At Milkshake Mecca, Get It While It's Cold

Patrick Mott is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

Good news for those of you who don't think you can go through a summer without a monkey flip: The Sunshine Cove is still in business.

You might want to hurry, though. Virginia McKinney, the longtime owner of this venerable roadside stop on Coast Highway, said her lease from the state is up June 30. From that day on, the future of the milkshake mecca of Orange County is expected to be dicey.

State officials, McKinney said, plan eventually to widen the highway, which would displace the small, bright-yellow shack that has stood at the same turnout since 1945 above Crystal Cove, northwest of Laguna Beach.

But lovers of the ice cream date shake, large bags of nuts, peanut butter chocolate chip pie and the ever-popular monkey flip are trying to rescue their hangout by circulating a petition, said McKinney, who has run the business for the last 17 years.

The enthusiasm and loyalty that locals and even passers-by feel toward the Sunshine Cove can be seen on almost any weekend--particularly during warm, sunny weather--when the tiny parking area is packed with cars and a line of shake-hungry motorists snakes back from the window.

Sandwiches, smoked fish, various nuts, cakes, pies, bagged corn chips and other items are sold, but it is the shakes--listed on a long menu board attached to the front of the shack--that are the biggest draw, McKinney said.

A few of the more exotic ice cream shake offerings (watch out, McDonald's) are date, boysenberry, blueberry, raspberry, banana, almond, apple-cinnamon, nectarine and peanut butter, all made with fresh fruit or true ingredients.

And, near the bottom of the menu, is the monkey flip, perhaps the most exotic mix of all.

"The lifeguards used to come here all the time and get that one," McKinney said. "We called it that because it has enough calories in it to make a monkey flip." It is made from bananas, dates, peanut butter and chocolate.

The Sunshine Cove would be merely a curiosity, a good place for a quick bite, if it were located in, say, Buena Park. But because it is perched on one of the more picturesque overlooks on the county coastline--nestled in a dip in the highway in the peaceful open land between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach--the food and drink are just half the draw.

Next to the stand is a slightly raised deck, with built-in tables and benches that overlook the cove and ocean beyond. More than a snacker's paradise, the deck holds appeal even for the pinstripe crowd, McKinney said.

"You know," she said, "business people get tired of going to restaurants, and they like to go somewhere where they can take off their coats and feel relaxed, out in the open air, so they come down here. Sometimes they even call ahead of time. Some people have even held sales meetings here."

One caveat: Parking is tricky. The area in front of the Sunshine Cove is not so much a parking lot as a turnout on Coast Highway. It is often full. But, McKinney said, if you drive another mile down the highway and turn back, a space will probably have opened up.

It may take a pass or two, but that will seem less tedious when a true monkey flip is the reward.


Where: 7408 Coast Highway, Laguna Beach.

Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.

Information: (714) 494-5589.

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