Thursday, November 5, 2015

Dropping In On the Beach Barrel


Beach Barrel
3305 Newport Blvd. 
Newport Beach, CA 92663

Back when I started this blog six years ago, one of the first people that I met in real life was Niyaz Pirani. For those of you that read the popular OC Register Food Frenzy Blog, or know his work from the OC Weekly, or his past blog, Fat Dude on a Diet, you know about his great food writing. About a year or so ago, he moved up to Northern California to start a PR company, and those of us left in OC had lost a great champion for all things food in Orange County. The good news is he's now back based in OC, with his PR company, Knife and Spork Public Relations, and even better news, he's back writing again on his company's blog, which you can see here. He's now got quite the impressive lineup of restaurants in his portfolio, and I was thrilled when he invited me and my friend Ryan to try one of them, Beach Barrel in Newport Beach.

Beach Barrel is located on Newport Boulevard, right as you cross over the bridge going over PCH. It's on the right hand side of the street, across from the old Newport Beach City Hall. There's plenty of metered parking on the street, and also a small parking lot just past the restaurant on the right hand side.

Beach Barrel is owned by two friends, Jared Jones and Mac Carlson. Mac Carlson is one of the former owners of the highly rated Social in Costa Mesa. Jared is the founder of Midnight Muncheez, a late night delivery company, which suspended operation last year to focus on Beach Barrel. Beach Barrel is their take on a rustic, surfer style restaurant concept.


Even though the storefront is small, with tables adorned with pennies, surfing images hanging on the wall, and practically an open kitchen, the menu at Beach Barrel is pretty sizable. They have 7 varieties of flatbread pizzas, including a build your own option. There's nine different sandwiches to choose from, along with four unique hot dogs. There's also some salads for people who want a lighter meal, and of course some sides. The guys at Beach Barrel were generous enough to let us order a wide array of their greatest hits from their menu. I was excited to see what was going to be coming out for us from this small kitchen.



If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you probably know that my favorite sandwich in the world is a Cuban sandwich. It's the most balanced sandwich out there. There's the savory pork, the tang from the pickles, the creaminess of the cheese, and the crunch of the pressed bread. Unfortunately, Orange County does not have a lot of choices when it comes to authentic Cuban sandwiches, but now we have this wonderful option from Beach Barrel, the Playa Cubano ($12). This impressive sandwich starts with a very tasty citrus glazed shredded pork, smoked ham, Swiss cheese, Dijonnaise, and house made pickles, all of which is then pressed on the grill. The result is one of the better Cuban sandwiches in OC. It rivals my favorite one at De Simonne's in Huntington Beach. It's that good, and a fantastic start to our meal on this evening.



When I heard that this Shredder Sandwich ($10) was their version of a pulled pork sandwich, I had no doubt it was going to be good. The pork in the Cuban was tasty, so it reasoned that the pork in this sandwich would be good as well. The brioche bun was filled with the delicious pulled pork, slaw, and just enough BBQ sauce to not overwhelm the pork, but compliment it. The crunch from the slaw, along with the very well made bun rounded out this sandwich wonderfully. Not sure who their bread supplier is, but all the bread was great on this evening.



The entrees started to hit the table fast and furiously now, and this was our flatbread pizza choice on this evening, the Buff Chick ($11). I've been in the mood for buffalo wings lately, and this pizza quenched my cravings, for at least this night. This pizza was topped with mozzarella cheese, spicy chicken, buffalo sauce, blue cheese crumbles, celery, and a blue cheese dressing. This could have been a little spicier for my taste, but they got the essence of the buffalo style pizza down at Beach Barrel. I'm looking forward to trying their Jamaican style Jerk Pizza on my next visit here. We were able to sample their jerk seasoning , and it was very flavorful, with lots of spice. Right up my alley.



There's four varieties of quarter pound hot dogs on the Beach Barrel menu as well. We tried two of them, and my favorite one was the Street Dog ($8). This is not like any street dog you could get outside of Staples Center. This was way more complex. It starts with a very good toasted bun, which is topped with bacon, grilled jalapenos, caramelized red onions, Dijon mustard, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. As you would probably expect, this one was filling and so good. The mozzarella surprisingly worked well here, and the jalapenos added a nice pop to this hot dog. The BBQ Bacon Cheddar Dog ($7) was a lot simpler, but pretty solid as well. An abundance of cheddar cheese was paired with a smattering of the mild barbecue sauce, and bacon crumbles. The hot dogs here taste like the meaty ones they have at Costco, which is one of my favorites.


Not on their printed menu, these Garlic Herb Fries were fried correctly, and flavored with just the right amount of garlic. They also had an awesome ranch dressing paired with them. The sauces at Beach Barrel are all made in house, with the exception of the jerk sauce, which is brought in from Jamaica. This ranch was phenomenal, and really had me craving a salad, which is rare for me. I also tried the blue cheese dressing, which was stellar as well. I'd get these fries again, just so I could try that delectable ranch.



Back to the sandwiches, and this Hawaiian inspired, Da-Kine Chicken Sandwich ($12). Shredded chicken, bacon, provolone, caramelized red onion, grilled pineapple, and a house made Sriracha teriyaki sauce, was piled high between the brioche bun. I'm kind of anti-pineapple on pizza for sure, and to a lesser extent sandwiches, but the unusual Sriracha teriyaki sauce, along with the bacon, helped to mask the pineapple here. A good sandwich that hit all the right notes. This was my buddy Ryan's favorite sandwich of the night.



Just when I started thinking that the only thing Beach Barrel was missing was a great burger, this Barrel Burger ($10) came out for us. Visually appealing, and just as delicious, this burger can rival almost any burger in OC. All the essentials are included on this burger. Melted cheddar cheese, romaine lettuce, tomato, red onion, a wonderful house made thousand island dressing, avocado, and grilled bell peppers, are all piled on the brioche bun to create this fantastic burger. I can admit I was a little leery about the bell peppers on this, but they actually worked to provide a good flavor profile to the burger. I'd probably add some bacon when ordering this the next time I'm here, just to make this burger even better.



By this time Ryan and I were getting pretty full, but Niyaz had insisted that we needed to try these Hawaiian Sticky Buns ($8). This dessert was just featured on the KTLA Morning News, and the guys at news desk loved this dessert, as evidenced by their eyes rolling back in their heads while sampling this. A four pack of Hawaiian rolls are topped with marshmallows, a homemade caramel pecan sauce, and a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. Simple, but so delicious. Niyaz is astonished that during the heyday of food trucks, and everyone using Hawaiian rolls for everything, that no one's come up with this before. I'd have to agree with his sentiments. A very good finale to our time at Beach Barrel.

Beach Barrel is proof that great things come in small packages. They are really churning out some great food out of this tiny spot. Everything we tried on this night was a winner, and their is only two problems I see with Beach Barrel. One is that their location is very easy to miss, especially with all of the construction going on these days on Newport Boulevard, but this restaurant is definitely worth hunting down. The other thing Ryan and I discussed on our way home was that we would be unsure as to what to have on our next trip here. The Cubano would be my must have here, and with their great dressings that we tried, I'd probably get one of their salads, so I could save room for the Hawaiian Sticky Buns. Be advised that they have some funky hours. They are closed Monday and Tuesdays during the winter months, and only open for lunch Friday through Sunday. They are open late for you guys that are out in the bars, with a closing time of 3am on weekends. So now there's another option besides Laventina's for your late night hunger in Newport. Really impressive little place, but I should not be surprised since this place is being represented by Niyaz, and his great taste in food. Welcome home buddy.

If you would like to experience Beach Barrel for yourself, get all the details about them, their food, and location by heading to their website here: http://www.thebeachbarrel.com/

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