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What’s up with Number Three Restaurant?

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

It’s said that good luck come in threes, and for the Number Three Restaurant, there has been a trio of exciting updates – a refreshed look in the front on Pacific Coast Highway, the installation of more inside seating and in a few weeks, the restaurant will introduce Dai Mei Hot Pots to the menu.

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Installation of new cement surface and shade canopies

During the many changes the property has undergone since Jon Madison sold Madison Square & Garden Café in 2018, the one constant has been Eugene Avelino. Madison opened the café, a historic structure built in 1912, in 1997. Avelino started in 1998, which adds up to whopping 25 years he’s been part of the restaurant – an integral part – as regulars know. In addition to being a familiar face, he never fails to remember patrons and what they usually order.

Longevity seems to be the norm – Pastor, the cook, has been there for 20 years.

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Eugene Avelino helping a customer

Over the past five years, the property morphed into what it is today.

In 2018, the new owner, originally from Shanghai, China, renamed the property “Old House Café.” However, before his plans for the property came to fruition, he leased it to a restaurateur from the Middle East. “We served Mediterranean food,” Avelino said. “That didn’t last long, about six months, and the owner came back with Number Three Restaurant.”

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A group of locals enjoys the lush garden in the back patio

All the while, Avelino adapted to the many changes, providing a welcoming presence, one thing the locals can always count on. “I have a lot of memories from here,” he said.

He’s served a couple generations of customers; the kids of locals are now bringing in their families. And who wouldn’t want to be in such a tranquil setting?

The back garden, which is like being in someone’s shady backyard, is a big draw – it’s private (and quiet) with plenty of room for dogs to lounge by the tables. Avelino (following the tradition of Madison) always has dog treats. It’s a fun and relaxed space. Not enough can be said about the Zen-like ambience, but one must experience it to understand.

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A favorite, the Salmon Salad

Although the menu isn’t extensive, the items on the menu are notable.

The Eggs Benedict and Salmon Salad are among the favorites, and more than a few regulars go there every week for them. The French Dip and Madison Burger are favorites of my grandsons. The Seafood Special, Shrimp Lover and Salmon Frenzy are what seafood-lovers dream about.

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Additional seating inside

Once the Hot Pots are available, there will be another dining choice. “We should have them on the menu in a few weeks,” Avelino said.

In case you don’t know what a hot pot is (I didn’t), it’s described as a flavorful broth traditionally served inside a large metal pot. The broth is brought to a boil and left simmering for the duration of the meal. Raw ingredients, such as meat and vegetables, are placed into the simmering broth and cooked. The cooked pieces are dipped into dipping sauces for additional flavor. Hot pot is considered a main course and is usually served without rice or noodles on the side.

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Pastor has worked with Avelino for 20 years

Sounds like a unique addition to the menu, one that suits the upcoming cooler weather.

“We’ve had a lot of questions about opening for dinner,” Avelino said. “It’s not in the works for now, but maybe in the future.

“I want to say thank you to all the locals for supporting us for breakfast and lunch throughout these past years. We do our best for locals.”

So, stop in and give it a try it if you haven’t already. You can be certain Avelino will be there to greet you.

3 is open on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Three Restaurant is located at 320 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach.

Visit their website at www.numberthreerestaurant.com, or call 949.549.4817.

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New coffee shop at Aliso Creek Plaza receives approval for reduced parking requirements

By SARA HALL

The Planning Commission this week unanimously approved reduced parking requirements related to a proposed coffee shop planned for Aliso Creek Plaza.

Commissioners voted 5-0 on Wednesday (Oct. 18) in support of a conditional use permit to allow a reduction from parking space requirements in association with the new cafe, Rapport Coffee, through a revised shared parking plan at 30820 Coast Highway.

The property is in the Aliso Creek Shopping Center, located at the northeast corner of Coast Highway and Wesley Drive, across the highway from Montage Laguna Beach Resort. The property is zoned for commercial-neighborhood, which allows for various retail uses, including a coffee shop. The space was previously occupied by YogaWorks.

Overall, commissioners also supported the idea for the coffee shop in the spot. Although staff confirmed that the action taken by the commission was only related to the parking reduction, not the actual business.

It’s a great location, commented Commissioner Susan McLintock Whitin, next to two substantial residential neighborhoods, she pointed out, and more housing likely on the way to the area.

“I think this is a really good addition and it’s a good location. It’s a sterile shopping center, there are a couple of hot spots…but otherwise it’s a fairly sterile place,” she said. “It will be a community gathering spot and maybe you’ll be able to expand.”

If the business is successful, they could possibly look at relocating the access ramp in order to add some outdoor seating space.

Although Chair Ken Sadler thought the location, given that the space is tucked into the corner of the parking, was outside of the overall circulation for the lot. But business will pick up, he predicted. There are a few other popular spots in the center and when shoppers are nearby, they will learn about the new coffee shop.

Jinam Yoo, owner of CADJWORKS, LLC, noted in the permit application that Rapport Coffee and Roasters will offer single origin and blended coffee. Customers will be able to order specialty coffee brewed by a Specialty Coffee Association certified barista.

“Our specialty and organic coffee beans are directly imported from coffee farms located worldwide,” Yoo wrote.

New coffee shop at Aliso Creek Plaza site plans

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Rendering and photos by Grace Partnership Inc/Courtesy City of Laguna Beach

Site plans for Rapport Coffee at the Aliso Creek Plaza

Commissioners also noted that the spot hasn’t had a tenant in many years. That space has been vacant for quite a long time, Commissioner Jorg Dubin pointed out.

“I’m happy to see something go in there finally. It’s been it’s been empty for at least 10 years,” he said.

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Taste of Laguna Food & Music Festival gives foodies and music fans a night to remember

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

On October 5, The Taste of Laguna Food & Music Festival, presented by Hotel Laguna and held at the Festival of Arts, combined two awesome events – a food-tasting festival featuring more than 30 local restaurants and a rockin’ concert by the Mighty Untouchables – into a memorable evening. All proceeds benefit the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce.

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Tropical Mousse Cake from Splashes

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Wine Gallery with truffled mushrooms & polenta along with oven roasted meatballs made for tasty samplings

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VIP Area

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Chef Lindsay Smith, owner/chef of Nirvana Grille

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The Art of Juicing – located inside the Art of Fitness – shared their cold brews and juices

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(L-R) Mark Porterfield and friends

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Tango, soon to open on Forest Avenue. (L-R) Alexis Ross-Howitt and Lana Wilkinson, the owner’s daughters.

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Hotel Laguna shared tastings from Larsen and FIN

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Driftwood Kitchen with their slow roasted pork shoulder, grilled masa cake and pineapple salsa with lime crema bites

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Harvest at The Ranch of Laguna Beach preparing their samples

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Crispy chicken sandwiches from Oak Restaurant

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Offerings from Starfish

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From Small Batch Donuts – sweet works of art!

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Nick’s Restaurant

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Little Italy, Laguna Beach

For more photos by Mary Hurlbut, go to slideshow below:

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Chef Masters raises impressive proceeds for Unconditional’s senior and disable dog rescue

With 38 OC chefs and a plethora of wineries participating in this year’s Chef Masters culinary extravaganza on Sunday, Sept. 24 at the Festival of Arts grounds in Laguna Beach, there were 400 very happy guests. Benefiting Unconditional, a senior and special needs dog rescue, made it even more gratifying.

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Photos by Tony Lattimore

(L-R) Unconditional Co-Founders Julian and Amy Mack with $500,000 donor Maria A. Cadigan

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(L-R) Splashes Executive Chef Ron Fougeray with Executive Sous Chef Joe Macias

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Nirvana Grille Chef/Owner Lindsay Smith with her wooden charcuterie boards

Following a sumptuous two-hour gourmet food and wine reception, guests were seated at tables for dessert and introduced to the chefs by hostess DawnMarie Kotsonis before drawing the raffle ticket for a 52-bottle wine tree, provided by Mona Lee Nesseth from Laguna Beach. Elated Los Angeles resident Michelle Dulake was the lucky winner. Guests offered their bid cards in a drawing for a Cannery Restaurant Duffy Boat cruise and a three-course dinner with wines for 10 people, which Newport Beach resident Kathy Hamilton won.

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Mona Lee Nesseth (donor of 52-bottle wine tree) and George Rozsahegyi

Unconditional, a Laguna Beach-based nonprofit founded by Amy and Julian Mack is on track to build an 8,000-sq.-ft. rescue and adoption center for senior and special needs dogs, due to open in late 2024. The couple also just opened Rise Pet Health, a technologically advanced emergency and specialty veterinary clinic located in Laguna Hills. Profits from Rise go toward providing free care to the dogs at Unconditional, thereby ensuring the financial sustainability of the nonprofit. The Macks are also the proud parents of four senior and special dogs, and are committed to helping this very underserved but deserving group of pups through these bold initiatives.

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Laguna Beach residents Susan and Alan Fuerstman (Montage International founder, chairman and CEO)

Especially thanked were the $100,000 Title Sponsor, Carlo’s Fund; the $25,000 Platinum Sponsor, The Bone Adventure and the $10,000 Gold Sponsors JustFoodForDogs, PIRCH and Mary Murfey. Chef Masters Founder/Producer Kristin Martin was recognized as well.

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(L-R) Kristin Martin is the Founder/Director of Chef Masters and Mary Murfey was a $10,000 sponsor

Thanks also to Newport Beach resident Maria A. Cadigan, who donated $500,000 to Unconditional, and together with an impressive amount raised in the Fund a Need portion, the total raised was more than $1 million. The evening concluded with dancing to the popular band Flashback Heart Attack.

For more information on Chef Masters, visit www.chefmasters.org.

For more information on Unconditional, visit www.unconditionalrescue.org.

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Antonio Torres, long-time Gina’s Pizza manager, faces family struggle

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Those who frequent Gina’s Pizza on Oak Street know Antonio Torres. As manager for more than 20 years, Torres has made this restaurant such a warm gathering place for everyone – with of course, really good food. While delivery is always a treat, often customers opt to pick up just to chat with Torres and enjoy the familiar and welcoming vibe.

“I’m from Mexico, and I came to United States in the 1980s,” Torres said. “I've been employed by Gina’s Pizza for over 35 years now. I’m also a father and have been married for almost 30 years. My daughter, Audrey, after working her way up at Gina’s Newport, works at this location too.”

At this point in time, his role as father is what brings Torres to the attention of readers. His family is struggling with an unbearable tragedy. Torres just lost his 28-year-old son, Eros, to a fentanyl overdose, and the family is working through paying the funeral bills and raising Eros’ son, Sonny, who is 6 years old.

Antonio Torres Gina sign

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Photos by Paula Olson

Antonio Torres has been manager of Gina’s Pizza for 20 years

“I’m just a normal guy and have never been in a position like this,” he said. Clearly talking about his family is not something he’s used to doing. However, Torres feels he needs to speak up to raise awareness about the dangers of Fentanyl.

“Eros turned 28 years old last month,” Torres said. “He started working with me here at Gina’s when he was 12. It was a really nice experience and customers thought it was kind of cute, so they were tipping him. When he was 15, I felt like I was doing the right thing for him, because he was already showing responsibility with money. Eros was a nice and giving guy, he would take his food from his mouth to feed somebody else who needed it. He was there to help, and he always tried to make me proud of him.

“He started choosing a different type of way to live, and it wasn't going to take him anywhere.

Antonio Torres with menu

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Torres fills Gina’s Pizza with a warm and inviting atmosphere

“The main reason I decided to talk about it is that I want parents and their kids to be aware of the dangers of the drug fentanyl. I don’t say we can stop it, but at least we need to have more control of what’s going right now. Before my son passed away, we tried rehabs. We’d call 911. We’d have heart-to-heart conversations, but once kids get connected with this type of drug, it’s so hard to get out.

“What I’m hoping is to make people conscious of how we all need to come together and try to do something about it – how we can handle it in such a way so that our kids can be drug free – especially of this type of drug, which often is lethally laced with substances that our kids never intended to take, never intended to get involved with. And because this is happening multiple times every day in our communities.

“My family and I already have to deal with this bad experience, but it’s heartbreaking to know there are more many other families who are going to go through this.”

The Torres family is so grateful for the support they have receiving. Their road ahead is a tough one.

Perhaps the next time pizza is on the menu at your house, you’ll opt to stop by to pick up your order and share a hello with Antonio and Audrey.

As Antonio said, “Life is precious; hug your loved ones.”

To donate, go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/eros-torres.

For more information on CHOC’s website about “What parents should know about fentanyl,” go here.

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Rum Social creates Maui Love Cocktail to benefit Kokua Restaurant & Hospitality Fund

Known for its island-inspired menu, Rum Social in Laguna Beach is now offering a specialty cocktail benefitting victims of the devastating Maui wildfire.

Rum Social cocktail

Courtesy of Rum Social

Maui Love Cocktail will be available until August 30

Proceeds from their Maui Love cocktail will benefit the Kokua Restaurant & Hospitality Fund, an organization providing immediate assistance to restaurant, bar and hospitality workers, displaced by the devastating wildfires that have impacted West Maui communities. The cocktail is made with Rum Social’s signature black tea-infused rum, housemade hibiscus syrup, lemon, elderflower liqueur and cucumber. The cocktail will be available until August 30.

Rum Social is located at 448 S. Pacific Coast Highway, Laguna Beach.

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Everyone’s up for a slice of the pie

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

The community came out earlier this week to meet up with the new Laguna Beach Park Rangers and enjoy some slices at Z Pizza. Residents were encouraged to come out and meet the new team, ask questions and say hello.

Everyone's up for a slice ranger talking with resident in green SNL

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(L-R) Park Ranger Carter converses with Design Review Board member and local REALTOR® Don Sheridan

Everyone s up for a slice of 2 cops and one man in blue

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(L-R) Police Chief Calvert, former City Councilmember Peter Blake and Lt. Ashton make an appearance to support the new rangers

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LBPD Community Outreach officers even showed up with the goods to keep the kids happy

There are now a total of six Park Rangers and they’re all a part of the Neighborhood Enhancement Team (N.E.T.).

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Art Party and Exhibition at Mozambique to support Laguna Beach artists on April 30

Art party girl

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Submitted photo

Join the fun at Mozambique from 5-10 p.m. on Sunday, April 30, for an Art Party and Exhibition to support Laguna Beach artists headed to Florence, Italy. Meet top local artists and purchase work up to 60% off gallery pricing. Free to the public. Enjoy wine, South African food and music by High in the ‘80s. Mozambique is located at 1740 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach.

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Finney’s Crafthouse celebrates grand opening with ribbon cutting

On Monday, March 13 at 11:30 a.m., the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce had a grand opening ceremony with a ribbon cutting in celebration of Finney’s Crafthouse.

The Chamber of Commerce drives economic prosperity and quality of life for the City of Laguna Beach by being the voice of business, promoting collaboration and helping members grow their business.

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Photos courtesy of LB Chamber of Commerce

(L-R) Brian See, representing Senator David Min’s Office, Greg Finefrock, Corporate Executive Chef Eric BosRau and Brad Finefrock

“Finney’s is very proud to introduce the next chapter of the famed White House restaurant to the great City of Laguna Beach. We were extremely fortunate to have been selected by Jules Marine and his family to be the tenant of such an important historic landmark. Our Finney’s team looks forward to welcoming the public on Monday, March 20, on our first day of business,” said Brad Finefrock, one of the owners.

“Laguna Beach is very fortunate to have this new gem,” said Erin Slattery, CEO of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce. “Finney’s Crafthouse is a family-owned business, and they have created the atmosphere of a friendly local pub with a fun and vibrant energy!”

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Corporate Executive Chef Eric BosRau cuts ribbon at ceremony, as Laguna Beach Councilmember Mark Orgill holds the ribbon (on the far right)

Guests included Anthony Falcone from Congresswoman Katie Porter’s office, Brian See from Senator David Min’s Office and Cooper Strull from Assemblywoman Diane Dixon’s office.

 Finney’s Crafthouse is located at 230 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach. Finney’s Crafthouse is now open to the public and does not take reservations. They seat guests on a first-come, first-served basis and maintain a waitlist at the door if all tables are occupied. 

For menus and hours of operation, go to www.finneyscrafthouse.com.

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The Ranch at Laguna Beach hosted first responder golf tournament, dinner reception

In appreciation of the unparalleled excellence of both the Laguna Beach Police and Fire Associations, The Ranch at Laguna Beach hosted their second annual golf tournament and dinner reception on Monday, March 13, to showcase gratitude for the selfless commitment and ongoing support of local first responders. 

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Photos courtesy of The Ranch at Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach first responders from the fire and police associations participated in a Best Ball competition at The Ranch at Laguna Beach. Here they are gathered on the Ben Brown course, located in the picturesque canyon.

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Team Police took home the trophy this year, after Team Fire won in 2022

The resort was honored to welcome 24 first responders (14 firefighters and 10 police officers) for a fun, Laguna-style day of canyon golf which was then followed by a barbecue in the ballroom, as a thank you from the residents of Laguna Beach with 60 people in attendance, including family and friends. Friendly rivalry and a good amount of smack talk was also in attendance, as first responders competed in the event. And although last year the fire department won, it’s the police department that came out winning this year!

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A member of Team Police watches his shot head down the fairway on the Par 4 5th hole

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Is this member of Team Fire’s lucky red ball going to find the hole on the Par 4 3rd hole?

The day’s festivities:

The event took place at Ben Brown’s – the only golf course in Laguna Beach – at 2:30 p.m. Situated in the Aliso and Wood Canyons, the nine-hole course offered the ultimate playing experience with stunning views and elevation changes on each fairway. First responders were invited to participate in a two-person scramble involving a team score. Three clubs were recommended throughout the tournament, and if played barefoot, golfers received a mulligan.

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Team Fire on the Par 4 9th green earned a mulligan for playing shoeless

Following the golf tournament, The Ranch at Laguna Beach hosted a barbecue dinner reception at 5 p.m. for first responders located in the resort’s ballroom. The menu featured a Santa Maria Tri Tip with Fresno chimichurri, peach BBQ ribs, sweet chili glazed sea bass, and of course, baked mac & cheese and butter-braised corn on the cob. The menu focused on locally sourced and sustainable ingredients. Musician Zach Churchill provided the entertainment. The perfect ending to a great day of golf and camaraderie.

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The golfers worked up an appetite for these tasty peach barbecue ribs

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Players stopped along the buffet line for this chopped salad with all the fixings

For more information on The Ranch at Laguna Beach, visit www.theranchlb.com.

Shaena Stabler, President & CEO - Shaena@StuNewsLaguna.com

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