Lively Luxury at Pelican Grill
The vibe is extra lively at Pelican Grill this particular Friday midafternoon in Newport Coast. The bar is packed with golfers, hotel guests and locals. The second round of the PGA Championship is gracing both of the nine-foot, high-def TVs in the lounge. Every table inside is occupied, and there’s only one open on the balcony that overlooks the Resort at Pelican Hill’s two golf courses, expansive resort pool and the majestic Pacific Ocean.
There’s plenty to look at from every seat in the house. But one thing every diner is eyeing: the food. The lunch menu includes salads, wood-fired pizzas, healthy wraps, burgers, short ribs and roasted chicken. At our table, the spicy tortilla soup is a big hit. It’s a puree of chicken, cotija cheese and avocado, and makes an ideal appetizer for the cioppino that includes mussels, fish, jumbo shrimp and calamari.
Afterward, a warm, oozing chocolate lava cake flanks vanilla gelato. It’s hard to imagine a more hitting-the-bull’s-eye lunch experience.
The atmosphere is conducive to comfort, with its rich wood paneling, high ceilings and stone fireplace. The horseshoe-shaped area inside offers views of the big screens from every seat, while the integrated sound system helps complete the experience. The lavish lounge chairs will seriously rival anything in your living room — in fact, they’re likely nicer — and they are one of the first things you notice as you sit down.
The entire lounge has a plush atmosphere that’s great for kicking back and watching a game. That’s no coincidence, according to Paul Jimenez, general manager of Pelican Grill. “We strive for the highest level of comfort and a seamless, memorable guest experience,” Jimenez says. “Guided by the highest standards of hospitality, our passionate team genuinely engages with each guest and personalizes each experience. Paired with our service delivery, breathtaking ocean views and upscale setting, we like to make a lasting impression on our guests.”
It’s no surprise that the space attracts nice crowds for football, basketball, golf and baseball. And on college football Saturdays, it thrives with throngs of USC and UCLA fans and alumni, which makes for a great game-day atmosphere. During NFL season, Rams fans proudly wear their blue and gold.
But of course, the food is the star of the show. Chef Marc Johnson believes that people eat with their eyes first, then with the rest of their senses. A graduate of California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, he’s cooked at restaurants and hotels throughout Southern California, having previously headed up kitchens at Haven Gastropub in Pasadena and Wood & Vine in Hollywood before joining Pelican Grill two and a half years ago, where he specializes in creating timeless dishes with contemporary twists while sourcing fresh local ingredients.
Around the corner from the bar, the dining room features an open-display kitchen that seems to be perpetually buzzing with cooks in action. One premier meal you can have here stands out above all others. “Our Tasting Table experience invites epicureans to dine at a special table for up to 10 guests right next to the kitchen,” Jimenez says. “This interactive, chef-led experience includes a multicourse prix fixe menu, featuring the freshest seasonal ingredients with creative presentations and paired with selected wines. The chef comes to the table to personally introduce each dish and describe how it’s being prepared right behind him in the open kitchen.”
But even if you’re just ordering from the menu at a standard table, you will likely find the food and energy hit the right spot.