The Beachcomber at Crystal Cove, Newport Coast, CA

The Beachcomber Cafe menuBack in September, Mr. Baseball and I took advantage of the still beautiful weather at the end of the summer by heading behind the Orange Curtain to The Beachcomber Cafe at Crystal Cove.

Cottages at Crystal CoveThis 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.

Condemned beach house at Crystal Cove

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 Crystal CoveThe 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.

Beachcomber's outdoor patio

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.

Dining room of the Beachcomber Cafe in Orange County

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 LemonadeLaura’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.

Baked blue cheese and tomato soupI 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.

Beachcomber Cafe's ahi tacosThe 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.

Bacon Kobe burger at The Beachcomber CafeMr. Baseball chowed down on the half-pound bacon “Kobe” burger ($14) minus the sun-dried tomato aioli. He tried to pass the coleslaw slide to me, but I wasn’t too jazzed by it.

The Beachcomber Cafe at Crystal Cove

The Beachcomber Cafe at Crystal Cove
15 Crystal Cove
Newport Coast, CA 92657

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House of Tiki – Costa Mesa, CA

House of Tiki in Costa MesaIt’s hard enough to run a business in this economy, let alone one that caters to this wacky subculture (rest assured I mean that in the most endearing way). And so September meant bidding aloha to the House of Tiki.

Hawaiiana at the House of Tiki

This family-run shop brought a slice of Hawaii into a World War II Quonset hut in Costa Mesa.

Retro Hawaii posters and tiki lamp

You may not be able to visit the brick and mortar (er, bamboo and corrugated steel) location anymore, but you can still browse their wares courtesy of their eBay store.

Green Shakatiki mug

I picked up one of their signature Shaka Tiki mugs—the green one in the upper left corner—which were sculpted by Crazy Al. On the right, you may recognize Tom Selleck as Magnum P.I. immortalized in mug form.

Shaved iceThe owners graciously served up shaved ice for the folks who came out. Mr. Baseball, who melts in the heat, was much appreciative.

Nice ride!