Classic Newport Beach Restaurants
Today we are exploring three restaurants with historical significance here in Newport Beach. This includes: Five Crowns, 21 Oceanfront and A Restaurant. Look for Part Two next, where we will take a peek at three brand new restaurants that are making a splash here in Newport.
Let’s begin with “The Classics”…
The Past… In 1904 Corona del Mar was christened “crown of the sea.” At that time, this small enclave was nearly a two hour drive from any larger city, and large stretches of Orange County were completely undeveloped. Matilda MacCulloch had purchased land here and began building a replica of an English inn, and named her establishment The Hurley Bell. (This was in honor of the inspiration of an inn called Ye Olde Bell—at Hurley-on-Thames.) The construction was completed in 1936. She and her daughter lived in the house for four years, and then it was converted to a restaurant, an inn, and in the 1940s, it became a popular hideaway for celebrities. After Matilda’s passing in 1948, her daughter Marguerite ran the Inn for years, however it became burdensome, and in the early 1960s, she sold The Hurley Bell.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, on Restaurant Row, Lawrence L. Frank an entrepreneur of the day had transplanted from Milwaukee. A baker by trade, he and his brother-in-law (Van de Kamp) began opening restaurants. There as the Tam O’Shanter Inn, and next came the Lawry’s The Prime Rib (a derivation of Lawrence’s name). It opened in 1938 and became an almost overnight hit. By 1963, they had four restaurants and Lawry’s was celebrating 25 years. Son Richard N. Frank was president of the family’s businesses. When time came for the next restaurant, only a truly unique structure would do. With Richard’s love of English countryside, The Hurley Bell seemed the perfect match. Walter Van de Kamp suggested the name Five Crowns because the new restaurant would be their fifth, “and each was a jewel in our crown.” Richard said, “I agreed, although it was a disappointment. Even after all these years, I still think The Bell and Crown would have been a better name.” But the name stuck and the rest is history!
Five Crowns was one of the first truly “themed” restaurants, from the Tudor-style building, to uniforms and pewter plates, an olde English authentic menu… and on April 14, 1965, Five Crowns opened its doors. In fact, next year, April 2015, Five Crowns will be celebrating their 50th anniversary!
Fast forward to today, and Five Crowns is still a legend in this town. It is a special place of celebrations. My Mother used to love to dine there during the holidays so she could enjoy the Carolers all dressed in period costumes strolling through the dining room and singing holiday tunes. Over the years we have enjoyed graduation parties, birthdays, and so many have wonderful celebrations. In the past few years they have made some lovely new additions, from improvements to the dining rooms, to replacing the bar concept with the Sidedoor Gastropub. The bar area is just charming with hug wood beams and the perfect lighting. I always feel cozy as though I am in an old, authentic English pub. It is quite the popular place for a hip crowd of young professionals enjoying tap beers, craft cocktail, charcuterie, beef dip sandwiches, and many other shared plates.
The restaurant’s iconic Prime Roast Beef is always the hit. And accompanying this amazingly prepared protein is their perfectly prepared horseradish sauce, rich creamed spinach & corn, Yorkshire Pudding and a drizzle of Beef Au Jus. The menu also includes: King Salmon, Pan-Roasted Jidori Chicken, Roasted Rack of Lamb, six different cuts of Steak, and seasonal specials. The service is impeccable, and Jim Colombo, the General Manager pays attention to the details. Jim brings together the chefs and managers to form “The Culinary Collective” which is a think tank, where they all work together to make sure that every dish is perfect.
This is a restaurant offering the fun and casualness of the Sidedoor Gastropub, and the wonderful elegance of a dining room for classic celebrations and romantic candlelit dinners. It holds a special place in my heart and always will.
3801 E. Coast Highway
Corona del Mar, CA 92625
Monday- Thursday & Sundays: 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Fri – Sat: 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm
The Sidedoor Gastropub offers Sunday Brunch. Please call for dates and time.
21 Oceanfront Restaurant
This restaurant also has some serious historic bones, and it is fun to revisit their early beginnings. 21 Oceanfront is tucked into the first floor of the historic McFadden Building, with an Inn on the upper floors. This iconic building was built in the late 1890s by landowner brothers James and Robert McFadden. The original McFadden Wharf was completed in the winter of 1888-1889, and connected the transport of goods from incoming boats to the railroad and then inland to Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside. This lasted until 1907 when San Pedro was built. At one time, the upstairs rooms were used to house the railroad workers. The Pacific Electric, also known as the Red Car system, used to pass right along the street—on its route to the end of the line at the Balboa Pavilion. At the base of the pier is the Dory Fishing Fleet, a beachside fishing cooperative founded in 1891. The fishermen used to place their boats on rollers and ride up on the beach with umbrellas to sell their fish. Later a dock was erected, and still today, at 5:30am fishermen arrive with their catch for sale. The Doryman’s Inn Hotel above features ten elegant guestrooms (many with patios) and featuring Victorian décor.
21 Oceanfront has enjoyed many restaurant facades—-from Red Car, to Rex’s, Alley West and The Ritz. It has been “21 Oceanfront” for as many years as I can remember. And as we climb the short flight of stairs, we see an elegant dining room that is elevated ever-so-slightly for commanding views of the sea. It is truly breathtaking. The dining room features a showcase of large picture windows, half round black leather booths, crisp white tablecloths, dainty lamps, and waiters attending to all the details. A classic “steak and seafood” restaurant, the choices are so plentiful I actually have a hard time deciding. For beginnings…we toggle from Crab Cakes and Beef Carpaccio to Steamed Mussels and Shucked Oysters. Their Lobster Bisque and Iceberg Wedge are often my top options. For main courses, there are numerous Seafood, Pastas and Vegetables choices. There are also endless Steak, Chops and Poultry items galore. My favorites are: the Filet Oscar with a perfectly prepared Bearnaise Sauce. Or the Lobster Tail and Filet—a traditional surf and turf. Potatoes and various decedent sides are also available. And for those who enjoy something sweet, their famous Chocolate or Grand Marnier Souffle is the perfect ending.
“We offer the world’s best classic cuisine, yet we are at the beach, so we always want to remain approachable—a neighborhood favorite in every way!” Miroslav Rusev, Executive Chef
Now, there are other times when we walk up the staircase and make an instant left turn. We head straight to the Alley West Bar and sit down with our favorite bartender Ryan. The Happy Hour is great, and if we are hungry we can even dine at the bar. One cannot beat the view, and as the sun sets the live music starts, a restful mood is cast in an instant. I think, hands down, this is the most romantic restaurant in town. It has everything I am looking for…. A great bar facing the water, friendly bartenders, drop-dead sunset views, live music, great happy hour, and a formal, yet approachable dining room. I like white tablecloths. I like waiters in tuxedos who take good care of me. I want great food and attentive service. I want THIS.
2100 West Oceanfront
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 5:00-9:30pm
Bar & Lounge Opens 4:00 Daily
Live Music Nightly at 5:30pm during the week and 6:00 on weekends
Note: There is no live music during football games.
This restaurant has experienced a number of wonderful transformations over the years and it was fun to revisit its beginnings. Formerly known as The Arches, A Restaurant and the adjacent A Market were originally built as a restaurant and service station in 1925, by John Vilelle and James Sturgeon. That was the same year Coast Highway opened up from Huntington Beach to Newport Beach. In case you were wondering how it got its name “Arches” the restaurant was named by 10 year old Victor Chatten in a local contest. The distinct Mediterranean style of the original buildings, with arches and red tile roofs, quickly made it a recognizable attraction in Newport Beach. What began as a basic roadside diner, Arches served steak and seafood to a celebrity clientele in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, and was touted for its French food by the early 1970s. While the appearance and services have changed over time, its commitment to guests and serving the high quality cuisine has not.
Under new ownership and management since 2013, A Restaurant has elevated the dining experience at this Newport Beach landmark. Today, A Restaurant is an acclaimed upscale steakhouse with a sophisticated and retro chic ambiance. A Restaurant offers classic American dishes with a modern presentation. Chef Jon Blackford, has built the menu to feature seasonal fare, and only using the freshest ingredients possible. They have a lovely selection of steaks, seafood and comfort foods. A few of my favorites include: the Maine Lobster Cobb Salad, Steak Tartare, the slow cooked Meatloaf, the free range chicken Pot Pie, Alaskan Halibut, Five Spice Duck Breast and the Bone-In Ribeye Steak.
“I choose classical pairings using modern and traditional techniques to extract the most flavor in each dish we prepare.” Chef Jon Blackford
Dining here features a warm, ranch-style ambience, with various dining rooms, wood accents and half-round booths. This legendary Newport Beach spot is popular for lunch, happy hour, romantic dinners, as well as private parties. I enjoy the wrap around bar that smacks of “old-school” talents and classic cocktails. Chef Blackford works with their mixologist to offer an impressive list of craft cocktails and beers. The restaurant impressively has four Sommeliers on-staff, with an extensive wine list of nearly 200 varietals, at all various price ranges.
The adjacent A Market is a welcoming café and take-out market. It reminds me of that Montecito market— made famous by Meryl Streep, in the movie It’s Complicated. They offer a great selection of breakfast and lunch items from 6:30am to 7pm each day. Culinary Director Shelly Register oversees the menu which includes an array of fresh baked cookies, cupcakes and pastries, incredible sandwiches, fresh tossed salads, and they even have a selection of wines and other beverages. www.amarketnb.com
3334 West Coast Highway
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Hours: Monday- Thursday 11:30am -10:00pm
Friday 11:30am- 11:00pm
Sunday 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Stay tuned for Part 2 that features some of Newport Beach’s brand new restaurants.
Photo Featured on main slide provided by 21 Oceanfront Restaurant