The exterior of SeaLegs Wine Bar, along a row of local businesses in a Huntington Beach strip mall, appears sleek yet unassuming. One step inside, however, transports visitors back in time aboard a 1955 Armani yacht. A Hamptons-style atmosphere like no other in town, the award-winning wine bar at Beach and Atlanta serves up inventive coastal fare and pours carefully curated vintage boutique wines and craft beers. Just yesterday, SeaLegs turned two, and weekend celebrations are abound.
As we ready our sea legs and step aboard, our jaws literally drop. From the nautical, plush lounge to the wine library behind the bar, we fall instantly smitten. Glowing chandeliers warm the cozy space, as does owner Alicia Whitney. The Lake Tahoe native casually strolls up to our table, clad in rosy linen pants, and we feel as though we've known her since day one. The air turns warmer, filled with conversation and the clinks of silver and glass. An upscale atmosphere as artfully designed as this modern rustic "ship" can easily be off-putting if not done correctly, but Whitney and her crew have nailed the perfect blend of debonair casual. They welcome guests to sit, relax and nibble on exquisite bites paired with hand-picked sips. There's no rush to binge and bounce, and we felt that entirely during our two-hour dinner. They want you here for a long, long time.
There's also a seat for everyone. Guests looking for a more intimate evening may opt for the lounge, while diners seeking a family-style experience can grab a seat at the captain's table—a long wood slab at the center of SeaLegs. Bench-style seating against the wall opposite the bar beckons guests in need of a little R&R and perhaps a colorful flight of local brews.
Taking in the creative touches—each table branded with the SeaLegs logo, a library ladder, retro-style wood paneling, hand-painted quotes and family photos adorning the walls and wine barrel tables—we also take in the seasonal menu, which removes the wonder of what pairs with what. Meant to be shared, food offerings are divided into two sections: red and white. Whitney notes that the Stinky Fries taste like "sex in your mouth," so naturally, we opt for a plate. Inspired by land, sea and Executive Chef Alexander Dale's culinary imagination, plates also include the Quinoa Crab Fried Rice, Farm Fresh Vegetable Flatbread, Garlic Shrimp, Cab-Braised Lamb Shank, Bananas Foster French Toast and California Chilaquiles for Sunday brunch.
Dale has taken texture into great consideration, with each bite delivering the perfect blend of creamy and crunch. Much of the fresh menu is locally sourced, while some sea creatures are plucked from the Atlantic. Though Dale is largely the brains behind the menu, Whitney cleverly uses Pinterest to identify trends and inspire new dishes.
Selecting a beverage to pair with, say the Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche, is made easier with the creative menu, and there will surely never be a shortage of libations at SeaLegs. The deep wine cellar houses between 2,500 to 3,500 bottles of wine, and the wine locker stores bottles for roughly 70 prominent local families.
What's especially interesting about the community-centric eatery and watering hole is Whitney's attention to detail and guests. A former events director at OC Weekly, she knows how to throw a party and make guests feel right at home—even when they're out to sea. Given that her uncle owns Hurricane's on Main, we think it's safe to say restaurant business chops run in the family. She's also responsible for SeaLegs' witty social media posts, and Parenting OC named her as one of their "mompreneurs" in 2013.
Come SeaLegs' two-year anniversary weekend, timed nicely with Memorial Day weekend, the crew will host Lobster Fest, featuring five fresh lobster specials. For those craving a bit of bubbly, $2 champagne flutes will be poured, along with $5 pints of draft craft beer. It is, after all, a celebration.
Following Memorial Day weekend, SeaLegs will keep the events sailing, with lock and key singles socials every Thursday, a Father's Day brunch with bottomless craft beer and the addition of a patio come early June. The most epic event in the books for the summer takes place during the U.S. Open of Surfing in late July/early August. All week long celebrity guest "winetenders" and action sports athletes will pour at SeaLegs, allowing imbibers to mingle with their favorite competitors.
Prepare your sea legs, Huntington Beach. It's going to be one hell of a savory summer.