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Preview of Driftwood Kitchen in Laguna Beach

Preview of Driftwood Kitchen in Laguna Beach

Preview of Driftwood Kitchen in Laguna Beach

Driftwood Offers Beautiful Views and Breathtaking Dishes

Driftwood Kitchen recently opened at 619 Sleepy Hallow Drive in Laguna Beach and replaces the former Beach House Restaurant. In my opinion, Driftwood is a very serious upgrade from the former tenants. The view from Driftwood is one one of the best al fresca oceanfront restaurants in Orange County. Some of the tables are literally overlooking the beach, allowing an onshore wind to gently buff the soul.

driftwood kitchen patio overlooks Laguna Beach and the Pacific Ocean

driftwood kitchen patio overlooks Laguna Beach and the Pacific Ocean

New Restaurant, New Chef and New Cuisine

Driftwood Kitchen is excelling where the previous tenants failed, the cuisine. Driftwood Kitchen is overseen by Chef Rainer Schwarz, who brings an extensive resume of restaurant experience spanning from Lucerne to Hollywood.

Driftwood Kitchen California Coast Cuisine

Driftwood Kitchen California Coast Cuisine


The type of cuisine that Chef Schwarz is presenting at Driftwood Kitchen is California Coastal Cuisine. This style is very popular right now and focuses on what is fresh along the California Coast, so expect fresh seafood, coastal plain vegetables and fruits and local protein.

Chef Schwarz has created some truly breathtaking dishes that equally stand up to the view.

Note: This preview post is based on a reception that I attended at Driftwood Kitchen. I tasted and photographed the dishes as bite sized portions. This is a preview post, not a formal blind review. With that said, I was still very impressed. A blind review will come at a later date.


What I Sampled at Driftwood Kitchen

Summer Squash Blossoms

Although Fried Squash Blossoms are becoming more and more common every year, this preparation stands out. The summer squash blossoms are stuffed with Bellwether Farms ricotta, heirloom tomato sauce, dipped in a tempura batter and flash fried. The result is a crispy exterior gives way to hot and creamy ricotta center. 

Driftwood KitchenSummer Squash Blossoms

Driftwood Kitchen Summer Squash Blossoms

Northern Atlantic Halibut Filet

The Northern Atlantic Halibut Filet was one of my favorite dish of the evening. The Halibut was simply grilled and normally served alongside Weiser Farms fingerling potatoes, corn fricassee and an English pea sauce. The dish is simple yet elegant and perfect for a warm Summer evening.  $28.

Driftwood Kitchen Northern Atlantic Halibut Filet

Driftwood Kitchen Northern Atlantic Halibut Filet. The sampler version we tried is a slight modification to the real platted dish.

Butcher Steak and Pork Belly

If meat is your thing, this dish delivers in spades. Grilled flank steak is grilled to a Medium rare and served atop roasted pork belly and topped with a Chimichuri sauce, a roasted tomato, and a french fried onion. This is a wonderful dish that is packed with protein flavor and accentuated by the acidity of the tomato and tart herbaliciousness of the chimichuri. $24

Driftwood Kitchen Butcher Steak and Pork Belly

Driftwood Kitchen Butcher Steak and Pork Belly

Baked Oysters with Potato Coulis

I love baked oysters and this concoction was fantastic! What looked like Fannie Bay Oysters were roasted with a potato coulis. It is then topped with fresh uni and crispy squid ink. The fresh uni is a nice contracts against the warm oysters and the crispy squid ink added a nice contrast shift between the soft ingredients. $15

Driftwood Kitchen Baked Oysters with Potato Coulis

Driftwood Kitchen Baked Oysters with Potato Coulis

Wild European Mushroom Ragout with Sweetbreads

This was my absolute favorite dish of the night because it was deep in flavor and texture layering. A ragout of wild European mushrooms are served with caramelized Cipollini onions, portion of crispy sweetbread, sunny side up quail egg, all resting in a puddle of sauce made from wine and veal stock.

Driftwood Kitchen Wild European Mushroom Ragout with Sweetbreads

Driftwood Kitchen Wild European Mushroom Ragout with Sweetbreads

The mushrooms provided a constant note of earthiness against the staccato of rich sweetbread and umami from the egg. I recommend that you mix the egg into the dish and enjoy all the ingredients in one integrated bite to experience the true complexity of the flavor layers. This dish was a piece of art.

Driftwood Desserts

Carrot Cake

My Favorite of the desserts I tried is the Carrot cake. This is not your Grandma’s carrot cake. It is served crumbled with carrot cardamom cream cheese frosting, cinnamon sugared carrot ships and carrot ice cream. The chef nailed this dish by ensuring the constant flavor of carrot through the dish, but in different flavor permutations.

Driftwood Kitchen Carrot Cake

Driftwood Kitchen Carrot Cake

Rocky Road

The Rock Road is a fun remake of the original ice cream with what appeared to be a chocolate ganache, toasted almonds and a marshmallow sticky cream. Don’t quote me on these ingredients, but I think I am close. $8

Driftwood Kitchen Rocky Road

Driftwood Kitchen Rocky Road

Driftwood Cocktails

The cocktails at Driftwood are a combination of throwbacks and modern spins on classic cocktails. The one thing I will say about their cocktails is that they are made with premium ingredients and well crafted. I truly enjoyed each cocktails and unfortunately had to cut myself off from having more.

“I Can See Clearly Now”

I was particularly excited about this cocktail, because I absolutely love carrot based cocktails. The “I Can See Clearly Now” is made with Gin, carrot juice, ginger puree and lemon sour. The sugars and rich flavors. This cocktail did not disappoint and I would drink these all night.

"I Can See Clearly Now" Cocktail

“I Can See Clearly Now” Cocktail

High Tide

The High Tide is fashioned after one of the drinks from now defunct Royal Hawaiian in Laguna Beach. It contains rye, fresh pineapple, ginger, lemon sour, and mint. It is very tropical and really should be called the sneaky tikki. This cocktails packs a punch.

High Tide Cocktail

High Tide Cocktail


Sailor Jerry Rum, strawberries, lemon sour, and strawberries. This was a nicely balanced cocktail that had the sugary elements that you would expect from strawberries, although the lemon sour evened out the cocktail, making it a little too drinkable. At least I was getting my vitamins for the week 😉

Seaworthy Cocktail

Seaworthy Cocktail

My Final Thoughts

Beautiful views and stunning bites make Driftwood Kitchen one of the hottest restaurant launches in recent memories. What I like is the fact that Chef Rainer Schwarz is breathing new life on this property and returning it it’s former glory. Sitting on the rooftop restaurant, you can’t help but to feel that you are sitting at an al fresca restaurant in Positano Italy. Driftwood is a temporary way of letting the salty sea breeze wash away the day’s stresses and allowing the food to provide Prozac like effects on the soul.

driftwood kitchen patio 2

Driftwood Kitchen
619 Sleepy Hollow Ln Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Breakfast, 9 AM – 11 AM

  • Lunch, 11:30 PM – 3 PM
  • Dinner, 5 PM – 10 PM
  • Bar, 5 PM – 12 AM
  • Weekend Brunch, 8:30 AM – 3 PM

Driftwood Kitchen on Urbanspoon

About Tom Holmberg

Tom grew up in a cultural diverse neighborhood and a culturally diverse family, so he has learned to appreciate all types of food. "I am not a Chef, nor do I play one on T.V., but I have learned to appreciate food from years of eating and cooking." Tom also spent 10 years in the restaurant industry in various roles, from Prep Cook to server.


  1. The dishes served looked great and simple design thanks for making my mouth water.

  2. This place sounds like the perfect way to let the stress of life wash away!

  3. What a great view with some fabulous dishes.

  4. Oh I would love to be there during this Texas heat!!!

  5. Sounds like a great place for dining out! And the food is absolutely to drool for, lol

  6. Those cocktails look really good. Must be a great place to dine

  7. I want that Butcher Steak! Lovely place to be with a partner..

  8. Deanna Heiliger

    What a wonderful view, and all the dishes sound really great, especially the squash blossom! WOW!

  9. Bradley Finnearty

    The butcher steak and the mushrooms look so delicious. I would really like to live close enough to go here.

  10. Daniele Holmberg

    I love this restaurant! I look forward to going back there next weekend to celebrate Peggy’s bday!!:)

  11. Beautiful setting and beautiful food – I’m envious and wish I were closer so I could stop by

  12. Juanita Aguerrebere

    Everything looks delicious! I look forward to going there the next time I am in Southern Cal!

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