The Laguna and Newport Beach Guide
In the last ten-plus years, Laguna Beach has pretty much become a household name, largely thanks its presence on TV. But for those who know it well, it’s a quirky beach town tucked into Orange County marked by palm-tree studded streets, a string of art galleries, hotels both big and small that sit right on the bluffs, plus, locally run boutiques and beloved restaurants that have been around for years. Farther north, a 25-minute drive up Highway 1 in Newport Beach, we’ve set shop with goop GIFT in Lido Village. In honor of our pop-up location, we corralled a few of our favorite neighborhood shops, go-to cafés, and one very good boat rental just for the occasion.
The Beachcomber15 Crystal Cove, Crystal Cove | 949.376.6900
Located right in the sand of Crystal Cove Beach, this authentic seafood restaurant has been a coveted spot for locals and visitors since it opened back in 2006 largely thanks to its beachside cottage setting and nostalgic 1950's California vibe. To get there calls for a bit of a hike from the parking lot to the beach, but it's worth it once you get to the underpass tunnel, which is decorated with local children's art. When you arrive, the to-die-for ahi tuna tacos are the thing to order. Bonus: there's a pretty great bar—the Bootleg Bar—attached.
Bear Flag Fish Co.3421 Via Lido, Newport Beach | 949.673.3474
The NY Times may have deemed the fish taco as the unofficial fast food of Laguna, but that's doesn't mean they're all equal. This restaurant-market hybrid continues to impress us with theirs—Baja-style with the freshest catch and house-made slaw. Also on offer: incredible poke, chowder, seafood plates, and one of the best grilled seafood sandwiches we've had. Get here early and be prepared to wait—but trust: it's worth it. (Or if you're looking to cook, head to the market section for the daily seasonal catch and a few lemons, then head home to make the perfect meal.)
Broadway by Amar Santana328 Glenneyre St., Laguna Beach | 949.715.8234
Chef Amar Santana has rapidly gained a following in the OC culinary world since the 2011 opening of his namesake restaurant. A Dominican Republic native and longtime New Yorker, he infuses a mix of the two worlds in both his menu and space: the food is worldly and inventive, from potato pierogi to grilled quail, and the space is a nod to industrial New York with dark wood and rustic concrete. And the team is pretty serious about their wine. It's fun to score a seat at the chef's table to get a look into what's happening in the kitchen.
The Crab Cooker2200 Newport Boulevard, Newport Beach | 949.673.0100
We're all about fresh, no-frills seafood (charcoal broiled shrimp and scallops on a skewer, Maryland-style crab cakes) and this Balboa Peninsula space is consistently a go-to when we've got out-of-town guests to entertain. Place an extra order of king crab legs with lots of fresh lemon and butter. (Trust.) Photo: Megan Converse.
Driftwood Kitchen & Stateroom Bar619 Sleepy Hollow Lane, Laguna Beach | 949.715.7700
Always packed and with patio seating overlooking the ocean, Driftwood Kitchen is a staple for Sunday brunch. Look for a pretty consistently solid menu featuring Crab Benedict, blueberry pancakes, and the Beach Burger—heartily topped with bacon, chipotle, cheddar, and tomatoes.
Farmhouse2301 San Joaquin Hills Rd, Corona del Mar | 949.640.1415
This farm-to-table restaurant is situated on more than seven acres of greenery inside Roger's Gardens—fitting, given the menu concentrates on locally-sourced produce. Chef Rich Mead serves up a mix of excellent salads and seafood for lunch and dinner. It's particularly festive around the holidays and, thanks to its popularity amongst locals, requires a bit of pre-planning to secure a reservation. Food photograph: courtesy of Diana Hossfeld
Gelato Paradiso448 S. Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach | 949.464.9255
This teeny Laguna Beach gelato shop is consistently marked by a line that stretch well beyond its adorable alleyway storefront—no matter the time of day. The good news? It's worth the wait: their gelato, which comes in all the traditional Italian flavors plus dozens of fan favorites like cookies-and-cream and salted caramel, is made onsite, in small batches, using time-honored Sicilian recipes. The elaborate gelato cakes make great hostess gifts (but secure yours in advance, as they tend to sell out). There are also locations in Newport Beach and San Diego.
Nobu3450 Via Oporto Suite 101, Lido Marina Village | 949.429.4440
There are now thirty-two outposts of Nobu—and they draw a devoted tourist-y crowd—but the Newport Beach location, tucked into the charming Lido Marina Village, is worth braving the crowds. The two-story waterfront design is stunning—and to cap off the incredible service Nobu is know for, there's a boat valet, which makes the experience a bit more indulgent.
Ruby’s Crystal Cove Shake Shack7703 e California 1, Crystal Cove | 949.464.0100
An OC classic, Ruby's has been serving up the best burgers, to-die-for milkshakes, and killer clam chowder since the early 1980's when Doug Cavanaugh and Ralph Kosmides opened their first location on Balboa Pier. Several southern California locations followed, including this Crystal Cove shake shack location, which is a local favorite for grabbing a burger and fries after a day at the beach.
Selanne Steak Tavern1464 South Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach | 949.715.9881
The fact that we're not big red meat eaters doesn't deter us from a night out here. Chef Joshua Severson delivers classic American dishes, including an excellent Jidori chicken, plenty of fresh veggie sides, and pretty delicious mac 'n cheese. The adjacent gourmet shoppe next door offers a good mix of made-to-order favorites from the chef.
The Stand Natural Foods238 Thalia St, Laguna Beach | 949.494.8101
Since the mid-70s, this health-centric restaurant has been amassing a huge following for its small-but-mighty 100 percent vegan menu. The tortilla soup is legendary in the goop offices—and the NY Times called their avocado toast the best in the country. The house-made raw organic nut milks, tamales, and sprouted salads are also worth trying. (Tip: Get here early on a weekend—the line can get long.)
Watermarc448 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach | 949.376.6272
A quintessentially southern Californian restaurant with its open windows and ocean views, Watermarc serves up a menu of New American dishes–appetizers like charred octopus, fried goat cheese, and mains like diver scallops and Chilean sea bass are among the standouts. For date night, request a table upstairs on the patio.
Zinc Café and Market350 Ocean Avenue, Laguna Beach, | 949.494.6302
We've been fans of Zinc since it first got its start Orange County before expanding to other locations (there are similar outposts in Corona del Mar and DTLA). Like its sister locations, the Laguna Beach space is bright and airy making it a great spot for a low-key breakfast or lunch meeting—it's also perfect for carry-out. Go for the salads (tri-colore and avocado), baked goods (scones, croissants, and gluten-free muffins), and wood-fired pizzas (margherita, funghi, pesto).