Silver Lining Playbook: Central Laguna Beach Reinvents Itself After Fire


ften one must take a proverbial step back to view things from a different perspective. What may appear to be a difficult situation may instead spark inspiration. This is what Anna Montoya and Taylor Mckinney realized when a fire forced their concept to close at the beginning of this year. Instead of only addressing the necessary repairs, the duo concluded that now was an ideal time to update their restaurant, Central. 

Already a frequented establishment by locals, change initially took place in the dining room. With the redesign, some tables were replaced by cozy booths, more conducive to intimate group reservations. In addition, they bolted all the tables into the ground. This served a dual purpose: It gave consistency in the number of patrons served. Plus, they no longer dealt with wobbly tabletops. As a result, there would be the allowance for better service, food consistency and even ambiance. Replacing the casual, rustic Central was a modern and sleek vibe, matching the personalities of its owners.

Upstairs, a revived rooftop patio provides a favorable vantage point for Forest Avenue people-watching. Linger for picture-worthy sunsets, and you’re rewarded with twinkling lights under the night sky. A satellite bar (their newest addition) will pour libations for your convenience. Sip the South American classic Pisco Sour, or a Justin Vineyards cabernet while you admire the view. The choice to order from Central’s entire menu guarantees a successful dining experience. With their aesthetics in check, it was time to reevaluate their offerings.

Coastal Peruvian cuisine originally was the focus, due in part to Montoya’s industry experience launching and operating Inkas in Irvine. Per Anna, “It was the heart, the nexus of my love for food.” While some large format dishes (such as rotisserie chicken alongside mashed potatoes and house salad) carried over to current selections, we were introduced to new flavor profiles within their appetizer listings. They hoped to awaken guest’s taste buds with quality ingredients presented in inventive ways. In particular, yellowtail sashimi intensified with Serrano heat, and plump, golden shrimp tempura served with a secret house dipping sauce. These were the plates Central’s kitchen successfully introduced that enticed not only a repeat visit, but tapped into the everyday cravings their clientele had.

It is this thoughtfulness; this attention to detail and willingness to serve that generates a customer-centric experience specific to Central Laguna Beach. Without their positive outlook, the setback they experienced would not have been viewed as an opportunity in disguise. We’re certain you’ll be pleased with the results of their silver lining.

361 Forest Avenue | 949.715.0801 |

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