Newport Beach is an odd place. It’s our backyard. We love it. We hate it. It is a juxtaposition of some of the world’s worst culture next to some pretty awesome people and places. And the waves can be as fun as anywhere on earth. It’s a place where the iconic Frog House surf shop exists near the nightmare that is Fashion Island, all housed under the same blue sky and perfect weather. There are awesome things and horrible things — practically touching. And as much as driving around it all will make you want to vomit at times, the waves and the establishments sporadically placed amongst it all can make for, if you take our advice, a really good time. Below we take a stroll with a local and find out what to avoid and what to very much make a part of your day. From food to waves to babes. Come along, it’s just getting good here.
Wedge. PHOTO: Brady Field
The Wedge. What can’t be said for California’s favorite paraplegic inducing surf spot? It’ll scare the fucking shit out of you, yet bring you joy in the same emotional flurry. The place will shove sand into places you didn’t even know you had, but you’ll like it if you know what you’re doing. If you’re visiting and haven’t seen it come alive in person I would strongly suggest you watch from the beach for bit before considering the paddle out. The place has a reputation for a reason, and I have personally seen bodies pulled out of the line up. As in, not alive, and people being carried off on stretchers isn’t uncommon. The problem seems to lie with the fact that you’re really dealing with two animals in one. One waves refracts off the jetty as the next incoming wave mutates with the refraction and creates something that may or may not rip your dick off. Best bet? Just leave it to the local boys to take the elevator drops. You’ve got a whole life ahead of you. You’ll need your dick.
Spencer Pirdy, Newport Point. PHOTO: Tom Carey
The Point is a sleeping giant. It really only comes alive when there’s large short period south swells. That being said, when it does, it is indeed something to behold. A deep water canyon lies in wait for a healthy enough swell to hit it, then, boom! Newport Pipeline. And pipelineish crowds. Other than that though it’s kinda fickle. Some days you think it’ll be good and it’s shit, and vice versa. It’s always worth a check when any amount of south is running.
Colin Moran, Newport. PHOTO: Thomas Greene
56th St. and the surrounding upper street area is the tried and true place to surf in Newport. Easily the most consistent area year round as it gets summer and winter swells. Fall and spring are when it shines, when the combo of both hemisphere’s storms are alive and well. If you’re around for a good combo swell with a sprinkling of offshore winds, you’ll be in for something special. Special as in witnessing 50 to 75 dudes between jetties turn the line up into a dojo, practicing judo to catch waves. Bring your black belt.
Newport: Photo: Tom Cozad, Newport Surf Shots
Cassidy’s: A diverse establishment. And classy ideology does not reign supreme: it’s dark, and gritty, and smells of perversion of spirit. The drink pours are so stiff it’s offensive — but it’s these pours that create fantastic voids in time and judgment. I have personally witnessed a couple shamelessly procreating in the photo booth as a man simultaneously ripped a neon sign off the wall and swung it at a bystander, inciting chaos.
In a quiet moment at Cassidy’s you’ll notice an actual photograph on the wall of a dog humping a pelican on a sailboat. It’s a dive bar with teeth, and once you accept that fact, you’ll be loving it all. From the full bar, to the full nudity, to the questionably-aged girls, the crusty old-timers, low-life’s and CEO’s. Rules don’t apply here, yet all walks of life do, and that’s what makes it oh so good.
Mutts: The self proclaimed home of the “Sunday Funday.” It is one of the few bars located directly on the boardwalk in Newport, which leads to endless double-take people watching and gawking. It’s not everyday you get to enjoy an ice cold beer and witness a man rinsing out the the same Air Jordan’s he just swam around in the Pacific Ocean in.
While there are the occasional muscle-tee boys and frat loudmouths who lurk, it is overall a pleasant experience when judged in comparison to the amount of drunk bikini-clad girls mulling about. But keep in mind there is no hard liquor here, so if you’re into Fireball and the slippery and very fiery slope that comes with that, look elsewhere.
Baja Sharkeez is the bowel movement of bro culture. It caters directly to an inland desert crowd. The unsavory frequenters enjoy getting homeless drunk on Bud Light while succumbing to a sea of failed dreams and terminal identity crisis’. Fights break out between them from merely making eye contact. And while you’ll never sow their sorrow of living in meth addict hell, you can watch them like a zoo from the safety of the parking lot, which will give you a fine view of the hug-starved and adrift souls inside. Enter at your own risk, but just know the frequenters are the shattered underbelly of the American dream. Really, really drunk.
Bear Flag Fish Co. has a line out the door day and night for damn good reason. This place has the best ahi poke ever done did. It’s a fish market at heart, but they whip up sushi grade fish into burritos, tacos and salads that will make you curse yourself for not experiencing the place sooner in life. A locally caught halibut plate with drawn garlic butter, organic brown rice and steamed veggies with a side of avocado doesn’t really ever sound like a bad idea, does it? Plus the fact the establishment is owned and run by local surfers make it a place that constantly returns your high fives. Oh, and if you happen to hear a bell ring while visiting, it isn’t the sound of an order ready, its an audio signal from management to let those who need to know that a hot girl just walked in the doors. Get the bell and flash a smile at a manager named Comet (prounounced Comb-eh) and you’ll likely get some free ahi poke.
The place is often imitated, but never duplicated. Bear Flag is one of a kind, and a staple of Newport.
Big Belly Deli serves up something called the #6310. It’s a sandwich from a sandwich shop, but it’s one that will make you question the legitimacy of other sandwiches and other sandwich shops. A must try if you’re swinging through Newport. The Juke Box plays Foo Fighters, but the freshly baked focaccia bread on it’s own is one of the many ingredients in the #6310 that will change your perspective on the post-surf sandwich.
Crab Cooker is as old as it is good. The building was constructed in 1936 for Bank of America and some of the waitress’ look as if they were bank tellers there and never left. Nowadays they’re slinging mouth-watering crab and seafood dishes with old school charm. Particularly mind blowing are the king crab legs and shrimp skewers. The food is served on paper plates with plastic utensils keeping it oddly unique. Prepare to watch ol’ Betty the waitress shuffle back and forth from kitchen to table bringing you more utensils as you snap fork after fork attempting to eat crab legs. Jokes aside the place is ridiculously good. But bring your mom, her mom probably works there still.
Sol Grill: Not to be mistaken by the shit upscale Mexican food joint under the same name — Sol is an underground gem for dining in Newport. Even some locals don’t know much about it since nobody looks in its direction for serious inquiries, as it’s actually attached to the same building to the aforementioned pit-of-despair called Baja Sharkies. But if you can see past it’s unethical neighbor you’ll find a small, quaint, dimly lit Mediterranean style date place owned by a woman named Misty. Misty is far and away the hottest woman over 40 your peepers will probably ever see. When your eyes start to blink again after she greets your table, order two house made sangrias, yourself the filet (scampi style), get your date the chicken piccata, enjoy the live music, and let the place work its magic for the evening. Your chances of waking up nude with your girl just got incredibly high.
Alta is more of a living, breathing thing than it is a coffee shop. Which is actually a good thing. It has a real vibe. A real warm welcoming. You just melt into it’s atmosphere and let it do it’s thing. The food here tilts to the uber healthy side of things, but it’s actually quite good. And obviously they have anything under the sun to put into a coffee mug. This place doesn’t have a one dimensional criteria. Come hang morning, day, or night. And they often have live music which is a rarity in Newport so take advantage of everything this place has to offer.
Getting hit by drunk drivers. People love driving drunk here. Maybe it’s all the inhibition-less leaving the bars. Maybe it’s just people think they can get away with it cause of the easy-breezy-motif the beach vibe brings. Who knows. But I’ve been hit twice myself. Once on Halloween night in a pink gorilla suit, once running in from a surf in the middle of day. Both sucked. It’s actually quite odd people do it so much since the local law enforcement has a sixth sense of catching people for it here. If you come visit and find yourself the asshole driving one eyed, plucking off pink gorillas and surfers, just know they will catch you. They set up check point traps on the roads to catch people doing such things. Then before you know it your night of fun turns into an overnight stay in the same cell with all the people from Sharkeez. And you don’t want that, do you?
Cougars: After spinning the conversation yarn all night at the local bars in attempts to lure young females back to your love den, beware of those who wait in the shadows, ready to pounce on your failures. Middle-aged Newport women have spent small fortunes to look and feel young again. But their spray tanned, plastic-surgery-stretched skin barely scratches the surface to their penchant for youth. They linger at local bars and they wait, and they wait, till last call. They notice your soloness accompanied with only a drunken thousand mile stare, and then they strike. With zero remorse they flip the script. The hunter becomes the hunted, and like moth to the flame, your one track mind goes home with them for reasons unknown. You think it won’t happen to you, but when you wake up next to something who’s skin resembles more hot dog than human, tangled in fine linen, and you have a fake eyelash stuck your chest, you know you’ve been had.
WHERE TO PICK UP GIRLS
Weekly rentals is really just fishing with dynamite. There are places down on the beach where during the summer months, the landlords kick out the regular year round tenants to rip people off by charging triple the rent for one summer weeks stay at a time. Families, and groups of people come from far and wide looking to have a jolly good time during their one week summer stints. You can find groups of women looking to let loose and dabble in sin, or the odd off daughter that would do anything to get away from the parentals. All just looking to party. Just a brisk ride by on a bike or skateboard with a quick, “You girls visiting?” will be all you need.
Supermarkets. Thats not a typo. You think there are hot girls at the bars in Newport on a Saturday night? You should see the organic breakfast bar isle in any Newport market any day of the week. It houses a spandex mafia that easily beats the regularly scheduled programing at the bars. Habitually in spandex, the local women here actually spend more time shopping in workout clothes than they do actually working out. So take advantage. Plus exchanging words over health food items always works out better than forgotten words over vodka Red Bulls anyways. Get on it ya health nut.
It’s really hard to come by in Newport. The city requires business’ to have a special license to even play it. Along with dancing. Yes that’s right, you can get fined if people are dancing inside an establishment without the proper paper work. The rich old timers at city hall don’t want you shaking your ass in their fancy beach community. So that leaves limited choices. The Blue Beat offers live music with bands on any given night. On Tuesdays they have a live ’80s cover band that gets people wiggling pretty good. Annnnnd thats pretty much it. You’ll get a dude playing a soft strum on a stool in SOL or the same in Alta during your meal. But that’s it. Leave your dancing shoes home.
Although, neighboring city Costa Mesa’s The Observatory now hosts nearly every act in town. From indie to bit time. It’s the spot you’re going for music.
When you wake up next to one too many cougars, sometimes you need to get out of town to shake off those hot-doggy-flesh blues. Jump in a 4×4 and head south of the border. Within only a couple hours drive you’ll go from spandex Cougarville, to sketchy ass gun-wielding Mexican Cartelville. But not really. The naive and narrow minded only believe that. Get your ass down passed El Rosario, get off the main highway, and start hunting. Miles of open beach and wonky sandbars are just waiting to be discovered. Drive down, dive in, be fearless, get filthy in the dust of the great unknown, and wash away your old lady sins in empty Mexican beachbreaks.—Brady Field