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Not Just Tiding One Over

Dining on the coast is no longer a one-note affair. (Better not wear that bathing suit.)

June 04, 1998|MAX JACOBSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Once upon a time, Californians eager to eat by the beach had to content themselves with simple grilled fish, tacos or burgers. Happily, those days are long gone. I've been doing some serious coastal dining for the past several weeks and have found that restaurants near the water now come in all sizes, shapes and ethnic varieties.

Here are 20 Southland dining places that are either on or in full view of the ocean, from south to north. Don't forget your sunscreen.

Splashes

This dramatically designed restaurant hangs directly over the pounding surf. It's located on the ground floor of the artsy Surf and Sand Hotel, where the ambience is best described as beachfront gallery meets designer furniture store. The cuisine is Tuscany a la South Coast. Try three-cheese polenta with a wild mushroom saute, or the delicious rib eye with horseradish, arugula and Tuscan bread salad. The hotel's excellent, if pricey, wine list has won numerous awards.

1515 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach. (949) 497-4477. Expensive.

Terrace Cafe

This very Mediterranean cafe overlooks Laguna Beach, so we can, perhaps, overlook its sophomoric take on California cooking. The tables are clustered under canvas umbrellas on a flower-filled patio. The food runs from pepperoni pizza topped with romaine in Caesar dressing to vegetable roll-ups and other casual nibbles. The bar menu features a slew of drinks like Pain Killer--Pusser's rum with a mixture of exotic fruits--to further soothe those frayed nerves,

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday June 6, 1998 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 4 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 24 words Type of Material: Correction
Beach dining--A story on beach dining in Thursday's Calendar Weekend gave an incorrect name for the chef of Il Boccaccio in Hermosa Beach. The chef's name is Joe Venezia.

At Hotel Laguna, 425 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach. (949) 494-1151. Moderate.

21 Ocean Front

Opposite the Newport Pier, from which there is a splendid view of Catalina Island, you'll find this bastion of Continental cuisine. The dining room is taken up by black leather booths, lurid crimson walls and a long mahogany bar. This is the best place I know of for pan-fried abalone, which the kitchen lightly breads with crushed Waverly wafers at an outrageously high price. Come for the good broiled steaks and the well-endowed list of California wines.

2106 W. Ocean Front, Newport Beach. (714) 675-2566. Very Expensive.

Ruby's (Huntington Pier)

Ruby's, a chain of '50s-style diners, has dozens of locations, but none more strategically placed than the one at the far end of the recently reopened Huntington Pier. The chain has built a rep for good hamburgers and tasty side dishes, but I like to come here for the fountain treats, especially the textbook malts and the best Oreo cookie shake around.

1 Main St., Huntington Beach. (714) 969-RUBY. Inexpensive.

River's End

The name refers to the San Gabriel River, which empties into the Seal Beach Channel west of Pacific Coast Highway. Only breakfast and lunch are served at this brick stand, and Mexican dishes are exemplary. The best breakfast item is chilaquiles, a soft casserole of corn tortillas, eggs, mozzarella and a delicate tomatillo salsa. The lunches are basic and generous, but you'll return for the Baja-style fish tacos, stuffed with crisply battered halibut.

15 1st St., Seal Beach. (562) 431-5558. Inexpensive.

Sky Room

If you're looking for nostalgia and Art Deco elegance, the Sky Room is the ticket. The restaurant is on the 14th floor of the Breakers, a '20s hotel, and a doorman clad in a top hat and tails escorts you to the restaurant in a private elevator. When you settle in at this mini-Rainbow Room, you'll gaze upon both the nearby Queen Mary and hazy downtown L.A., while a seven-piece dance band provides music. Mai^tre d' Michael Zadeh has worked with Alex Perino and other local restaurant legends, so the food is ultra-retro, with lots of tableside specialties like steak Diane and a terrific Caesar.

40 S. Locust Ave., Long Beach. (562) 983-2703. Very expensive.

The Reef

The Titanic has done wonders for business at the Queen Mary, so if you're planning to visit her, you may wish to stop by the Reef. This combination beach shack and quaint country house, a roughhewn building with a facade that resembles many coastal restaurants, has frilly furniture and a real wood-burning fireplace. The food is solidly American and surprisingly good. Dependable dishes include crab cakes Maryland, prime steaks and tasty beer-battered shrimp.

880 Harbor Scenic Drive., Long Beach. (562) 435-8013. Expensive.

Delhi Palace

Does anyone remember the English movie "Bhaji at the Beach"? Most Californians do not expect naan bread and tandoori chicken at their Sunday beach outing, but anything is possible around here. Delhi Palace is located directly on the Redondo Beach Pier and looks out onto more typical (and invariably more crowded) beachside restaurants. Its best dishes are tandoori meats and breads baked in the clay oven. The vegetable dishes and curries are eminently forgettable.

125 W. Torrance Blvd., Redondo Beach. (310) 376-9447. Moderate.

Splash

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