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Restaurants & Bars 5

Balboa Island Summer Vacation

mc michael | Aug 6, 200312:02 PM

First, many thanks to all who made numerous detailed recommendations and offered directions. If we didn't get to your particular spot, it was primarily due to time, circumstance and the needs of our 15 month old daughter. We stayed on the "little island" portion of Balboa. The first thing that struck me was how homogeneous the place is. Additionally, it's very pretty and very clean. [If only we could combine the clean and pretty of the Balboa area with some of the grit and diversity of LA, but I suppose some might feel this would destroy the fantasy island aspect of the place.] A ritual that soon developed was a morning trek to Pain du Monde on Marine for coffee and pastry. The coffee is very good and pretty strong. And they open early. Other spots visited on the island were Dad's (for a Balboa Bar--it disappeared so fast), Village Inn (which seemed to have the best food we had on the island), Giorgio's (for some pasta, not bad if the decor is a little dated), and Wilma's Place (very mediocre food, but extremely child friendly). Over on Balboa Peninsula, in addition to visits to the wavy beach (pretty big waves caught by young skimboarders), we ate at Ruby's on the Pier (their cinamon roll French Toast is good, tho it's a little strange that they serve everything on paper plates with disposable utensils. Still a fun place, and I liked their red naugahyde high chair) and Newport Landing (which has good seafood at a price. They do tend to rely too much on sugary, mango-coconut sauces that make everything taste the same and some oysters on the half shell were flavorless. Still with some elimination of sauces, the seafood and the breeze are quite enjoyable}. Also had some good crab, shrimp, etc. enchiladas and a respectable marg on the rocks at Chimayo on Fashion Island. FI does have lots of outdoor space that really appealed to the little one although she's reserving judgment on the carrousel rides. We went to Anthony's Riverboat Restaurant (no relation to San Diego's Anthony's) where we had some brunch. The place is dated but the food is passable for brunch and they'll give you mimosas with it. We asked for a highchair but they said "it" was in use. During the course of our visit we never saw such a chair in evidence only boosters. The oddest part was the waiter spontaneously breaking into a full length rendition of "Some Enchanted Evening." The adjacent museum was informative about the nautical history of the area though somehow lacking the update suggested by "The OC." Got some meat for grilling from Hershey's (on the island) and from the nearby Pavilions. In hindsight, I should have gone to the nearby Bristol Farms for better quality. In terms of quality food, The Gulfstream in Corona Del Mar and The Bungalow across from it on Coast Highway are good choices, but we didn't make it to those places this time. One sad point: the area is on the flight path of nearby John Wayne Airport and there's an incredible amount of traffic in and out of there (sometimes a plane a minute for an hour at a stretch, particularly early morning). For me, this became a sort of white noise or was drowned out by the sounds of the waves on the Peninsula. All in all a peaceful change from the pace of LA.

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