LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. — The Tommy Bahama brand is known for comfortable, casual clothing that reflects their “Life is one long weekend” philosophy. The translation of the island resort experience into easily approachable food makes their combination restaurant/retail store a hit with travelers and locals. The most recent opening, Tommy Bahama Laguna Beach, continues their creation of restaurants with a sense of place.
The clothing chain started in 1992; the first restaurant in 1996.
Chef Bruce Dillon helped open the first Tommy Bahama restaurant and worked there several years. He explained, “The idea was to create a place where the founders thought that this theoretical Tommy Bahama person would like to eat. Putting the restaurant adjoining the retail store allowed them to have guests who were waiting to be seated browse and shop. After the first compound was so successful they chose other locations where ‘Tommy Bahama’ would like to vacation.”
“The restaurant came out of the idea that Tommy Bahama needs to tell a story of comfort. One thing we know is that there is nothing more luxurious than feeling comfortable. Food is an essential element to comfort so it’s a natural for the brand,” added Rob Goldberg, senior vice president of restaurants.
According to Goldberg the company typically opens one restaurant a year. “They are complicated businesses in that we don’t use templates or cookie cutter designs. Each of our restaurants is a reflection of the community it’s in and as a result they’re all unique.”
The newest store/restaurant in Laguna Beach caters to anyone looking for a mini-vacation – even if only a lunch hour is at hand. The friendly, picturesque town along coastal hills and sandy beaches features a walkable shopping area filled with galleries of local artists’ works. The setting is a perfect fit for Tommy Bahama and the restaurant design captures the charm and heritage of the beachside community.
The building housing Tommy Bahama sits on a corner across the street from Main Beach Park with large windows providing a view of the Pacific Ocean. Maintaining the buildings 1931 exterior was a city requirement, though the inside space was completely renovated. The 5,500 square-feet space is divided between the high-end sportswear retail and the restaurant/bar.
Goldberg described the restaurant, “The wood floor was designed to have the sound and feel of boardwalk.” Mr. Goldberg says. “Carbonized walnut with the look of teak was used; teak was avoided for environmental reasons (the plant is endangered).”
Other green efforts include composting food waste and in-house Natura filtered water, still or sparkling, available free, skipping the need glass or plastic water bottles.
Mounted on one wall is a vintage hollow, wooden lifeguard’s surfboard. Also hanging on the walls are black wool bathing suits with Laguna Beach emblazoned in white across the front.
Other photos, provided by the Laguna Beach Historical Society, feature bathers of every age frolicking in those same era suits that were rented by the day.
The building’s large windows are open to the ocean breezes in the usually mild weather. The kitchen is behind tinted glass–visible but with no sound reaching diners.
“The menu is meant for sharing and is casual enough for people who may be just coming off the beach,” Goldberg said.
Even those who hate to shop may well wander through the store while they wait for a table. Or those browsing the sweaters, printed “camp” shirts or cargo shorts could easily gain an appetite from the cooking aromas that waft into the retail section.
Goldberg pointed out, “The founders clearly understood the power of appealing to all of the senses. The restaurants provide context and tell the whole Tommy Bahama story of escape and relaxation.”
Tommy Bahama Laguna Beach
400 South Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Lobster corn dogs $14
Sweet corn batter, mango ketchup, sriracha mustard
Ahi tuna tacos $8
Wonton shell, Asian slaw, wasbi-lime infused avocado
Prime angus smokehouse burger $13
Toasted brioche, roasted garlic aioli, sharp white cheddar, red onion, Nueske’s applewood bacon, bbq ketchup, French fries
Poblano chicken $19
Cornflake-almond crust, herbed cheese, roasted yellow pepper, whipped Yukon golds, haricot vert
Ahi noodle salad $17
Lemongrass encrusted, seared, shredded romaine, carrots, edamame, peppers, wakame, buckwheat soba, ponzu, red miso vinaigrette
Root beer float $8
Abita, Ciao bella vanilla, white chocolate, whipped cream, caramel
Linda Mensinga was editor of Culinary Trends for 15 years, now a contributing writer. If you have a great restaurant, recipe or food you’d like to share please send an email. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or Linda@culinarytrends.net.
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