This area has some pretty interesting history, in addition to that Prohibition link I mentioned previously. In the 1920s, the Irvine family (and all this time I thought it was just a city!) owned the land and let their friends and employees randomly build ramshackle cottages along the beach and bluffs. Legend has it that these folks really knew how to do happy hour—even supposedly raising a “martini time” flag as illustrated on the menu cover above.
Most of the beach houses we saw were condemned, but there are some nearby that are available to rent, and the proceeds go to the Crystal Cove Alliance preservation association.
The Beachcomber Cafe opened in summer 2006 and to get there you have to park in a nearby lot off the PCH and take a little shuttle bus ($1 each way) over since this little cove was not designed to accommodate hordes of cars.
Getting a seat on the patio with this gorgeous view would have meant waiting even longer, so we took a booth in the dining room just beyond. If you’re able to plan in advance, I’d suggest the OpenTable route, though reservations book up fast since they keep a lot of tables available for walk-ins. And remember there’s always The Bootlegger Bar.
The dining room is quite small, I’d say less than ten tables, since it was built in one of the original cottages. The model trains on the wall pay tribute to the house’s reputation as “The Whistle Stop.” Apparently one of the early owners had set up an electric train set on the patio back in the day.
Laura’s Lemonade ($9)—“rumored to be the house drink at cottage #2”—was a very girly mix of lemonade, vodka and Chambord. I’m not surprised to hear this is a popular choice, but I think there’s better cocktail options.
I ordered two appetizers: first, the baked blue cheese and tomato soup topped with puff pastry ($9). This was served molten hot, but was so tasty and savory that it was hard to wait until it reached a reasonable temperature.
The tiny ahi tacos ($14) were stuffed with tuna sashimi and drizzled with a creamy sriracha sauce. These were fine, but there’s so many other tempting choices on their menu (hello again, truffle mac and cheese!) that they wouldn’t be first choice on my next visit.
The Beachcomber Cafe at Crystal Cove
15 Crystal Cove
Newport Coast, CA 92657