Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Saluting Bear Flag Fish Company

Bear Flag Fish Company
407 31st. St. 
Newport Beach, CA 92663

I told my friend Richard that I was going to be trying a new fish restaurant. As Richard can sometimes be, he sarcastically shot back, "Wow, another fish restaurant. I'm sure it's going to be just like all the rest". For once, my fickle friend has a point. In the last few years there have been numerous fast casual fish restaurants come on the scene. There are a few standouts, but for the most part they are really all kind of the same. With Richard's negative vibe, I was not really looking forward to trying Bear Flag Fish Company, but I was excited to meet up with my friend Megan, and introduce her to Katie.

Bear Flag Fish Company was started in 2007, and not only do they have a location on the peninsula in Newport, but they also have a storefront in the way more upscale area of Newport Coast. My tux was at the cleaners, so I was happy that Megan wanted to meet at the 31st Street location on the peninsula. For those of you not familiar with this area, Bear Flag is right next door to Rudy's, and is across the street from Italian favorite, Mama D's. It's an easy to miss spot, because it's off the main drag.

We arrived at Bear Flag at 7PM on a recent Thursday night. I love Newport on slower nights. Easy parking, not having to deal with drunken college guys, and your pick of restaurants, with little to no wait. This was all true on this night, except that Bear Flag was quite busy during our visit here. This restaurant caters to a young, hip clientele, so of course I fit right in, (kidding of course).

Bear Flag is in a very small building, and they have maybe five tables inside, with two tables outside on their patio. The tables are large, so they are more like communal tables. Even on this slower night in Newport, we had to wait for a part of the table that would fit the three of us nicely. Bear Flag has a nice fish market, where if you don't want them to make you a meal, you could easily take home some fish and prepare it yourself. Too much work for us though. The menu behind the counter is in very small type, which made it hard for us to read. Guess these youngsters have no problem reading small type, like us old guys. Gosh, I sound like my Dad, sorry about that. Anyways we placed our order with the guy behind the counter, and made our way outside to our spot out on the patio. This is how it turned out for us.

After reading the Yelp reviews, almost everyone was in agreement that the New England Clam Chowder ($3.50) was the thing to get at Bear Flag, so of course I had to try it. I have to admit, the Yelp kids got this one right. The chowder was creamy, with a good amount of clams, not too salty, and had a nice kick from some pepper. Really good chowder here. Not overloaded with potatoes, like others add to their chowder. The bread served on the side of this was excellent for dipping. A must get when eating here.

Katie has recently gotten into Poke ($12.95), so when she saw this on the Bear Flag menu, she had to have it. This was some well seasoned ahi. Very fresh, with just enough seasoning as to not mask the natural flavor of the tuna. Served with very sturdy tortilla chips from El Toro Bravo, this was a winning combination.

Not wanting to be left off of the poke train, Megan had the Poke Salad ($10.95). This is your basic green salad, with the rich poke placed on top of it. Megan almost always orders this refreshing dish every time she comes to Bear Flag. She loves the portion size, and claims that this is some of the best poke she has ever had.

Sorry for the washed out appearance of my meal, it was really dark out on that patio. How about putting some lights out on the patio? We were eating in almost pitch black, which probably helped the other diners, so they did not have to look at me. Anyways, back to the food. They were offering these Bacon Wrapped Scallops ($11.95) as a special the night we were here. At first I was a little disappointed by there only being three scallops here, but these were pretty good sized, and ended up filling me up. The bacon was nice and crisp, while the scallop was cooked perfectly, with just enough give when you bit into it. I used some of their signature sauce, the Tommy Sauce on the veggies, which went well together. Not sure what the Tommy sauce is made of, but it reminded me of a ranch dressing with maybe some Siracha in it. I'm probably wrong about that, but that's what came to mind when I tried it. The brown rice went well with the Tommy sauce also.

I kind of cringed when Katie ordered this Specialty Burrito with Lemon Butter Yellowtail ($9.95). Not because I thought it would be bad, but because if there's one thing I have learned while writing this blog, it's that burritos are delicious, but they definitely do not photograph well. At Bear Flag you have your choice of what kind of fish you would like in your burrito. Katie felt she picked right by going with the yellowtail. It was tender, flaky, and was a great compliment to all that was in this burrito, which included; rice, black beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, Tommy sauce, and avocado. Katie really enjoyed the freshness of this burrito, she was also impressed that they took the time to grill the burrito, as evident by the grill marks on it.

Bear Flag Fish Company really impressed me, and I could not wait to tell my cynical friend Richard that Bear Flag was not like all the rest of the fast casual fish restaurants out there. For being a seafood restaurant, their menu is pretty diverse, and changes with what is available to them on a daily basis. On future visits I look forward to trying their fish tacos, which I hear are fantastic, and been dubbed by some as the best in OC. I did not think that their prices were too crazy expensive for the amount of food that you receive. The service was very casual, but that's to be expected down near the beach. At peak meal times I can imagine that finding a seat here could be a challenge, but you're already down at the beach, so just take your food to go, enjoy the fresh air, and eat somewhere outside. It's not like we live in Michigan.

Out of five monarchs, (because the bear on the California state flag is modeled after the last wild California grizzly bear in captivity, and his name was Monarch), five being best to zero being worst, Bear Flag Fish company gets 3.5 monarchs.

For more information about Bear Flag Fish Company, go to their web site here: http://newport.bearflagfishco.com/ 

Bear Flag Fish Co. on Urbanspoon


  1. I send our clients here all the time. Nothing better than simple, fresh food. The poke is very good, the fish is fresh and the cooking is consistent. Plus, if its a nice day, you can sit outside and then walk to the beach afterwards. Perfect spot for lunch.

  2. Corey - Thanks for taking the time to comment on this. We had a great time at Bear Flag, and look forward to trying more of their menu. Not crazy expensive, good food, and the location makes this place a winner. Thanks for reading the blog.