Sahara Sandbar & Pizza is the latest culinary creation on Huntington State Beach

Sahara Whitney, center, cuts the ceremonial ribbon, joined by her mother Alicia Cox, Madelynn Hirneise and Kevin Pearsall.
Sahara Whitney, 11, center, does the honors cutting the ceremonial ribbon as she is joined by her mother Alicia Cox, right, Madelynn Hirneise, far left, CEO of Families Forward, and Kevin Pearsall, State Parks superintendent, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Sahara Sandbar & Pizza in Huntington Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)
Share via

Thinking of beachfront pizza probably brings to mind a forgettable slice of pie.

Alicia Cox wants to change all of that in Surf City.

For the record:

10:13 a.m. April 20, 2022This article has been updated with the correct location of the Huntington Beach House concession.

Cox is ready to open her newest concession on Huntington State Beach. Sahara Sandbar & Pizza is holding a soft opening Wednesday evening and will open officially this weekend.

Cox, the chief executive of Prjkt Restaurant Group and a Huntington Beach resident, held a ribbon-cutting for her newest endeavor in partnership with California State Parks on Tuesday morning.

Sahara Sandbar & Pizza is named after Cox’s 11-year-old daughter, Sahara. The name clicked for Cox, who noted that the concession location at Pacific Coast Highway and Magnolia Street happens to be the widest gap of sand on the Western Hemisphere.

Owner Alicia Cox, right, helps adjust the microphone for her daughter, Sahara Whitney, 11, as she speaks Tuesday.
Owner Alicia Cox, right, helps adjust the microphone for her daughter, Sahara Whitney, 11, as she speaks during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Sahara Sandbar & Pizza in Huntington Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“While I was trying to figure out what to name this location, I was listening to my little girl talk about her day of volleyball on the beach,” Cox said. “It came to me. I named her after the most mysterious gap of sand in the world, the Sahara Desert, and when I was looking at her it made me realize I should name this location Sahara.

“She is my inspiration for everything. Once I saw the vision, I couldn’t unsee it, and it all came together. We needed to create this location for the youth, for the families, for the roller-skaters, the volleyball players, the surfers, and anyone else who is blessed enough to be able to spend a day on this incredible block of sand on Huntington State Beach.”

Sahara Sandbar & Pizza can seat about 500 people, 100 of which can enjoy a 120-foot-long bar counter that overlooks the boardwalk. It features black, blue and pink neon highlights throughout, including two cacti out front and an entryway that will light up at night. It will have televisions, serve beer and wine, and servers will skate out the pizzas to customers.

Large pizzas cost $27, Cox said, and slices of pizza will be $7 or $5 for students. The concession, overseen by Chef Tessa Ludwick, will also serve items like buffalo wings and mozzarella sticks, as well as cinnamon rolls that Cox said are “as big as your head.”

Sahara Sandbar and Pizza in Huntington Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“We took Carbone’s red sauce and tasted it against our red sauce, came up with our own ingredients,” Cox said. “We literally went through and dissected pizza to its core. It was like wine nights but with pizza.

“We ordered every pizza that was in an UberEats radius around us. We tasted them all against each other. There was some great pizza, and I pay homage to a lot of great pizza here in Huntington, but I feel like we’re definitely going to be on top of that list.”

There is also a charitable component to Sahara, as $1 from every pizza served will be donated to Families Forward, an Irvine-based nonprofit committed to helping Orange County families who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

That means hundreds of dollars every day, which Cox said is a good example for Sahara.

“According to the team here, 600 pizzas a day is a slow day, so I’m just ecstatic,” Families Forward CEO Madelynn Hirneise said. “This is a great opportunity to be able to truly further our reach and further the impact of the mission of Families Forward. Helping with food support, backpacks, housing, supportive services like career coaching, it’s really incredible that the community has come together to support the families locally here in Huntington Beach … this is going to be a great partnership.”

Sahara will be open Wednesdays through Sundays, Cox said. It is the third of four concessions that Prjkt Restaurant Group has imagined up on Huntington State Beach, as part of a 10-year partnership with the California State Park System. The Huntington Beach House opened at Beach Boulevard and PCH last July.

The final concession location, California Fork and Spoon, will be located at Brookhurst Street and PCH and is set to open next summer.

A wall by the restrooms is decorated with art that reads "Notorious P.I.E." at Sahara Sandbar & Pizza in Huntington Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.