Newport Beach is known for its diverse, award-winning restaurants, but they’ve been hard hit over the past year due to the pandemic. Forced to close last March, the restaurants have been pivoting from being open to being closed, then open for limited indoor dining, then reduced to patio dining, then forced to offer take-out only, and now back to patio dining–and maybe soon for limited indoor.
The Newport Beach Restaurant Association normally holds Newport Beach Restaurant Week in mid-January to help restaurants promote themselves and bring in more customers, but that event was cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions.
This month, help – and hope – is on the way in the form of the Orange County Restaurant Association, and it’s new “Taste, Explore & Experience Tour 2021” that hits town next month with a line-up of culinary events designed to encourage diners to support their local restaurants.
Up first is OC Restaurant Week March 7 – 13, followed by Margarita Crawl March 21 – 27. Brunch Week is set for May 16 – 22, while Burger Week returns July 11 – 17.
“We have always been focused on highlighting and celebrating our local restaurants, and this year, we’ve added additional events to support those restaurants whose normal operations have been affected by Covid-19 restrictions,” said Pamela Waitt, president of the OC Restaurant Association. “The restaurant events have been designed to focus on our chefs’ and restaurateurs’ talent and creativity as we continue to navigate one of the most tumultuous times the culinary industry has experienced.”
For OC Restaurant Week, more than 100 restaurants throughout the county – including nearly 20 in Newport Beach and Corona del Mar – have created special prix-fixe menus for lunch and dinner, as well as take-out options and even specialty cocktails to go.
“I am super excited that we have that many restaurants participating,” said Waitt. “That shows that our local industry is going to be in the recovery space soon. Everyone is cautiously optimistic.”
Waitt said that because people are handling the pandemic in different ways, with some patrons ready to resume life and dine out while others are more cautious and prefer to take their meals to go, restaurants are adapting their prix fixe menus to include takeout options.
Among the many OC Restaurant Week menus offered by Newport Beach restaurants:
Bosscat Kitchen & Libations has a $25 lunch available for dine in or takeout that includes choice of three starters and three entrees, and a $50 dinner option that includes choice of starters, choice of soups, choice of entrees, and dessert. They also have a featured cocktail called a Charleston Buck ($12) with apricot, lemon, ginger, and Maker’s Mark bourbon.
Cappy’s Cafe has a terrific $20 lunch available daily from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. that includes a choice of three entrees plus a beer or gelato. They also have a specialty cocktail for Restaurant Week: a Bad Hombre Margarita with Hornitos tequila shaken with fresh lime juice, splash of triple sec, soda water & fresh sliced jalapeños in a glass rimmed with Tajin.
On the other side of town, Five Crowns & SideDoor in Corona del Mar have a $50 three-course menu available for dine-in or takeout that includes choice of starters, choice of three entrees including their famous prime rib, plus dessert. Their featured cocktail is a Makers Mark SideDoor Old Fashioned with Angostura bitters, Luxardo cherry and syrup, served on the rocks and garnished with orange rind.
Great Maple in Fashion Island has a $25 brunch menu served daily 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. that includes choice of three starters (including their famous maple bacon doughnut) and choice of three entrees. Their dinner menu is $40 and includes three courses, with an option to add truffle fries for an additional $4 (my advice—do it!).
Lighthouse Café’s patio overlooks the Newport Harbor and is a lovely setting to enjoy their daily brunch menu served from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Chose from four starters (try the cinnamon sugar beignets—they ae sensational) and four entrees including a lobster roll.
They also have a special takeout brunch for two for $60, a $40 three-course dinner menu, and a Family Meal special for $60 that feeds four people.
The Bungalow Restaurant in Corona del Mar has a $50 three-course dinner menu with a choice of three starters and an impressive selection of six different entrees (including filet mignon and Chilean sea bass) plus an option of Australian lobster tail for a $10 supplement, and a choice of desserts.
Another restaurant with unlimited ocean views is The Beachcomber Café in Crystal Cove. They have a $25 lunch with choice of three starters including lobster bisque, and a choice of three entrees including a blue crab melt, salmon basil pasta, and ribeye steak sandwich. Their $40 dinner menu also has choice of three starters and three entrees, plus dessert.
Olea on Westcliff Drive has a $50 dinner menu available for dine in and takeout that includes choice of starters, choice of three entrees, and dessert. Their featured cocktail is a “Marky Mark” ($12.50) with Maker’s Mark bourbon, Aperol, Crème de Peach, fresh peaches, and ginger.
Tackle Box at Corona del Mar State Beach has an amazing $15 lunch menu that includes choice of starters, choice of entrees (including the Truffle Burger) served with chips, dessert, and a drink.
Billy’s at the Beach has a $25 lunch and dinner menu that is simple and tasty: A famous Billy’s Mai Tai paired with Billy’s Beach Burger—a half-pound seasoned Angus beef patty on a sesame bun served with a choice of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, french fries and a pickle spear. Available for patio dining only.
Farmhouse at Roger’s Garden has a $50 dinner menu available in the lovely garden setting. Farmhouse Owner and Executive Chef Rich Mead’s seasonally inspired three-course dinner menu includes a seasonal soup shooter and warm crispy prosciutto and wilted spinach salad, a choice of entrees (Panko, Dijon & Herb Crusted Swordfish or Red Wine Braised Lamb Shanks), and Meyer Lemon bread pudding for dessert. Dine-in only.
Sushi Roku has a $40 lunch or dinner menu available for takeout only that includes choice of starters, choice of three entrees including a sushi assortment, an dessert. Their featured cocktail (also for takeout only) is called Heat of the Dragon and consists of Hornitos tequila, lime juice, kumquat, and agave.
For a complete list of OC Restaurant Week menus, visit www.ocrestaurantweek.com.