January 11, 2007

The weather’s here, wish you were beautiful

Filed under: Orange County — Professor Salt @ 10:28 pm

Beachcomber signTucked into a hidden crag along a scenic stretch of Orange County’s coastline, The Beachcomber Cafe occupies a repurposed beach cottage in Crystal Cove State Park. You’d never see it from Pacific Coast Highway, which ferries harried drivers on the bluffs above this restaurant. If you happened to know about the sketchy staircase leading down from behind the Shake Shack, you might make your way down to the sand, and this ridiculously crowded beachfront restaurant. How the hell did all these people find out about this place, anyway?

Patio viewThis view from the patio is the payoff. That, and the chance to maintain a good buzz through the afternoon into a rosy sunset. On this day, we started with a disappointing calamari appetizer: flaccidly fried, unseasoned greasy squid bits that the house-made tartar sauce and cilantro aioli couldn’t save. Famished after a 30 minute wait for a table, we devoured them anyway, like makos in a chum slick.
Salad at the beach
Salad with a view. Many Orange County “ladies who lunch” keep this spot hopping, but that view keeps tables from turning quickly.
Beachcomber burger
Beachcomber Burger. Great bun and a free form, hand-patted, beef burger cooked to a true medium rare. I really liked the Asian influenced apple & nappa cabbage slaw, flecked with black sesame seeds. The paper cup keeps the presentation from getting too uppity.
Shrimp po boy
Shrimp po boy, with a cornmeal battered shrimp. Not remotely close to the quality of the late Uglesich’s in New Orleans, but I liked it all the same. Note the chipotle Tabasco sauce on hand.

The rule for restaurants that tout fantastic vistas is: the better the view, the worse the food. I haven’t had enough of the food at The Beachcomber to gauge the extent of that notion, but our sandwiches were just fine. I need to go back and explore the menu further, especially for the beignets and steel cut oatmeal served at breakfast.

The Ruby’s Diner group owns this restaurant and the historic shake shack on the cliff above it, but takes great pains to distinguish their independence from their corporate, faux`50′s diner cousins. I like that the chefs prepare most of the sauces in house, and innovate with some interesting flavor combinations on the menu. Will untraditional items like the apple-nappa slaw cross over to the Ruby’s menus eventually? Don’t bet on it. It wouldn’t mesh with Ruby’s retro burger joint positioning.

Let’s appreciate The Beachcomber on its own merits: great view, good casual dining menu, and an enviable location that you’ll call your friends from. “Hey, guess where I’m sitting right now… ?”

The Beachcomber at Crystal Cove
15 Crystal Cove
Newport Coast, CA 92657
949-376-6900 tel

No reservations are taken. Call the restaurant for directions & parking instructions, as vehicles must be left in a remote lot on the other side of Pacific Coast Highway.

8 Responses to “The weather’s here, wish you were beautiful”

  1. Chubbypanda Says:

    Hey Prof,

    Damn! You beat me to it. I’ve been eyeing that place for months. =)

    I think you’re missing a comma in your title. It doesn’t mean what you probably want it to mean. =b

    - Chubbypanda

  2. Russkar Says:

    We have been going there for months. The best time to miss the crowds is during the week. There is no better location in OC on the Beach. Kind of reminds me of Gladstone’s in Malibu?

  3. elmomonster Says:

    I think this one I’ll keep in my back pocket until an out of town visitor says, “Where can we eat on the beach?” Thanks for the review Prof!

  4. Professor Salt Says:

    CP, heh. AFAIK, I scooped the bloggers on this one. Do I really need another comma in the title? It’s already comma spliced as it is, and technically incorrect…

    Russ, in fact, we did go during the week, got there about 11am, but it was still crowded. Would you say a better location than Splashes?

    elmo, That’s how I got around to going for my first time. My friend said she wanted to eat at the beach, and I said, “I’ve got the perfect place…”

  5. simcooks Says:

    Hi, I stumbled upon your blog while surfing. I seem to see a lot of Orange County food bloggers around. Maybe I should move there soon too! BTW, love that juicy hamburger picture you took.

  6. Rich Says:

    How much is the burger combo shown in the photos? Also, can you explain where and how to find parking?

  7. Professor Salt Says:

    Rich, I don’t remember how much the burger costs. I believe it’s listed on the menu on their webpage (link provided above).

    There are only a few handicapped parking spaces right near the Crystal Cove cottages. Because the restaurant is on state park land, you may have to pay the park entrance fee if you take the handicapped spaces. Those without handicapped permits should park on the inland side of PCH. Turn into the lot at the stoplight at Los Trancos & PCH.

    You can either wait for the restaurant’s 15 passenger shuttle van to come pick you up ($1 per ride, one way), or you can walk the trail that takes you to the restaurant. It’s a 5 minute downhill walk, through a tunnel that safely leads you under the very busy Pacific Coast Highway. Look for the bathrooms by the parking lot, and the trail is next to it.

  8. OCTongue Says:

    Agreed on the best view for dining. I had the chicken salad sandwich and was relatively pleased by it. The good thing with the wait is on a nice sunny day, you walk the beach and their pagers let you know when you can saunter back for your meal.

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