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These Guys Are Mixing Things Up in Newport Beach

Written By: Ameihia Turingan

Our recent poll highlighted bar owners who have made a difference in the Newport Beach community. Emboldened by passion, each bar owner has worked hard through the years to provide quality service, delicious drinks, and great experiences for visitors. Our list contains concepts that are unlike any other, from pubs that have been open for many decades to ones that can transport visitors to Ireland and Baja California or help them appreciate the here and now in the OC. We had the pleasure to learn more about your favorite Newport Beach bar owners and introduce them to you below!

 

Jeffrey Chon of The Alley

Q: What is your favorite drink on The Alley menu?

Jeffrey Chon: The Alley is the definition of a no frills watering hole. I enjoy either a Ketel One soda or an Angel’s Envy Rocks.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

JC: 100 percent the people. Both the crew and patrons become like family with different life experiences and we grow and strengthen together.  

Q: What does it mean to be voted as one of Newport Beach’s favorite bar owners?

JC: Incredibly flattered and honored that the place I call home also thinks I’m okay too.

Q: You’ve opened several different eateries within the Orange County area, what makes the OC such a prime location for your enterprises?

JC: Well, I haven’t opened anything else outside of the OC. So I can’t say for sure if it’s a ‘prime location’ for new eateries, but I can say I have been blessed by being in a community that has embraced my ideas. I’ve continually developed in this area mainly because I do truly love where I live and would like to see more culinary development as well as an embracement of the classic elements that made this home in the first place.

Q: How do you apply the expertise you’ve learned from owning The Alley for the past ten years to your other projects?

JC: Diligence. Putting the hours in to get to know your clientele and continually adapt to what they want is the key to making any project work. I don’t pay the bills—the guests do. So putting energy into knowing what they want is the key.

 

Matt Baumayr of SOL Cocina

Q: What is your favorite drink on the menu?

Matt Baumayr: It is by far the Casa Noble Single Barrel margarita shaken table side. Aside from the fact that it is about a two-drink serving, I think it represents some of my favorite memories each year in its preparation. Going down to Jalisco with different staff members to pick out our own juice sets this drink apart from the rest as it is a great collaboration from year to year.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

MB: Every time I talk to a guest or a staff member that has been to Baja and says that SOL reminds them of their time down there would definitely be what I consider the most rewarding part of our job. Since our trips started down in Baja years and years ago, we knew there was something special about that place that wasn’t being conveyed properly. We set out to honor the traditions, hospitality and sense of being ‘away’ that we experienced down there. When that connects for our guests and staff, it is pretty cool.

Q: What is something unique about SOL Cocina that most visitors don’t know?

MB: Probably that it was a very serendipitous start that was originally intended to open in San Diego. Rich Howland and I set out to open this concept and when it came to finding a chef, we stumbled upon a book in a Barnes and Noble called ‘Baja, Cooking on the Edge’ written by a woman named Deb Schneider. Hoping to just steal a little bit of face time and direction with Deb, who was running the Del Mar Race Track at the time, it ended up turning into so much more. It turned out that Deb and I were neighbors in the same town of Pacific Beach in San Diego. From there, we have never looked back as Deb joined our partnership almost immediately and has defined the creative pulse of our concept since its inception.

Q: What inspired you to focus on Baja California cuisine?

MB: For me it was my love of surfing down the Baja coast when I was living in San Diego. I fell in love with the region and wanted to share what I took from my experiences with our guests.

Q: You discovered your passion for the hospitality industry during college and have pursued it ever since. What advice would you give to those aspiring to work in this industry and open their own restaurants some day?

MB: What I have learned and value above all else is a strong work ethic and an ability to listen to everyone’s input. When we first opened, our concept wasn’t very busy. It would have been very easy to give up, get deflated or rationalize why it was a market condition and not an ‘us’ problem. We have always been fortunate to have a pretty savvy community who knows their restaurants. Being able to dig in and ask them for their advice along the way helped us make some of the proper adjustments to get SOL on track and eventually grow into all of its locations.

 

Ron Schwartz of Muldoon’s Irish Pub

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

RS: I feel very happy seeing families coming into Muldoon’s to celebrate their special milestones like their rehearsal dinners, their wedding anniversaries or their Christmas parties during our ‘Irish Dickens Christmas Celebration.’ It’s really nice to know they feel [that] their most important occasions belong at Muldoon’s.

Q: What is something unique about Muldoon’s Irish Pub that most visitors don’t know?

RS: Well, if our brick walls could talk, they’d have plenty of stories to tell! So many fun and special gatherings take place at Muldoon’s! But recently the Food Network selected Muldoon’s as one of the Six Best Pubs in the USA.

Q: What does it mean to be voted as one of Newport Beach’s favorite bar owners?

RS: I’m grateful that after 43 years, Muldoon’s is still providing our community and new generations here with a ‘Public House’—that home away from home to feel comfortable and to enjoy!

Q: Muldoon’s has four unique spaces: the Dublin Pub, the Celtic Bar, the Tavern Dining Room, and the patio all under one roof. Which area of the Pub is your favorite?

RS: For all these years, my favorite spot has always been one of the barstools in our original Dublin Pub, at the end of the bar below the beautiful stained glass window. It’s a great spot for conversation and people watching.

Q: In addition to being a bar owner, you also have a career in law as a trial attorney. How did you get involved with Muldoon’s and the hospitality industry?

RS: I teamed up with twin brothers of Celtic descent who were builders; together, we developed Muldoon’s Irish Pub, opening in October 1974. These great gentlemen decided to exit the pub business early on and asked me to carry on the culture and tradition. Our family is proud to have honored that request.

Scott Lewis of the Blue Beet

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

SL: Growing up and living in Newport I’ve seen a lot of changes. What hasn’t changed is the fact that people come to Newport to have a good time. Be it the beach, the boardwalk or the bars, people are looking for fun. For me, being able to [have] a fun and safe environment where patrons can eat, drink and dance to live music is most rewarding.

Q: What is something unique about the Blue Beet that most visitors don’t know?

SL: Many people today are unaware of the Blue Beet’s colorful and unique history. Since 1902, the old brick building has been a restaurant/bar complete with a gambling hall, ladies of the night and a private speakeasy entrance in the rear.

Q: What does it mean to be voted as one of Newport Beach’s favorite bar owners?

SL: It’s a fun honor. Both my father and I grew up in Newport attending the same schools. We have crossed paths with a lot of different people. As much as we enjoy it, we feel that it’s more a loyalty vote to the Blue Beet and not us.

Q: Live music plays an important role at the Blue Beet. How would you describe the atmosphere and energy of the space?

SL: The great thing about live music is that the atmosphere and energy change so much on a nightly basis. On the weekends, we book bands with high energy that really get the crowd dancing. We mix it up during the week and will feature anything from country to reggae. The variety of musicians help to keep the vibe fresh night in and night out.

Q: You returned to the Blue Beet after pursuing a career in finance. What insights did that experience bring to your current role?

SL: I went to work in financial marketing after bartending at the Blue Beet because I felt that I could best utilize my business degree from USC in that type of atmosphere. After living away for two years, I realized that the best place for me to apply what I’d learned in school was in running and developing a small business and the Blue Beet was the perfect opportunity. I returned home and made a deal to acquire ownership of the Blue Beet along with my father. The success we have had as co-owners has allowed us to open another unique bar/restaurant in Huntington Beach called the Harbour Rackhouse.

 

Brent Ranek of Malarky’s Irish Pub

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Brent Ranek: The most rewarding part of my job is knowing Malarky’s Irish Pub is the favorite bar to so many people. They come back even after they’ve grown up. It’s nice to see people year after year. The crowd at Malarky’s is generational. People come in with their kids and I see friends that I grew up with.

Q: What is something unique about Malarky’s Irish Pub that most visitors don’t know?

BR: Something unique about Malarky’s is how many people have met their spouse here. Hundreds of people have met their wife or husband here at Malarky’s Irish Pub.

Q: What does it mean to be voted as one of Newport Beach’s favorite bar owners?

BR: It’s a very nice honor and I’m happy to be considered.

Q: You’ve been working at Malarky’s for 30 years, what has been your favorite memory at the Pub so far?

BR: I love our lifeguard reunion parties. I get to see people from almost every era including mine, eras before me and after me. It’s nice to see that every year this is the place we all go to. I would say the ‘90s was the best era because it was like a private club. Everybody that worked here was a lifeguard. If you didn’t know somebody who worked here, you couldn’t get through the door.

Q: Through the years, Malarky’s has given back to the Newport Beach community through fundraisers and events. What do you enjoy most about your involvement with the community?

BR: It’s fun to watch parents come back to the bar they used to go to when they were young. I can see them relive their youth by having a good time and raising money.