Chat #3: James Strack
Everyone knows Newport Beach has a lot to offer. Just a quick Google search will tell you about trendy restaurants, local attractions, and nearby shopping spots. But can it really show you what makes the heart full? That’s where the locals come in. They’ve been here longer than some of us have been alive and have amazing stories and hidden gems to share. Their insights might just change our Newport travel plans in the best way. So, as we plan our itinerary, let’s remember to listen to the locals – they’re the ones who can make our Newport adventures truly special.
Say hello to Mr. James Strack, our hometown hero and dedicated fire captain here in Newport Beach. With his deep roots in this coastal paradise, James has seen it all and continues to be an integral part of our community. As you’ll soon discover, he’s not only a fearless firefighter but also a passionate advocate for everything Newport Beach has to offer.
How many years have you called this place home and where did you grow up originally?
I grew up in Newport. I lived in Newport until I was about 25 and now, I live nearby in Costa Mesa. We still come to Newport almost every day.
What was the reason or story behind your decision to move here?
Well, I grew up here, so that decision wasn’t really mine to make. The nice weather year-round and beaches are what keep me here though. I can’t imagine anywhere else to live or visit that would have such nice scenery and mild weather all year long.
What’s one hidden gem or secret spot in the area that you recommend visitors check out?
It all depends on what sort of hidden gem you’re looking for:
Ocean Beaches – I like to go somewhere between 6th street and 13th street. There aren’t a lot of food options or public restrooms nearby, but that means that the beach is usually pretty empty.
Bay Beaches – Marina Park is fun. There is lots of parking and a playground nearby for the kids. The bayfront beach at 10th street is also a lot of fun; there is a swim dock that you can swim to and jump off of.
Breakfast Spots – Check out Alta Coffee. They have great coffee and their breakfast food is really good.
Running or Biking Spots – The boardwalk is always a great place to go for a run / walk or bike ride. Another good spot is Back Bay Drive. There are rarely cars on that road, and it follows along next to the bay. They even have signs along the road with mile markers for runners or bikers to know how far they’ve gone.
Happy Hour – Harborside Restaurant. They have one of the longest happy hours, plus you can sit and watch the fishing boats come and go.
Picnic Spot – Lookout Point in Corona del Mar. It’s a great place to take a picnic lunch or watch the sunset.
If you had to describe your community in 3 words, what would they be, and why?
Laid-back, Clean, Friendly
What are some unique traditions or events that locals look forward to each year?
I think the biggest event/tradition of the year is the Christmas Boat Parade. It’s always a lot of fun to get bundled up and watch the boats go by. You can also go walk around Balboa Island to look at all of the Christmas lights.
What are some typical dishes or drinks from the area that visitors must try?
If you like fish / seafood, go to Bearflag Fish Co. Try some of their Ahi poke. Sometimes I’ll just have their poke and chips for lunch.
On a rainy day, the chowder at Crab Cooker is a nice treat.
If it is a Tuesday, Taco Tuesday at GreatMex is a must for lunch; the tacos are great, and you can’t beat the price. Personally, I like the crispy beef tacos and the shrimp tacos.
If you’re looking for a nicer night out and don’t mind spending a little bit more, start with drinks at Topside at the Lido House Hotel. It’s a short walk to Bluewater Grill, Buddha’s Favorite, or Palmilla.
How would you spend a perfect day in the area?
Breakfast at the Beachcomber, then hike through Crystal Cove. Maybe go stand-up-paddleboarding or surfing. Then probably just hang out at the beach with the family for the afternoon.
How do you think our community stands out from others nearby?
I like that the different communities or neighborhoods throughout the city have their own personalities. Corona del Mar, Balboa Island, Balboa Peninsula, Fashion Island, Newport Coast; they all have a different feel to them and the people that live there take pride in their neighborhoods.
What words of wisdom would you share with visitors?
Just relax and enjoy the scenery / area. Don’t get too caught up in the affluence and just enjoy how nice the area and people are.