Four-star gourmet fare? Fresh-caught crab? Frozen bananas on a stick? No matter what your pleasure, if you're in Southern California, it's not far.
The award-winning restaurants at Pelican Hill Resort and Spa in Newport Beach offer culinary experiences as exquisite as their panoramic coastal views. At Andrea Ristorante, Chef Luigi Fineo's Northern Italian cuisine is presented in the welcoming elegance of the dining room or on the Tuscan-style arched terrace. For an equally superb but more casual dining experience, enjoy Chef Derek Brooks' Napa-inspired dishes on the patio of the Pelican Grill.
Casual, romantic and très français is the Pescadou Bistro, where the blackboard menu displays a variety of prix fixe dinners created by Chef Jacques de Quillien. Enjoy his classic French specialties in an intimate setting — and on Wednesdays, there's no corkage fee when you bring your own wine.
Tamarind, the renowned Michelin-starred London restaurant, has opened a branch in Newport Beach. You won't burn your tongue on five-alarm spices here or be overwhelmed by cardamom and curry. Tamarind is known for its beautifully nuanced continental approach to subcontinental cuisine.
Way down the road from elegant — think paper plates and plastic forks — is the Crab Cooker. "It's been there since the beginning of time," longtime O.C. resident Paula Konecky said. "The fish is really fresh, and it's a wonderful funky vibe." The restaurant is as famous for its Manhattan-style clam chowder as its décor — a fascinating collage of SoCal and Hollywood memorabilia that can keep you amused through an entire meal.
After dinner, work up an appetite for dessert with a stroll on Balboa Island, then stop off at Dad's Donuts or Sugar 'N Spice for a frozen banana or Balboa Bar, the island's own ice cream treat — which both shops claim to have invented.
—Maxine Nunes for Newport Beach