Trending in Huntington Beach – Five new restaurants (and a remodel) are making waves
Voice of OC food columnist – reporting on industry news, current events and trends. Panoringan’s previous work includes writing about food for eight years at OC Weekly in which she interviewed over 330 chefs, restaurateurs and industry professionals for her weekly “On the Line” column. She has been recognized by the Orange County Press Club and she is also a recurring guest on AM 830’s SoCal Restaurant Show.
Visitors often think beaches are synonymous with summer, but OC towns like Huntington Beach are year-round destinations thanks to the temperate coastal climate and annual events, including the Pacific Airshow.
Recently, this beach community has upped the ante for local restaurants. A pandemic may have influenced the need for extra outdoor seating, but the past summer has brought its share of newly launched and renowned establishments and venues that have flown under the radar.
When people talk about going to the beach, they’re referring to swimming, surfing, and sand volleyball. The running joke with people who know me is that when I say I’m going to the beach, it’s to eat. I’ve spent my summer discovering new ocean view menus to recommend to friends, colleagues and readers like you.
Named after founder Gianni Chiloiro’s mother (that’s her maiden name), Nardò presents modern southern Italian cuisine influenced by the Puglia region. While homemade pastas feature on its menu, diners should lean into what chef pizzaiolo Antonio Greco is focusing on – deftly coaxing Neapolitan pies out of his wood-fired oven. Don’t forget Nardò’s other specialty either: seafood. From fried prawns and squid to linguine and sea scallops to a whole branzino, the menu is swimming in flavor. Nardò owns the ocean and view of people from his patio. However, its soothing interior and promising cocktail menu are reasons I will return to the bar. 21022 Pacific Coast Highway, (657) 204-9830.
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Henry’s Coastal Kitchen
Housed within the Waterfront Beach Resort, Henry’s has undergone what we call a rebrand. A new chef, revamped menu, and updated vibe breathe fresh ocean air into this upscale property. A former member of the Center Club at Costa Mesa, Chef Lewis Butler gets creative with his innovative menu of nuanced textures and flavors. Butler describes his cooking as “a unique combination of traditional French techniques with touches of ‘California surf country’ aromas”.
Gluten-free selections are plentiful, some with playful results (strawberry tomato gazpacho with guacamole ice cream, anyone?). For every menu description that made me pause and wonder if the flavors would make sense, I would be reassured once I took a bite. Always on the lookout for morning meals beyond the standard fare, I found Henry’s a la carte Sunday brunch to be worth the trip; consider a side of Dr Pepper’s pulled pork hush puppies, or ask for the signature marmalade that Butler makes with property-grown Meyer lemons. 21100 Pacific Coast Highway, (714) 845-8000.
Golden Road Huntington Harbor Pub
When I planned to meet someone at the Golden Road Tasting Room in Huntington Beach, the first thing I wondered was when did Golden Road launch in Huntington Beach? Turns out it opened in December 2019, shortly before some lockdown. That being said, with enough locals still learning of its presence at Peter’s Landing Marina, Golden Road has made some changes and reopened over the summer. A dog-friendly patio, on-site brewing, and full-service catering thanks to Executive Chef Joseph Torres make this airy spot a spacious (read: accommodating large groups) alternative to the bustle of downtown. Not having to deal with endless parking meters or pedestrians makes this pub even better for someone with no parking karma like me. 16390 Pacific Coast Highway, (562) 588-3880.
Sandbar Cocina and Tequila
Speaking of downtown, Sandbar Cocina y Tequila’s debut on Main Street was in early summer. Blending surf culture with Baja-inspired bites, the restaurant’s spirit-focused selections are showcased in prominent display cases. Sandbar’s central location translates to heavy foot traffic and a lively bar scene. A full menu includes ceviche, fajitas, and even a double burger for the person who doesn’t want Mexican food – because there’s always one. It should be noted that although the website lists a Santa Barbara location, I was informed that it does not reflect the menu or the concept. If I was already planning to meet friends here, Sandbar checks all the boxes the locals seem to be looking for. 221 Main St., (714) 460-5423.
Sahara sandbar and pizza
Alicia Cox’s newest brand of beachfront experiences, Sahara isn’t just named after her daughter, it’s a nod to the larger desert as it runs parallel to the expanse of sand of the property from its location to the ocean being the furthest along the coastline. Offering both whole pies and individual slices using Boar’s Head quality meats, Sahara’s pizza options include upgraded versions of classics like its “Death by Pepperoni”. Her giant, swirling cinnamon roll makes for a shareable finale. Cox is on a mission to change people’s perception of California State Park claims, and she does so with every new development. This pet- and family-friendly place that gives back to the community ($1 from every pizza sold goes to a local nonprofit) was well worth heading south of the pier. Also, the way they are able to rise a dough that is suitable for beach conditions deserves an award. 21601 Pacific Coast Highway
On Deck: Calico Fish House
Chef Andrew and Lauren Gruel (who have sold their shares of Slapfish Restaurant Group) are about to open their own concept called Calico Fish House. Occupying the former Fish Camp, this duo announced a late October/early November launch for their seafood chophouse where “Sauce is the boss.” In addition to the sustainable seafood he is known for, Gruel’s menu for Calico will include outlandish steaks, sandwiches and burgers, as well as a selection of brunches.
To celebrate the inauguration, they are holding a recipe contest. The winning entry will have their menu item for a year, and every time the recipient dines at Calico, they can enjoy that dish for free. Submit your creation via Calico or Gruel social media by October 14th and good luck. 16600 Pacific Coast Highway
The last chronicles of Anne Marie Panoringan
A welcome name migrates to Huntington Beach
I started with an update in Pacific City, and I’ll end with another.
While attending a fundraiser for the MaxLove Project this weekend at Tanaka Farms, I met Chef Amy Lebrun, a board member of the nonprofit that reduces risk for the health of families surviving childhood cancer and related rare diseases (I wrote about one of their programs, Fierce Foods Academy, earlier this year). Lebrun was previously linked to Lido Bottle Works and Fermentation Farm. She mentioned that her next job would be at Bluegold in Pacific City as a chef, so I reached out to co-founder Tin Vuong of Blackhouse Hospitality Group to discuss her role.
“Lebrun will be responsible for overseeing Bluegold’s daily menus and staff, in addition to special events, private dining and catering. Hailing from Huntington Beach, Lebrun is a perfect addition to the Bluegold team,” he said. I totally agree with you, chef, and look forward to his presence in the kitchen.
Anne Marie Panoringan is food columnist for arts and culture at Voice of OC. She can be contacted at [email protected]
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