It Takes Two to Tonga, Baby

Tunnel under PCH to Crystal Cove, or take the shuttle to The Beachcomber Cafe

The Beachcomber Café is so close to the beach, it looks like may have washed ashore one day. Dirt roads and 1920’s cottages surrounding the waterfront eatery have a distinct movie set vibe…so much so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dick Dale or Annette Funicello pop out behind a bush and yell, “SURPRISE!” The walk from the parking lot just down the road adds another moment of zen, where the trail cuts through sweet-smelling California chaparral leading to a tunnel that crosses underneath Pacific Coast Highway to historic Crystal Cove.

The best time to visit The Beachcomber is during sunset, where your eyeballs are treated to an unobscured view of crashing waves as the sun sets slowly behind Catalina Island off in the distance. A daily Reveille Bugle Call also happens at sundown; each server stops to salute a cocktail flag being raised to the ceiling. On our visit, each table burst into applause, briefly stopping the sunset selfies for just long enough to say hearty cheers with neighboring tables.

Although the cocktail list is filled with various martinis, margaritas, and mules, the most expensive drink caught my eye: The Tonga Lei. “We provide the Tonga; the rest is up to you,” reads the spicy menu. The drink is served in a tiki-vase of sorts and is a cage match of a cocktail. Two straws enter and it’s a fight to the finish!  Upon table arrival, a housemade hibiscus and elderflower concoction is drizzled over pungent plumeria flowers as dry ice smoke rings bubble the sweet floral scents into the seaside salty air.

Suffice to say we’re dipped in ambiance so deep our conversation consists of guttural oohs, ahs, and wows. This feels like we’re on vacation…and we don’t want to leave.

The Beachcomber is all about the seafood, where the crab stack appetizer is piled high with sweet blue crab meat and the pinkest ahi I’ve ever seen. It isn’t your typical poké creation, however, pickled ginger vinaigrette and mango-papaya salsa kicks the ring-molded tower into a tropical taro-chip dip pleasure. Our mains, surf & turf and Maine diver scallops had us reminiscing about our honeymoon in Maui some eighteen years ago, where a similar surf & turf with lobster tail and filet had me full for days. What is it about vacation food that is so memorable?

“We should go back to Maui for our anniversary,” I mention to my wife. “Why? We have The Beachcomber right here,” she replies.

The Beachcomber Cafe is at 15 Crystal Cove, Newport Coast. Reservations highly suggested. Valentines Day Menu // thebeachcombercafe.com 

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