The Blue Beet Cafe is not the sort of place you just stumble into. Its address places it on 21st Street, but in fact it's on a narrow alley that runs between the storefronts and bars facing the Newport Pier.
Then there's the parking problem around the pier; the lot in front turns into a giant traffic jam just about every weekend night in the summer.
For brave souls, however, the Blue Beet is a very good bar. In fact, on a slow night--say, a Sunday--it's one of the best places on the beach to hang out.
The food isn't great, and it's moderately expensive for this neighborhood, where chili dogs are more the order of the day. The room isn't anything special; in fact, it would seem kind of narrow if the ceilings weren't so high.
The thing is, this place gives off a certain good cheer even on dreary Sunday nights, when the bar starts to fill up around nine o'clock. There's usually a guy in the back room playing guitar and singing folk tunes and soft rock; it's usually pretty good, if a little loud.
The crowd is mostly young and looks single--some of the best-looking people on the beach seem to hang out here--and is mainly friendly. The place is small and the service is good. And there are other places within walking distance--including the much funkier Blackie's--if things get slow here.
The Blue Beet Cafe, 107 21st Street, Newport Beach. Open daily, 11:30 to 2 a.m. (714) 675-2338.
Newport Landing, 503 E. Edgewater Ave., Newport Beach. Open daily till 2 a.m., Mondays through Fridays from 11:30 a.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m., Sundays from 9 a.m. (714) 675-2373. It's on the glitzy side, it tends to be crowded, the waitresses are a trifle slow and the drinks ain't cheap. But there's a great view of the harbor and the ferries that makes it all worthwhile. A fine place to park yourself on a Sunday afternoon.
The Harp Inn, 130 17th St., Costa Mesa. Open Mondays through Thursdays 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Fridays 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturdays and Sundays noon to 2 a.m. (714) 646-8855. A bar without pretense for people who'd rather get poked in the eye than take a drink in some place like Irvine. They have okay Irish music here on the weekends; occasionally an exuberant patron takes the stage about closing time to work out on a Celtic folk song or two. Plus which, they put out a happy hour spread of Ritz crackers and tuna fish.
Dillman's, 801 E. Balboa Blvd., Newport Beach. Open daily, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. (714) 673-7726. A noble place, resolutely unfashionable, Dillman's satisfies the most important requirements of the serious bar-goer: Keep it dark, keep it quiet and keep 'em coming.