Huntington Beach is known for a lot of things: consistent swell, an epic Fourth of July parade and excellent fish tacos. One thing it's not known for, however, is its culinary scene. But that seems to be changing, given the entrances of several phenomenal restaurants in town, serving up everything from sustainable seafood and inventive coastal fare, to bitchin' Bloody Marys and an up-and-coming craft beer scene. Although it already houses several eateries, the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa followed up the shuttering of its contemporary California cuisine spot—appropriately named The Californian—with a new gastropub and upscale, elevated take on contemporary American fare. They call it Watertable, and we call it The Home of The Bar Jar.
Having opened in April of this year, the local farm-friendly restaurant fuses the old and new in both its decor and comfort cuisine. It pulls its name from various water elements, including its proximity to the Pacific, water features throughout the property, unique water menu offerings and the iconic water dispensing system at the restaurant's center. Arched doorways, suspended beams, industrial lighting, mirrored walls, fiery accents, communal farmhouse tables, Andalusian wave patterns and an ocean view create a Mediterranean setting, which loosely reflects the hotel's existing architecture. A blend of rustic and refined also shows in its interior, with subtle juxtapositions of wood against fresh white paint, wood booths paired with black leather and the use of various fabrics, woods, and stones. It's a combination of warm and cool, and the outdoor patio, with its fire pit and seaside appeal, is one of the many reasons we live in Southern California.
Upon entering Watertable, guests might catch a glimpse of its dark, cozy library seated off to the left, but the allure of the bar area pulls all eyes in the right direction. Killer cocktails aside, we came for the Bar Jars—available only at the bar. Priced at $5 each, these treat-filled mason jars are what bar snacks have been aspiring to be for decades. California Pistachio and Sherry Marinated Manchego; Andalusia Samfaina Spread of Eggplant, Squash, Tomatoes, Peppers, Garlic, Onion and First Press Olive Oil; and Marinated Large Green Spanish Olives with Rosemary, Red Chili, Orange and Smoked Spanish Paprika are just a few of the dips, spreads and pickled delicacies offered. The complete list will leave you dabbing at the corners of your mouths while texting friends, "WATERTABLE DATE, STAT."
The bar's cocktail menu is also something to be applauded, with artisanal twists on the classics—all incorporating and celebrating water. The Kentucky Tap Water, their take on an Old Fashioned, calls for orange flower water. A Rose Grows in Cuba, a playful raise of the Cosmo, welcomes a pour of rose water. Of course, there's a libation for every palette, including local craft beer, vintage wine and naturally infused waters.
With Executive Chef Manfred Lassahn and Director of Food and Beverage Jon Benson both at the helm, Watertable's full breakfast, lunch and dinner menus all feature organic, local, sustainable ingredients. Bites include fresh local catches, produce sourced from a handful of local farms, housemade honey, epi bread baked fresh every 20 minutes, prime beef, superior lamb chops, a signature to-die-for "Six Degrees of Chocolate" cake and flatbreads that will leave you daydreaming about their perfection for weeks.
Watertable's emphasis on sustainability shines in its use of leftover banquet food, which is donated instead of discarded.
The compartmentalized layout of the space may seem off to some, but it's thanks to the hotel's decision to scrap some of its meeting rooms and instead welcome them as part of the restaurant. These nooks and several intimate alcoves are ideal for small gatherings, as are the shared plates and sides. But, the best seats in the house, in our humble opinions, are at the bar.