Grab a fork and get ready for the 14th annual Newport Beach Restaurant Week, which returns Jan. 13 and runs through Jan. 26. Yes, that’s almost two weeks, which means more opportunities to visit some of the 74 restaurants — a record number — participating in the event.
Many of my favorites are on the list, as well as 11 new participants, most of which have opened in Newport Beach within the past year: Buddha’s Favorite, CdM Restaurant, Chihuahua Cerveza, Fable & Spirit, GuacAmigos, Helmsman Ale House, Mama’s Comfort Food & Cocktails, Royal Hen, Tavern House Kitchen + Bar, Tupelo Junction Café, and Xanadu Café.
Presented by Dine Newport Beach and the Newport Beach Restaurant Association, the local event is Orange County’s longest-running restaurant week. NBRW offers diners prix-fixe menus for lunch ($10 to $25), dinner ($20 to $50), and, for the first time, weekend brunch ($15 to $20).
Restaurant Week was created by the NBRA to drive business to its member restaurants and build awareness of the local culinary community, which it certainly has done. The event not only introduces new customers to restaurants, but also enhances the economic vitality of the city.
After perusing the Restaurant Week menus as posted on DineNB.com, I selected some of the most interesting and best value menus — although most restaurants are indeed showcasing their best dishes at reasonable prices. And, per usual, the lunch menus seem to offer the best values, although the new brunch menus are also a good value.
Some of the Restaurant Week menu highlights:
• Avila’s El Ranchito: The Newport and Corona del Mar locations each have $15 lunch and $30 dinner specials that include Mama Avila’s Chicken Soup as a starter.
• A&O at Balboa Bay Resort: A nice $20 lunch menu, and an even nicer harbor view.
• Bayside Restaurant: One of my favorites, Bayside has an impressive three-course $40 dinner menu with five entrée options (I have my eye on the linguini scampi).
• Café Jardin at Sherman Library & Gardens: Noted chef Pascal Olhats and Food Network winner Chef Jessica Roy have teamed up to offer a $25 restaurant week lunch that includes such exotic items as braised short rib & pork belly bourguignonne, and grilled salmon & Portuguese octopus.
• Canaletto: $25 lunch. Choice of four starters, six options for entrée, and dessert. A great value.
• CdM Restaurant: This newcomer from the folks behind A Restaurant have a nice four-course dinner menu for $50.
• Eddie V’s: Formerly known as Wildfish, the $50 dinner menu is four courses with such entrée options as filet mignon.
• Fable & Spirit: Named Best New Restaurant at the Golden Foodie Awards, this restaurant has a $25 lunch menu and $50 dinner menu that offers insights into the restaurant’s eclectic cuisine.
• Farmhouse: Four course dinner menu for $50 that is limited in choices but everything chef Rich Mead creates is always fabulous.
• Five Crowns: This classic restaurant has a classic $50 dinner menu with three courses — a good value if you order the prime rib entrée.
• Fleming’s Steakhouse: Speaking of value, Fleming’s has a tantalizing three-course lunch menu for $25 that includes soup or salad, choice of four entrees, and dessert.
• Fly ‘N’ Fish: Once again, this restaurant outdoes itself with a $20 lunch menu featuring soup and salad plus choice of entrée.
• Gracias Madre: This Westcliff newcomer offers a terrific $30 dinner menu with three courses.
• GuacAmigos: Another newcomer to Newport Beach, this restaurant offers a $15 lunch menu, $15 brunch menu, and $20 dinner menu. All three are terrific deals.
• Harborside: Nice $20 two-course lunch with choice of seven entrees.
• Helmsman: Another newcomer offers a $15 brunch menu and $20 dinner menu. Great value, good food.
• Lighthouse Bayview Café: $15 lunch menu and $5 brunch menu are both great options, and a great view. Also, a $30 dinner menu.
• Mama’s: Newcomer on Coast Highway offers three-course $20 menus for lunch, brunch and dinner. They all include Thrifty’s ice cream for dessert.
• Moulin: The $20 lunch menu is three courses, starting with the best French onion soup I have tasted, plus half chicken with fries or roasted potatoes, and dessert. An incredible deal.
• Muldoon’s: $20 lunch. Includes the addicting soda bread, a starter, choice of four entrées, and dessert. As always, a great value.
• Olea: The three-course dinner menu for $50 that includes the duck liver pate (my favorite) and Napa lamb shank as options. Fabulous food.
• Pelican Hill Resort: Andrea, Coliseum Pool & Grill, and Pelican Grill all have $25 lunch menus with choice of starters and entrees.
• Provenance: The $20 lunch menu is a three-course affair with choice of starters, entrees and dessert. Also, a nice $25 brunch menu and $40 dinner menu.
• Rockin Baja Lobster: Three-course lunch for $15 or $20 depending on entrée (including a warm lobster roll).
• SOL Cocina: $20 lunch includes choice of starters, entrees (including octopus tacos), and dessert.
• Tavern House: Restaurateur David Wilhelm brings back his famous French 75 onion soup as an option on the $25 lunch menu, $25 brunch menu and $40 dinner menu. And it gets better from there.
• The Beachcomber: Two-course lunch is $20. Spectacular beachside setting no extra charge.
• The Bungalow: $20 lunch includes beverage, chowder or salad, and choice of eight entrees. Good food and good value.
• The Winery: $50 dinner. Begin with the Alsatian pizza, followed by choice of three starters, several entrees (including the signature short ribs with prosciutto wrapped asparagus) and dessert. Classy restaurant, great experience.
• Woody’s Wharf: $20 lunch menu has choice of three starters and five entrees. Add dessert for $5.
Three restaurants dared to offer $10 lunch menus: Chihuahua Cerveza, Malarky’s Irish Pub, and Tackle Box. All three are terrific values, but Tackle Box on the beach in Corona del Mar gets my vote. For $10 you get a choice of four entrees including the terrific Hawaiian burger, house-made chips, a choice of three sides, and a Jones soda. That is the best bargain in town.
For a complete list of all the restaurants participating in Restaurant Week and their menus, visit DineNB.com.