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The Cliff Restaurant offers no-touch pickup and free delivery: new family menu available

The Cliff Restaurant offers free delivery to all of Laguna Beach, even Dana Point and beyond. All of the limited menu items are available, as well as the family menus (to feed four people), with all beer and wine selections 50 percent off with the purchase of any food. The cocktails are “just add ice,” and the restaurant is offering margarita kits and blackberry mojito kits to-go as well as engineering a “quarantini.” The Cliff is also are featuring curbside no-touch pickup.

Hilary Haron says, “Our delivery driver has been provided additional hand sanitizer and gloves. If orders are pre-paid, we offer a no-touch drop-off if the customer requests – meaning the food is placed on the front porch, or specified place of delivery by a gloved delivery driver.

Ordering can be done via phone at (949) 494-1956 (free delivery through the restaurant) or DoorDash (not free delivery). The Cliff has an application being released soon and will post details on its website, Instagram, and Facebook pages.

The Cliff take out

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Submitted photo

Curbside pickup at The Cliff Restaurant

“Again, our main concern is your health and safety, and the health and safety of our staff. Rest assured we are staying abreast of the COVID-19 situation at state, local, and national levels,” Haron states.

In response to the required closure of all in-restaurant dining, The Cliff Restaurant is:

--Continuing to provide curbside pickup and free delivery

--Has instituted additional cleanliness and safety measures, including limiting staffing

--Using effective disinfectant and sanitization practices following CDC guidelines 

--Menus are wiped down with disinfectant after each use 

--Staff is practicing social distancing and following all CDC guidelines

--Staff is utilizing additional protective gear

--No touch pickup and delivery available

The Cliff Restaurant is located at 577 S Coast Hwy.

For the new family menu and take-out items, go to www.thecliffrestaurant.com.

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The Best of Laguna Beach Banner2

Laguna restaurants move to creative to-go endeavors

By Diane Armitage

With the required shutdown of our bars and, then, dine-in service for our restaurants, it really has been an emotional week. 

While Laguna Beach prides itself on the number of independent and family-owned restaurants we boost in our town, it’s also been traumatic to see the livelihood of our restaurateurs, chefs, and service employees so quickly endangered. 

Thankfully, Laguna residents are still showing support with take-out and to-go orders. If you’re already hankering for your favorite restaurant’s food, I’d say 80 percent of Laguna Beach’s restaurants are more than happy to take your order.

Discounts and daily deals aplenty

Many of our kind restaurateurs are also offering specials on purchase and/or delivery. I’ll note a few unique items below but can’t list them all as it’s changing too rapidly. Just be sure to ask when you call or seek it out in their social media platforms. I’m also offering a regularly updated PDF to readers on my email list at www.TheBestofLagunaBeach.com

This list is not complete and could change daily!

As you can imagine, everything is moving like a school of tiny fish, so be sure to check with your restaurant of interest before driving there. In fact, most would appreciate an online or phone-in order so that they can ready your order before arrival.

Remember that most restaurants are open for shorter periods of time now. Some restaurants that are typically open for lunch are only opening for to-go orders in the evening, and vice versa. If you try once and don’t reach them, be sure to give it a second try.

Laguna restaurants Nirvana

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

In addition to to-go and delivery, Chef Lindsay has created a co-op for food items, cleaning supplies, and more (read more below)

For the most part, most of these restaurants also use third-party delivery services, i.e. Door Dash, Uber Eats, though this may change.

Rule of thumb? Call it in.

Restaurant owners – if I don’t have your information listed here, please don’t yell. I’ve tried reaching everyone by phone, but it’s a hectic week. Just contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we’ll get it updated. 

Counter services still available at some places

At publication, most of our coffee shops are still open for take-out and some delivery.

All of our pizza restaurants are still open for take-out and delivery. 

All of our counter service American, Mexican, vegan and vegetarian, and Greek restaurants are still open for take-out and delivery (I’ll get to the dine-in restaurants in a moment).

So, from (roughly) North Laguna to South Laguna, counter service restaurants still open include:

North Laguna

Asada Taco + Beer – (949) 226-7263

Gina’s Pizza & Pastaria – (949) 497-4421

Husky Burger – (949) 497-9605

Jan’s Health Bar – (949) 371-0023

UrthCaffe – (949) 376-8888 

Zeytoon Cafe – (949) 715-9230

The Canyon

Kitchen in the Canyon – (949) 715-5388

Downtown and “Restaurant Row”

Adonis – (949) 715-4581

Anastasia – (949) 497-8903

Catmosphere – (949) 619-MEOW

C’est La Vie – (949) 497-5100

Greeter's Corner – (949) 494-0361

Feast Laguna – (949) 494-0642

Hapi Sushi of Laguna – (949) 494-9109

Heidelberg Café – (949) 497-4594

La Sirena Grill – (949) 497-8226

Moulin – (949) 715-6990

Pizza Bar – (949) 497-2277

Rasta Taco – (949) 715-1510

Shirley’s Bagels – (949) 494-6296

Slapfish – (949) 715-0460

Slice Pizza and Beer – (949) 715-3993

Thai Brothers – (949) 376-9979

Wild Taco – (949) 549-4282

Zinc Cafe + Market – (949) 494-6302

Laguna restaurants Zinc

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Zinc Cafe + Market

Zinc Cafe + Market is now more “market” than ever with fresh produce and many rolls of toilet paper

Ever resourceful, Zinc Café + Market Owner John Secretan has converted the market into more of a grocery store with fresh produce (including onions and toilet paper!) and some household items, too.

Central Laguna (Woods Cove) & HIP District

Active Culture – (949) 715-5188

Andree’s Patisserie – (949) 494-1577

Banzai Bowl – (949) 715-8989

Domino’s Pizza – (949) 376-0333

Gina’s Pizza & Pastaria – (949) 494-4342

Jack in the Box – drive-up window

Sergio’s Empanadas – (949) 715-7622

Taco Bell – drive-up window

Taco Loco – (949) 497-1635

The Lost Pier Cafe – Aliso Creek Beach – walk-up window 

The Stand – (949) 494-8101

Wahoo’s Fish Taco – (949) 497-0033

South Laguna

La Sirena Grill – (949) 499-2301

Papa’s Tacos – (949) 499-9822

South Swell Donuts – (949) 499-6171

zpizza – (949) 499-4949

Traditional dine-in restaurants that are now take-out/delivery only

These traditional wait service restaurants are now only allowed to provide take-out orders, so please don’t expect any dining-in experience for a while. I’ll be the first to update as soon as dine-in is available to us again as this is a giant wallop to our restaurants and their employees.

North Laguna

242 Café Fusion Sushi – (949) 494-2444

Las Brisas – (949) 497-5434 – $45 3-course meals + 50% off bottles of wine

Mandarin King – (949) 494-8992

Reunion Kitchen – (949) 226-8393

The Canyon

Another Kind Cafe – (949) 715-9688

Laguna Beach Beer Company – (949) 715-0805 – Growlers and crowlers to go, too

Oliver’s Osteria – (949) 715-0261

Downtown and “Restaurant Row”

Alessa by Pirozzi – (949) 497-8222 – Chef Alessandro has temporarily closed his other downtown restaurant, Salerno by Pirozzi, and has moved staff to help with cooking at Alessa. In addition to the regular menu, Chef is offering unbaked pizza dough for sale so that you can have your own “make your own pizza” parties at home.

BJ’s Pizza – (949) 494-3802

Brussels Bistro – (949) 290-7851 – Leave it to Chef Tomas to come up with the first offer of vacuum sealed, ready-to-eat meals that can last as long as seven days in your refrigerator. Pickup is also limited to once a week. The order form is already set online.

Lumberyard – (949) 715-3900

Nirvana Grille – (949) 637-4708 – Chef Lindsay is offering regular menu items to go as well as a handy co-op for food items, cleaning supplies, and household necessities. Check Nirvana’s website (www.nirvanagrille.com) for more information and order forms. 

Romeo Cucina – (949) 831-4131

Sushi Laguna – (949) 376-8786 

The Cliff – (949) 494-1956 – One of the few restaurants offering daily breakfast to go. 


Central Laguna (Woods Cove area) and HIP District 

Adolfo’s Laguna Beach – (949) 497-2023

Avila’s El Ranchito – (949) 376-7040

Driftwood Kitchen and The Deck Laguna – (949) 715-7700 –Chef Schwarz has combined popular menu items from each of his restaurants.

GG’s Bistro – (949) 494-9306

Gu Ramen – (949) 715-0825

Natraj Indian Cuisine – (949) 497-9197

Maro Wood Grill – (949) 793-4044

Orange Inn – (949) 494-6085 

Roux Laguna Beach – (949) 715-3707

San Shi Go – (949) 494-1551

Selanne Steak Tavern – (949) 715-9881 – In addition to regular menu options, check out the TS Gourmet Shoppe as a sort of pop-up mini market for fresh meats, dairy, eggs, seafood, and produce. Even their premium wines by the bottle are available to go. 

Laguna restaurants Selanne

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Courtesy of Selanne Steak Tavern

Now you can cook up on of Selanne Steak’s famous menu items at home with fresh, premium meat to go at their TS Gourmet Shoppe

South Laguna

Coyote Grill – (949) 499-4033

Dizz’s As Is – (949) 494-5250

Neapolitan Pizzeria – (949) 499-4531

Ruby’s Auto Diner – (949) 497-7829

Starfish Laguna – (949) 715-9200

Ti Amo by Il Barone – (949) 499-5350

The Drake – (949) 376-1000

Support however you can

I have close “foodie” friends who literally eat out 10-12 times a week. Yesterday, I checked in on them, fearful that they had already dried up to little wisps. Quite the contrary. They’re now ordering at least two meals a day from various restaurants to support this community. 

I know most of us can’t support at that level, but any time you can order a meal or even drop by for your to-go cup of coffee, you’re doing your part. 

Keep in mind, too, that most restaurants offer gift cards on their websites. It’s a perfect way to purchase your future meal (or gift a friend the same) while immediately supporting these families and their employees. The more we support now, the happier will be the celebration when our lives – and restaurants – return to normal.

The bestselling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at www.TheBestofLagunaBeach.com and follow on Instagram @BestOfLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).

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Fast and easy five-ingredient vegetarian chili

By DIANNE RUSSELL

This is the perfect chili recipe for a chilly night.

Five ingredients: one yellow or white onion (diced), one package of beef-less ground beef (12 oz), one package of chili mix (Lawry’s or other brand), a 15 oz can of kidney beans (undrained), and a 15 oz can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes (undrained).

In a heavy pot, cook onions in two tablespoons of olive oil until translucent, add crumbled beef and cook for about five minutes (or more if you prefer), add chili mix and stir, then add tomatoes and beans.

If needed, add a little water (or veggie broth) to make it juicier. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or longer. 

Serve with buttered Saltines for a little extra comfort food.

Even my grandkids, who are meat-eaters, love this chili.

Fast and bowl

Click on photo for another image

Courtesy of saltandpepper.com

Five ingredient chili

Some fun facts about beans

Yay for legumes, the lowly bean. Who knew there are over 40,000 varieties of beans?

The word “bean” has existed in common use in West Germanic languages since before the 12th century, referring to broad beans, chickpeas, and other pod-borne seeds. After Columbian-era contact between Europe and the Americas, the use of the word was extended to pod-borne seeds, such as the common bean and the runner bean. 

The term has long been applied generally to many other seeds of similar form, such as Old World soybeans, peas, other vetches, and lupins, and even to those with slighter resemblances, such as coffee beans, vanilla beans, castor beans, and cocoa beans. Thus the term “bean” in general usage can refer to a host of different species.

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Summer’s Table: A marvelous moveable feast from her table to yours

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

As would be expected in these challenging times, Summer’s Table pre-assembled meals are heaven-sent. Earlier this week, I was fortunate to be on the receiving end of one of these amazing moveable feasts, courtesy of owner Summer Tarango.

Summer’s Table is on a mission to provide beautiful, balanced food. Every meal is partially prepared to finish fresh in the kitchen with approximately 15 minutes active cooking time. 

As described on Summer’s website, “Our menus are seasonal and approachable. We strive to provide the highest quality food and personalized service. We serve the rainbow, choose sustainable, support local, and give back to our community.” 

A specific vision

Summer had a particular mission in mind when she founded Summer’s Table in 2019. “While I was walking through breast cancer in 2018, meal kits were a life saver. I loved getting to choose what would be delivered and having it be easy enough for anyone to prepare.” 

(Summer’s journey was featured in Stu News in May of 2018.)

“However, I was concerned with the single-use packaging and the quality of ingredients. So I set out to hand deliver meals in a more earth-friendly way that I, and my customers, would feel good about.”

Summer later explained, “We normally don’t use single-use plastic items, but with the current situation, for health and safety reasons, we are substituting them.”

Summer's Table counter

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Gabe Sullivan/Courtesy of Summer’s Table

Meal kit

Every Wednesday, Summer’s Table provides a menu for the following week featuring: three meal kits (two or four person), seasonal specialty trays, and pantry items. There is a cut-off time for ordering for the following week, so check the website for the date and time. The meal kits can also be gifted to others.

Like magic, the pre-ordered meal components arrived on Monday afternoon for our dinner and were left at the door in an insulated bag filled with ice packets. 

Each Monday morning, Summer’s Table picks up the bags and washed containers that customers leave out for pick-up.

Our feast consisted of: Roasted Atlantic Salmon with organic brown rice, roasted sweet onion, yellow squash, feta, dill + red wine vinaigrette. *Vegan option: Tofu. 

The preparation couldn’t have been easier – the ingredients arrive on cooking trays, and all the ingredients are color coded for effortless preparation. 

For this dish – prepare the brown rice in a saucepan, then pop the tray with the squash, roasted onion, and salmon into the oven for 20 minutes. Mix the dressing with the rice, onion, squash, and feta, top with salmon and dill, and voila, dinner is served!

Summer's Table chicken

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Pulled BBQ Chicken Sandwich + Rainbow Potato Salad: sampled by photographer Mary Hurlbut and husband Spence who raved about the fresh brioche buns, moist chicken, and variety of flavors with the sauce and onions

The salmon was some of the best I’ve tasted; the quality and freshness were evident in every bite. Cooking salmon is tricky – it’s easy to overcook – but this was the perfect amount of time to render it moist and tender. My teenage grandson, who is staying with us, couldn’t get enough of it, and that’s saying something, because up to this point, he wouldn’t eat cooked salmon. The brown rice salad had just the right mix of nuttiness from the rice and tang from the feta and vinaigrette

As accompaniments, we also had the Roasted Vegetable Tray (GF) – a mix of seasonal vegetables roasted with organic olive oil. This assortment included sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, and broccoli, all wonderfully seasoned. Along with that, we also had a seasonal salad of greens, with tomatoes, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, and shaved parmesan with lemon vinaigrette – a delightful mix of flavors.

And to top it off, Summer added a bag of frozen chocolate and sea salt cookies, which was a genius idea, as they could be cooked on demand and eaten warm. They were out of this world. I bake and am not free with baked goods compliments, but these were extraordinary – chocolate dough with large chocolate chunks and just enough sea salt to make the combination mouth-watering.

Summer's Table veggies

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Roasted Vegetables

With the escalating health situation, Summer reported on Wednesday:

“We really had to think on our feet this last week to get the meals we promised out to everyone! Because of difficult it currently is to count on being able to order what I’d like to send you all each week, we are going to modify how we do things until it settles down.

“We will now be offering two deliveries a week with a few basic kits and expanded pantry/grocery items. We are only offering items that we have already purchased. Once the items are sold, they will be removed from the list until they are restocked.

“We will also be offering back alley pick up at Sourced here in Laguna on Friday, March 20 from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. for anyone that would like to save the delivery charge and say, ‘Hi.’” 

Summer's Table Jonah

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Roasted veggies served by Mary's grandson – with cookies on the side

In addition to items from their kitchen, Summer’s Table is supporting a few other small business owners here in town by offering items from them: Fresh bread from Bread Artisan Bakery, muffins from Kitchen In The Canyon, coffee from Jedidiah Coffee, and mini-bouquets from French Buckets.

Summer adds, “We are not allowing people to order multiples at this time. I want to make sure that we are able to get a reasonable amount of food to as many people as possible.”

If any meal-kit service was tailor-made for these challenging times, it’s Summer’s Table. If you are looking for the highest quality ingredients prepared by a creative and excellent chef, you won’t bet this one.

Thanks, Summer, for providing a delectable culinary respite amid our current chaos.

Order online at www.summerstable.com. If you have questions, call Summer directly at (949) 637-4709.

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The Best of Laguna Beach Banner2

Laguna’s Harley Chef Greg Daniels, AHBA Chefs Nick and Jayro join other top OC Chefs to raise nearly $1.2 Million

By Diane Armitage

Every time the most acclaimed chefs of Orange County and L.A. gather at the Disneyland® Resort for Illumination Foundation’s OC Chef’s Table, magic happens. 

On Sunday, March 1, magic was in play again, with nearly $1.2 million raised in the name of disrupting the cycle of homelessness, particularly for OC’s homeless children and their families. 

Laguna's Harley tables

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by WerkItPhoto

On March 1, 44 top chefs in Orange County and L.A. treated more than 440 guests to dinner in Disneyland®’s largest ballroom. The event raised nearly $1.2 million for the nonprofit Illumination Foundation, which is focused on disrupting the cycle of homelessness.

For me personally, it is the most extraordinary gala I’ve ever attended. This was my third year there, and it’s always more special to me when Laguna Beach chefs get involved. 

Slapfish returns for 5th Year

For several years now, Chef Andrew Gruel, the owner of several Slapfish locations (one of which is in Laguna Beach), has participated in OC Chef’s Table. 

“I love everything about OC Chef’s Table,” Gruel told me. “I love the Chef’s Breakfast that Illumination Foundation and Disneyland® put on for us beforehand where we get to meet up with all our chef buddies again. I love hearing all the stories of redemption from the stage – it’s everything, from start to finish,” he told me.

Laguna's Harley Gruel

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Courtesy of Illumination Foundation 

Chef Andrew Gruel returns every year to OC Chef’s Table

“OC Chef’s Table is really about understanding and following what Illumination Foundation is doing from a closer angle. Every year, I’m amazed at how much progress they’re making to help our homeless population, and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger. I’ll do anything I can to support the great work they’re doing,” Gruel said. 

New AHBA makes it a “No Question” decision

This year, two of our newest restaurants in Laguna Beach participated which, in itself, is somewhat extraordinary. Chefs who are just getting up and running with their restaurants find it more difficult to break away from their new operations. But Harley’s Chef Greg Daniels and AHBA’s Owner Nick Bennett and his chef Jayro Martinez didn’t give it a second thought. 

“We closed AHBA for the evening because we wanted to give 100 percent of our focus to this cause,” said AHBA Owner Nick Bennett. 

Laguna's Harley Ahba

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Photo by Diane Armitage

AHBA’s Owner Nick Bennett, left, and Executive Chef Jayro Martinez, right, closed AHBA for the evening to participate in OC Chef’s Table

“Chef Jayro has been involved with OC Chef’s Table in previous years, and after I learned that we could truly help homeless families and kids, there was no question we would participate,” Bennett continued. 

“But when you’re there and hear the stories and interact with the people, it really becomes an even bigger reality about what our fellow humans are going through. It’s mind-blowing. It was very emotional for us.”

“They make it easy for small restaurants to be involved”

While Disneyland® Resort and the Bickerstaff Family Foundation were platinum sponsors of the event this year, dozens more were involved with sponsorship and donations of some sort to virtually eliminate any cost on Illumination Foundation’s side. Many sponsors get involved on the chefs’ side, too, providing free proteins and specific produce to any chef that asks. As an example, repeat sponsor Melissa’s Produce delivers any produce order to the chefs, no matter how large the order or how rare the vegetable or fruit might be. 

Laguna's Harley Daniels

Click on photo for a larger image

 Courtesy of Illumination Foundation 

Harley Chef Greg Daniels participates in a pre-event toast by Disneyland® Napa Rose Chef and OC Chef’s Table host Andrew Sutton

“The teams at Disney and Illumination Foundation have made this event huge, and I admire how they’ve taken it to this level, while being organized and seamless in the execution,” Harley’s Chef Greg told me. 

“Couple that with the sponsors who kick in so much to help the chefs prep their meals – the whole effort in many ways makes it much easier for a small restaurant to be involved.

“What it comes down to though, is the cause and the people involved with it,” Chef Greg continued. “Illumination Foundation makes a significant impact on homelessness in Orange County, and this dinner raised over $1.2 million toward that!

“This was my second year participating in OC Chef’s Table for Illumination Foundation, and it has quickly become one of my favorites. I can’t wait to be there again next year!”

Funding for a third emergency family home

Funds raised at the March 1st OC Chef’s Table will go toward building an emergency house for families in dire need. It is modeled after the success of Illumination Foundation’s initial emergency family houses, the Stanton-based Theriault House, and the Bob Murphy House in Anaheim. 

The Bob Murphy House was acquired, renovated, and opened to families just months after funds had been raised for that cause in the 2019 OC Chef’s Table.

“We put the funds raised at this event immediately into service,” said Illumination Foundation’s CEO and Co-Founder Paul Leon from the stage. “Last year, we were able to purchase, open, and operate our second emergency home for families – the Bob Murphy House – in a matter of months after our OC Chef’s Table event. All of you here will, again, be a part of this visible success with funds this evening going toward the purchase of a third emergency home.” 

For seven years now, patrons, celebrities, and top-ranked chefs have worked together to raise funds for the nonprofit organization Illumination Foundation, which secures recuperative care, emergency housing and permanent housing for homeless families, children, and individuals. In an effort to help these community members get back on their feet, Illumination Foundation also provides a multitude of wrap-around services, including case management, behavioral health substance use counseling, children’s programming, work force help, and more. 

To learn more about OC Chefs Table and Illumination Foundation, click here.

Chefs interested in participating on OC Chef’s Table 2021 can contact me directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at www.TheBestofLagunaBeach.com and follow on Instagram @BestOfLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).

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The Best of Laguna Beach Banner2

OC Restaurant Week starts on Sunday

By Diane Armitage

OC Restaurant Week is just around the corner with dates set for Sunday, March 8 – Saturday, March 14. For locals here in Laguna Beach, this can be a bane or a boom, depending entirely on the opinion you chose.

On the bane side, this always designates a much busier restaurant traffic flow in Laguna Beach. Although more than 100 restaurants participate across Orange County, I’m not exaggerating or bragging when I say that many diners choose Laguna Beach above all others simply because of the culinary reputation we have.

On the boon side, this is a perfect week to adapt the motto, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” as at least a handful of our preferred restaurants offer exceptional dining values throughout the week.

There’s no better time to get out to one of your favorite restaurants or choose to dine in a Laguna-based restaurant you haven’t yet tried.

Amenable menus for both lunch and dinner

In a departure from previous years when each restaurant had to choose a “pricing slot,” there seems to be more freedom in allowing the restaurants to price prix fixe menu options that will prove most amenable to visiting diners. This year, there are also specialty items called out, such as Spicy Menu items, Featured Cocktails, and more.

OC Restaurant Nirvana

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Nirvana Grille is participating in OC Restaurant Week

Lunch options from $15 – $25

Starting with the lunch options, Skyloft is offering $15 lunch prix fixe menus.
Skyloft’s big sister, Mozambique, is also open for lunch with $15 three-course prix fixe menus.

O Fine Japanese is also offering a three-course $25 lunch that includes a 12-piece sushi dish.

At $25 for lunch, Starfish is again featuring the most options with small and large plates.

Featured cocktails for $12

In the mood for just dropping in for a cocktail and appetizer? Four of the participating restaurants are offering $12 Specialty Cocktails with Ketel One, Maker’s Mark, and/or Chambord:

Royal Hawaiian has created two newbies with its “Island Sunset” featuring Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whiskey, house-made honey syrup and passion fruit liqueur, and “Best of Coast Worlds” featuring a smooth meld of Ketel One vodka, Pisco Brandy, and fresh juices.

Fishbone offers “Berry Berry Sour “(Ketel One and Chambord), Smoked Negroni With Roku Gin, Carpano Antica and Campari, and “Fishbone Sunset” with Hornitos Tequila and blood orange juice.

Mozambique has created a “Not Your Traditional Sour” with Maker’s Mark, orange bitter, and agave nectar.

Skyloft is featuring a “Spicy Vodka Rita,” featuring Ketel One, muddle cucumber, and jalapenos.

Dinner options

$30 Prix Fixe Menus

Nirvana Grille offers two dinner menu options, so I’ll start with the $30 three-course prix fixe menu. Chef Lindsey offers a solid range of starters, entrée offerings that include her Basil Aioli Steelhead Salmon and Braised Beef Short Ribs, along with dessert options with a host of add-on items for a small additional

cost. 

Mozambique also offers a $30 three-course prix fixe dinner menu with a handful of best-selling options to choose from.

$40 Prix Fixe Menus

Skyloft offers a $40 three-course prix fixe dinner with appetizer, entrée, and dessert options that include their popular tri-tip and stroganoff options.

OC restaurant lumberyard

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Lumberyard’s cedar-planked King Salmon is a great option 

Lumberyard is back again, too, with a three-course prix fixe at $40. Choose from best-sellers including filet mignon and their cedar-planked King Salmon.

Starfish is offering a $40 dinner menu plan with “elevated features” as well as a handful of large plate substitution recommendations for $10 additional.

$50 Prix Fixe Menus

Royal Hawaiian is offering a $50 four-course prix fixe dinner, which includes Chef Maro’s selection of a premier glass of wine. The four-course dinner includes appetizer, salad, and dessert choices along with large plate entrée options that include his recent award-winning “OC Best Steak” option, the 12-ounce Petite Tender Steak along with his crowd-pleasing Wild Hawaiian Opah and the Sonoma Chicken Breast (that I can’t get enough of).

O Fine Japanese offers a $50 prix fixe dinner menu with a long assortment of options that include a six-piece sashimi combination, a three-piece sushi offer, and wild-caught sea bass done three ways.

Las Brisas offers a $50 three-course prix fixe menu with popular starter, entrée, and dessert options.

Fishbone, our relative newcomer to Laguna, is offering a three-course dinner with an amuse bouche starter. Entrée options include a Spanish Octopus dish and flat iron steak.

Nirvana Grille gets second mention here for its $50 three-course prix fixe dinner with entrée options such as grilled sea bass and filet mignon plus eight recommended add-on items for a small additional cost.

Make reservations now!

Here’s your chance to finally try that Laguna Beach restaurant you’ve been hearing about! Chart your path now and make those reservations (even for lunch, trust me), as these restaurants will be bustling all week long.

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at www.TheBestofLagunaBeach.com and follow on Instagram @BestOfLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).

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New news on Wild Taco, Sapphire, Bear Flag and the Boom

By Diane Armitage

Here’s this week’s latest update on our restaurant world here in Laguna Beach. 

Chef Azmin’s last day at Sapphire is Sat, March 7

For 13 years, Chef Azmin Gharhreman has offered one of the most innovative, globally oriented menus in Orange County. While I’m a fan of everything I’ve had the pleasure to try at Sapphire, I have to tell you this, straight up: If you’ve never tried the hot dog at Sapphire, you had better make haste. 

I chatted with Sapphire’s beloved Chef Azmin last Sunday at Adam Bernstein’s fundraiser, and he told me, “Our last day of service will be Saturday, March 7. Then, we’ll be moving and clearing through March 10 so that Russ and his team can take over from there.”

new news azmin

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Submitted photo

At Adam Bernstein’s fundraiser on Sunday, Chef Azmin was feeling particularly breezy

New owner/operator Russ Bendel says that he and his team have plans for some minor rework in the interior dining room before a hoped-for opening of Sapphire, Cellar. Craft. Cook. in mid-April.

When Chef Azmin founded the restaurant in 2007, the community gained a real treasure, and we are thrilled to assume the stewardship of Sapphire,” Russ told me.

Our plans are to polish the property and bring in touches from our other restaurants at Vine, Ironwood, and Olea, but we’ll keep the hospitality and ambiance the same,” he said.

Wild Taco soon to offer earlier hours for breakfast burritos

When Bear Flag Fish Co’s Wild Taco restaurant opened six weeks ago in the old Johnny Rockets location, they chose to start with lunch and dinner items. Breakfast, however, is a very big deal for Newport Beach fans at the original Wild Taco, so Operations Manager Joe Klooster says it’s time to start incorporating the morning goodness here in Laguna.

“We’re starting a roll-out this Saturday,” he said. “We won’t be offering all of the breakfast burritos immediately, but we’re definitely starting with a build-your-own breakfast burrito.”

new news wild

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Courtesy of Bear Flag Fish Co

Wild Taco will begin serving build-your-own breakfast burritos this weekend

Noting that at least 80 percent of the new restaurant’s incoming traffic is that of locals, Klooster says that the breakfast addition is primarily geared toward locals who are up early on weekends and still in possession of the town before the crowds begin to arrive.

“We are not just that summertime spot,” says Klooster. “We came here for the locals, and that’s the audience we aim to serve for years to come.”

Hours may not change from their current opening at 11 a.m. this weekend, but look for the company to make a decision on earlier opening hours in the week ahead. 

Bear Flag looking at 18 months before opening in old Boom Boom Room

In August last year, the same Bear Flag Fish Co of Wild Taco announced its intentions to move its third Bear Flag Fish Co restaurant into the former Boom Boom Room space.

At that time, Bear Flag founder Thomas Carson noted that he had always wanted to open his first Bear Flag in Laguna Beach and, while his timetable flipped a bit, he never gave up on the idea of being in Laguna Beach. 

While Bear Flag is completely committed to the renovation of this space, it’s going to be a longer development process than we all had hoped. 

New news boom

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The future site of Bear Flag’s third restaurant

“We’re saying now that it’s going to be about 18 months out. It’s disappointing, yes, but we’re all on the same page about this, so we’re really working together to make this renovation happen in its best and fastest way,” said Bear Flag Manager of Operations Joe Klooster. 

“And,” he added, “Because we came into Laguna Beach with Wild Taco first, we now have a much better understanding of how the permitting process works in Laguna. The City is doing what it can to support us, and that’s all that matters. We all want to see the revival of this iconic space.”

Watch for more weekly updates in my blog and in Best of Laguna Beach social platforms. 

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at www.TheBestofLagunaBeach.com and follow on Instagram @BestOfLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).

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Longtime Laguna bartender Adam Bernstein needs our help

Story by Diane Armitage

If you’ve been in Laguna Beach for any length of time, you’ve probably met the great bartender and mixologist Adam Bernstein. The guy brought sunshine and light to a few local establishments, the last being Sapphire Laguna for more than 10 years. 

About two years ago, Adam left our fine town for a great offer in Newport Beach. But now he could use your help no matter where he lives…or where you live. 

Last June, just days before he married his longtime fiancé, Rachel, she had a seizure and lost the use of the left side of her body. Being the eternal optimist that he is, Adam insisted the wedding still take place. 

Longtime Laguna couple

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Adam Bernstein

Rachel and Adam Bernstein

Two days later, they discovered that Rachel had stage 4 brain cancer. It’s an aggressive beast. Since June 2019, Adam has been caring for Rachel and unable to work.

Their family just reached out this weekend for help from us. They’ve set up a GoFundMe page to help Adam and Rachel with mounting medical bills and living expenses. I think it’s a great time we all came together to far exceed the goal they’ve established for this wonderful couple. 

There will also be a fundraiser at Salon Bleu in San Clemente on February 23 from 1 - 5 p.m. More on that later. For now, click here for the GoFundMe. 

Adam’s great talent and creativity made our worst days so much better. Even if you only have a little to donate, you can help Adam and Rachel with what is now their worst day.

To read more from Diane Armitage, visit www.thebestoflagunabeach.com.

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Laguna Chefs share the love on Valentine’s Day

Story by Diane Armitage,

The Best of Laguna Beach™

Yesterday, I was talking to one of our Laguna chefs about Valentine’s Day. 

Oddly, reservations for Valentine’s Day tend to occur well in advance, while Mother’s Day reservations tend to happen at the last minute. Imagine that. 

If you’re still putting your plan together for next Friday, Valentine’s Day, here’s a quick round-up from many of our local restaurants. More details are still rolling in from chefs, so be sure to check my blog at TheBestofLagunaBeach.com for the latest details. 

Note: Keep in mind that prix fixe menu pricing below does not include tax and tip. Please show some love to your servers wherever you choose to roost. 

The first required stop

Thank the gods that De Francis is still at it with her sliver of a store, The Chocolate Soldier, in the short alley across from Sapphire Pantry. No matter how quickly she crafts these heavenly treats, the shop will be practically stripped bare by Valentine Day’s dawning. Stop by early next week for best selections, including traditional Valentine hearts you can fill yourself or chocolate boxes that can hold any number of Valentine gifts.   

Laguna Chefs chocolate

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Photo by Diane Armitage

De Francis’ enduring Chocolate Soldier offers the freshest chocolate treats around

Flights to send you in the right direction for Valentine’s Day

Jason and Sofia McLain are celebrating the anniversary of their first date (February 13) with Pre-Valentine’s Day wine tastings at their Canyon-based McLain Cellars from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Wines will be paired with cheese, charcuterie, and chocolate. 

Then, on February 14, a different tasting event occurs from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

 Reserve either day here.

Restaurants with specially created Valentine’s Day menus

First, if Friday Night just doesn’t seem right…

Sometimes, the end of the workweek is a tough time to romantically rally. 

I believe the only restaurant offering a special Valentine’s prix fixe menu on both Friday (Feb 14th) and Saturday (Feb 15th) is Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill.

Mixologist Sean Melia owns the first item on the menu, an “Our Love is Alive” cocktail consisting of vodka, hibiscus, lime, and pineapple juices with a champagne float. Chef/Owner Maro Molteni takes it from there with off-menu sublimes such as Seared Tuna & Burrata, Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon, a Free Range Wood-Grilled Venison Loin, and more. The regular dining menu will be available as well. 

$75/person

Reserve: RoyalHawaiianLB.com or call (949) 715-1470.

Nirvana Grille – It’s always important to keep Chef Lindsay’s Nirvana on your list. This year’s Valentine menu offers up options such as Blackened Scallops, Coriander Crusted Swordfish, Pepper Crusted Filet Mignon, and her awesome Lobster Bisque.

Laguna Chefs Lindsay

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Chef Lindsay, co-owner of Nirvana Grille

$89/person. Add Drew Barrymore Rosé for $9 a glass or bottomless Jean Phillipe Champagne for $25 per person. 

Reserve: NirvanaGrille.com or call (949) 497-0027. 

Splashes at Surf & Sand Chef Ron Fougeray’s Valentine treat this year offers appetizer options such as Smoked Albacore Tartare and Herb Stuffed Quail, with entrée options such as Petite Filet, Poached Brill, and Scallops. 

$150/person with $50 additional option for wine pairings. 

Reserve: Call (888) 281-3502

Wine Gallery Laguna One of my favorite (and somewhat undiscovered) chefs, Chef Josh Mason has crafted a four-course dinner that brings back the best of Josh. Options include Crab Cake, Salmon en Croute, and NY Strip Steak. 

$75/person with $35 additional option for wine pairings. Some items from the regular menu will also be available. 

Reserve: WineGalleryLaguna.com or call (949) 715-8744.

K’ya Bistro Bar – Chef Craig Connole never disappoints with his four-course tapas-style menu. Share plates such as Grilled Vegetable Risotto, Braised Short Rib, Grilled Branzino, and more. 

$50/person or $99/couple

Reserve: Call (855) 990-0281.

Broadway by Amar Santana Chef Amar (the new Papa!) has come up with the usual inventive menu that starts with a Smoked Sturgeon amuse bouche and shimmies into Pheasant, Wagyu Beef Tongue & Cheek, and Tete de Moine. An a la carte menu is also available. 

$135/person. Credit card required at reservation. 

Reserve: Call (949) 715-8234.

Driftwood Kitchen Chef Rainer Schwarz’s innovation this year begins with a champagne toast and moves into items such as Hamachi Tartare, Petite Filet with Braised Beef Short Rib, Pan Seared Arctic Char, and more. 

$95/person. 

Reserve: Call (949) 715-7700.

Mozambique – Always a believer in music and great food, Chef Braulio has created a menu that includes 10 entrée options featuring Chilean Sea Bass, Steak & Lobster, Cioppino, and more. Live music on Valentine’s features Dallas & Doll in the Durban Room and the Springsteen Experience on the main stage. 

$89/person. 

Reserve: Mozambique.com or call (949) 715-7777. 

Studio, Montage Laguna Beach You know you can’t go wrong for romance at the renowned Studio. The amuse bouche starts with Hamachi Crudo with additional items featuring Seared Arctic Char, Wagyu Flat Iron Steak, and more. 

$225/person, includes wine pairings. 

Reserve: Call (949) 715-6420.

The Loft, Laguna Beach Chef Joosung Lee’s menu offers items such as Roasted Sunchoke Bisque, Coffee-Braised Wagyu Zabuton, Prime Filet Mignon, Pan-Roasted Branzino, and more. 

$135/person, includes a half bottle of Veuve Clicquot per couple. Regular menu is also available. 

Reserve: Call (949) 715-6420. 

Laguna Chefs Loft

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Courtesy of Montage LB

Special Valentine’s Day dessert created last year at the Loft, Laguna Beach

Valentine featured items served with regular menu

These restaurants are featuring specials along with the nightly regular menu: 

Harley – Settled in and loving it, Chef Greg Daniels is just into his second year now. He will be offering a number of off-menu specials throughout the weekend. 

Reserve: Harleylagunabeach.com or call (949) 715-1530.

Lumberyard – Always a local favorite, Owner Cary Redfearn has drummed up new specials. Sorry, mum’s the word on this. 

Reserve: LBLumberyard.com or call (949) 715-3900.

230 Forest Chef Marc is offering up a number of specials along with the regular menu on both Friday and Saturday. 

Reserve: 230ForestAvenue.com or call (949) 494-2545.

Watermarc At his other popular restaurant, just a block from his initial 230 Forest restaurant, Chef Marc has also organized a number of specials true to Watermarc’s cuisine. Also available both Friday and Saturday. 

Reserve: WatermarcRestaurant.comor call (949) 376-6272. 

Sapphire Laguna Chef Azmin has come up with specially featured items such as Pan-Seared Barramundi & Shrimp Raviolini, Grilled Beef Tenderloin, and Butter-Poached Lobster. 

Pricing ranges from $71-$95/person. 

Reserve: Call (949) 715-9888.

Oak – Chef Sanchez is offering off-menu specials as well, including Pecan Crusted Mahi, Three Cheese Ravioli, Roasted Vegetable Quinoa, and more. 

Reserve: Call (949) 940-3010. 

Starfish Laguna – And the last entry to hit my desk before publication, Starfish will be featuring Valentine’s Day dishes and libations through the holiday weekend. I hope this means that mixologist Neil is doing an encore of his Love Potion No. 9. I need some of that!

Enjoy your holiday weekend! 

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at www.TheBestofLagunaBeach.com and follow on Instagram @BestOfLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).

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Chef Craig Strong closing Ocean at Main February 5

By Diane Armitage

One of the most talented chefs we’ve yet seen in Laguna Beach is calling it quits. 

Award-winning Chef Craig Strong of Ocean at Main at 222 Ocean Ave has announced he’s closing on February 5.

The shuttered doors come just 16 months after his grand opening in September 2018. 

It’s a significant loss to Laguna Beach, especially to those locals who first came in contact with Chef Craig’s genius at Studio at the Montage Laguna Beach. He raised that restaurant to the only five-star eatery between San Diego and San Francisco, and Ocean at Main was another testament to this chef’s extraordinary talent.

Chef Craig close up

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Courtesy of Ocean at Main

Award-winning Chef Craig Strong

Chef Craig, a longtime local here in Laguna Beach, says it won’t be long before we see his face somewhere in the restaurant geography here or around Laguna Beach. 

“I am actively looking for my next spot,” he assured me. 

“Challenges in Laguna Beach” statement

In a statement released on Sunday by Chef Craig, he noted: 

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the last day of service for Ocean at Main will be Wednesday, February 5. Since 2018, we have loved serving and connecting with the Laguna Beach community. Ocean at Main has been the adventure of a lifetime, and we are honored to have served so many wonderful guests, created lifelong friendships, and hosted so many memorable celebrations. We are wholeheartedly grateful for our hardworking staff who brought this place to life and for our guests and regulars who called our restaurant home. 

“As a Laguna Beach local, it breaks my heart to see the challenges the restaurant community faces in Laguna Beach – and across California. With rising costs of rent and labor, we, along with many other restaurants, have experienced this incredible challenge.

“When one door closes, another opens. We are actively looking for another location, and I look forward to serving you again soon.”

Room 222: A storied history in retail and restaurants

Dallas-based Lombardi Family Concepts still owns the building in which Ocean at Main resides. In the 10 years previous and prior to Lombardi’s purchase, the space had been a rug store and a Big Dog Sportswear store. 

Lombardi purchased the property in 2015 and invested $2 million and 18 months of time to repurpose the tattered retail space into a contemporary restaurant space, Taverna. The Italian concept (with the most beautiful kitchen I’ve seen outside of a Laguna resort) opened in Spring 2016. 

Two years and two months later, Lombardi Concepts closed Taverna on Sunday, July 1, 2018. At that time, they confirmed that Chef Craig Strong would be stepping in with his own concept.

Chef Craig avocado

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Photo by Diane Armitage

Chef Craig’s Ahi Avocado Toast

Chef Craig opened with a remodeled look and a higher-end farm-to-table concept with his standard – read: phenomenal – creativity in late September 2018.

On January 7 of this month, Lombardi Family Concepts announced the building for sale at $8.45 million with Chef Craig’s long-term lease and operation included and intact in that pricing.

The commercial agents on the listing could not be reached for comment before deadline. 

“We were very surprised,” said Robert Clayton, Vice President of Lombardi Family Concepts. “Craig is such a talented chef, and he created such a beautiful space for Ocean at Main. We’ve only heard great things about his food, and he was figuring out the revenue and costs and making adjustments – it just seemed that he was getting past that first year and breaking through,” continued Clayton.

“We worked with him and would have continued working with him – this is what you do as a landlord with a chef with so much talent,” said Clayton. “But Craig was at a point where it was just too much of a struggle. We’re really very sorry to see him go.”

Clayton says that he and his team will be here that first week of February to decide their next steps.

 

The bestselling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at www.TheBestofLagunaBeach.com and follow on Instagram @BestOfLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).

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