area, and the latter want to spend as much of their vacation dollars
as possible on or near the water.
Unfortunately, it seems like most waterfront restaurateurs focus
more on the setting than on the menu, the result being a decided lack
of true quality dining. Nevertheless, anytime I have visitors, I am
invariably asked if we can dine by the water, and I feel obliged to
One of the spots I like to take my out-of-town guests is Billy's
at the Beach, perched on Coast Highway with beautiful view of the
bay. Billy is Billy Craig, a longtime Newport resident who has run
the restaurant with son Rick since it opened in 1993. Today, Rick
handles most of the management chores, while dad handles the local
Through trial and error, I've decided that simple is best when it
comes to waterfront dining. For the most part, Billy's succeeds when
it tries to be the least pretentious. The theme at Billy's is 1960s
Hawaiian. Rattan-lined walls sport Gauguin replicas and prints of
Hawaiian surf scenes and are accented with bamboo posts. The carpets
and upholstery feature tropical prints, and the overall atmosphere is
casual and relaxing. Of course, the main dining room has one wall
taken up by floor to ceiling glass windows fronting Newport Harbor.
To the right, as one enters, is the Tiki Bar, always crowded with
local revelers. Past the bar is a doorway leading to an outdoor patio
that opened in September and features seating for al fresco dining,
as well as another full bar for outdoor partying. The only way to
dine closer to the water would be on a boat.
The signature drink at the Tiki Bar is the mai tai (you were
expecting White Russians?), a potent blend of fruit juices and light
and dark rums. It's a refreshing libation that definitely conjures up
images of the islands, but be forewarned -- have more than one, and
you'll probably see other images, as well. Definitely have a
designated driver if mai tais are part of your game plan.
Judging by the crowds at both bars, Billy's is a popular hangout
to people-watch and enjoy the live bands that entertain on the