While options are aplenty for meeting or eating in Costa Mesa, finding a space to call your own is tough. The popularity of happy hour specials has a direct correlation to your chances of scoring a spot to rest your drink (or your ass, for that matter). Generally, the dining scene within hotels surrounding South Coast and Avenue of the Arts cater to business travelers, theater goers and folks on holiday. Except these same properties have to compete with recognizable brands and hipster hangouts a short distance away.
What drew me to Crowne Plaza wasn't a brand I thought I knew. It was finally learning about Scott Brandon's whereabouts. Maybe you recognize him from the defunct Oysters in Corona del Mar, or the man who helped launch Crow Bar + Kitchen a few doors down. I met him shortly before he launched LinX in Old Towne Orange. When both Brandon and Jared Cook left the scene last year, we wondered where they would land next. Jared returned to Vine in San Clemente, yet Scott was MIA . . .until now.
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A self-proclaimed American tavern, it hovers the gastropub line. Shrimp hushpuppies, crispy flatbreads, plus Skuna Bay salmon were some of the night's featured dishes. The far end of Fireside is designated full-service dining, with bar seating as you enter. A fiery, outdoor lounge runs the length of the room. Between small bites and waves of people exploring the recently renovated property, I had one thought on my mind: Would I spend happy hour here? Sure.
Per Scott, Fireside has dual party times: 3-6pm and 10pm-12am. The ample amount of seating inside and out is a definite selling point, with decent self-parking to match. Their updated space is modern without being stuffy. And the beer selection? Seven on tap, 10 bottled with names like Stone, St. Archer, Ommegang and Green Flash. There's always room for local brews, but for a boutique property they're off to a good start.
Fireside is located inside Crowne Plaza at 3131 Bristol St, Costa Mesa; (714) 557-3000.