Fly-N-Fish Oyster Bar & Grill is located in the heart of the boardwalk and a short stroll from the Newport Beach Pier. Before it opened in Sept. 2012 this scenic area overlooking the ocean was serviced by either fine dining or casual dining eateries, with nothing in between. Fly-N-Fish is filling that gap, providing a restaurant with fine dining quality but in a relaxed atmosphere. The restaurant’s name is taken from the soaring fish that leap through the waters just yards away, and a relaxed ambience in the small 56-seat eatery is accomplished via red brick, hardwood floor, wood table tops, a granite bartop, open kitchen, large screen TVs and wall bedecked with photos of the owners’ prize catches over the years.

Owners Rick and Steve Lummis have more than 40 years in the restaurant business and proved their acumen for success with their Red Onion location in Newport Beach in the 1980s. They wisely selected Chef Julio Hawkins to run the kitchen, who has a resume spanning more than 30 years, with extremely impressive experiences leading him to the top of his field. Chef graduated from thae California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and has cooked for several celebrities and dignitaries over the years, including Bill Gates and President George H. Bush. Over the years he has held positions at such renowned establishments as the Columbia Tower Club in Seattle, Wally’s Desert Turtle in Rancho Mirage, Morton’s Steakhouse, House of Blues at Downtown Disney, King’s Fish House, and LAX; provided culinary service to 30,000 guests at golf tournaments; served as an instructor at the Cordon Bleu in Pasadena; and has appeared on TV programs on CBS and the Food Network’s Chef vs. City.

Chef is responsible for writing the menus, training his staff and also serves as general manager. He describes Fly-N-Fish as upscale dining in a casual setting without the pretentiousness of fine dining. Chef said, “I get to come to work every day and play in the sandbox. If you have fun in what you do, guests will always come back.” And come back they do. Business was up 38% after the first year and so far this year Fly-N-Fish is on target to register even more growth; and on a Friday or Saturday a two-hour wait is not uncommon.

Server Lori Eich, who has been at the restaurant since it opened as has most of the staff, adds more reasons for the restaurant’s success: “It’s very family, not corporate, and the owners are great. You can’t beat the view and most of the clientele is local. Many of our customers walk here and some come four times a week.”

As for the cuisine, Chef said, “I want to do classic American fare with big, bold flavors.” He conscientiously follows the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program and uses only freshly caught sustainable products and farm to table produce. Everything is made from scratch, including the desserts, and the quality of ingredients and Chef’s vast background is clearly evident in both presentation and taste of his menu items. The most popular dish is the New England Clam Chowder and after tasting it I can see why. Made with chopped clams, potatoes and leeks, added richness is added with bacon and cream. Maryland Crab Cakes are brightened with addition of a Thai chili and papaya-mint salsa. Another must-have dish is the Cioppino, loaded with generous amounts of shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, calamari, crab and fresh catch simmered in a zesty red wine sauce with a touch of curry and saffron to give it complexity and roasted vegetables to add sweetness. The beauty of this dish is how you can taste the seafood, not just tomato. The Saffron Bacon Risotto—a mix of scallops, shrimp, walnut-basil pesto oil and snapped peas—was a seasonal special, but after it was taken off the menu the clientele demanded it be brought back and it is now one of the top sellers.

The price point is extremely reasonable considering the view and quality and is surely another reason for the steady stream of customers. Prices at the low end are at $5 for the aforementioned Clam Chowder; small plates and sandwiches are $12-$17; and house specialties range from $16 to $30. And during happy hour M-F from 3-7 p.m. appetizers including calamari, ceviche, crab cakes, fish tacos and clam chowder are $2-$8; draft pints are $5-$6; and house wine and well drinks are $6.

Fly-N-Fish is a bright beacon on the shoreline of Newport Beach, and with the finely-tuned staff and kitchen orchestrated by Chef Julio Hawkins, it’s sure to shine on for many moons to come.

Fly-N-Fish is open daily for lunch and dinner.

Fly ‘N’ Fish Oyster Bar & Grill

2304 W Oceanfront

Newport Beach, CA 92663

949 673-8400