A Restaurant (formerly known as The Arches) on Coast Highway in Newport Beach has a storied past dating back 100 years. For decades, the gas station/diner was the halfway meeting spot for motorists between Los Angeles and San Diego, spawning the phrase “meet me at the Arches.”
Over the years the restaurant morphed into a classy old school steak house known for its lively lounge scene and leather booths, not to mention the fantastic steaks.
The Arches became a hangout for celebrities such as Gary Cooper, Tyrone Power, Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne and many others.
The restaurant changed hands several times and so did the name. Now it’s simply called A Restaurant and is as popular as ever thanks to River Jetty Restaurant Group Partners Joseph “McG” Nichol and Jordan Otterbein, who obtained the restaurant in 2008 and remodeled it to its former glory.
In addition to bringing A Restaurant to prominence, the duo also opened the adjacent A Market and then CdM Restaurant on Coast Highway in Corona del Mar in 2019.
Success breeds success. River Jetty Restaurant Group opened a third restaurant, A Crystal Cove, last May.
Located in the Crystal Cove Shopping Center near other upscale restaurants including Marche Moderne, Javier’s and Mastro’s Ocean Club, A Crystal Cove took over the spot formerly occupied by Settebello Pizzeria, which closed prior to the pandemic.
A Crystal Cove is River Jetty’s first restaurant to offer both lunch and dinner service plus weekend brunch.
“As Orange County natives, McG and I take pride in contributing to our community, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to expand upon our vision of bringing people together,” said Otterbein when the new restaurant opened. “A Crystal Cove is a completely one-of-a-kind experience.”
The restaurant is described in press material as having “an atmosphere of relaxed coastal sophistication” that welcomes guests throughout the day to experience “elevated cuisine in a welcoming setting.”
The first thing you’ll notice upon entering A Crystal Cove is the bar, or rather the huge bar centerpiece. It could be seen as an homage to the live tree that used to grow through the roof of Settebello, and it’s eye-catching. The bar seats 24, but there’s plenty more during the weekends, when it’s a busy scene.
The interior of A Crystal Cove seats 200—mostly in booths—larger than the A and CdM restaurants. Front-facing sliding doors open the restaurant up to the coastal breezes. Fine art adorns the walls, and there’s an antique photo booth available for guests to snap souvenirs of their dining experience.
The OCBJ Review
A recent media tasting for A Crystal Cove was held during lunch service, a wise decision since the lunch menu varies from the dinner menu, which is a curated selection of seasonally inspired greatest hits from A and CdM restaurants, courtesy of Executive Chef Elvis Morales.
We all ordered appetizers and pizza, and main entrées. The hit of the luncheon was of course A’s famous duck liver pâté with huckleberry gelee and mustard, accompanied by grilled rustic bread.
Healthy? No. Decadent and delicious? Absolutely.
We shared the “Fancy Pizza” with slow roasted lamb, mozzarella, sweet garlic, red onion, mint, Thai basil and dill dressing. The crust was nicely charred, the ingredient combination savory.
For my entrée, I selected the “Dirty Pasta” with rigatoni, ground duck, sage, aromatics and ricotta salata.
To say I devoured the dish is an understatement. This is a satisfying, savory treat that I’d order again and again—except there are so many other menu items I need to try.
The meal ended with a quartet of desserts: strawberry rhubarb tart, chocolate silk pie, Meyer lemon cheesecake, and corn madeleines with fresh mixed berries and whipped cream. All tasty, but attendees agreed we could eat a mound of madeleines and be happy—they are that good.
A Crystal Cove: 7864 E. Coast Highway, Newport Beach, (949) 715-1140, riverjettyrg.com/a-crystal-cove