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Balboa Village Dining Discoveries

June 17, 2015

Dining Discoveries… Quick Bites, to Sit Down Nice!

This charming Newport Beach Village is sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean to the West, and Newport Beach’s Main Channel to the East. The Main Channel serves as the primary waterway, thus creating a non-stop flurry of activity. Boats buzz past, fishing boats head out on day-excursions, the Catalina Flyer makes its way—-and the Balboa Island Ferry glides to and fro from Balboa Island.

For today’s dining adventure, I am exploring “Balboa Village” on the Peninsula, which is located down toward the Fun Zone. As guests ride (or drive) onto the Peninsula, Newport Blvd. magically turns into East Balboa Blvd. as one heads south. I ponder the map, to get my bearings on eateries—-Adams Street is at the north end of this enclave, with Newport Balboa Bike Path to the west (with the ocean beyond), A Street is at the south end, and the Boardwalk and Newport Channel is to the East. Got it! This is going to be fun.

It is virtually impossible to meander through this area without a “tip of the hat” to the historic structure that still proudly stands front and center along the Promenade at Main Street. Established in 1906 by the Newport Bay Investment Company, the Balboa Pavilion played a prominent role in the development of Newport Beach as a seaside recreational area. The Balboa Pavilion was the dramatic end point for the Pacific Electric Railway Red Car line, connecting the beach area with downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena. The Pavilion was constructed by contractor, Chris McNeil and was recognized for its long sloping roof line and ornate Victorian cupola at its crown. It is still a beauty to behold even today.

Here in Balboa Village the eating establishments basically fly under one of these three banners: A) quick serve with little seating, B) casual eateries, or C) finer fare with sit-down service. In some cases the Chefs are doubling down with very impressive menus, local brews and craft cocktails. Regardless of whether visitors are riding a bike and covered with sand, or out for a stroll and looking for a nice lunch or dinner spot, this Village has something for everyone to enjoy.

Along East Balboa Blvd., I find a number of eating establishments, including a charming “family operated” Mint Leaf Thai Cuisine restaurant. The menu is perfect for summer, with appetizers, soups, salads, noodle and rice dishes, entrees, and curries. Two of the most popular items include their Summer Rolls and the Pad Thai Noodles. They accommodate dining in, or hungry guests can call ahead for take-out.

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Mint Leaf Thai Cuisine

Great Mex is largely for to-go orders, when a Mexican food craving strikes. Café D’Azure has a nice outdoor covered patio, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, and is right in the middle of the action on the corner. Cruisers Pizza Bar Grill–is a sports bar with four different dining areas and 25 big screens. On game days, each area plays a different game with sound so loud you would think you are in the stadium! The Pizza and Burgers are excellent, but I cannot resist the Onion Ring Stack.

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Cruisers Pizza Bar Grill

Along Palm Street (where the Ferry meets the water’s edge) there are two happening spots—one is near the ferry called Newport Landing Restaurant.
Down Main Street, I began at the Bike Path, where the Balboa Inn is situated. Their upscale restaurant is Siena Italian Bar & Grill (which just resumed service every day at noon time beginning June 15, 2015). This restaurant has upstairs & downstairs seating, umbrellas, and lovely views out to the ocean beyond. They make their own pasta daily, and offer an extensive Italy inspired menu. In the first floor of the building are two fast food options—Tacos Cancun and Café Bella Luna for breakfast and lunch. Across the street is Cabo Cantina offering all kinds of appetizers—from Lobster Mac & Cheese, to Taquitos, Loaded Quesadillas, and a happy hour every day and a reverse happy hour from 10:30-12:30pm. And BJ’s Restaurant is also on Main Street, offering a dining room setting and a plethora of choices. Balboa Bakery Donuts has a display case filled with croissants, donuts and all kinds of sweets. San Shi Go Sushi is next door and gets great reviews. They serve dinner, featuring fresh fish, creative rolls and sushi all in a casual, relaxed dining room.

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San Shi Go

Inside the Balboa Pavilion is the home of the Harborside Restaurant and the Harborside Saloon. The Restaurant is a white tablecloth dining room, with the best views in the Village—unless or course you are on a boat! On the other side of the first floor is the Saloon, with a generous happy hour daily from 11:00am to 7:00pm. It is a great value with $4 draft beers, house wines and a long list of appetizers.

Along the Boardwalk, which is affectionately referred to as the Fun Zone, this is kid’s land with a Ferris wheel, water sports rentals and pin ball games galore. Recently a museum was added, ExplorOcean, and that is certainly worth a visit. This area is oriented toward quick grab-and-go style of eating as visitors saunter along the Boardwalk. From Balboa Bars, to slices of pizza, and burgers, options include: Balboa Beach Front Treats, Pizza Pete’s, Balboa Barbie-Q for slow smoked burgers, Azar’s Pizza, Jane’s Corndogs, Newport Style Pizza and just off the promenade is a pool hall on the alley way called the Balboa Saloon. A surprise of a spot is Patty Macs serving gourmet Mac & Cheese, salads and flat breads. There is a nice sized dining area with wooden tables and is kid friendly. Not much of a view, just the street beyond, but her Mac & Cheese is delicious.

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Patty Macs

Newport Landing Restaurant & Oyster Bar sits right on the Newport Channel just steps from the Ferry. This Seafood and Steak fine dining restaurant features and both upstairs and downstairs dining, and during the summer months there is an outdoor patio along the Boardwalk. Newport Landing also caters to families for dining, have a happy hour from 3:00-7:00pm M-F, and offer Sunday Brunch from 10:00am to 2:00pm.

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Newport Landing Restaurant & Oyster Bar

So there you have it–all the dining spots currently open for your dining pleasure this summer. Enjoy a stroll through the Balboa Village, a ferry ride, rent a bike, and perhaps use this as your guide to navigate the area. Below are some of my favorites of the sit-down dining establishments. Dine well!

Written by Deirdre Michalski

Deirdre Michalski is a travel and culinary writer covering topics near and far. You can read more about her adventures on her web site www.TastesAndTravel.com

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