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Al Fresco Dining In Newport Beach

February 27, 2015

It’s almost springtime, and that means thinking about umbrellas, awnings and draped coverings to shade us from the bright sunshine. Enjoy “al fresco” dining here along the coast. The word al fresco, is actually an Italian word in origin, which translates to “dining out of doors”. And as legend has it, the first known use of this term dates back to 1753.  Let’s fast forward to current day, and  explore 12 of my favorite “hidden gems” for dining under sun and stars. There are two that feature a romantic fireplace to warm your toes and coddle your hearts. Starting at the south end of Newport Beach, let the al fresco search begin…

Crystal Cove
Babette’s– The new darling of the Crystal Cove eateries, Babette’s has done a lovely job to create an elegant alfresco dining area surrounded by greenery, umbrellas, heater lamps, and shimmering candles— all surrounding a fireplace that promises a cozy experience day or night. There are really two sides to this restaurant— to the left is the dining room and outdoor patio, and to the right is a juice, pastry and take out bar. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the offerings are aplenty. Sandwiches and salads are featured at the lunch hour, and in the evening there is wide variety of choices. Two that caught my eye are the Pan Roasted Wild Steelhead Salmon and the Grass-Fed Organic Sake-Soy Marinated Ribeye of Beef. My favorite cocktail so far is the “You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat”. This is made with: Ford’s Gin, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, blackberries, lemon and finished with an edible yellow pansy flower.
7962 East Coast Hwy, Newport Coast ~ (949) 715-9915

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Corona del Mar
Zinc Café & Market– Riding along Pacific Coast Highway, you might almost miss this little spot, but their vertical banner can be your guide. The café is a “step up and order” venue and the place is always abuzz with activity. Guests can enjoy the inside dining room, or just outside is a lovely patio with greenery and the smell of rich coffee fills the air. I think I know what I want until I step up and see all the freshly made baked goods. They only serve from 7:00am to 5:30pm (5:00pm on Sundays and Mondays). They have everything you can imagine in breakfast fare and they make their own soups/chili, individual size pizzas, and entrees. They even serve wine & beer! I don’t do breakfast, so here are some of my favorites for lunch: Quesadilla Plate, Eggplant on fresh baguette, Mixed Vegetables on Focaccia, Mac & Cheese and the Eggplant Parmesan. Excellent!
3222 East Coast Hwy, Corona Del Mar ~ (949) 719-9462

Fashion Island
Yard House– This restaurant is always popular on game day, with 16 flat screens and approximately 68 beers on tap. It is the quintessential “something for everyone” sports bar. However, on both sides of the restaurant there are two lovely patios with ample seating and awnings. The al fresco patio looks out onto brick walkways at Fashion Island. Yard House has a great happy hour Monday through Friday, and offer salads, burgers, seafood, and so much more.
849 Newport Center Dr, Newport Beach ~ 949) 640-9273

Café Beau Soleil– This is a French sidewalk café offering breakfast, lunch, dinner, or an afternoon treat of coffee and a homemade pastry. They also have a great “to go” window which makes it so easy to take away! There is seating inside, however outside is where the action is. A white picket fence anchors the space and the patio is simply charming. Guests can people-watch as shoppers waltz past, and the restaurant is dog friendly too! The jovial Chef and Owner Pascal Gimenez cooks up the best French Onion Soup. That is a “must try” item on the menu. They also have salads, burgers, pasta, seafood, quiches and croques, crepes and of course their wonderful patisseries steal the show. Teas, wine, champagne and beer are also available.
953 Newport Center Dr, Newport Beach ~ 949) 640-4402

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Le Pain Quotidien– Tucked between Macy’s and the Apple store, this corner café has the perfect location. The outdoor patio is edged with greenery, and is a lovely spot to enjoy breakfast, lunch or an early dinner. A beautiful fountain flows at one end, and at the other, is a peek-a-boo view of the azure Pacific Ocean. They even teach weekly baking classes in the kitchen! The cuisine is very healthy, and a few of my favorites include their Quinoa Salad with Avocado, the Chicken Pot Pie is delicious (and only 800 calories), and I hear rave reviews for their Frittata, with Roasted Cauliflower, Kale and Cheddar Cheese (only 510 calories). Don’t forget to grab some bread or dessert tarts to take home.
401 Newport Center Dr. Newport Beach ~ (949) 287-5592

Le Pain Quodidien Fashion Island

R + D Kitchen– This restaurant is always busy, and that means one thing— great food. By the same people that bring us Houston’s and Bandera, this restaurant has that woodsy vibe, low ceilings, and a crisply-starched wait-staff. The outdoor patio features high-top tables, an awning, and is the ideal perch for watching the parade of shoppers. Serving lunch and dinner, the menu is simple and straightforward. I think the French Dip Sandwich is the best item, hands down, as are the salads. For a delicious starter, I recommend the Ahi Tuna Tartare.
555 Newport Center Drive ~ (949) 219-0555

Eastbluff
Bistro Le Crillon– Chef and Owner Chantal Berton is originally from the village of Crillon in Provence, France, and thus the name of her restaurant! She specializes in Provencal cuisine, and her entire kitchen uses organic products and produce. The décor is like entering a charming French bistro, and the covered outdoor patio is adorned with French tablecloths and fresh sunflowers that instantly bring a smile to my face. Some of Chef Chantal’s signature dishes, include: Wild Game-Venison/Elk, Coq au Vin, Cassoulet, Rack of Lamb, Pastas, a selection of Fresh Fish, an impressive Cheese Cart, and for dessert, traditional Chocolate Souffle and Tarte Tatin are hard to resist. Like many European restaurants, Le Crillon is open for lunch and then closes before reopening for the dinner service. (On Saturday’s they are only open for dinner beginning at 4:30pm.)
2523 Eastbluff Drive, Newport Beach ~ (949) 640-8181

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Newport Beach
Sapori Ristorante– Established in 1989, Sapori Owner and Chef Sal Maniaci has brought his authentic flair for Mediterranean cuisine to the coast of Newport Beach. The outdoor patio is draped with romantic fabric, greenery surrounds the space, and a fireplace creates an intimate atmosphere for evening dining. It is also the perfect venue for a special celebration. Just a few of the signature dishes include: Penne Otero, Farfalle Salmone, Scalloppine Gorgonzola, Lamb Chops, and of course their spectacular Italian appetizers and desserts. A lovely wine list offers selections from around the globe. And this spring, they will be opening up Pizzeria Sapori, right next door, offering a more casual dining option and a small walkway patio will be perfect for impromptu dining.
1080 Bayside Drive, Newport Beach ~ 949.644.4220

Sapori Ristorante Patio

Billy’s at the Beach– This restaurant is just a few doors south of The Winery, and has been bringing the “aloha spirit” and exotic flavors to the Newport Harbor for years. They have fish flown in daily from Hawaii, and offer exceptional salads, steaks and appetizers too. Saturday and Sunday brunch is served from 10-2pm. They offer commanding views of the bay, with a lovely outdoor patio seating about 26 guests. The view is spectacular! They also offer music seven nights a week and on Sundays from 3-7pm. Open every day for lunch and dinner and brunch on the weekends. They offer “dock and dine” with 2 slips marked in yellow for guest boat parking.
2751 West Coast Highway, Newport Beach ~ 949.722.1100

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Pandor Artisan Boulangerie & Café– Pandor is a family run café offering the most delicious pastries and baked goods one can imagine. Master bakers are flown in from Paris to assure the pastry meets their standards of authentic products and most ingredients are imported. They offer breakfast, lunch and dinner and do a lavish business with their to-go orders. There is an outdoor patio with umbrellas to enjoy a cappuccino and pastry, a morning Nutella French toast with berries and cream, or perhaps a traditional Croque Monsieur.
1126A Irvine Avenue, Newport Beach ~ 949.209-5099

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Lido/Cannery Village
The Dock Restaurant– This little hide-away offers al fresco patio dining overlooking the bay. It makes me feel that I am sitting on someone’s house boat. There is also a lovely indoor dining room with skylights, and soft latte-colored drapes to frame the spectacular views. They feature Continental cuisine, and have a wonderful wine list of both domestic and imported wines. The menu changes daily—-from delicious Salads, to Trout, NY Steak, Venison Loin, to Jidori Chicken Breast. The restaurant is open Wednesday thru Sunday for dinner, and for Sunday Brunch. During the remainder of the week, the restaurant is open for small group dining and private parties. For dock and dine, there is one two-sided dock available for guests.
2816 Lafayette Avenue, Newport Beach ~ 949.673.3625

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Buddha’s Favorite Sushi– Chef Yoshi hails from the city of Kamakura, known for being a popular surf spot, as well as housing the second largest bronze statue of Buddha in Japan. Buddha’s Favorite Sushi is known among the locals as one of Newport’s hidden treasure. It’s a place where traditional and authentic Japanese cuisine merges. The menu offers a wide range of appetizers and entrees— from tempuras, unique salads, sushi, authentic noodles and rice bowls. All fish is sliced to order, using the freshest of ingredients. Proudly, the family recipes are from Yoshi’s Mom’s restaurant in Japan. The restaurant is only open for dinner, and a charming outdoor patio overlooks the Rhine Channel. It is tucked in the corner of the dock, just west of Bluewater Grill.
634 Lido Park Drive, Newport Beach ~ 949-723-4203
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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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