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Selanne Steak Tavern named Best Wine Program for second consecutive year

Selanne Steak Tavern won the Golden Foodie Award for Best Wine Program 2019 for the second consecutive year at Orange County’s Golden Foodie Awards gala held September 29 at the Newport Beach Marriott with over 250 guests. Master Sommelier Michael Jordan and Sauté magazine Editor Tina Borgatta presented the award.

“Winning the Golden Foodie Best Wine Program Award two years running is such an honor,” said co-owner Kevin Pratt. “Teemu Selanne and I are grateful to those who appreciate our sincere hospitality and our impressive wine inventory. Our list, which is curated by Advanced Sommelier Vito Pasquale, pairs brilliantly with Chef Vince Terusa’s exceptional dishes.”

The Best Wine Program Golden Foodie Award recognizes the restaurant whose wine list offers interesting selections that appeal to a variety of wine enthusiasts. In addition to an excellent wine program, the winner is distinguished by having a wine staff who are extremely well-versed about the restaurant’s wines and who suggest wines to guests that will work in harmony with the chef’s cuisine.

Selanne Steak wine

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Submitted photo

Selanne Steak Tavern’s wine list tops the charts 

This year’s gala was presided over by co-hosts Neil Saavedra of KFI AM’s “The Fork Report” and Food Network star and cookbook author Aarti Sequeira.

According to the Golden Foodie Awards committee, these awards are “a people’s choice event that recognizes the best chefs, libations, and cuisine at chef-driven and independent restaurants. With its focus on involving the Orange County community to serve as judges through their voting, the Golden Foodie Awards serves as the highest honor and is an indication of local culinary trends and consumer preferences.” There is a one-week period for voters to cast votes recognizing their choices of outstanding restaurants in 16 categories.

Selanne Steak Tavern’s extensive wine list is known for strength in selections from California and Burgundy, France, as well as global selections from Washington, Oregon, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Argentina, Germany, Austria, South Africa, Portugal, Canada, and Australia.

Selanne Steak Tavern’s previous six Golden Foodie Awards include Best Service Award in 2017; Best Steak Award for the restaurant’s outstanding menu execution, service and overall program in 2016; Best Wine Program in 2015 and 2018; and Best New Restaurant and Best Steak in 2014. It has also been honored by receiving the Best of Award of Excellence distinction from Wine Spectator for the last three years.

Selanne Steak Tavern opened in November 2013 and is owned by Hockey Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne and local Orange County businessman Kevin Pratt. Housed in a reimagined 1934 historic home along the Pacific Coast, it’s an upscale contemporary steak house with an upstairs dining room, downstairs tavern and bar area, a wine room for more intimate dining, and two patios for alfresco dining.

The restaurant supports local farms and fisheries that practice sustainability and humane practices. Menus feature the finest of steaks and seafood served with a variety of accompaniments enhanced by herbs from the restaurant’s herb garden.

Along with its carefully selected California-focused wine list, craft signature cocktails are created from quality farmers market produce, homemade mixers, and top-notch shelf spirits. Selanne Steak Tavern is open for dinner nightly starting at 5 p.m. 

For reservations and more information, call (949) 715-9881 or visit www.selannesteaktavern.com.

Selanne Steak Tavern is located at 1464 South Coast Hwy.


Chef Craig Strong’s award-winning restaurant Ocean at Main celebrates one year 

Widely recognized as one of Orange County’s best new restaurants, Ocean at Main in Laguna Beach will celebrate one year in business this month. To celebrate the major milestone, Chef/Owner Craig Strong presents a new menu of approachable California coastal cuisine, imbued with fall flavors and a few luxe surprises. 

In its first year, the critically acclaimed restaurant was honored as a Best New Restaurant by Orange Coast Magazine, one of Modern Luxury’s 10 Most Exciting New Restaurants, and was named among OC Register critic Brad Johnson’s 75 Best Places to Eat.

Since its debut last fall, Ocean at Main has attracted a loyal crowd of locals and international travelers alike. As the restaurant heads into its second year, Strong presents new dishes that strike the perfect balance between elegant and playful – perfectly capturing the vibe of laid-back luxury in Laguna Beach.

Chef Craig outside

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Submitted photo

Ocean at Main Chef/Owner Craig Strong 

“This evolution of our menu comes from listening to our guests,” comments Chef Craig Strong, whose storied 25-year career is hallmarked with accolades of James Beard Award nominations and a Michelin star. “Our first year has given us much to celebrate, and it’s also been a year of listening and pivoting. As we enter into year two, I’m proud to present a new menu which reflects that. We look forward to continuing to partner with and serve our community for years to come.”

The new menu, which Chef Strong notes was conceptualized by listening to his guests, features approachable entrees ranging in price from $18 to $42. Dishes are brought to life with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients and classic culinary techniques. While new entrees include Pan-Seared Striped Sea Bass and a 12 oz Ribeye Steak, famed signature items like the Roasted Beet Salad and Oxtail Risotto remain.

Among the new dishes include a selection of bar bites, shareable appetizers which capture Chef Strong’s favorite flavors through playful presentations:

--Short Rib “Cigars” – horseradish crème fraîche, black pepper ash

--Fuerte Wings – housemade blue cheese, shaved carrot and celery

--Warm Artichoke and Parsley Dip – rosemary and parmesan flatbread

--Pork Belly Lettuce Wraps – carrot kimchi, Asian soy

While the new menu features moderately priced, approachable fare, Chef Strong continues to deliver dishes with luxe and allure. Guests who want to opt into a more luxurious dining experience can enjoy A5 Miyazaki Wagyu, imported truffles, and a la minute personalized tasting menus on any given night.

Ocean at Main is located in the heart of downtown Laguna Beach (222 Ocean Ave) and is open for dinner nightly from 5 - 10 p.m., and for weekend brunch from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. 

For more information, visit www.oceanatmain.com or connect with @oceanatmain on Instagram and Facebook.


New Kid in Town: Lumberyard’s popular burger goes Beyond

Story by Diane Armitage

Over many years, the Lumberyard Signature Burger has never budged from my annual “Top 5 Burgers of Laguna Beach,” and it’s always been a best-seller on Cary Redfearn’s menu.

Over the last few months, though, the LYard champ is being challenged by a come-upper from its own ranks: The Lumberyard Beyond Burger.

The Beyond Burger, a plant-based burger largely made of pea protein, is the first of its kind in Laguna Beach. In fact, you might call restaurateur Redfearn a trendsetter as McDonald’s just got around to announcing last Thursday that it will begin serving the “PLT” – a Beyond plant-based burger with lettuce and tomato – in Canada. The announcement caused Beyond’s stock to shoot up from $138 to $154 a share in mere hours. The Beyond Burger is also being served in Carl’s Jr. locations to rave reviews.

If it looks like a burger and tastes like a burger…

“I just knew this day was coming,” said Cary. “There are too many issues out there with the sustainability and emissions of raising beef, but no one who loves beef wants to give up that great taste.”

New kid beyond burger

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Photo by Diane Armitage

Unlike vegetarian burgers, the Beyond burger is made of pea protein with a phenomenal likeness to a perfectly grilled beef burger

Unbeknownst to me and until my interview with Cary last week, the Beyond burger is not a vegetarian burger, which is usually made of assorted chickpeas, beans, potatoes and/or vegetables. The Beyond burger is, instead, a carefully engineered gluten-free, soy-free, and non-GMO solution that ranks in equal calories to a burger patty but provides as much protein and iron with less fat and saturated fat.

More important to me (the Foodie Queen) is that this burger looks, smells and tastes like a true-blue grilled hamburger.

A compelling argument for burger lovers everywhere

At first, I was the Doubting Thomas, I’ve got to admit.

But, when Cary is excited about a food product, he’s absolutely compelling. His passion for great food makes Cary one of only two guys I know who could talk me into eating the stuff I typically label “weird.” (The other guy is my longtime Michelin-starred client, Joe Marsco, in Las Vegas. He’s the only person in the world who finally managed to talk me into eating frog’s legs and foie gras.)

When Cary tells me to get in my car and break every speed limit to reach a certain hole in the wall in Los Angeles, I follow through like an obedient food zombie. He has never steered me wrong.

New kid Cary

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Cary Redfearn 

When his chef produced the Lumberyard Beyond Burger at my table, Cary snatched it and cut it into squares for me, just like my Dad used to lovingly do with my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. How can you not love something that an authoritative figure so adores?

On the taste test, I had to admit: Cary was right again. This “burger” is truly an anomaly. It’s that meat alternative that’s alternatively great.

On the chew factor, it’s a little more dense than your common burger patty. It’s more like biting into a ground sirloin burger. Its taste, though, is so closely matched to a backyard grill burger that you can’t even discern where the scientists at Beyond Burger tried to get it right. (I would have loved to have been a fly on that wall.)

New kid beyond burger

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Photo by Diane Armitage

Beyond Burger in sections

The Lumberyard serves it with a slather of tomato marmalade to keep the patty juicy, but I don’t detect the normal patty dryness that I’ve tasted in other “almost-beef” products. It even looks like a medium rare burger, compliments of a dash of beet juice in the manufacture.

Plant-based burger war includes the “Impossible”

As more consumers grow more health and environmentally conscious, consumption of plant-based foods continues to rise. The Beyond Burger was first to take the scene in 2009. In 2011, the Impossible Burger began popping up in every possible location, too, but its soy base has proven a slight detriment to the Beyond Burger solution.

While the two newbies have struggled with the meteoric rise of success (management row of each entity has sent its heads of state to feverishly work in the refrigerated warehouses to help meet demand), the world’s largest food conglomerate, Nestlé, is looking to move into this market in a very big – and organized, grandpappy – way.

Nestlé has the ability to flood multiple markets in a nano-second, having survived those adolescent days of growth back in about 1920.

Just recently, Nestlé, announced that it will be launching the Awesome Burger in the U.S. in various grocery chains after spectacularly selling a similar product under its Garden Gourmet brand in Europe. It also plans to launch a giant line of plant-based deli meats for deli counters and grocery shelves.

“I think it’s a great and conscientious trend overall,” said Cary. “We’ve begun to expand Beyond, if you will, to sausage links here at Lumberyard and in crumbled sausage for our pizzas at Slice. For us, it’s the tastiest solution, and our patrons are beginning to notice. I know that I’m finally on the cutting edge of something that will only become bigger in demand. But, what’s most important is that I like what I’m doing to help the long-term solution of sustainability.”

Lumberyard Laguna Beach is at 384 Forest, actually on the corner of Forest and Forest, just across from City Hall.

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 TheBestofLagunaBeach.com.


The Cliff welcomes Claudia Nygaard to upcoming songwriter showcase on Monday

On Monday, Sept 30 at 7 p.m., The Cliff proudly welcomes Claudia Nygaard to the stage for the venue’s songwriter showcase. Nygaard is currently on tour promoting her latest CD Lucky Girl.

Nygaard has won numerous awards for her writing, including the prestigious Kerville Folk Festival songwriting competition. She’s also cut her songwriting teeth as a salaried staff writer on Nashville’s Music Row. 

The Cliff Claudia

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Courtesy of claudianygaard.com

Claudia Nygaard will grace the stage at The Cliff on Monday, Sept 30 

Longtime Laguna local Denny Freidenrich is especially excited for Nygaard’s performance. “I’ve known Claudia since we were in junior high school. Over the years, I have had the privilege of hearing her perform several times. I’m excited that my friends in town finally will get a chance to see her at The Cliff.” 

For more information on Claudia, visit her website at www.claudianygaard.com

The Cliff is located at 577 South Coast Hwy.


The Cliff welcomes Claudia Nygaard to upcoming songwriter showcase on Sept 30

On Monday, Sept 30 at 7 p.m., The Cliff proudly welcomes Claudia Nygaard to the stage for the venue’s songwriter showcase. Nygaard is currently on tour promoting her latest CD Lucky Girl.

Nygaard has won numerous awards for her writing, including the prestigious Kerville Folk Festival songwriting competition. She’s also cut her songwriting teeth as a salaried staff writer on Nashville’s Music Row. 

The Cliff Claudia

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Courtesy of claudianygaard.com

Claudia Nygaard will grace the stage at The Cliff on Monday, Sept 30 

Longtime Laguna local Denny Freidenrich is especially excited for Nygaard’s performance. “I’ve known Claudia since we were in junior high school. Over the years, I have had the privilege of hearing her perform several times. I’m excited that my friends in town finally will get a chance to see her at The Cliff.” 

For more information on Claudia, visit her website at www.claudianygaard.com

The Cliff is located at 577 South Coast Hwy. 


The Drake brings back nostalgic supper club

Story and photos by Diane Armitage

Last night was the official “opening night” for the long-anticipated Drake Laguna Beach. 

It was an impeccable experience, which is a rare thing to say on a restaurant’s opening night. 

The Drake dining room

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Early diners arrive for the inaugural night of The Drake Laguna Beach

Yes, they’re still stepping into their stride, but for a 0-day-old restaurant with just a smattering of rumored family and friend dinners last week, The Drake is acting like it’s been doing this a long, long time. Small surprise as Executive Chef Paul Gstrein has been cooking for the world’s finest restaurants for decades now, and his son, Nick, is right here next to him, carrying the baton forward.    

The Drake Nick and Paul

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Son Nick has joined Dad, renowned Chef Paul Gstrein, in the launch of The Drake Laguna Beach

Fine dining returns to a well-deserved space

It’s been four years and two months since Tabu Grill closed in this space. I chose to sit at the chef’s bar with the same open kitchen, and it brought back a flood of happy memories.

When Tabu opened in 2004, it was one of the first of the swanks in town, joining the likes of 230 Forest and Clae’s. Its arrival opened the door to a new kind of culinary mecca here in town, a graceful nod to fine dining that proved the world had not gone the way of the “fast casual” scene. 

With Tabu’s success, several high-level restaurateurs took a chance on Laguna Beach, including Azmin Ghahreman (Sapphire), Lindsay Smith-Rosales (Nirvana Grille), Amar Santana (Broadway), Maro Molteni (Maro Wood Grill), Ryan Adams (370 Common), Teemu (Selanne), Reiner Schwarz (Driftwood Kitchen), and Chef Mark Cohen with his second Laguna restaurant, Watermarc. 

Today, The Drake Laguna Beach took on the mantle…not only from Tabu Grill but from the original Drake Hotel in Manhattan that created such an impression on Alec Glasser that he felt compelled to carry its grace and timelessness forward to this space.

“It’s been in my mind for so long that it’s a little overwhelming tonight to see it all in reality,” he said, beaming. “We want this to be a great place for Laguna.”

What’s in store on the menu

The menu isn’t overwhelming, and that’s a good thing. The Drake is starting with seven appetizers, three salads, and 10 entrées. With entreés alone ranging from Maine Lobster to chicken, pork, scallops, two fish, and four meat dishes, there’s plenty of opportunity for everyone.   

The Drake mozarella salad

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Mozzarella Salad 

I tried the Mozzarella Salad, a significant serving of the freshest burrata with baby heirloom tomatoes, roasted pepper strips, and a surprisingly welcome scatter of briny green olive slices. My neighbor tried the Triple Brie Alpine Melt, which proved a miniature homage to the Alps themselves. She claimed it was the best she’s had. 

Though I’m not sure I can ever stray from the Mozzarella Salad again, a passing plate of Lamb Lollipop appetizers had me coveting. 

IThe Drake lamb lollipops

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Lamb Lollipops 

Chef sent out a sampler of the Venison “Diane” (thank you very much), and I must say I’m delighted to have this menu item bearing my name. Served up with “exotic mushrooms” and polenta, it was priceless.   

The Drake filet mignon

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Filet Mignon

For my entrée, it was the Filet Mignon with a potato trio and peppercorn sauce. Perfectly cooked with potatoes in every fashion, and a decent pour of Luigi Bosca Malbec in a wine glass that, alone, made me feel pretty special.

A lasting impression

With live jazz and piano lilting from its opening at 5:30 p.m., the Drake’s bar/lounge settled in as if it had been doing this for decades. In fact, the entire restaurant feels as if it’s been here for decades. The Drake Hotel in Manhattan may have been demolished in 2007, but its spirit seems to have found its new home here in Laguna Beach. 

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.


Royal Hawaiian pulls off first Argentinian beef agreement in Western U.S.

Story and photos by Diane Armitage 

The Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill, long known for its iconic Lapu Lapu cocktail, recently invited two iconic and internationally renowned chefs into full ownership and operation in January of this year – brothers Martin Molteni and Mariano “Maro” Molteni.

Now, this Laguna-based restaurant is enjoying another iconic moment as the first in California…and the first in the Western United States all the way to Chicago…to be wood-grillin’ the hallowed beef of all beef – Argentinian Angus Beef.

Royal Hawaiian Maro with beef

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A giddy Chef Maro Molteni holds his newest arrival – Argentinian beef

Argentinian beef has not been served in any Western U.S. restaurant since 2001. The rare treat will be featured as a special to the regular menu that began last night (Thursday, Sept 19) until a larger supply chain can be established. 

The brothers plan to replace all of the steak cuts on the menu with Argentinian beef. It will join popular and new menu items such as Hawaiian Opah, Local Lobster, Hawaiian Poke, Seared Ahi Tuna, and the RoHi’s best-selling Pacific Sea Bass.

Royal Hawaiian: The best of international coastal cuisine

Since opening their rendition of Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill in April of this year, Chefs Maro and Martin have introduced a coastal culinary heritage to the menu by featuring combined wood-fire grill magic from the Hawaiian Islands, South America’s coastal regions, and North America’s Pacific Coast.

Royal Hawaiian Martin

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The Prime Ribeye Roast is a group event favorite amongst the Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill’s cross-cultural wood-grilled dishes

And, while the brothers have only produced the finest in organic proteins on their menu from their opening day – wild-caught fish and grass-fed beef, pork and poultry from America’s most vaunted ranches – Maro and Martin had an ace up their sleeve. 

Even before they opened the Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill, they were working with U.S. and Argentinian governments to allow them to fly in what is largely considered the finest in beef produce globally – Argentinian Angus Beef.

An 18-year effort to bring back the beef

If you’ll remember, back in 2001, England reported a particularly venomous hoof-and-mouth disease outbreak in its cattle. It was a giant mess that began in two small ranches and spread like wildfire through Europe. 

When that moment occurred, the United States shut its doors to many incoming international beef sources, only slowly re-opening the doors as the various countries leapt through new, fiery hoops of proven sanitation and cleanliness at both international and U.S. FDA approval levels.

In January of just this year – 18 years later – the announcement was made that Argentina would, once again, be allowed to export its renowned grass-fed beef to the United States. Martin and Maro, our local Argentinian chef brothers, were the first to jump on board, eagerly working behind the scenes with Premier Meat to import this “cut above the rest.”

Why Argentinian beef is so revered

For thousands of years, Argentinians have been raising cattle in the Pampas, an endless stretch of glorious wild grassland at the base of the Patagonias. 

They practiced conscious care long before the rest of the world hopped on board, and today’s Argentinian cows are still fed a grass-only diet, allowed to wander aimlessly on the plain, and are completely hormone free. Their beef shows higher levels of natural vitamins, minerals and proteins, and contain three times more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) than conventional beef raised in feedlots. CLAs are fatty acids that provide anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties.

But to those who love eating beef, Argentinian beef simply represents tenderness, glorious flavor, and juicy texture. “It’s unbeatable palatability,” said Chef Martin Molteni. “There’s really nothing like its taste in the world.”

“Finally, it’s here!”

Royal Hawaiian Co-Owner Chef Martin Molteni continues to operate one of the most vaunted restaurants in Buenos Aires, Argentina and travels back and forth between the two restaurants. 

Maro, first known in this town for Laguna’s local favorite Maro Wood Grill, until he sold it in 2017, has taken on more of the day-to-day-helm at Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill. It was Maro, then, who giddily received his first shipment of Argentinian beef this week. 

Royal Hawaiian steak

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It may still be called a New York steak, but this beef is all Argentinian

He immediately stoked the Hawaiian’s new wood-fire grill and sliced several New York cuts. After holding one steak cut in his hands for that long-awaited Holy Grail moment, he grilled several cuts for his staff, happily ingesting two steaks himself.

“I may sound crazy, but this is one of my happiest days ever,” said Chef Maro, with a beaming smile. “Finally! Finally, it’s here!”

The best-selling book 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.


Coyote Grill howls its 30 years on Sept 24

Story by Diane Armitage

Photos from Coyote Grill

In late August of 1989, the Michael Keaton/Jack Nicholson version of Batman was setting $100 million records, “Good Thing” was topping the charts from the Fine Young Cannibals, and Kim Bryant was opening South Laguna’s Coyote Grill. 

Coyote Grill building

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Coyote Grill, 1989

Neighborhood icon

Fast forward 30 years, and Coyote Grill has only grown in mega-popularity. It is a neighborhood icon as well as the primary traffic element I refer to whenever I’m directing someone to my Table Rock home. 

The Coyote crew is celebrating this month with a culmination party on Tuesday, Sept 24. 

Hundreds of people have already been participating in the restaurant’s raffle. Once patrons spend $10, they’re allowed to drop their name and phone number in the raffle box with hopes of winning Calamari Tacos for a year (my favorite tacos in all of Laguna Beach for a whole year!), free valet for six months, and a host of other gifts and specials. 

Patrons can participate in the raffle multiple times with each visit they make to the little neighborhood restaurant/bar before September 24. Winners will be drawn on the 24th after the party officially kicks off at 4 p.m.

The Sept 24th party will also welcome Casamigos Tequila (I can only hope George Clooney will come along), Mago Hot Sauce, and a photo booth. 

“It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years already,” says Co-Owner Desirée Gomez (Kim’s oldest daughter). “I started helping here as a hostess when I was 12, so it’s been a very fast-moving 18 years.”

Coyote Grill Kim

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Kim Bryant

Kim Bryant took over the restaurant space from Cove restaurateurs in 1989. Prior, Bryant was an existing 9-year owner of Café Del Coyote in San Clemente (now the Pizza Port), but had found the enormous space taxing, and sought out a smaller footprint. He kept the San Clemente location open till 1993, and then focused all of his efforts on the SoLag location.

For several years, all four of Bryant’s kids worked at Coyote Grill. He left in 2001 for Hawaii, taking his oldest son, Justin, with him to operate a commercial kitchen there. That left Desirée, Jarrod, and Tiana to grow into their roles at the family-run Mexican restaurant.

Coyote Grill family

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Familiar faces in the family and extended Coyote Grill family. From left, Bartender Stephen Morand (Desirée’s husband), Co-Owner Desirée Gomez, Maile Earlywine (Desirée’s daughter), Tiana Watson (sister), and Manager Radley Pilanca.

“We had been raised in the restaurant as kids, so it didn’t seem like such a giant thing to step into bigger roles here,” says Desirée. “Looking back now, though, I think: We were just kids!”

While regulars saw these mighty, mighty kids grow into ownership and operation of a viable business, they continued to enjoy a large Mexican-American menu that offered all their favorites. 

“We’ve only added about 6 or 7 items to the menu since Dad first put it in place,” says Desirée. “We can’t even do specials because everyone who comes here already knows what they want to eat.”

Last family member standing

Recent departures have seen her siblings and children head off to their own new worlds, which leaves Desirée the last family member standing. She doesn’t mind, though, as she has plenty of help from her extended family of chefs, cooks, bartenders, and servers that have been in play at Coyote Grill for 20 years or more. 

Any plans to shut this thing down and move on, too, I ask? 

“Once you hit 30 years, you can’t just call it quits,” says Desirée. 

(This is a relief to me. Where would all of us SoLag people go, for heaven’s sake? We would just wander our non-sidewalk streets with blank, sad faces.) 

“We still have to get our kids through school in Orange County, so we’re not going anywhere…at least not until our 40th celebration,” she adds. 

Coyote Grill is open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to roughly 9 p.m.

The restaurant is located at 31621 Coast Hwy. For more information, call (949)499-4033.

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.


Lost Pier Café hosts new Locals’ Night every first Wednesday of the month

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Lost Pier Café, in association with The Ranch Laguna Beach, wants to celebrate the people who make our community so special to be a part of, our locals. On Wednesday, Sept 4, the restaurant officially celebrated our community with its Locals’ Season Kick-Off.   

Lost Pier palms

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Lost Pier Café kicked off its first Locals’ Night on Wednesday

These special days are for you to find a space where friends and family can come visit with one another, meet your neighbors, disconnect from our fast-paced lives, enjoy live music, games, s’mores by fire pits, high-quality beachside fare, drinks, and the gorgeous scenery (and sunsets) of Aliso Creek Beach.

Lost Pier locals

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The night wouldn’t be complete without locals…

“This is our effort to say thank you to our faithful regulars who have always supported us and continue to make us what we are,” stated Lost Pier Café manager Rachel Morin

Lost Pier music

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And live music…

Mark your calendars for October 2, November 6, and December 4 and onward into 2020 for more fun at Locals’ Night.

Lost Pier bonfire

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The kids loved making s’mores by the fire pits

For more information on Lost Pier Café, visit www.lostpiercafe.com.

Lost Pier Café is located at 31131 Coast Hwy.


Tortilla Republic closes suddenly, Fishbone hoping to swim in

By Diane Armitage

Tortilla Republic Laguna Beach abruptly closed with locked doors and a simple note this Tuesday, Sept 3.

Their note to the public stated: “Due to the recent influx of Mexican restaurants in Laguna Beach, it has become unsustainable for Tortilla Republic to continue operations.”

Tortilla Republic sign

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Courtesy of Diane Armitage

Tortilla Republic Laguna Beach closed permanently on Tuesday, Sept 3

At my last count (and thanks to my readers), there are 14 “Mexican cuisine” restaurants remaining in Laguna Beach (not counting franchise Taco Bell), most of which have been in play for several years. The recent opening of South of Nick’s just a few doors south of Tortilla Republic, however, might have sounded the death knell. (This, of course, purely speculation.)

Tortilla Republic, the brainchild of brother-sister duo John Halter and Mina Azami, first gained enormous popularity in Kauai and West Hollywood with help from a third partner, Mortan Kaag, and their mom, Cathy Shyne, who served as Consulting Chef.

Tortilla Republic salmon

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Courtesy of Diane Armitage

The blackened salmon was a popular dish at Tortilla Republic

After expanding to a successful location in West Hollywood, the family decided to open in Laguna’s old Asada/Javier’s space in May 2015 with high hopes for introducing their brand to South OC. Faced with a vast tourist trade and longtime locals still singing the blues over the loss of Javier’s, the owners remained optimistic, introducing locals’ programs and assertive happy hours, brunches, and weekly specials. 

Management could not be reached for comment. 

Fishbone fishin’ around

As Tortilla Republic clears the vast restaurant space, the City says that Fishbone Kitchen + Bar, a concept of Fishbone Restaurants.

In the City of Laguna Beach, an application is the first step in showing interest. In this case, Fishbone is asking the City to “grandfather” in the existing conditional use permits (CUPs) already granted Tortilla Republic. This typically means that they plan no enormous renovation changes to the exterior, expect to offer the same amount of seating, and are grandfathered into the parking arrangement already established for the previous operator. 

Per the City, the application is under review; the City has not yet gone back to Fishbone with any recommendations or requested changes in the application. 

“Portuguese and Mediterranean” solution

Chef and Managing Partner Pedro Pereira opened his restaurant in 2008 (take-out Portuguese barbecue chicken). After selling it, he opened his first Fishbone restaurant, an upscale dining concept with whole fish offerings that change seasonally. The restaurant also serves meat, duck, pasta dishes, and more 

Management could not be reached for comment by deadline, but I’ll be the first to let you know when we do have that conversation.

Meanwhile, another “fast casual” claims they’re putting their dogs in Laguna Beach

While we’re on the subject of “fast casual,” a press release just hit my desk this week from Sumo Dog, a gourmet-style hot dog concept. 

Sumo, born and bred in the L.A. basin, has recently shut down its restaurant spaces opting, instead, for large “permanent carts” that include their first OC endeavor at the Irvine Spectrum. 

Sumo Dog’s press says they will be opening more permanent carts in locations that include Laguna Beach, but they have not yet filed an application with the City of Laguna Beach. 

Food vendor cart, perhaps? 

I asked the City if Sumo Dog could be interested in filing for permission as a potential new roaming vendor cart that the State of California has required all cities to “welcome.” At this point, only two vendor carts are in play in Laguna Beach, and nothing yet has been filed by Sumo for a possible cart of dogs on wheels.

Tortilla Republic Sumo Dog

Click on photo for a larger image

Sumo Dog – cart or no cart?

I’ll be reporting more on this as I talk with Sumo Dog’s management and watch the application process go through. Keep in mind that initial press from many companies does not take into account the application and permitting process in our fine city. Until their permits show up on the windows of an establishment, it may or may not happen.

(For those of you interested, the two vendor carts that showed up this summer in Laguna were ice cream and “memorabilia” carts. I haven’t witnessed them in action, but I’ve been told they were both active along Main Beach.)

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.

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