Corona del Mar is a ritzy bridge community that connects Newport Beach and Laguna Beach. There’s a short stretch of shops and cafes that runs along PCH. It’s a short walk to the beach. The local panini shop was crammed with fashionable people and wannabes. Strangely, The Crow Bar hosted more waitresses than diners. Still, we didn’t let that dissuade us, motivated by Crow Bar’s glowing online reviews and a tempting menu.
Longtime real estate developer Steve Geary opened Crow Bar, hiring Executive Chef Scott Brandon (a Corona del Mar native), who tweaks the menu on a daily basis, depending on what regional, sustainable ingredients he’s able to find.
The interior was sleek, with light brick walls, brown leather banquettes and pressed tin ceilings. There was plenty of plant life. There were also two communal tables, which is a good idea for the nighttime crowd.
Crow Bar has 24 beers on tap, divided by “lighter on the palate,” medium bodied ales” and “full flavored ales.” They also have a sizeable selection of bottled beer. My taste buds were tired of ultra-hoppy IPAs. Our waitress recommended a glass of Lagunitas Pils ($7.50), a Czech style Pilsner brewed in Petaluma, California. It was really smooth, not too hoppy. We also got a Sprecker’s draft root beer ($4), brewed with pure honey in Milwaukee.
Blue crab deviled eggs ($9) were absolutely overflowing with egg yolk. There must have been two yolks for every half-white. The flavor was good, with chunks of blue crab, red onion, herbs and paprika, but I prefer a less elaborate version.
The huarache-shaped brick-oven flatbread ($13) featured wild forest mushrooms, shaved fennel, basil, red onion, Parmigiano reggiano and spicy tomato sauce. The crust was blistered at the edges but supple in the middle. I could have done without the fennel, which overpowered the flavor and texture of the delicate “pizza.”
Sweet potato fries ($7.50) were excellent, crisp on the outside, soft inside, and not too oily, with a dish of Cabrales aioli studded with chunks of blue cheese.
Crow Bar’s dinner menu features more entrées, but ¼-pound burger sounded awful good, especially given the prescribed toppings. My favorite burger was the eponymous Crow Burger ($11), toasted ciabatta with a juicy patty, thick slices of Tallegio and Gorgonzola, roasted tomato marmalade and rocket. The accompanying French fries could have been crisper, but had good flavor, sprinkled with sea salt and served with a dish of tart lemon aioli.
The Hangover Burger ($13) featured smoky strips of nitrate-free bacon, aged cheddar, a fried organic hen’s egg, raw onion, tomato and lettuce. The bun was nice and soft and soaked up the dripping beef juices.
The Crow Bar definitely makes a top-flight Cubano ($11). A soft torpedo roll held slices of “Salmon Creek Farms” pork loin, Nueske ham, house pickles and Havarti, plus mustard aioli. Even the salad was good, with lightly dressed frisee and rocket.
Crow Bar’s Vidalia onion rings ($6) were incredible, with thin, crisp sheathes and a central piping of sweet onion. Vidalia is a Southern onion, so it makes sense that it would come with a dish of buttermilk dressing for dipping.
During the day, Crow Bar isn’t mind-blowing, but offers solid bar food and interesting beers. I’d be interested in returning at night for some of Chef Brandon’s more elaborate dishes.
June 16, 2009 at 1:57 PM
I was in Orange County for the first time ever last weekend and loved the Crow Bar! I loved the beer selection more than anything, but thought the food was awesome too! btw. no shots, whats up with that?