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IN THE EARLY 1960S, my wife, Mary Alice, and I took our first trip to England. We loved Britain, especially the delightful restaurants in its cozy, romantic country inns. In all my travels around America, I’d never encountered anything quite like them.
Fast forward to 1964: We decided to open a new restaurant, and I thought about replicating the look and feel of the country inns I’d enjoyed so much in England.
I even knew the perfect location—if we could secure it—a place in Corona del Mar, CA, called the Hurley Bell. Built in 1936, the exterior of the Hurley Bell was a faithful reproduction of England’s oldest and most famous country inn, Ye Olde Bell.
Not only did it look right, but I thought it was in the right place, too.
The Hurley Bell had a checkered past; it had been a private residence, a bed-and-breakfast hotel and then home to a series of unsuccessful restaurants. It had garnered a shady reputation, first as a hideaway for Hollywood stars’ secret rendezvous, then as a site of gambling and prostitution.
But from the outside, it looked ideal (the interior didn’t come up to the exterior’s standards and would need a lot of work). Not only did it look right, but I thought it was in the right place, too. Orange County, CA, was starting to grow and the Newport Beach area—especially its seaside village of Corona del Mar—was attracting young families.
the most beautiful and romantic of all of our restaurants
There were no good restaurants in the area, and it seemed ripe to support a successful one. Serendipitously, the owner of the Hurley Bell was looking to sell the property. We signed on the dotted line and immersed ourselves in a year-long remodeling of the interior, turning it, room by room, into the most beautiful and romantic of all of our restaurants.
My father and I debated over the name for the restaurant. I wanted to call it The Bell and Crown, “Bell” for Hurley Bell and “Crown” for Corona del Mar (“Crown of the Sea”), but my dad didn’t like it.
He was aware of the Hurley Bell’s unsavory reputation and felt it would be a bad idea to have any reference to it in our new restaurant’s name. To satisfy him, I decided on the name Five Crowns, “Five” because the new restaurant was to be the fifth for Lawry’s and “Crowns” because each was a jewel in our crown. On the evening of April 14, 1965, our new English country inn restaurant, Five Crowns, opened.
Five Crowns continues to be a popular landmark
It very quickly became one of the foremost restaurants in Orange County, and this year, as we celebrate its 45th anniversary, Five Crowns continues to be a popular landmark.
It offers a continental-style menu with more options than Lawry’s The Prime Rib. But like Lawry’s The Prime Rib, first on the Five Crowns’ menu and the number-one seller among its guests is roasted prime ribs of beef. (From the start, Five Crowns has been known for serving the best prime rib in Orange County.)
You, our guests, came, tasted, and overwhelmingly approved.
We recently opened an English-style gastropub, SideDoor, in the space that was, formerly, the Five Crowns’ bar.
At SideDoor, we offer a casual, “come as you are” setting that both complements, yet offers an alternative to, the Five Crowns more traditional fine-dining experience. It was an exciting project for our company, as I, my son and my grandson (the second, third and fourth generations of our family business) worked together to make SideDoor a reality.
an exciting project for our company
You, our guests, came, tasted, and overwhelmingly approved. Business at SideDoor is booming, and we find ourselves the happy proprietors of two successful restaurants under the same roof. We hope you’ll visit Five Crowns soon and check out SideDoor, as well.
Whether you’re looking for an outstanding evening of fine dining or a casual drop-in spot to meet up with old and new friends, you’re sure to find delicious food, lots of fun and a warm welcome.
From the desk of Richard N. Frank
3801 East Coast Hwy, Corona del Mar, CA 92625