New in Newport

Special spots in nearby beach community

Posted on July 27, 2017

If the thought of getting on a packed airplane for a getaway sounds like too much effort and expense, consider an easy hour-or-so-drive to Newport Beach. On a recent trip, we learned what’s hot in Newport, from dining to shopping in this sparkling coastal community.

Start the day with breakfast in the heart of Marina Park at Lighthouse Bayview Café, a circular restaurant overlooking a 32-slip marina with sweeping views of Newport Harbor. Take a seat on a curved banquette in this airy eatery, decorated in blue and white with whimsical lamps that look like sea anemones. Try “Buddy’s Bloody,” an over-sized Bloody Mary served in a mason jar named after Buddy Belshe, a legendary lifeguard who patrolled Newport’s beaches for nearly 50 years. Just like Buddy, this drink is truly larger than life. While sipping, sample warm beignets drizzled with cinnamon sugar and cream cheese icing — it’s like biting into buttery clouds. But save room for specials like blue crab cake benedict or avocado toast with poached eggs. After breakfast, take advantage of walking paths, a children’s playground, and fitness circuit, also in Marina Park.

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A paved Boardwalk runs for miles along the scenic Balboa Peninsula — a popular area for strollers, cyclists, joggers, and skaters in Newport Beach

Nothing beats a Duffy boat tour around Marina Park and Balboa Island, especially when you stock the rented boat with spirited company and cocktails. These easily maneuverable vessels have been described as “golf carts on the water,” offering a leisurely way to “sight-sea” past paddle boarders and other boaters as well as pricey real estate on both land and water. The ship has definitely come in for those fortunate enough to own one of the yachts moored in the marina. The Wild Goose, once owned by John Wayne, is now available through Hornblower Cruises & Events for Champagne brunches and sunset dinners on select dates. Newport Beach honored Wayne, one of its most famous residents, last May on the 110th anniversary of his birthday. The Balboa Island Museum & Historical Society is celebrating the actor’s life through September with an exhibit titled John Wayne: At Home in SoCal, 1920-1979, while the Newport Beach Central Library hosts its own photo exhibit, John Wayne — On Set with the Duke.

Developed in the 1970s as a shopping and dining destination, Lido Marina Village, which overlooks the harbor, has been rejuvenated with a mix of chic restaurants, bistros, and boutiques. Nobu, the high-end Japanese restaurant, has opened its first Orange County location at the village in a two-story space with waterfront views. For more casual French-influenced dishes and small plates, sit on the outdoor patio at Zinque, a cool neighborhood spot where brunch includes crisp, sunny eggs with prosciutto, Parmesan, and arugula.

Set along cobblestone streets, this charming little village has stylish shops that you don’t see everywhere, including Jolie for sophisticated women’s fashions, Amour Vert for U.S.-made sustainable classics, Clare V for French-inspired handbags and accessories, and Marine Layer for SoCal beachy chic. Broken English, billed as “laid-back luxury,” offers vintage and contemporary jewelry, and the London-based chain, Sweaty Betty, sells fashionable fitness apparel. Alchemy Works is a cool lifestyle store and gallery, Bixby & Ball offers classic, coastal home décor, clothing, and accessories, and Aleph Gallery has high quality handicrafts, fabrics, and furnishing from the Middle East. Le Labo is SoCal’s latest minimalist boutique for fine fragrance products, while Charlie & Me caters to canines. This boutique for the “haute dog” has accessories for Fido that range from sophisticated to funky and fun.

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The Peninsula Point at Newport Harbor

Newport’s dining scene has everything from fine Mediterranean cuisine at Pelican’s Andrea Ristorante (the ultimate in upscale elegance) to gourmet grub-on-the beach at the Tackle Box in Corona Del Mar, where Chef Brian Huskey, a former Top Chef contestant, prepares creative bites. (Get there early on the weekend or the lobster squid ink roll will be gone, gone, gone!) Royal Hen Bistro on Balboa Island has been rated among the best newcomers. For fans of Marché Moderne, South Coast Plaza’s late beloved bistro, there is reason to rejoice: Chef/Owners Florent and Amelia Marneau have reopened at the upscale Crystal Cove Shopping Center in Newport Coast. (Try the three-course Spontané menu that is ever-changing.) For a neighborhood restaurant that is delicious and down-to-earth, visit Provenance, where Executive Chef/Owner Cathy Pavlos brings Napa Valley to Newport Beach. Many ingredients for the contemporary California cuisine, piled bountifully on wooden boards, is freshly plucked from the restaurant’s patio-side garden, where Pavlos will be happy to give you a personal tour. Don’t let the unassuming location next to a grocery store in a strip mall fool you — this place is a keeper. Children will love exploring the Fun Zone on Balboa Island or sipping a creamy milkshake at Ruby’s Diner at the end of Balboa Pier.

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The Newport Pier at the Balboa Peninsula

“A” Restaurant is a Newport Beach landmark that has been newly energized by Jordan Otterbein and family. Built in 1926 as a roadside diner shortly after the Coast Highway opened from Huntington Beach to Newport Beach, it became known for “steaks, seafood, and celebrities.” Today, the steaks are still juicy, and the darkly lit bar continues to pack them in at happy hour. Slip into a leather booth and sip a classic cocktail in the cozy dining room where it seems that everything old is hip again. 855.563.9767, visitnewportbeach.com   Andrea Naversen

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Newport Harbor at Newport Beach

Balboa Pier & Newport Harbor: Photo courtesy of Ed Olen     Lido: Photo courtesy of Lido Marina Villages     Nobu Drink: Photo Courtesy of Nobu Restaurants     Nobu Food: Photography by Henry Hargreaves     All other photography: Courtesy Photography

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