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The Ranch debuts Grill ‘N Glow fire pit rentals at Lost Pier Café 

Savor quintessential California beach days year-round with new Grill ‘N Glow fire pit rentals at The Ranch at Laguna Beach’s Lost Pier Café. The new program includes portable fire pits and specialty Grill Packages with ingredients for burgers, s’mores, and more, providing everything needed for a fun, convenient, and safe grilling experience on Aliso Beach.

The new Grill ‘N Glow program at Lost Pier Café allows locals and guests of The Ranch at Laguna Beach to legally rent and operate portable fire pits on Aliso Beach, which is the only beach in Laguna to allow fire pits. The portable grills are available for $85 for 3-hour rentals and accommodate up to six people per grill.

The Ranch grill

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Guests can now rent and operate portable fire pits on Aliso Beach 

Patrons can bring their own ingredients or purchase specialty Grill Packages with top quality ingredients selected by The Ranch at Laguna Beach’s Executive Chef Kyle St. John. The Grill Package ($55) includes four burgers and four hot dogs, as well as burger buns, hot dog buns, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, cheese, ketchup, mustard, and chips. The S’mores Package ($24) includes ingredients for four s’mores, including chocolate, graham crackers, marshmallows, and roasting skewers. Beach chairs are also available to rent for $7 per person.

The Grill ‘N Glow fire pit rental program is the latest amenity from Lost Pier Café to enhance the dining experience on Aliso Beach. The restaurant added a beer and wine list to its menu this summer, and recently earned an “Ocean Friendly Restaurant” designation by the Surfrider Foundation for sustainable practices.

Grill ‘N Glow fire pits at Lost Pier Café are available by reservation only on a first come, first served basis. 

To make a reservation, visit www.lostpiercafe.com/firepit or call (949) 715-4210.

For additional information about Lost Pier Café, including menus and beach rentals, visit www.lostpiercafe.com

For more information on The Ranch at Laguna Beach’s farm and sea to table culinary program overseen by Executive Chef Kyle St. John, visit www.theranchlb.com.

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Wine Gallery’s Tasting Tuesdays offer great tips with tastes

Story and photo by Diane Armitage

For several months now, Wine Gallery’s Chris Olsen has been uncorking great wine-oriented events called “Tasting Tuesdays.”

Normally scheduled a couple times a month, “Tasting Tuesday” offers inexpensive entrée into a generous flight of lesser-known wines. And, just as any wine tasting at any winery, if you like what you try, there are bottles available to buy. 

Neighborly, chatty fun

It’s always a fun, chatty evening as locals tend to dominate the seats. The restaurant’s full menu is available, but the staff is happy to help with suggested food pairings and Chef Josh always drums up a few spectacular specials for the evening. And, although you always have a printed menu of what wines are to come, Olsen still moves from table to table, explaining each selection for that evening’s theme. 

Last week’s Tasting Tuesday focused on the best wines to choose for your Thanksgiving table. As an added Thanksgiving bonus, well known Master Sommelier Michael Jordan played host…and played the guitar, too. (Who knew we had a Singing Somm?)

Wine Gallery's wine

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Tasting Tuesdays at Wine gallery offer great, inexpensive tastes of lesser-known wines

Hollywood tends to profile sommeliers as somewhat stuffy or arrogant. Michael Jordan is the furthest thing from it. He ambles to the various tables, tells great stories about wine and grapes and where their dirt resides, and breaks off to sing another set of songs as he plays guitar. 

At Tuesday’s Tasting, we enjoyed six of Jordan’s top picks, two of which hailed from my favorite Willamette Valley in Oregon. (My family lives there, so I might be slightly biased.) Nearly three hours later, I said my goodbyes to my Wine Gallery buddies with Thanksgiving-designated bottles tucked under my arm.   

December’s dates still pending

With just a tiny window of options for Tuesdays in December, Chris says that he hopes to put at least one Tasting Tuesday in place, but the date is still undecided. The events will definitely return in January, so check in at www.winegallerylaguna.com and RSVP well in advance as Tasting Tuesdays are gaining significant momentum!

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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Royal Hawaiian launches “12 Days of Christmas Cocktails”

To kick off the holiday season, Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill has announced a “12 Days Of Christmas Cocktails” event that features its best-selling and new-to-the-menu tiki cocktails between November 26 and December 11.   

The 12 Days of Christmas begins on Thanksgiving Eve, Wednesday, Nov 27 with doors opening a special hour early at 4 p.m. to celebrate Mixologist Sean Melia’s holiday cocktail, The Reindeer Express. It’s a perfect holiday cocktail welcome to everyone loaded up with visiting friends and relatives and (quite possibly) displaced from your pre-Thanksgiving kitchens. 

Get out of the kitchen and into the welcoming arms of Royal Hawaiian’s tiki totems to celebrate the start of the holiday season. 

Royal Hawaiian is closed on Thanksgiving Day, but “12 Days of Christmas Cocktails” resumes on Black Friday with each daily cocktail priced at $12 throughout the evening.

Royal Hawaiian drink

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Cheers to 12 Days of Christmas Cocktails with the Royal Hawaiian 

--Fri, Nov 29 –  Mellow out from your Black Friday frenzy with the best-selling Blue Hawaiian. 

--Sat, Nov 30 – Sprint into holiday mode with Pele’s Punch crafted with Mezcal and house-made clove-honey syrup. 

--Sun, Dec 1 – Keep calories low and energy high with our zippy new cocktail, the Lemon Ginger Daiquiri. Doors open at 2 p.m. for 4 hours of Happy Hour love. 

--Tues, Dec 3 – Swim in holiday spirit with Navy Grog: three rums blended with spice and citrus juices. 

--Wed, Dec 4 – Melt away early holiday stress with our best-selling Mai Tai, served tall and generous. 

--Thurs, Dec 5 – Toss on that tiara and sashay in for our famous Royal Basil, a refreshing blend of Pau Maui Pineapple vodka with mulled basil. 

--Fri, Dec 6 – Hospitality Night – The Reindeer Express cocktail returns with doors opening early at 4 p.m. Warm yourself all the way to your bright red nose before descending into downtown’s holiday festivities. 

--Sat, Dec 7 – Royal’s famed Lapu Lapu makes the scene on what is probably the busiest holiday event day of the month. 

--Sun Dec 8 – They’ve made it a Lapu Lapu weekend to see you through from stem to stern. Doors open at 2 p.m. for 4 hours of Happy Hour love. 

--Tues, Dec 10 – YOU decide your 11th Day of Christmas Cocktails. Vote on Royal’s website and social platforms.

Wed, Dec 11 – And, the quintessential end-all to 12 Days of Christmas Cocktails - our new Fog Cutter with FOUR ounces of liquor that come together like the Brady Bunch - Jamaican aged rum, Pisco (brandy), gin and sherry - with fresh juices. Here’s the story: simply fabulous. 

An iconic “grand dame” since its opening in 1947, the Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill recently enjoyed a renovation with her new owners, internationally renowned chefs, Chefs Maro and Martin Molteni. 

The Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill is located at 331 North Coast Hwy.

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AhbA’s dinner menu introduces Laguna to a new realm of tantalizing and unique tastes

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

What’s the best recommendation anyone could give a new restaurant? How about – dropping in for lunch and then coming back for dinner on the same day. That’s a pretty solid endorsement.

On Friday, Tina and Brian Steincke, their son Cole, and Brian’s mother – who was visiting from New York – did just that. Evidently, they live close by and dine there frequently. Tina said, “We love AhbA, we go all the time. It has such a great atmosphere, delicious food; they’ve made it so you don’t want to leave!”

I couldn’t agree more. AhbA, which features Mediterranean cuisine with an Israeli influence, has been open three months for breakfast and lunch (six days a week, Tuesday - Sunday) and started serving dinner three weeks ago. 

AhbA's dinner couple

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Photo by Dianne Russell

Frequent AhbA diners Brian and Tina Steincke

Owner Nick Bennett says, “We’re offering seasonal dinners and keeping it fresh. What’s exciting to us is introducing the area to new tastes, so we’ve added more techniques and innovative flavors. At night it is a more complex style of cuisine. We also want the menu to be value driven to bring in people, so they feel they can come back a couple of times a week, instead of just on a special occasion.”

It’s apparent that the creative collaboration between Bennett and Executive Chef Jayro Martinez brings an entirely new dimension of taste sensations to our town, one that keeps people coming back. According to Martinez, 80 percent of their business is return customers.

Ahba means father in Hebrew, and it seems an apt name for this intimate and warm little hideaway. It’s as if the restaurant is the home of a family member or friend, one where the host welcomes you with open arms. This is the dining room I always wanted – furnished with a long communal table that invites conversation and offers comfort via blankets hung on the back of the chairs (just in case you get cold). 

AhbA's dinner dining room

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Photo by Dianne Russell

Community table anchors inside dining

Bennett graciously welcomes guests, and it’s obvious that he’s proud of this endeavor, and rightly so. “I fell in love with this building,” he says. And it’s easy to see why. It has seating both inside and outside on the front patio and along one side of the building. With the dining room doors open to the front patio, it offers an intimate and relaxed vibe with views of the sunset. Including outdoor seating, AhbA accommodates 70 people.

It seems a match made in culinary heaven that Bennett and Martinez, who are both self-taught chefs, met and eventually blended their culinary visions. Although they are both from Los Angeles and were part of the restaurant scene, their paths didn’t cross until three years ago. Martinez opened a friend’s restaurant Mh Zh in Silverlake and met Bennett there.

Martinez came to Orange County two years ago and became Chef de Cuisine at the acclaimed Social in Costa Mesa, staying there from June of 2018 to May of 2019.

AhbA's dinner Nick and Jayro

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Photo by Diane Armitage

Owner Nick Bennett (on left) and Executive Chef Jayro Martinez 

When Martinez left Social, he realized Bennett was here and they ran into each other again. “Nick happened to be opening here and was on the edge of creating something unique. Our styles complement each other. He gave me a lot of influence in creating the dishes, which are seasonal and suited to the lifestyle here. We put the menu together. It came together organically, according to the vision, and we ran with it. It was a big collaboration. 

 “It feels for us like family. We wake up, come in early, start cooking breakfast as if it’s home. It has a really organic feel. In the evenings, it’s like we’re at a dinner party waiting for guests to arrive. We have a lot of locals coming in, they’ve heard about us by word of mouth. We believe in what we’re doing and the vision. We’re very community driven and we’re getting a following. We’re now on a first name basis with our regulars.” 

AhbA's dinner hummus

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Photo by Dianne Russell

Hummus Dukkah

Once the food arrives, it’s easy to understand why they’ve developed a following.

The first dish we tasted was Hummus Dukkah. It’s made with olive oil, tahini, pickles, including pickled fennel, pickled celery root, cauliflower and carrot, dukkah (which is a middle Easter spice mix), and parsley. 

I love hummus, but this Hummus Dukkah is like no other you’ve ever tasted, rich and beyond creamy and served with the most scrumptious bread – bread to die for – on the side. It comes from Rye Goods Bakery in Costa Mesa and is grilled to a delectable crunch and serves as the perfect scooper for the hummus. My husband, who is not as much a fan of hummus as I am, loved it! Of course, we had to order extra bread, it’s a must! 

In addition to Rye Goods Bakery and Sea Greens, where they get the garnishes, Bennett says, “We work with as many local people as possible “

AhbA's dinner cauliflower

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Photo by Dianne Russell

Cauliflower 

Not surprising, the quality of the libations matched the quality of the fare.

My husband had a wonderful citrusy beer from Off Shoot Brewery in Placentia that specializes in hazy IPAs.

I tasted an orange wine – the 2017 Malvasia onward Suisun Valley, CA, which was light and fruity and a 2016 Pecorino de fermo from Abruzzo, Italy. They were the perfect accompaniment to the bold flavors of the dishes. Lucid Wines curates their wine list.

Bennett says, “We’ve been really excited to add craft cocktails to the menu.” 

Next we had the cauliflower, which is marinated in shallot vinaigrette, roasted and charred, then finished with crispy shallot, fennel purée, and Fresno oil.

The Fresno chili pepper oil adds just the right amount of heat and flavor. Charred on the outside, and perfectly tender on the inside, it doesn’t get much better than that.

AhbA's dinner sweet potatoes

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Photo by Dianne Russell

Sweet potatoes

The gnocchi, with an added garnish of edible flowers, was like nothing else I’ve ever tasted. Martinez explained, “It not the traditional gnocchi made with potatoes, these are made with mushrooms and reggiano.” 

As a result, the little gnocchi pillows are flavorful and cheesy (but with a light touch), bathed in a subtle sauce and not at all doughy. Unbelievable.

Each dish they served had a depth of flavor that started with one taste, then blossomed into another with each bite. 

In an ingenious twist on sweet potatoes, AhbA’s sweet potatoes are salt baked in a spice mix (there is espresso in the mix, however, not an overwhelming amount). They are then flash fried and served with a smoked onion purée and lightly sprinkled with sumac, creating crusty potato edges that are tangy and slightly sweet.

Although one would imagine being business partners is difficult on a friendship, Martinez says, “We’re open minded with each other and both have the same vision, so we do what’s best for the restaurant.” 

Expanding their vision

Martinez and Bennett will be expanding their vision in December when they add more root vegetable dishes and as mentioned above, craft cocktails.

AhbA hits all the points one desires in a restaurant – high quality food, a true dining experience, ambience, and great service (Kelly was wonderful). Most of all, AhbA offers unique and innovative fare – with an emphasis on unique.

Do your taste buds a huge favor and introduce them to the incredible realm of new flavor sensations at AhbA. Without a doubt, you will return again and again.

For more information, go to www.eatahba.com/ or call (949) 549-4556.

AhbA is located at 31732 Coast Hwy between 3rd Ave and 4th Ave. 

Breakfast and lunch are served Tuesday - Sunday. Happy Hour is from 3 - 5 p.m., Tuesday - Sunday. Dinner is at 5 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.

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Scott McIntosh’s two popular restaurant concepts are expanding (in more ways than one)

Photos and story by Diane Armitage

Eleven months ago, restaurateur Scott McIntosh was ready to leap into action with two large expansions of his restaurant brands, Reunion Kitchen and Asada Cantina + Kitchen, at the San Clemente outlet mall. 

At that time, he trotted me around the vast expanse, pointing to this wall for this and that space over there for that. As I marveled over all those parking spaces, he made plans to begin construction at the start of this year. 

And then…a whole lot of everything changed. 

A Zen approach to planning & review

Aside from development changes at the mall itself, Scott’s outdoor patio plans for the Asada restaurant were scrapped for what he now calls an “open air pavilion,” a more enclosed environment. Meanwhile, the Reunion restaurant got caught up in theater expansion plans as well as combined use plans for four neighboring restaurants, too. 

Precious months ticked away as plans were submitted and altered with the city’s planning & review board, but McIntosh was hardly impatient. 

“It looked great on paper before but now it looks fantastic,” said the ever-optimistic McIntosh. “We’re starting demolition for Asada now and it’s going to be spectacular. It was definitely worth the wait.”

Scott McIntosh's Asada

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Asada Cantina + Kitchen will be a much larger take on Asada Tacos + Beer at the San Clemente mall

Asada Cantina + Kitchen began demolition last week with hopes for a Cinco de Mayo opening in 2020. 

Just a few doors down at the same outlet mall location, Reunion Kitchen will begin construction next summer with hopes for completion by next year’s holiday season. 

Hundreds of seats for hundreds of parking spaces

If you thought McIntosh was moving to a smaller restaurant mentality with his latest restaurant, Asada Tacos + Beer in North Laguna, think again.

McIntosh’s rambling new plans resemble the much larger restaurants he initially cut his teeth on as a restaurant developer with Claim Jumper. The new Asada will weigh in at 5,700 square feet with 1,200 of those feet serving as the open air pavilion with ocean views.

Scott McIntosh's blueprint

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Restaurateur Scott McIntosh plans for greatness with two new oceanview restaurants (and lots of parking spaces!).

Reunion will be a massive 7,000 square-foot, two-level restaurant with 180-degree ocean views. 

Go big or go home

Even when McIntosh decided to step into his own restaurant ownership a few years ago, he didn’t start cautiously with a small space. Instead, he opened Asada in the old Javier’s location in central Laguna Beach, one of the largest restaurant spaces in town. 

After closing Asada here, he opened his first Reunion Kitchen in Anaheim Hills, again going big with more than 4,000 square feet. 

Then, it was back to his roots in Laguna Beach with the 2,000-square-foot Reunion Kitchen in North Laguna. The last to join the portfolio was a smaller rendition of Asada and just a pipsqueak in comparison at just 1,200 square feet. 

“Fully rounded experience”

While “fast casual” restaurant concepts have been trending in the last few years, McIntosh remains resolute about providing a “fully rounded dining experience.”

“People still love the experience of going out to a great restaurant and becoming part of its community,” said McIntosh. 

“I believe in what’s good for the patrons coming in my front door. I want them to look forward to being here. I want the experience to be the reason they come here.”

Swank in the dining room, swank from the kitchen

While the new Asada in San Clemente will not be a throwback to the original launched in Laguna’s old Javier’s space, McIntosh says that “some of its DNA” is definitely in the new space.

“We’ve added more depth and texture this time around. The design elements are more advanced and swankier,” said McIntosh.

Scott McIntosh design

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Asada Cantina + Kitchen is all about swank 

“It’s really going to be something to see.”

And, while many Mexican menus can feel a bit limited to stock dishes, McIntosh will be shaking it up with plenty of grilling, an al pastor for freshly shaven meats, on-site tortilla making, and greater variety in steak and seafood options. 

“The Tequila Bar is going to be offering a lot more depth, too,” said McIntosh. “In just the last few years, tequila has become so much more popular and it’s gotten much more refined. We’ll be offering plenty of sipping tequilas and creative margaritas,” he added. 

Happily, the existing Asada in North Laguna recently received its full liquor license. “It’s a great place to start trying some new tequilas, maybe narrow in on a few of your favorites so you can order it at both locations,” McIntosh said with a grin. 

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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No bones about it: Fishbone brings new “transcendental gastronomy” to Laguna

Story and photos by DIANNE RUSSELL

The French epicure Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, who declared: “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are,” was the author of one of the most famous food books ever written, The Physiology of Taste

After eating at Laguna’s new Fishbone restaurant, this is what you are – giddy with the joy of eating and spirited away with each new taste, the epitome of “transcendental gastronomy” as Brillat-Savarin coined it.

My husband and I had the pleasure of dining on dishes prepared by Portuguese native Pedro Pereira, chef and CEO of Fishbone Restaurant Group, 

who surprisingly never attended culinary school. He just opened his fifth Fishbone, the first outside of Canada, and the Laguna community is the lucky beneficiary. The original location opened in 2010 in Stouffville, Ontario, with additional locations also in Stouffville, Aurora, and Innisfil, Ontario.

No bones sign

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Fishbone opened last Tuesday

First off, doesn’t everyone want to know where the name and logo came from? The name Fishbone comes from their whole fish offerings, and Pereira adds that his father used to call him “bones” when he was a boy because he was skinny. No doubt then, as now, he was always in motion.

Formerly the home of Tortilla Republic, this prime spot – with views of the ocean and Wyland Gallery – experienced a makeover of epic proportions and has gone from dark tones to a sophisticated yet casual palette of white, light woods, and mellow lighting. Happily, for us older folks, it has soft background music that doesn’t interfere with conversation. The expansive interior seats 100 guests and features a large banquet room that accommodates up to 28 people – with its own television monitor for meetings.

Chef Abad Martinez, from the helm at Mesa in Costa Mesa, heads the kitchen.

Not only did Pereira design and build the new interior, but he and Grant Sommerville, who Pereira brought from Canada as General Manager to oversee this location, sanded and refinished the existing tables (and there are many). He is very much “hands on” it seems, and not just with the cuisine, but with every aspect of the restaurant. 

No bones banquet

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Fishbone’s décor is sophisticated and welcoming at the same time

Pereira says, “The new décor was designed for a date night or to come in from the beach.” 

How does a self-taught chef end up owning five restaurants?

Pereira travelled from Portugal to Canada at the age of 18 to start a career in soccer. To earn money, he got a restaurant job and started as a food runner and then worked his way up at some of the best restaurants in Toronto. In 2008, before Fishbone, he opened a take-out Portuguese barbeque chicken restaurant. 

Five or so years ago, he first came to Laguna to visit a soccer-playing friend who lives in Emerald Bay and says, “I loved it here.” 

Pereira now travels back and forth between Laguna and Canada, where his wife and three daughters reside (his oldest daughter works in one of the restaurants).

However, there is more to the food experience than the fare, no matter how mind-blowing. The activity involves other elements: the décor, the servers, the overall vibe – it all combines to create a free-flowing and welcoming atmosphere.

Pereira appears to be a master at orchestrating it all.

Sommerville says, “I’m the longest standing employee, four years. Pereira has been a mentor – and in the way he treats people. If all goes right, he will be the last person I work for.”

Pereira says, “We love what we do, and we wanted to find the right people.”

They certainly succeeded. Larissa, our server, was wonderful, accommodating our requests and numerous questions. 

No bones prawns

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Tiger Shrimp

Everyone on the staff has been trained to perfection, not just on the various dishes and on how to please patrons, but in the backstory of this Laguna Fishbone endeavor as well as the other locations.

Server Morgan Craig came to Fishbone from The Deck, where he worked for several years. He met Pereira through a Canadian friend, and when he found out Pereira was opening here, he asked if he could work for him. “What Pedro and Grant do, there’s nothing like it. They’re very smart. It’s a great learning experience, the best experience ever.”

Now to embark on the culinary delights. Pereira’s philosophy is all about clean food: “Freshness, simplicity, seasonality, and good seasonings are the foundation of my food philosophy.” 

Sommerville says, “We make everything from scratch in our kitchens. Everything is fresh. The only thing in the freezer is gelato.”

The first offering Pereira presented was Tiger Shrimp with Piri Piri sauce, butter, lemon, and chilies – which had just the right amount of spice but not enough to overpower the sweet and tender shrimp. This proved to be one of my favorites. 

No bones server

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Larissa with guests

Although I initially expressed an aversion to octopus due to the texture, Pereira’s rendition was unlike any octopus dish I’d ever had before, a more rich and dense, but not rubbery, consistency due to he explained his cooking method. It was served with a roasted red pepper sauce and saffron aioli.

The Bay Scallops and Crab Linguine dish with fennel, chilies, and white wine cream and chives was in a savory light sauce, which didn’t compete with the freshness of the fish.

The highlight was the Grilled Whole Fish – sea bream – which only comes from the Mediterranean, and was served with grilled asparagus, cherry tomato salad, charred lemon, and drizzled with Esporao Olive Oil from Portugal. 

With great artistry, Pereira deboned the fish (he’s trained his staff in the same technique), as he explained the process. Surprisingly, sprinkling the sea bream with coarse salt only added to its already delicate flavor.

No bones fish

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Grilled Sea Bream from the Mediterranean 

If all this wasn’t enough to put one into a euphoric food trance, there was still dessert to come, and it was superb. Putting a new spin on Crème Brule, Pereira served Maple Syrup Crème Brule and a delectable Chocolate Mousse. This last course was complemented by a white Port wine (a style of dessert wine) and was the perfect end to a perfect meal.

Crème Brule is one of my favorite desserts, but this one, served with Brandy braised apples, was above and beyond any other. In every bite, there was a tantalizing mix of acid and sweet. My favorite. 

My husband loved the Chocolate Mousse, and I tasted it, but since he’s a huge chocolate fan, I let him have it. There wasn’t a spoonful left.

What’s there to say at the end of an extraordinary food experience when there are no more available adjectives.

Brillat-Savarin said, “The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a star.”

That might be a bit of an exaggeration, however, Fishbone, with its innovative dishes, opened up a whole new galaxy of gastronomical delights.

Fishbone is located at 480 S Coast Hwy. For more information, call the restaurant at (949) 343-4889 or visit www.fishbonerestaurants.com.

The restaurant is open Sunday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Happy hour is offered from 2 - 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and all day Monday.

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Sunday’s “Sip and Shuck” party has graduated to serious shindig

By Diane Armitage

Next Sunday’s 7th Annual Sip and Shuck party at The Deck just keeps expanding with more enticing fare. 

Our fine folks at The Deck and Driftwood Kitchen restaurants introduced the Sip and Shuck as an oyster/champagne party in the name of nonprofit love for Laguna Beach. The first party included all sorts of tray-passed small bites and was filled to the brim with a sold-out crowd from the moment it opened its doors to its final, waning moments. 

Each year, it only gets better with all net proceeds benefitting CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). 

What this shindig includes

The acclaimed “guests of honor” (oysters and champagne) will return and, as usual, will be shucked to order. Vodka cocktails from Ketel One plan to be served up (as usual) on an ice luge. Champagne, beer, and wine tastings will be hosted by various ambassadors as well. 

Add in hundreds of small plates and appetizer bites from both The Deck and Driftwood Kitchen restaurants, raffles, drawings, and a swag shop for – you know – necessary swag. 

Sunday's sip crowd

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Last year’s shindig

Greats from local music scene, too

Then, finally, toss in great live music performances throughout the four-hour afternoon event. 

Phil Goth and Billy Sherman, known for their Common Sense alliance, will be performing on The Deck while Bluesy Addie Hamilton returns with Tommy Benson in the Driftwood Kitchen space. 

Only VIP tickets remain

Just a few remaining VIP tickets are still available (a $175 experience with private bartenders and exclusive access to the Bungalow Deck’s food and drinks). General Admission tickets ($145) are already sold out. To buy your VIP Sip and Shuck tickets, click here. VIPs receive early access at 1 p.m.; doors open for General admission at 2 p.m. 

(Sorry, ages 21 and over only allowed to the party.)

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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Royal Hawaiian hosts “Voodoo & Lapus” party

This Thursday …Halloween night…the only party noted in town is happening at The Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill with its “Voodoo & Lapus Halloween Dance Party.”

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. with uber-popular regional band Skylla hosting L.A. celebrity musician Francois Dean and global celebrity L.A. Guns original front singer Paul Black.

The Royal Hawaiian’s iconic Lapu Lapu cocktail (voodoo of its own) will be available all evening long at $10, served along with its many popular tiki cocktail peers, craft brews, and “other” cocktails that range beyond the tiki universe. 

Royal Hawaiian Lapu Lapu

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Photo by Diane Armitage

Royal Hawaiian’s iconic Lapu Lapu cocktail

While the restaurant’s popular Happy Hour will begin as usual at 5 p.m., doors for the party open after 7:30 p.m. with early bird covers at just $5. This is a 21+ party. 

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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Royal Hawaiian hosts “Voodoo & Lapus” party

Because Halloween is on Thursday next week, a few restaurants and bars in town are celebrating this weekend with live music and parties. 

Next Thursday, though…Halloween night…the only party noted in town is happening at The Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill with its “Voodoo & Lapus Halloween Dance Party.”

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. with uber-popular regional band Skylla hosting L.A. celebrity musician Francois Dean and global celebrity L.A. Guns original front singer Paul Black.

Royal Hawaiian Lapu Lapu

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Photo by Diane Armitage

Royal Hawaiian’s iconic Lapu Lapu cocktail

The Royal Hawaiian’s iconic Lapu Lapu cocktail (voodoo of its own) will be available all evening long at $10, served along with its many popular tiki cocktail peers, craft brews, and “other” cocktails that range beyond the tiki universe. 

While the restaurant’s popular Happy Hour will begin as usual at 5 p.m., doors for the party open after 7:30 p.m. with early bird covers at just $5. This is a 21+ party. 

Royal Hawaiian Voodoo

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Photo by Diane Armitage

Voodoo & Lapus Halloween Dance Party at RH on Oct 31

And Starting This Weekend: Pub Crawls

In addition to the Voodoo & Lapus party, this Thursday, Oct 24 through Sunday, Oct 27 finds the RoHi adhering to another decades-honored tradition: Laguna Beach Halloween Pub Crawls always begin their “crawl” at the Royal Hawaiian. 

Anyone (and everyone in their party) who shows up in costume during these four days receives any of RoHi’s Happy Hour-priced tiki cocktail drinks, including the infamous Lapu Lapu at just $12 (regularly priced at $16), as well as the best-selling Mai Tai and Blue Hawaiian drinks at $10 (regularly priced at $14).

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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Laguna restaurants scaring up rumors at October’s close

Fishbone, Wild Taco hoping to open next week

While most Laguna-bound restaurants aim to open in early spring, a surprising number end up opening in the quieter months of fall. This makes Laguna locals extremely happy as it gives us a small window of time to get to know the restaurateurs, chefs, and cuisine before the summer mobs descend. 

If all goes according to plan, two downtown restaurants plan to be opening next week (the last week of October).

Wild Taco

Restaurateur Thomas Carson’s Wild Taco concept hopes to open its doors in the old Johnny Rockets location early next week. The 56-seat, family-style restaurant will be offering up wild fish caught using his Bear Flag company’s fishing boat. (That’s one way to ensure fresh delivery.)

Carson opened his first Wild Taco in February 2015 at 31st Street on the Newport Peninsula. The casual eatery was met with rave reviews and continues to rank repeatedly for “best taco” accolades. 

(By the way, Carson’s premier Bear Flag restaurant is still slated for development in the old Boom Boom Room but that’s going to take a bit longer.)

Fishbone

The fifth in the Fishbone Restaurants concept, Laguna’s new Fishbone is the family’s first to swim across the Canadian border. The restaurant is working through private soft opens this week and, if all goes well, plans to open to public next week. 

Laguna restaurants Fishbone interior

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Fishbone’s new interior

In 2010, Pedro and Liliana Pereira first established Fishbone Bistro in Stouffville, Ontario, eventually expanding to Musselman’s Lake, Aurora, and Innisfil, Ontario. 

Five years ago, the couple visited Laguna Beach and fell in love with the place. The couple began looking for a restaurant space at that time, only in recent months honing on the Tortilla Republic location. 

The cooler, swankier decor follows the Fishbone established brand, and the menu will continue to reflect the restaurant’s popular dishes of fish, seafood, paella, steaks, and more. 

Laguna restaurants Chef Martinez

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Fishbone’s new Executive Chef Abad Martinez holds a dish that will likely prove a favorite – Portuguese chorizo is ladled on top and brandy is poured into the pig’s “belly.” The brandy is then lit for Flaming Chorizo Sausage served tableside.

While General Manager Grant Sommerville has transplanted from Toronto to handle daily operations, the team chose nearby Orange County Chef Abad Martinez to head the kitchen.

Martinez, who most recently helmed the popular Mesa in Costa Mesa, is actually returning to Laguna Beach where he initially worked at the Montage Laguna Beach Loft and mentored with Studio’s Ben Martinek.

Central & White House – Wait for it

Co-owner Anna Driggs closed Central’s Forest location on October 1st. Still noting that “bigger things are in the works,” she says they’re working on negotiating space in Laguna Beach. 

Meanwhile, the venerable White House closed its dining room last week for a remodel and caused a warbling outcry that you could probably hear at the other White House in D.C. No worries, folks: Owner Demetri Catsouras says the family still owns the restaurant and that they really are doing a remodel with the bar remaining open during the remodel. He says that they do have news coming shortly that will “please a lot of locals,” but isn’t ready to spill the beans quite yet. Meanwhile, wild rumors are flying. Stay close; we should have answers soon. 

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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