (and they are sensational).
Great Bites also has a kids menu featuring organic options, a rare thing in the restaurant world.
Organic is not on the fringes anymore, noted Crater.
“A lot of items at Costco and Trader Joes are organic now, but surprisingly most people still don’t understand that the word organic actually just means “clean” without all the poisons and pesticides that plague our current food system” said Crater. “So many people think it means fake plant based meat or lab grown ingredients, so we actually had to make flyers saying ‘No Fake Meat, Only Real Food’ in all caps so people would understand.”
“We don’t use seed oils, we only cook all our food using only organic olive oil other than our fries that are fried in a special healthy type of high oleic fry oil that is good for heart health, lowers bad cholesterol, raises good cholesterol, and lowers levels of inflammation,” added Crater.
By the way, in addition to the superb burger, I also had the Great Bites salad with organic grilled chicken breast, the nutritious delicious bowl which featured 10 different Organic Vegetables plus Organic Chicken, the taco gringo, and the wild Alaska grilled salmon taco, chips and guacamole, and dark chocolate brownie bites. All absolutely delicious.
Crater said Great Bites is getting ready to branch out into the meal prep business in partnership with a few local high end fitness facilities who are looking for a premium organic meal prep option to optimize their clients’ results. Great Bites also offers catering for special events or corporate clients.
Great Bites also has different daily specials, from Taco Tuesday to Sangria & Salad Saturday. You can also order ahead for pick-up or delivery. And best of all, there is a parking structure across the street from Great Bites with 90 minutes free parking!
For more information, www.GreatBitesHB.com.