Restaurants Cook Up New Plans


By Jennifer Erickson | LB Indy

Once again Laguna Beach’s menu of dining establishments is under revision.

Just as two new restaurants seemed poised to replace long-closed Mosun and well-liked Sundried Tomato, Urth Caffe moves ahead with stalled renovations to the historic building that housed The Cottage restaurant. And local noshers will be thrilled to learn that Shirley’s Bagels received approval to move into the larger space formerly occupied by Casey’s Cupcakes on Ocean Avenue.

Peruvian restaurant Inka
From left,Ingrid Montoya, AnnaMontoya Driggs and Ana Montoya intend to open the Peruvian restaurant Inka in the former location of Sundried Tomato.

The correct order, from left, is Ingrid Montoya, Anna Montoya Driggs and Ana Montoya.

Inkas Bistro leased the space vacated a year ago by Sundried Tomato, and owners hope to open their doors by late December or mid-January, said Anna Driggs who co-owns the restaurant with her mother Ana Montoya.

The city liked the concept “because we were unique,” said Driggs, a five-year Laguna Beach resident, who opened Inkas on Laguna Canyon Road in Irvine in 2000 with her mother and sister.

While other sites became available, “we wanted Laguna Beach,” said Driggs.

Inkas Bistro will offer an eclectic mix of Italian, Peruvian and French cuisine culled from four generations of family recipes. “It will be fun to share that with Laguna,” Driggs said, adding that the restaurant will be “more upscale” than their spot in Irvine, but won’t be overly expensive.

Residents hoping to get a taste of Urth Caffe’s offerings will have to wait a little longer. Earlier plans to open by December were scuttled due to the need to expand the basement for more storage, said local architect Todd Skenderian. Given the historic renovation of the building, the only way to create more space for supplies without compromising the original footprint was to go underground, he said. It was an essential move, but the result is that locals will have to wait until spring to sample the organic coffees and teas and breakfast and lunch items, coveted by those familiar with the cafe’s fare at five other locations in the Los Angeles area.

It will likely be the year of the monkey before diners can sample the menu at the Red Dragon, the Chinese restaurant planned for 680 S. Coast Highway, according to local architect Jim Conrad, hired by owners Ensan and Ruth Zhao to remodel the property. The popular nightclub and sushi bar Mosun occupied the spot until it closed abruptly three years ago.

Conrad has submitted plans to give the building a contemporary makeover for a two-level restaurant with an atrium, allowing the smaller upper floor to open on a view of the larger floor below. A roof top terrace for cocktails and appetizers is included in the plans, as well as improvements to the access road behind the restaurant to allow service deliveries and garbage pick-up from the rear.

Zhao, who is Chinese, couldn’t find any good restaurants serving his native cuisine in all of Orange County, so he decided to open his own in Laguna Beach, said Conrad. Zhao is bringing in two chefs from Hong Kong to serve authentic Cantonese food, he said.

The plans have yet to be approved, but Conrad aims for completion in spring of 2016.

Meanwhile, after an ordeal that began in May, Shirley’s Bagels finally has the green light to relocate to a larger space within the Plaza shopping center that straddles Ocean and Broadway streets.

The permit to operate in the larger suite became entangled in regulations that require more parking spaces because of an “intensification of use.” City staff and in the former the owners needed to find a way to accommodate that requirement, said Principal Planner Monica Tuchscher.

The owners commissioned a shared parking study that was peer-reviewed by a city-hired consultant. Its completion involved obtaining details about other tenant’s business operations. In order to make the shared parking plan pencil out, the property owner agreed to abandon food use in the suite Shirley’s currently occupies for future tenants, since that would require too many parking spaces, said architect Diane White, acting on behalf of the owners. “It ended up being a win-win for everybody,” said White, who expects a move to the new unit by January.

The Planning Commission approved the shared parking plan and the relocation of Shirley’s on Oct. 22. “Congratulations,” said Planning Commission chair Anne Johnson at the time. “You’ve done it after six long months, and a whole lot of people in town are going to be happy.”

Correction: Two sisters were misidentified in a photo caption published with “Restaurants Cook Up New Plans,” in the Nov. 7 edition. The correct order, from left, is Ingrid Montoya, Anna Montoya Driggs and Ana Montoya.


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