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ORANGE COUNTY CALENDAR: ARTS, ENTERTAINMENT, LEISURE
| SUNDAY BRUNCH

Back Bay Cafe: Kid-Friendly Buffet Parents Can Enjoy

March 25, 2001|KEITH THURSBY

* It's Sunday, and there are so many crepes and omelets from which to choose. Here's a sampler of Sunday Brunch destinations in Orange County, culled from recent stories. Other reviews can be accessed at http://www.calendarlive.com/go/ discover.

*

I never really appreciated the value of a buffet until I had kids. Those all-you-can-eat menus always reminded me of a bad weekend in Vegas or a 1970s night with the relatives at a suburban smorgasbord. Half the items were unappealing, unrecognizable or both. But buffets are made for kids. Our two can pick what they want (as long as they eat it) and come and go when they want. As long as you're not bothered by strange food combinations, it's as close to a morning off as parents can get.

We tested this theory at the Back Bay Cafe, part of the Newport Dunes Resort in Newport Beach. This is not a restaurant you stumble upon--you have to meander through the Dunes' gated parking lot, past boats and motor homes, to reach it. Despite that somewhat secretive locale, the cafe was bulging with customers. The first line of the day was beginning to form even before most restaurants had started their brunches.

It's not hard to figure out why. Sitting on the patio gives patrons a close view of the comings and goings of crafts big and small. This is not New York Harbor. Even at its busiest, a Sunday on the waterfront is still a quiet pleasure. The restaurant is a perfect spot for campers at the Dunes who want a morning off camp cooking or boaters needing breakfast before setting off to explore. For us, Newport Dunes feels like a lot of Orange County used to feel--quiet, a little hard to reach, a little off the main road. A secret just the locals know about and appreciate.

The restaurant has a full breakfast menu, but our party kept to the buffet set up inside. There are a few tables inside too, in case you're tired of the view or if the heat of the day is a bit much. The buffet is a standard mix of salads, fruits, breads and potatoes with some more healthful touches. There is also an omelet and eggs cooked-to-order station. A separate bowl of marinated artichokes helped spice up an otherwise run-of-the mill pasta salad, and both my sons enjoyed what seemed to me larger than life-sized muffins. By nature a more conservative eater, I stayed with plain croissants, which were fresher than I expected.

The choices are plentiful, if on the unimaginative side, and given the price ($11.50 for adults, $7.50 for children), the food is perfectly reasonable.

Back Bay Cafe, 1131 Backbay Drive, Newport Beach. (949) 729-1144. Sunday breakfast served 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Buffet served from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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