Off the Menu: Newport Restaurants Get Creative with OC Burger Week July 11-17

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Billy’s at the Beach burgers

Burger week is back!

The Third Annual Burger Week runs July 11-17, and more than 50 restaurants throughout Orange County – including 15 in Newport Beach and Laguna Beach – are offering their takes on the perfect hamburger.

Burger Week is presented by Old Forester Bourbon and produced by the Orange County Restaurant Association.

Pamela Waitt of OC Restaurant Assoc.

“This is a great time for those who have spent the year away from family and friends to make plans to come together for ‘Burgers and Bourbon’ and support their local culinary community,” said Pamela Waitt, president of the OC Restaurant Association. “There’s so much to celebrate this summer with the reopening of restaurants to full capacity, so the timing of our annual Burger Week event couldn’t be better.”

During the week-long event, diners will be able to explore a variety of burgers, ranging from classic to creative, featuring various proteins from beef to plant-based, on menus priced at $10, $15, $20 and $25.

Many restaurants will also feature cocktails made with Old Forester Bourbon, Ford’s Gin, Herradura Tequila, and Chambord. Restaurants, menus and featured cocktails will be updated at

Participating Newport restaurants include Billy’s at the Beach, Champagnes Bistro & Deli, Cappy’s Café, Helmsman Ale House, Lido Bottle Works, Malarky’s Irish Pub, Muldoon’s Irish Pub, Olea, Sgt. Pepperoni, SideDoor, Stag Bar + Kitchen, Tavern House kitchen + bar, True Food Kitchen and Woody’s Wharf, plus Sapphire in Laguna Beach.

Olea burger

I like a good burger, but I love a great one, and there are indeed some great ones waiting to be consumed in Newport Beach.

One of my favorite burgers in Orange County can be found at Olea for Burger Week: the American Wagyu Beef Burger ($25) with taleggio cheese, smoked onion and mushroom condiment, lolla rosa lettuce, whole grain mustard aioli, and a soft challah bun. It’s served with some mighty tasty hand cut herb fries.

Olea mixologist Inga with the Dads Root Beer cocktail

Olea Chef Jared Cook told me the fries are soaked, then fried, cooled, and then fried again. The result: crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and so addicting you’ll wonder how you managed to eat them all.

The Olea burger is accompanied by Olea’s featured Burger Week cocktail: Dad’s Root Beer, a creative concoction made with Old Forester bourbon infused with vanilla beans, house made root simple, sweet vermouth, amaro, and cinnamon smoke—yes, Olea mixologist Inga will magically add a layer of smoke to your cocktail.

Dad’s Root Beer cocktail

Sapphire in Laguna Beach is part of the restaurant group from Russ Bendel, who also owns Olea. Sapphire’s burger is similar to Olea’s, yet a bit different. The Sapphire American Wagyu Beef Burger ($25) has Spanish cheddar cheese, sweet gem lettuce, house made pickles, shaved onion, hot house tomato, and secret sauce on a soft challah bun. It comes with fries and the Dad’s Root Beer cocktail.

Sgt. Pepperoni All-American pizza

Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza has a novel twist on a classic burger. It’s called the All-American Pie ($25), created by partner Stan Frazier. Inspired by a classic cheeseburger, the All-American Pie is billed as “a nostalgic, limited-edition pizza pie topped with a house-made “spread” with ground beef, cheddar cheese, sautéed onions, diced tomatoes, iceberg lettuce and finished with a Heinz ketchup drizzle.”

Sounds like a burger-pizza to me, and no doubt delicious.

Tavern House Cowboy burger

Another of my favorite burgers is at Tavern House Kitchen + Bar, which is offering a choice of three burgers for $20 each during Burger Week: the Tavern Cheeseburger with 1/2 pound prime Mishima wagyu beef, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion, and 1000 Island sauce; The Cowboy Burger with cheddar cheese, roasted green chile, pecan wood smoked bacon, onions fritters and chipotle-bourbon BBQ sauce; and the fried chicken sandwich with coleslaw, sweet chile aioli, and bread and butter pickles. They each come with a choice of sides including fries or house-made salt and pepper chips. Add parmesan-truffle fries for $1.95 (well worth the extra cost).

I have tried all three and they’ll all excellent (Tavern House restaurateur David Wilhelm make awesome fried chicken), but the Cowboy Burger is my favorite. Ask for extra BBQ sauce on the side.

Muldoon’s in Newport Center has an excellent burger, as does Helmsman Ale House, SideDoor and Billy’s at the Beach.

And speaking of Billy’s, they are offering a different burger and fries combo every day of Burger Week for $20. Tuesday is their Cali Burger, Wednesday is a TX Burger, Thursday get a Big Kahuna, Friday is the Black & Blue Burger (black peppercorn crusted with bleu cheese), Saturday is the Southwest Burger, and Sunday (July 18) is the All American Burger.

As usual—so many burgers, so little time! For a complete list of participating restaurants and menus, visit

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