What we’re eating in Newport Beach
There are plenty of top-notch restaurants in our neck of the woods, and we rarely leave an establishment feeling unsatisfied. Every once in a while, we stumble upon a meal that sticks with us long after our tables are cleared and the bill paid for. A dish that we find ourselves daydreaming about days, and sometimes even weeks, later. So, when we find that kind of gastronomical nirvana, the right thing to do is share the knowledge. This week, we talked to our beloved staff members—those who live, eat and breathe the city—about the dishes they long for.
There’s nothing this small-but-mighty “snack shack” doesn’t do well, but the “Cali” Cheesesteak is definitely a standout. We’re talking tender pan-fried ribeye beef steaks cocooned between fluffy American bread, topped with crispy onion and jalapeño—and just a sprinkling of chopped cilantro for good measure. Fair warning: it’s so good you might just fall in love. Hard.
Listen, we understand your hesitation. Why should you trust a bánh mì that robs two hunks of light-but-crackly bread from some sort of juicy meat, but hear us out. This vegetarian iteration of the Vietnamese classic is a touch sweet and just the right amount of salty, with most of the crunch coming from crispy brussel sprouts (yes, brussel sprouts!), watermelon radish and cucumbers. Pickled onion, jalapeños, chile garlic sauce, sriracha aioli and sesame seeds add depth, while fresh cilantro and mint crank up the brightness.
When it comes to cold-weather grub, nothing tops a plate of soul-warming, well-executed short ribs. Well, correction—nothing tops Chef Brittany Valles’ short ribs. Here’s why: the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender and the barbecued baked macadamia nuts (they’re cooked to soften for four hours in a pozole) are a welcome substitute to the traditional bean side. And let’s not forget about the grilled peaches, which lend the dish a summery sweetness.
It wasn’t too long ago that kale was the cool new ingredient in town, but now, its popularity is slowly, well, wilting. Enter True Food Kitchen’s organic kale salad. At first sight, it appears simple—boring, even. But that changes as soon as you dig into the shredded green. The Grana Padano cheese and roasted whole-wheat breadcrumbs bring a little crunch to the table, and the lemony-garlic dressing brightens up the whole affair. (Pro tip: add protein to help keep you full longer).
Once your server places this plate on your table, expect to be swept away by a whiff of that campfire smokiness we all think of so fondly (aka the real reason we go camping). The decadent maple-bacon glaze takes this sugar ring to a new level, and the salty bacon bits sprinkled on top add a much-needed crispness to the otherwise airy, soft donut. All to say, you’ll be really glad you saved room for dessert.
The Beachcomber Cafe has a lot going for it: a laid-back, coastal atmosphere, a solid food-and-drinks menu, and of course, a hard-to-beat waterfront location. But there’s something else that’s special about this beachside eatery—its love letter to a New Orleans specialty. Yes, we’re talking about pillow-y, powdered sugar-coated beignets. For a dream breakfast scenario, savor this treat with a cup of coffee while taking in the views from the deck.
You might be asking how this Southern favorite made its way onto our list. After all, biscuits are often viewed as an after-thought, a less-exciting side-show to the main event. But as the name suggests, these are not your average biscuits. Studded with rosemary, they’re crispy and flaky on the exterior, with a soft, feathery swoon-worthy interior. Slather these buttery delights with either butter or honey and enjoy. (You’re welcome).
Pirozzi’s meatballs might have nothing to do with the musical, but they still surely know how to sing. This locally loved dish features three extra-juicy meatballs swimming in a no-nonsense, vibrant-but-hearty tomato ragu. Each meatball is topped with a dollop of burrata and tiny ribbons of fresh basil. All to say, it’s meals like this that are your best ally when you’re looking for comfort in food form.
There’s no denying that Fable & Spirit’s pasta masterpiece is a complete stunner, but it’s got a lot more that good looks to boast about. Case in point: when naming his top 20 favorite dishes in the county, OC Register’s food critic Brad A. Johnson listed this meal as his first choice. As Johnson stated, this epic creation is a marriage of the classic Italian carbonara and cacio e pepe, but, you know, with a twist by way of manila clams.Tags: corona del mar, fashion island, Great Maple, GulfStream, lido marina village, Oak Grill, Sessions West Coast Deli, Tackle Box, The Beachcomber Cafe, True Food Kitchen