New tavern opens in Crowne Plaza

A new Costa Mesa restaurant aiming for a classic American tavern feel with a modern twist held its grand opening Thursday afternoon.

Fireside is located inside the Crowne Plaza hotel on Bristol Street and across the freeway from South Coast Plaza. Its contemporary American menu is headed by Orange County native Scott Brandon, formerly of the Corona del Mar's Crow Bar and Kitchen.

Brandon, who was otherwise busy in the kitchen Thursday, said in a prepared statement about Fireside's menu that "simplicity and quality go a long way. I want nothing but the best for our guests at Fireside, while letting the food speak for itself."

The 2,800-square-foot restaurant and bar will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. It seats about 110 people.

An estimated 400 attendees converged on the opening party that featured live music, desserts, cocktails, beers, a tour of a renovated hotel room and staff cooking steaks, burgers and salmon on the grill. It also included a ribbon-cutting ceremony underneath the hotel's porte-cochère.

City officials, including CEO Tom Hatch and Assistant CEO Rick Francis, were on hand for the event. Hatch said Costa Mesa is fortunate to contain the international Crowne Plaza brand in the city, as well as the new Fireside restaurant.

"We're blessed to have you here," he told the hotel and restaurant executives.

The Crowne Plaza recently underwent 18 months of remodeling, which included replacing the hotel's Savoy Restaurant & Lounge with Fireside.

"Savoy was this giant dining room, very cold and dark," said John Nye, of Sentinel Restaurant and Hospitality Group. "And now we've got warm colors and a fire pit outside."

Fireside has wood floors and tables, "natural earth colors" and "fire-tone accents" for a rustic decor, according to a news release.

Nye said the hotel and restaurant's location in Costa Mesa is "an amazing spot" with a lot of potential.

"With 225 rooms and over 95% occupancy, we already have built-in clientele," he said. "The idea is to give something to locals and let travelers mix with locals."

Among the foods Nye said he's personally excited about are Fireside's "unbelievable" bacon-cheddar biscuits topped with house-churned butter.

With a smile, he quipped: "I try not to eat too many of those."

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