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Birthday dinner in Costa Mesa/Newport Beach

Hi everyone! I'm a newbie to Chowhound but have peeked in on many of your posts in the past. I'm looking for something suitable for a moderate-sized group, maybe eight? Or more? The people coming are not gourmets, but they're not rubes either. But because one person may be footing the bill for everyone, I thought it best to go somewhere moderately priced. Anyone have any bright ideas? I'm turning up a bunch of franchises (like Maggiano's, to which I have never been) and mom-and-pop places that I am wary of gambling on at everyone else's expense. Thanks in advance for your recommendations!

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  1. Sabatino's immediately comes to mind... a classic in Newport Beach. Its fantastic Italian that will please everyone and the sausage is legendary. The atmosphere is warm and inviting and they have a fantastic patio that can easily accommodate your party. It’s also close to the water, which is nice for out-of-towners. Try the stuffed pepper... sausage and risotto in a huge pepper. And for starters, well, get the sausage plate!

    251 Shipyard Way
    Newport Beach, CA 92663
    Phone: (949) 723-0621

    8 Replies
    1. re: Mr. S

      Thanks so much! That sounds ideal. I forwarded the info to the party planner. I live in West LA and the guest of honor just moved down there and doesn't know the area well, so I really appreciate your help. Our gathering is for next Saturday, so if anyone has other suggestions, please do speak up!

      1. re: jadedLAfemale

        There is a pretty yummy place caled Aire in the Camp. Ultra hip with some of the best fried rice I have ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth. (Hickory smoked bacon fried rice with a fried egg on top.....grrrrr) I wont say the place is perfect but the food is comfort/hip, (truffle tater tots) and it is a cool little spot....might be too spendy for a group but they may be willing to work something out for a group...worth checking out really.

        1. re: bubbles4me

          I've actually been there and it was pretty good, though we were primarily boozin' that night. I forgot to mention this is more a family gathering than a peer group outing, so hip is kind of low on the list. In fact, the less hip the better, probably! I definitely want to go back to Aire and try more of the food, as we were at the mercy of the group and had only the kobe sliders, mac and cheese, and mini fish tacos. Thanks for reminding me of that place, Bubbles!

        2. re: jadedLAfemale

          I also think that Sabatino fits the bill pretty well. There are better Italian restaurants (but not better sausage) than Sabatino's but it is homey, unpretentious, has a great outdoor patio w/ Sinatra playing in the back ground.

          I like Onotria much better, but the best way to experience Onotria is multi-course in my opinion. It could get a bit pricey.

          One word on Sabatino's. IT IS HARD TO FIND. I can't tell you how many people were given perfect directions and they still got lost because they just can't imagine that a restaurant would be there. I would tell the guest of honor to take a dry run at finding the restaurant.

          I also think the best dish is the stuffed pepper. Make sure to start with the sausage platter. I also think they have one of the better Caeser Salads.

          1. re: cdmedici

            For the multicourse meal at Onotria, do you need to call in advance to arrange for it? Will he pair wines with it?

            1. re: kdoc

              Not at all. What I mean by multi-course is eating as they do in Italy. The menu is arranged already by what would pair best with wines. They have many cheese plates, antipastos, ala carte vegetable plates and of course pasta dishes, seafood, and meat dishes.

              We usually start with cheese plate, then an antipasto, then we split a pasta dish and follow with a meat course.

            2. re: cdmedici

              I'd go with Sabatino's. But as cdmedici said " It is hard to find" is so true unless someone knows the area. A fun, family place in the ship building area of Newport, certainly off the beaten path. The sausage is wonderful and it has a friendly, fun atmosphere.

          2. re: Mr. S

            I know I am probably too late to the discussion to impact your decision, but I strongly recommend NOT going to Sabatinos.

            I went there over the weekend for my girlfriend's birthday and had a miserable experience. We waited over 1.5 hours for our table (we had a reservation, the food took over 2 hours to arrive (after we ordered), and they added the supposedly complimentary wine and appetizers (offered to us due to the wait) to our bill and refused to remove.

            When I brought the matter of the bill up with the manager, he accused me of being a liar and told me not to come back to the restaurant. I am not one that normally complains about service, but I was truly astonished by this disaster of a restaurant.

            The food is not bad....but is definitely over priced.

          3. Memphis on the patio would be fun. Or Habana. Sage in Eastbluff could also probably set you up on their patio, but it will be more expensive - not over the top, but at least $50 pp. I do like the Sabatino's idea because it is on the water & not a tourist trap. Have you thought about Laguna? 230 Forest would be good, but make resvs NOW. Also Sun Dried Tomato - ask for patio for both.

            3 Replies
            1. re: torta basilica

              Habana came up in my search, but many people seemed to find the food inauthentic and not Cuban at all. It sounded like a nice atmosphere though. Do they have flamenco dancers there or am I losing my mind? Can you tell me more about 230 Forest and Sun Dried Tomato?

              1. re: jadedLAfemale

                Habana is fun, funky and trendy, probably not what you are looking for. And no flamenco dancers. After living in Cuba, I must say that is not where I go for authentic Cuban... great date place though.

                1. re: jadedLAfemale

                  230 & Sundried - both on Forest in Laguna, which is a charming street & fun for people watching. The beach is at the end of it for strolling afterwards. Both have outside patios. 230 excels in fish & steaks with interesting preparations - always fun lively and loud. Sundried a little quieter - I have honestly only been there for lunch. but everything is excellent. If you do a search, you'll get more info on these two. I was going to suggest Blue Water Grill, but they don't take resvs - you would have to wait awhile on a Sat to get a large table on the patio, but it is on the water. For a family, I still think Sage in Eastbluff would be great, but, again, on the higher end cost-wise.

              2. In the same area as Sabatino's and also on the water is Bluewater Grill. For Italian, Sabatino's; for fresh seafood, Bluewater Grill. It is also reasonably priced and has an outdoor patio.

                1. Chains like Maggiano's are OK, but I prefer cozier places like Onotria. Much more interesting menu, but may not be suitable for your party. You can check out their menu and prices online. Onotria is closed on Sundays.

                  www.onotria.com

                  1. what about landmark steakhouse in newport? though i haven't been, i hear that it is quite the scene which could be fun for a group.

                    http://www.landmarknewport.com/

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: wowimadog

                      OMG landmark in newport has been blasted millions of times on chowhound. Proceed with caution.

                        1. re: wowimadog

                          Horrible choice for what "jaded" is looking for.

                          1. re: Philly

                            Actually, "jaded" is a befitting description for Landmark

                            1. re: Mr. S

                              I was thinking more 'snorted...' ;-)

                          2. re: wowimadog

                            i am the only one that's had a favorable experience at Landmark. excellent service and food. but we went early, and that might make a difference. sabatino's sounds like the clear winner, but i did also like Memphis.