Off the Menu: Newport Beach Restaurants Begin Reopening for Dine-in Service

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Bayside Restaurant on Saturday, May 23 when restaurants were allowed to reopen / photo by Chris Trela

It’s official: on Saturday Orange County was approved to reopen restaurants for dine-in service—with certain protocols in place to help protect both employees and diners.

Some restaurants reopened hours after the notice came from the OC Board of Supervisors, others are making plans to reopen soon after Memorial Day.

One of the first restaurants to reopen was Bayside. I received a text from owner Marc Ghoukassian Saturday afternoon letting me know he was reopening for dine-in that night, with the Ron Kobayashi Trio featuring Jerry Mandel on sax playing in the lounge.

Ron Kobayashi Trio with Jerry Mandel at Bayside Restaurant on Saturday, May 23 when restaurants were allowed to reopen / photo by Chris Trela

The band was in full swing (with masks on) when I arrived around 7 p.m. The tables in the lounge had been removed so there was only booth seating, and the lounge and dining room seemed busy.

Full waiter service was not ready, so patrons ordered at the counter and sat themselves, using disposable utensils. It was basically take-out and dine-in, but those in attendance seemed happy to be back at Bayside. www.baysiderestaurant.com

Muldoon’s Irish Pub on Saturday, May 23 when restaurants were allowed to reopen / photo by Chris Trela

Muldoon’s Irish Pub in Fashion Island also reopened for dine-in service on the beautiful patio and in the pub, with tables removed for social distancing. The main dining room is expected to open soon. The full Muldoon’s menu is available. www.Muldoonspub.com.

Other local restaurants that reopened this weekend for dine-in service include SOL Cocina, Royal Hen, Sapori, Taco Rosa, and Billy’s at the Beach, among others.

Winery partner JC Clow with the new Lexan moveable dividers / photo by Chris Trela

Some restaurants have announced that they will be reopening next week, including The Winery Newport, which has removed some tables and added beautiful clear moveable partitions to help separate patrons. They are accepting reservations starting Friday, May 29.

Cafe Jardin at Sherman Library & Gardens will officially open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 28. Chef Pascal Olhats told me that orders will be taken at the tables, which are spread out on the patio six feet apart. Pascal’s creperie is now open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Visit www.PascalRestaurants.com.

Tavern House pulled pork

Tavern House will reopen on Thursday, May 28. On his Facebook page, Tavern House owner David Wilhelm wrote that “I am thrilled to finally announce that we will be reopening the Tavern House this coming Thursday after months of closure. We will be open for Happy Hour Monday-Friday from 4 to 6 p.m., Dinner Nightly from 4 p.m., Saturday Lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Champagne Sunday Brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Due to the response to the BBQ Ribs, Pulled Pork and Watermelon Margaritas that we featured this weekend, these will be added to our new summer menu.”

Tavern House watermelon margarita

I spoke to Wilhelm Sunday morning, and he told me he was waiting a few days to reopen so he could get his staff back and prepare his menus.

“We’re taking some bar stools out but keeping the tables in place, with tablecloths at every other table to indicate what tables can be seated,” Wilhelm explained. “We want to provide the same experience as before.”

Wilhelm said he expects the first people in the door next week are those less concerned with the COVID crisis, and it will take a couple of months for others to start venturing out. And even with the return to dining in, he’ll keep his successful take-out business going.

Wilhelm is adding a new group size, to-go menu that will include favorite dishes available for beach, backyard and boating parties. Tavern House has four slips available for Duffy Boat pickups. www.TavernHouseKB.com.

Moulin owner Laurent Vrignaud said he will bring tables back gradually to his Newport location, but he’s in no hurry—his take-out business has been booming.

“I’m not going to open up right away,” he told me on Saturday. “We have been operating for three weeks in Newport for take-out, and one week in Laguna Beach. Our product was always meant to be to-go, so what we’ll do in a few days is put half the tables on the patio, separated from each other, and still serve everything to-go. If you decide to sit down and have your sandwich, that’s fine, but we’re not going to be doing what we were doing three month ago.” www.Moulin.com.

Moulin owner Laurent Vrignaud (far left) and his staff at his Newport Beach location / photo by Chris Trela
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