Sure we only had 48 hours in town, but ya gotta eat! A little bit of research ahead of time and a lot of taste testing resulted in this short list of Must Haves for every budget. Make sure to visit these outstanding spots!
Breakfast or Lunch: Dory Deli
The name did not sound like what it was, so it took a while for us to commit. SO glad we did! Balboa Peninsula's Dory Deli knocked it out of the park, and every person in our group was simply delighted. With breakfast menu items like Chicken and Waffle (a big hit at our table), the Yoga Pants Burrito (egg whites, feta, and other misc healthy items) and the Sweatpants Burrito (doused in cheese sauce), the only thing left to consider was how spicy to order our Bloody Mary's. We rolled out of there with bellies satisfied and ready for a walk on the beach. Which was just outside the door!
Lunch or Dinner: Saigon Beach
"Don't get phomo - eat here!" I'd stumbled across a lot of great reviews about Saigon Beach. And I was intrigued because it appeared to be completely unremarkable. It sits in a strip mall, and almost invisible as you drive past. But so many past customers had said it was out of this world. And hey, we all know that a fancy exterior does not equate to quality, so I made sure to have dinner here our first night.
Such super-smart marketing to post a list of their top 5 items on the wall (thank you!!). We ordered 3 of those 5: the Porky Belly Bao Slider, Grilled Pork Vermicelli, and the Banh Mi, and... oh my gosh... we were blown away. Abso. Lutely. Delicious.
This meal was so good that the next morning over coffee we admitted to each other that we were both still thinking about it. And we agreed that we would go back before we left! So, yes, late on our second night (after we'd already had dinner and weren't really even hungry anyway), we swung by to get more of the deliciousness. It was 9:00PM, but their Open sign was still on so we walked right in. They said they were actually closed and all they had left anyway was the 420 Green Rice. We bought 2 orders! And yes, it too was fricking fantastic. We immediately ate it in the car on the way back to our hotel. So. We're officially obsessed and still think of it often. If you live in the area, maybe you could send us a care package? We'll make it worth your while, I promise.
Dinner or Happy Hour: Javier's Cantina
Ok ok, time to get a little fancier. Of course at some point during our stay we had to check out the famous Javier's Cantina, so we chose Saturday evening happy hour. Javier's is located down the Coast Highway a few miles near Crystal Cove State Park, so we got to see the gorgeous sunset as we made our way. The place was packed - filled with customers dining, others sitting at the bar, and still more crowded in the lobby waiting for tables. We walked right through, and with a super friendly server's help, we scored a table in the bar very quickly. Service: fantastic. Drinks: delicious. Bar food: delicious. People watching: totally amazing. When it was time to leave, it was kind of hard to peel ourselves out of there!
Cheap Cocktails: Cassidy's Bar & Grill
Yes, I love fancy bars and lounges! I love the beautiful settings, the (usually) efficient wait staff, all the design attention paid to the bathrooms, and I love trying unique, elaborate cocktails while I'm feeling super fancy. Admit it: you do too sometimes. But of course, we all know that bar tab can sneak up on you very quickly, and while I love that shiny environment, I also enjoy the occasional DIVE bar. As does my travel buddy.
So, like a good travel researcher, before we descended upon Newport Beach I researched all the best dive bars. And from the list I cultivated and then dutifully checked out firsthand (work, work, work), our favorite was most definitely Cassidy's Bar & Grill.
From the outside, this place looks shady! I actually thought I had written the address down wrong (the sign is on the other side of the building from the door we used). And in hindsight, I love that because a lot of people probably pass it by. Don't change a thing. We walked in anyway, and the place was packed. Packed with happy people in jeans and t-shirts, playing pool and talking in groups, music thumping. We found the only two open seats at the bar and our server (wearing a t-shirt that said "Don't grow up. It's a trap.") welcomed us immediately with a big smile and jokes. We ordered, and he made and served us some delicious and strong ass drinks! So fun, and so comfortable. We definitely ended up staying longer than we'd planned because it was just a great place to hang out. Side note: I hear Cassidy's has an ahhmazing burger. We didn't try it because we were on our way to dinner, but I wish we could have! Cassidy's, we'll be back. And no, we will NOT be growing up - thank you for the tip.