Seabirds Kitchen Opens in South Coast Plaza, and Adds Cocktails (and Good Beer)

Seabirds chef-owner Stephanie Morgan and daughter at Seabirds South Coast Plaza, Crystal Court. Photo by Greg Nagel

One crunchy bite into a Seabirds beer-battered avocado taco can instantly transport you to the hottest food truck meetups from a decade ago. Although a lot of those classic trucks have moved on to various brick and mortars, I had a feeling at the time that the women behind Seabirds truck would go on to do great things, not just because they’re vegan, but because chef-owner Stephanie Morgan found ways to make vegan food appeal to carnivores with clever burritos, tasty tacos, and yummy sides while using fresh, local, organic ingredients.

Sun-filled patio vibes. Photo by Greg Nagel

A decade later, great things have come for Seabirds, which just landed its third location in Crystal Court in Costa Mesa; and it’s spacious and hip, both inside and out.

The menu is still filled with coastal California vegan vibes, where one can still get a gooey plant-based grilled cheese and savory tomato soup, crispy purple taquitos with smoky chipotle sour cream to dredge, or even a wrenched up kimchi taco made with grilled Korean-style jackfruit. But it’s exciting to see some new items that set a new bar for comfort vegan cuisine going into 2020.

Not your average cauliflower ceviche. Photo by Greg Nagel

Take for instance the cauliflower ceviche, which on paper would seem like a pile of pickled veggies and peppers next to some chips. One scoop in and I’m instantly questioning whether there’s some sort of fish sauce happening. “Nope, it’s fermented cauliflower, which gives it that umami flavor,” noted our server. Bits of habanero strung throughout chunky avocado amp it up to level 11, and the house-made corn chips that come with it are basically like a fresh version of Have’a Corn Chips.

Hay Bay Bay, hey baby hey! Photo by Greg Nagel

One new addition to Seabirds menu is the legit “low ABV” cocktail menu created by the infamous “Shrub Queen” Emily Delicce, who has created some of the most enticing drinks menus (and dad jokes) around. “The focus is definitely on fresh here at Seabirds. It’s all been so great to work with Stephanie on this,” says Emily. “Our first big project was getting the season’s last peach harvest,” notes owner Stephanie. “We processed around a hundred pounds of August Lady peaches into a shrub to use in our Hay Bay Bay cocktail,” she continued.

Tangerine Around the Rosie, complete with origami. Photo by Greg Nagel

The drinks are incredibly fresh, bright, and balanced from start to finish. The mark of any great cocktail is when you find the glass empty and contemplate ordering another of the same. The Hay Bay Bay cocktail feels like a fuzzy peach elixir using the peaches. Same with Tangerine Around the Rosie, named after Stephanie’s daughter, that’s a delicate play around fresh tangy tangerine Chinese five-spice shrub, and a kick of vermouth and house “spirit” to round it out. The spirit they use is a low-alcohol fermented booze that is friendly with a beer/wine license, which definitely make the drinks brunch and lunch-friendly.

The kimchi taco offers tons of flavor, heat, and crunch. Photo by Greg Nagel

If you’ve never been to Seabirds, definitely start with their classic beer-battered avocado taco that’s crunchy on the outside and creamy bright green inside. For something new, the house BBQ burger is also a satisfying bite with crunchy onion bits to balance out the house patty, gooey cheese, and fresh thin-cut fries. Who says eating plant-based has to be boring?

Seabirds Kitchen is at 3333 Bear St., Costa Mesa

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