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By Melissa Kandel

Sushi is best enjoyed with a slice of jalapeño on top and beer is at its finest when of the craft variety, chilled to the glass. 

This was the philosophy occupying my mind as I sat in quiet contemplation, laptop unfolded, at a small table on the balcony of The Backhouse Yakitori, a haute-cuisine Japanese spot in Huntington Beach’s newest enclave of all things coastal and cool, Pacific City. The sun was waning, a mellow gold descending on the swell of waves in the distance, cars whizzed right below my perch, adding an urban spin to the twilit, palm-treed scene, and I watched and wrote this very post as surfers carried their boards across the concrete field of Pacific Coast Highway, onto the sand, off the sand, in the water, out of the water. The minutes passed, the sun caressed the horizon with an ever-closer touch, and I sipped my icy blonde ale, click-clicked out a sentence or two on my keyboard, and took a bite of a delectable spicy yellowtail roll with cucumber, avocado, wasabi aioli and of course, jalapeño, a thin, emerald ringlet lounging artfully demure atop a bed of chopped tuna  …

The whole thing was part of Pacific City’s newest beer adventure, Tap Takeover, when local craft breweries provide their pours to a selection of restaurants in the hip Surf City locale edging Highway 1. I’m told from the development’s marketing team—hey, shout out for having me!—Tap Takeover will most likely be a quarterly event, so if you’re an O.C. resident feeling bummed about missing this first one, here’s lookin’ at you, summer.  

Also, because I know my little word studio-ists are fine food enthused, I’m gifting you guys with a rundown of the Pac City restaurants that were taken over last Tuesday, on that sun-setting late-March eve, a tableau of Southern California culinary excellence, brewed in words and pictures:

The American Dream 

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Sixty craft beers on tap, high-end burgers and surfer-approved fries grace the menu of this elevated beach shack for the discerning yet laid-back foodie. The American Dream never looked—or tasted—so good. 

The Backhouse Sushi Yakitori and Bar 

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The Backhouse Yakitori prides itself on delivering to your plate the highest-quality sushi and grilled-to-perfection, robata-style yakitori this side of Japan … or the PCH.  

Burnt Crumbs 

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Everything about Burnt Crumbs is authentic, from the house-made bread and pickled veggies to the slow-roasted and braised meats that fill the sandwiches served in its’ artisan-inspired shop. (Yes, they’ve also got a ‘wich made with spaghetti, in case you were wondering about the picture above.)

The Dudes’ Brewing Company Tasting Room

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First of all, love the name, (and I’m now renting The Big Lebowski after I send this post out into the world). Second of all, the Dudes’ chill, low-key brewery is doing it right with seasonal selections and beer-fanatic faves, including: Grandma’s Pecan English Style Brown, Blood Orange Amber & Peach Berliner Weiss, Surfrider American Pale Ale and more. 

Ola Mexican Kitchen

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Seaside meets Spanish vibes in Ola Mexican Kitchen’s innovative dishes featuring elements of authentic Mexican comfort food infused with skillful, gastronomic flair.

Old Crow Smokehouse

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When a Chicago native (from my old hood in the ceaseless party that is Wrigleyville, no less) opens a BBQ restaurant and imbues it with the flame-cooked stylings of Memphis, the Carolinas, Kansas City and Texas, you literally can never go wrong. Old Crow Smokehouse, a high-energy eatery featuring live music twangin’ zestfully through the darkly wooded, high-ceilinged space, does not disappoint.


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A local pub with unexpectedly complex food, Simmzys’ fare is as good as its iconic view of the famed Huntington Beach pier and boardwalk. Bar grub never tasted so subtle, sophisticated and refined. 

Ways & Means Oyster House

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Sustainably caught seafood goes on a date with insanely creative ingredients and in the end, the resulting food-child is Ways & Means Oyster House. The oceanside restaurant prides itself on providing diners with light, fresh plates, all imagined by the culinary minds behind Locale Magazine’s 2014 pick for the best Oyster House in Orange County.

[Feature image via Pacific City/Marie Buck Photography]

Melissa Kandel is a Southern California-based writer and the founder/author of little word studio. If you really want, you can follow little word studio on Instagram here.


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