Beachcomber Cafe in Crystal Cove, Laguna
I've been meaning to post about the Beachcomber for a while, since I've eaten there with family and friends several times between September 2006 and the end of 2007. I agree with many people posting here that breakfast is by far the best (as well as most economical) meal. It's too bad that the most picturesque time to eat there is dinner, given the spectacular oceanfront setting with unbelievable sunsets, but the morning too has its charms because everything seems fresh and magical then.
At breakfast, I've had both the corned beef hash and the Crystal Cove omelet, and I thought both were fine, although the omelet was somewhat overdone, coming through more like very firm scrambled eggs. Others in my group had the buttermilk pancakes, French toast, and beignets at various times and liked them. My hot chocolate was great and the Bloody Mary was good and strong, although a bit salty and spicy (it seems to have a lot of Worcestershire sauce in it). The cubed breakfast potatoes were good if rather ordinary. The English muffin was OK (not overtoasted or cold), and the strawberry jam in a packet such as we've all seen in motels was far from a "specialty jam" as listed on the menu, but again OK. The fruit garnish, one pale strawberry when I last went, looked a little anemic considering the wonderful fruit that we have available to us in California. The coffee was good. At our most recent visit, breakfast for two including one Bloody Mary came to $35 including tip.
I can't be as enthusiastic about either lunch or dinner. The Beachcomber used to have a hanger steak which was very good, but that seems to have vanished from the menu. (Reportedly the chef changed in 2007, and I would say that the new one is an improvement overall.) Among appetizers--gazpacho and clam chowder were both ordinary, in my opinion. The shrimp Vera Cruz was built around six very high-quality shrimp but the raw-tasting seasoning was crudely done, ruining it for me. The apple coleslaw offered as a side dish with several meals tasted so bad that I was never able to eat it and finally I simply asked that it be left off the dishes, a first. The Kobe burger, on the other hand, is excellent and also quite large, as one person posted. For dinner, someone in one of our groups had the garlic roasted chicken, which (like the shrimp Vera Cruz) started with very high-quality ingredients but didn't come off very well because the side dish, a mashed potato concoction, was served lukewarm--the chicken itself was good. I haven't sampled any of the desserts so can't comment on those. The one time that I had a mojito I didn't like it very much.
The setting right on the ocean is spectacular, as I said before, and out-of-town guests are sure to love it, SO TAKE THEM! Parking is across PCH as several people have posted, but that really isn't a problem since there is a shuttle bus that runs frequently between the parking lot and the restaurant. The bus costs $1 but is free with a receipt from the Beachcomber. Service at the restaurant is great with friendly, energetic young servers, and despite the sometimes mediocre food, I feel that people will really enjoy the Beachcomber if they order carefully. It is truly unique and brings back the feeling of "old-time California" for those who may not have been fortunate enough to have experienced it at the time. I feel that the people who are running the restaurant are trying hard and deserve applause for going ahead with this despite the challenges of cramped quarters, sand blowing in from the side, and so on.
re: Dorothy Mull
Sorry, I am unable to edit the above because apparently there is a two-hour limit for edits, but I meant to say that parking (not the bus) is free with a receipt from the Beachcomber. The bus always costs $1 per person. Actually, we've found that sometimes there is nobody collecting money in the parking lot booth anyway.
re: Dorothy Mull
That's strange, we kind of had the opposite experience. We stayed at the cottages again for 2 nights this past September and ended up eating there for 1 breakfast and 2 dinners (at my son's insistence as we didn't get to sample the s'mores sundae the first night).
The dinners were solid. Nothing mind blowing but still very palatable. We had the calamari to start again, glazed ahi, pork chops, crepe, and seafood pasta for the 2 night's dinner.
Breakfast was a disaster when we went. For some strange reason the beignets were made with some sort of a cake batter (not bready type of dough) so it was pretty hard and it was deep fried in what tasted like bacon grease. I hope it was a one time abnormally. I think we ordered corned beef hash which was kind of ho-hum, at least not memorable. We saw people splitting one breakfast dish - if you want a real cheap bill.
Still, for such a scenic spot the prices were reasonable and the food were tasty enough as a whole.
No. Shake Shack is a small building next to PCH and pretty much all they have are shakes, sandwiches, hotdog, clam chowder and chili. There are a few 30 minute parking spots next to the Shake Shack.
Beachcomber is a full scale restaurant on the beach. They are accessible to each other via a steep flight of stairs (so technically you can grab a shake, run down to the beach and take a quick look see at Beachcomber). To dine at Beachcomber you have to park at the parking lot as the described above and walk through the tunnel down to the beach.
Just ate there for dinner over the weekend. We were able to snag one of the beach cottages and stayed the night there, so it was very convenient walk for us to the restaurant.
All the indoor tables were taken. We sat outside and bundled up with the provided blankets and heat lamp, but it was still rather cold. I imagine it may be more of a zoo during summer months, but at dead of winter it was not difficult to get a table at the restaurant. We were told that if there's a wait they can provide beepers (with a credit card or driver license deposit) and you can walk around within a 2 miles range. It was nice being able to listen to the surf and look at the moonlight while we dined.
On the food - I don't know if they had improved the food since the previously negative reviews but I really absolutely have no complaints. I thought the food was loads better than the usual Patina group restaurants, maybe not to the level of the top 10 in LA, but they are solid. We ordered the calamari and they were light and crispy with a tartar sauce and a cilantro sauce. My clam chowder was the usual standard Ruby's fare - solid but not earth shattering. The burger and fries for my son were fine. My husband's swordfish was cooked perfectly - still moist and had a thin drizzle of pecan and bernaise sauce. What stood out though was the orzo pasta and side veggies that they served. The orzo was so good that we kept sneaking bites of it from my husband's plate. Lastly we topped off with the banana caramel ice cream. I wanted to order the 'Give me smores' sundae (some sort of toasted marshallow covered ice cream with graham crackers and chocolate) but they were out.
Since we waited about 20 minutes before our food was served (there was a large party of about 20 people which apparently overwhelmed the kitchen) and they ran out of my choice of dessert the manager was gracious enough to comp us on the alternate dessert.
Overall, I think $20 or so an entree for essentially a beachfront dining is a great bargain, and I would definitely drive down for dinner there during the summer months even if I don't stay at the cottages. Lastly - if Valentine's Day is warm enough to dine outside, I cannot think of a more romantic place for dinner.
P.S. the date shake is on the menu for the Shake shack, but not the banana chocolate concoction (can't remember the name).
Ooops---you are totally right-- the shake shack was famous for their "DATE SHAKES" not the fig-- dont know how I messed that one up!
Thought I would share this review I read on another sight before I saw the Chowhound. Ive heard the same from others about avoiding the Crab Louise. Maybe the owners should go visit New England, Maryland, Miami or the Carribean for some ideas on what beachfront restaurants serve on their menus? or possibly find another "Chef" or menu designer?
Heres that other review:
THE BEACHCOMBER CAFE—Newport Beach
Owners: Doug Cavanaugh and Ralph Kosmides, the owners of Ruby's Diners, plus additional investors.
Who's the chef: Jared "J.T." Walker
Details: When it comes to the beachfront dining, Doug Cavanaugh and Ralph Kosmides are kings in Orange County with their family-friendly, nostalgia-evoking Ruby's Diners. Now they've got the Beachcomber Café, which opened Aug. 2 among the freshly restored historic cottages in Crystal Cove State Park. Beachcomber aims to project '20s-'40s idyll with its wood, marine-themed décor and old photographs of beach vacationers. With the gorgeous ocean just steps away, it's hard to go wrong. There are different menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and while each isn't extensive, the menus provide a good variety of flavors. Visitors park at the Los Trancos parking lot off Pacific Coast Highway (south of Newport Coast Drive), and take a 1933 Chevrolet bus-turned-shuttle for a short ride to the beach. Or, you can walk through the tunnel under PCH. Be warned: the wait can be as long as two hours at peak hours
Worth a try: Seared ahi salad ($13.95), tiny ahi tacos ($13.95), China Cove salad ($10.95), grilled swordfish ($23 for dinner).
The Shake Shack is already Ruby's & it's date shaked they're famous for - not on the menu, but you can still order. Boardwalk is not associated with Ruby's, but their hamburgers & fries are still decent.
Totally agree that breakfast is the best meal. I've said it before, but avoid the crab Louis at all costs. there's an Asian ahi salad that's pretty good. For dessert, their vanilla ice cream with bananas & homemade caramel sauce is pretty tasty! Yes, they do need to focus their menu - it's all over the place & not very successful.
I have been there several times as it is a great place to take visitors who come to town and really the only place "right on the beach" and an incredible view. As far as I know, the restaurant does not take reservations and it is a first come, first serve basis to get a table there. There is also a small patio bar in the back. One thing to remember when you walk down to the restaurant you must go to the front beach side of the restaurant where you will find a hostess stand for you to get a table at. Many people often walk through the back and into the middle of the deck before they realize this as their are no signs. The weekends are exceptionally busy and lines longer if you plan to eat there during meal times. Meals are served from 7am to 11pm
The breakfasts have been very good. The omlette which features bacon, cheese and avocado was exceptionally light and the layers almost crepe-like. The fruit salad was excellent and fresh. The Beignets were bite-size fried dough/french toast served nicely with warm syrup and a strawberry. I heard no complaints about the simply done bloody mary served in a plastic cup. THe only complaint I have heard a few times is that the hashbrown potato's had so much cayenne pepper and spice that even spicy food lovers found it overloaded and unedible.
As for the lunch and dinner menus-- I would have to say that what I have tried was a great disappointment ---especially the appetizers. There is a "nacho" dish which is nothing but a huge pile of grease-soaked thick fried pita chips (very very soaked-- they should have been baked), loaded with kalamata olives and feta cheese served with 2 dipping sauces. This is a horrible menu item and normal nachos are much healthier and taste better-- gourmet compared to this dish. Honestly, not one person at the table enjoyed it and 3 complained of feeling sick from the greasiness.
The calamari was served with 2 sauces- one which was tarter sauce-- however it was pale almost white in color and chewy with a soft coating and no taste-- a visual and pallette disappointment.
The cesar salad dressing was overloaded with anchovy taste. The hamburger although good size was not as good as one at a Ruby's Dinner as you would expect.
The wait/bus staff is extremely friendly and hardworking. The only experience with the manager was when someone at our table had a termite on their plate of food-- when brought to the attention of the nice waitress, she returned to tell us that the meal had been removed from the check. The manager never came out to speak to us even though it was late in the afternoon and not busy, and our companion didnt get another meal.
Honestly, the menu is poorly designed and all over the map in terms of cultural attempts at variety--- almost as though someone was trying to be over creative but forgot to taste most of it. Most of the food is far from what you would expect for a beach front casual restaurant with few fish/seafood dishes and diner-style sauces and execution. Fish sandwiches, chicken sandwiches would be nice to see on the menu. More healthy choices for appetizers and meals would be nice too-- especially if focused on an ocean themed menu.
A nice touch is that when its cold there are blankets set out on every chair. The restrooms are located close to the shuttle drop off in a separate building which is convenient enough-- although could be cleaner.
This could be an exceptional beach type family restaurant but this menu needs to be revamped soon or people will be slow to recommend eating there-- more likely to suggest people bring their own picnic lunches/dinners(like sandwiches from Pavillions or prepared food from Trader Joes and Pacific Whey just up the road) and utilize the free picnic tables or set out a beach blanket on the expansive sand.
So, if you are planning on eating there for now-- stick to breakfast meals....they are with a few exceptions from our take-- the best choice.
Rumor has it that the Shake Shack will be serving burgers and fries like Rubys diner along with those fig shakes in Spring '07.
Been there a couple of times. Some good / some bad, but setting is fabulous. Avoid the Crab Louie. Ahi tacos & salad are good, there's a dessert with bananas & caramel sauce that's pretty exciting. Best meal is breakfast & wait on weekedays usually isn't as long. Those people on the patio didn't have reservations - they just waited longer - they don't take resvs at all.
Went for breakfast last Sunday morning. Got there around 8am and had no problem getting a table on the patio; great view of the surf. We parked across the street, no charge, and took the shuttle bus ($1 each way per person). I had their cornbeef hash which they say is made fresh daily, and it was excellent. Overall, the food was great and most egg dishes were in the $6 to $9 range. We will go back!
Had lunch there last week. Unable to be seated on patio since all had reservations but the inside seating was wonderful also. Great views of the beach. Service exceptional and food great. Grandaughter and I split a Burger (comes with fries). PLENTY for two! The burger is a 1 pounder and, althougth I have never cared for fries,I could not get enough they were so good!!Prices are higher than Ruby's-owned by same people- but the quality and ambience make it well worth it. Would advise calling for reservations (even for lunch) and most surely for dinner. Tram from parking lot down to resturant.Interesting menu.
There is no parking fee in the area where the shuttle picks up. I noticed one poster refers to a shuttle fee. The server will validate to provide free parking and shuttle. This shuttle also serves those wishing to go down to beach and not the restaurant-they would pay a fee. I have a handicap tag, so was able to park in walking distance to the restaurant. there are about 5 handicap spaces there.
Actually here is how it works down there:
Parking is normally $10, paid on the way out. Sometimes the State Park does not staff the parking station but there is no way to know when/if that will happen so count on getting validation to avoid having to pay. If you spend over $10 on food ask the Beachcomber server for validation and they will give you a slip that lets you out for free :-)
There is NO validation for the shuttle, it always costs $1 each way per person. The shuttle runs every few minutes so it is easy to catch. Alternately, you can walk down for free in a tunnel painted with a sea life mural that goes undeneath the highway and comes out the other side right behind the restaurant. Kind of fun to do, all down hill on the way.
There are 4 disbaled spaces behind the restaurant for free that are first come, and rarely available, but the shuttle drops you off in the same spot as disabled parking if none are open. Aside from that there is no parking on the beach side, but the 1/4 mile walk back to the car is good for burning a few extra calories to justify dessert :-)