Orange County Fireside Dining at its Finest
efore you’ve entered the outdoor space, you can smell it—sometimes sweet, sometimes pungent, but definitely — aromatic. Rounding a corner, you can hear it — sometimes gentle, sometimes loud — crackling and popping in the chilly night air. The closer you get, the more you feel it — beckoning with a comforting and enveloping heat and warmth. And then you see it — each location a bit different, emitting its unique style and ambiance. So, sit back, relax, and take a leisurely road trip to some of the most atmospheric restaurants with fire pits along Southern California’s sparkling gold coast. And while you’re there, let’s also check out some of the marvelous morsels and delicious drinks you can find at these establishments. Orange County Fireside Dining
Fashion Island Hotel, 690 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach 92660. 949-760-4920.
There’s nothing like cozying up fireside on a chilly night while twinkling lights glitter overhead along an expansive tree-lined deck, and floor lanterns provide an extra sparkly ambiance. Welcome to Oak Grill at Fashion Island Hotel, a restaurant serving up contemporary California cuisine. The fireside vibe includes not only a view of the hotel’s beautiful sparkling pool, but great music in the evenings (Monday – Saturday from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., Sundays). This restaurant values its fire pit so much they even named these live acoustic music nights after it — Fireside Sessions. The culinary treats at Oak Grill complete your sensory getaway. A good place to start on a chilly California evening might be their Warm Artichoke and Parmesan Dip or Artisan Cheese Trio & Charcuterie. After that, move on to savory offerings, like their juicy Bison Sliders, made with smoked Gouda, pickled onions, mustard slaw and fries. Be sure to enjoy a hand-crafted drink to complete the experience. Select from such libations whose names draw you in, like Across the Pond, made with Hendricks Gin, cucumber, lime and mint. Or the Amelia, featuring Belvedere, St. Germain, blackberry puree and lemon juice, topped with fresh mint. A variety of craft draft beers are also on tap. So settle back, relax and enjoy the music, the lights, and oh yes, the fireside warmth. Orange County Fireside Dining
2816 Lafayette Rd., Newport Beach, 92663, 949-673-3625.
Small, intimate and romantic are words often used to describe this hidden gem of a restaurant that’s nestled in a quiet neighborhood of Newport Beach. Tucked away on a side street and overlooking the canal next to the marina with massive yachts moored to the deck outside, The Dock imbues an elegant, yet relaxed seaside village charm. Billowy curtains frame the al fresco patio, and crystal-rock fire pit bowls, along with patio heaters, provide all the warmth needed for chilly Newport nights. Join The Dock for some of their delectable savory offerings, including Red Wine Braised Short Ribs with a creamy Fontina polenta, or try their fresh seafood, including Maine Diver Scallops and Hiramasa Sashimi. The Dock also features a weekly Sunday Brunch on the Bay, in addition to an extensive wine and beer list.
1200 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach 92651, 949-715-9888.
Sapphire Laguna is a little jewel of a restaurant, sitting across the street from the ocean along PCH in Laguna Beach. With an extensive al fresco dining area and a long, attractive glass-bead firepit running down the center of the front patio, patrons can enjoy the restaurant’s multicultural and seasonal fare while staying warm and cozy, as almost every table is in a prime position near the flickering flames. No matter what time you arrive, the food, drinks and atmosphere will be calling your name at Sapphire, but we especially love to enjoy a Turkish Lemonade during Sunset Hour, crafted with Ketel One Oranje, Ketel One Citron, pomegranate juice and lemonade. Pair your drink with hand-selected cheeses from Sapphire Pantry’s “Cave d’Affinage” and you’ll be checking their hours for your return visit before you’ve left.
Sapphire Laguna offers delicious global cuisine, beginning with lunch M-F from 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. followed by Sunset Hour (2:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.), Intermezzo (3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.), Spice Plates (4:00 p.m.- close), Dinner nightly 5:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. (till 11 p.m. on Fri & Sat) and Brunch Sat-Sun 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
850 Avocado Ave., Newport Beach 92660, 949-718-0188.
Fire pits surrounded by rustic Adirondack chairs atop a hard-packed sand and gravel floor provides a beautiful California-Meets-New England vibe on the extensive patio of Gulfstream Restaurant, located in Newport Beach. Even though the restaurant sits next to the hustle and bustle of MacArthur Blvd and PCH, once ensconced, you’re a world away. Relax around the pits after work, and if cigars are your thing, smoking is allowed around the fire. Then, when hunger pangs arise, high-topped tables are not far away, where you can consume one of Gulfstream’s lively hand-crafted cocktails while enjoying the restaurant’s classic seafood dishes. Locals know all the favorites, especially Gulfstream’s Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes served with Pommery mustard, as well as their light and fluffy, heavenly biscuits — simply divine! Other favorites making a list: True Dover Sole, flown in from the North Atlantic (Thursday through Saturday) and Scottish Salmon, served either roasted on a cedar plank or pan roasted and finished with white wine.
361 Cliff Dr., Laguna Beach, 92651-1623, 949-497-5434.
A seaside fixture for 38 years, Las Brisas, has been synonymous with authentic Mexican recipes, crafted with a California flair. Locals have been coming to Las Brisas for years to enjoy the restaurant’s festive oceanfront scene, magnificent sunsets, cliff-side walks and spectacular seafood. When evening rolls around with Laguna Beach’s spectacular sunsets over the blue Pacific, order up some delicious specialty Margaritas and Sangria during the restaurant’s “Sunset Celebration Happy Hour” (5 p.m. – Sunset). Sit at the round blue and white tiled bar on the patio of the Sunset Cantina, with its blazing, roaring center fire pit. All those fresh Margaritas can make you hungry, so choose from their delicious Mexican-Californian offerings. We suggest the Savory Bacon Sliders, Pork Belly Tostadas, Pomegranate Goat Cheese Tacos and Baked Fundido, (made with puff pastry, chorizo, Oaxaca queso, cotija cheese, charred corn, roasted pasilla chiles and corn tortillas) Yum! Also, enjoy live music at Las Brisas, every Wednesday through Saturday. Orange County Fireside Dining
451 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach 92660, 949-644-2400.
It makes sense that a health-conscious restaurant with organic offerings and a seasonal menu would sport an extended, sleek fire pit area with a smooth cement ledge, plenty of greenery and nature-inspired furniture and décor. Hang out here with friends after a day filled with shopping and enjoy a cocktail made using fresh-pressed fruits and veggies paired with organic spirits. Or, if needing an after-party boost, try the Hangover RX, containing pineapple, orange, honey and coconut water for a healthy alternative bounce-back! Tasty organic culinary plates include a delicious Kale Guacamole and Winter Squash Toast. There is also an Ancient Grains Bowl that is a must. And don’t forget other tasty and healthy offerings like Edamame Dumplings, Sustainable Seabass and Teriyaki Quinoa. If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic refreshment, try the Medicine Man, made with triple-brewed black tea, cranberry, pomegranate, honey and sea buckthorn.
Ritz-Carlton, 1 Ritz Carlton Drive, Dana Point 92629, 949-240-2000.
This oceanfront lounge’s name isn’t difficult to interpret as it belies its breathtaking attributes — an unobstructed 180-degree view of the sparkling blue Pacific ocean. It’s also nestled 150 ft. atop a cliff above beautiful Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point. For this reason, 180BLU at the Ritz-Carlton is a much-sought-after destination for drinks and small bites. Pamper yourself as you sit on this luxury resort’s Mediterranean-style patio, where rounded column balconies frame the elegant outdoor terrace that looks onto the turquoise expanse of endless foam-capped waves. Cozy fire pits and comfy rattan furniture encourage guests to linger longer and soak up the incredible views. When you’re ready to dine, you’ll want to prepare yourself for a treat. All the small plates and desserts served at 180BLU come from the hotel’s premier upscale restaurant Raya. Feast on savory Lobster Tacos, succulent Petite Lamb Lollipops and exotic Duck Carnitas. Or, if you’re craving seafood, try their fresh Ahi Tuna Ceviche, Salmon Tiradito or Ceviche Mixto. Delish!
Surf & Sand Resort, 1555 S. Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach 92651, 877-741-5908.
The sun-drenched Mediterranean architecture of Laguna Beach’s Surf & Sand Resort sets the tone for an elegant and relaxing experience at this hotel’s premier bar and lounge. As night falls on the patio, lean back on comfortable outdoor furniture, and stay warm with two styles of atmospheric fire pits — the first, a classic round fire pit, sporting glittering crystal rock interiors and situated in front of comfortable outdoor furniture. Above this scene are blazing metal fire bowls, completing the feel of a luxurious seaside European retreat above a shimmering sea. Now all that’s left is to partake of 15 FiftyFive’s tasty small bites and cocktails, including the famous Hangover Nachos, made with sauce basquez, jalapeno crème and spiced chicken scaliantro. And don’t forget the Coffee-Dijon Chicken Burger on a pretzel bun, or the Baby Heirloom Tomato Flatbread served up with delicious fresh mozzarella and basil. On Fridays, head to the Lounge for their Spiced Infusions evening from 4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. If sliders are your thing, gear up for Friday nights, and their Signature Sliders. On Mondays, be sure to take a vicarious trip to Europe, from 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. with their Passport to Spain night. Orange County Fireside Dining
Balboa Bay Resort, 1221 W. Coast Hwy, Newport Beach 92663, 949-630-4285.
Everything about A&O Kitchen + Bar (short for Anchors and Ocean) conveys relaxed oceanfront dining. This Newport Beach restaurant, inside the popular Balboa Bay Resort, serves up yummy fare, with a stunning view of moored yachts and sailboats cruising in the background. The deck sports long, aqua-toned crystal fire pits, where guests can happily mingle and partake in delicious shared plates while watching a continual parade of boats. The food is fun and lively, including items like their mouth-watering Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Kobe Beef Corndogs, Crispy Brussel Sprouts and Baja Seafood Cocktail, with shrimp, octopus, lime, cilantro, avocado and served with tortilla chips. The cocktails are even more fun, sporting creative names like Where Eagles Dare, Juan Pablo, and One Night in Bangkok — makes you want to spend one night at A&O! Live entertainment takes place each Friday and Saturday evenings, and then on Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons during the summer, adding to the casual, yet upscale ambiance.
Montage Laguna Beach, 30801 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach 92651, 949-715-6020.
Fire pits abound on the property of the exquisite Craftsman-style Montage Resort in Laguna Beach. It’s no wonder the hotel’s premier restaurant, Studio, led by award-winning Executive Chef Craig Strong, has a sizeable Craftsman-style pit within viewing distance of the restaurant’s stunning patio. And it just so happens, this view also includes one of the shimmering waves of the brilliant blue Pacific. Patrons can relax on the terrace and enjoy Chef Strong’s renowned cuisine, which incorporates the bold flavors and rustic-style cooking of Spain with the refinement of French culinary techniques. The menu at Studio reflects this Mediterranean blend and includes such interesting offerings: Rice Spice Chip, with a lovely madras curry dip, Hamachi Poke Avocado, Iberico Pork Lettuce Cup, Beef Tartare and Short Rib Cigar. Studio’s current Tasting Menu is equally exciting and features: Ahi Tuna Poke, Sauteed Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Seared Maine Scallops, Bone Marrow Crusted Beef Shortrib and Le Delice De Bourgogne. For libation enjoyment, try one of Studio’s many wines by the glass, or an intriguing hand-crafted cocktail. Our pick: Ruby Jubilee, made with St George Terroir Gin, Pomegranate Juice, House Grenadine, Rose Champagne, Basil and Pomegranate Arils.Orange County Fireside Dining