The Iconic Royal Hawaiian Returns to Laguna Beach

The Iconic Royal Hawaiian Returns to Laguna Beach

Completely redesigned to pay homage to the authentic, original restaurant that opened in 1947.

[Laguna Beach, California] June 2023: One of the very first food and beverage establishments in Orange County, The Royal Hawaiian on Pacific Coast Highway, is reopening under new management (Los Angeles based, Boulevard Hospitality Group) on June 10th with a nod to its historic and authentic roots. Originally opened in 1947 by long-time Laguna residents and World War II veteran’s Francis Cabang and Harold “Hal” Hanna, the Royal Hawaiian has been a part of Laguna Beach History for over 75 years.

The Royal Hawaiian will not only attract those in search of great cocktails, food and decor - but will bring those that enjoy history and nostalgia. Established in 1947, and in a building that dates back to 1919, design inspiration for this restaurant has been to return it to its glory days when Cabang and Hanna ran it for nearly 60 years. In fact, the design team, headed up by Notch Gonzalez of Top Notch Kustoms, has acquired original lamps, mugs, dioramas and other crucial artifacts (like the original liquor license and deed for the property from the late ‘40s) - all of which have been incorporated in the build. Notch has quite an impressive repertoire of tiki / themed bars under his belt including the popular Smugglers Cove in San Francisco, Inside Passage in Seattle, Dr. Funk in San Jose, False Idol and space-themed bar, Mothership - both in San Diego. The Royal Hawaiian was the perfect next project for Notch and his team to tackle with some TLC, a kind that only he can give. Since gutting the space late last year, Notch has reimagined every wall, jade-tile divider, intimate booth space, bar canopy and tiki hut within the restaurant.

“When I design a space it’s important that everything is custom and hand-made, that nothing is ordered from a catalog. This customization gives the build a one-of-a-kind look and feel that can’t be duplicated anywhere else,” Notch explains. Notch was so set on The Royal Hawaiian returning to its legitimate version that he knew from the very beginning he would be replacing the tikis out front. The original mid-60’s versions were carved by the popular Southern California tiki carver, Andreas Bumatay and were iconic in their unique bug-eyed look.

“I called in a favor to my friend and carver, Vic Hernandez to mimic the iconic Bumatays that stood guard out from many years ago to give The new Royal Hawaiian authenticity before you even step inside” Notch adds, “Vic ended up carving over 9 additional tikis inside, including a 14 foot Hawaiian Ku tiki that looks over the front door.”

Many Trader Vic style carvings are a focus in the decor throughout the restaurant as well as 9 di erent pieces from The Original Royal Hawaiian by LeRoy Schmaltz of Oceanic Arts and hanging lamps with fossilized sea creatures by Woody “Kahaka” Greenwood, Anders Anderson and Michael “Gecko” Souriolle from Hawaii. Signature to Polynesian style tiki bars of the past, and a regular in Notch’s concepts, are the numerous jade tiles resurrected from an ancient Chinese temple that surround and create barriers, an airlock to the outside world, throughout the larger 5,000 square foot space. Notch and his team hand built 121 of these jade dividers for this project, which cover every inch of the windows looking out toward PCH - and create an intimacy in an otherwise larger tiki style bar.

The 45 foot, 22 seat bar is quite the spectacle with over 20 large, lit shelves to hold the 100’s of bottles of rum, mugs, glassware and artifacts. Bar Director, Dushan Zarić is the cocktail mastermind behind world-famous New York bars including Employees Only and Macao Trading Co. Zarić’s unforgettable and award-winning drink programs are legendary (winning numerous awards including: Best Cocktail Bar by New York Magazine and Best High Volume Bar by Tales of the Cocktail. Although he’s been building and consulting bar menus for 25 years, he’s never embarked on a full tiki menu.

“It’s been something I’ve always been wanting to do,” explains Dushan about crafting a full menu solely comprised of tropical concoctions - he adds, “tiki is so cool because it has no boundaries - I’m thrilled to put this feather in my cap and especially at such an iconic spot like The Royal Hawaiian in Laguna Beach.” As a seasoned and trusted mentor, Dushan has an unpretentious approach to the menu making it refreshing and approachable.

Los Angeles based hospitality management team, Boulevard Hospitality Group, is behind the revival of The Royal Hawaiian, adding this restaurant to their impressive lineup of prestigious restaurants and entertainment venues in Los Angeles including: The TCL Chinese Theater, Yamashiro Hollywood, 3rd Base LA, The Hollywood Hills Hotel, and locally in Laguna Beach, The La Casa Del Camino Hotel, The Rooftop & Comedor (to name a few). The Royal Hawaiian seats 115 people (including the custom bar top) and is perfect for intimate gatherings and larger private events. The thoughtful menu of Polynesian faire is headed by Chef Jae Hee Lee of Yamashiro Hollywood. Born in Guam, Chef Lee has tapped into his Korean American roots and curated The Royal Hawaiian menu to pull influence from not only traditional Hawaiian dishes - but Korean, Filipino, Chamorro, Japanese and a sprinkle of di erent island cuisines as well. Some standouts include: The Huli Huli Inasal (BBQ chicken smoked on a traditional charcoal broiler as they did in 1947), the Hamachi Kilawin (a beautiful Filipino-style ceviche laid in coconut milk) and a nod to a past Royal Hawaiian favorite, ribs!

“The Royal Hawaiian has been described as a historic Landmark in Laguna Beach and has served as a refuge for residents and visitors alike,” comments Sven Kirsten author of The Book of Tiki. Sven describes this build, “I’m happy to say it has finally returned to its roots of complete exotic immersion. From first stepping inside, you enter a bamboo paradise and are surrounded by natural textures and intriguing South Seas artifacts” he adds, “You can escape to your own personal Bali Hai - even if only for a brief sojourn, but certain to return.”

The Royal Hawaiian is opening to the public on June 10th and reservations are available via the website. For more information, please visit

About [The Royal Hawaiian]: The Royal Hawaiian is a historic Laguna Beach landmark located on Pacific Coast Highway. Originally opened in 1947, The Royal Hawaiian emulates the romantic tropical atmosphere of old Hawaii o ering complex tropical cocktails and unique traditional faire. Learn more at

About [Top Notch Kustoms]: Ignacio “Notch” Gonzalez is a multifaceted artist with a knack for exotic escapism and speculative fiction. Designer, creator and imagineer, Notch uses brick and mortar as his blank canvas-as an opportunity for transformation, for conceptualizing a space that is a world unto itself. With each artistic buildout, he creates unique venues that transpose the ordinary, transport his audience and transcend expectation. Notch has been curating vivid experiences for over ten years showcasing his talent at many popular bar destinations. No matter how large or small the project, his vision and creativity produce a thoughtful, intentional and purposeful result that delights and captivates. Learn more at

About [Dushan Zaric]: Dushan Zarić is the cocktail mastermind behind world-famous New York bars: Employees Only and Macao Trading Co. He is widely recognized as an industry leader and a pioneer in craft bartending and his innovative work behind the bar has revolutionized the art of the cocktail. Dushan specializes in creating cocktails with a classic inspiration, and then adds modern twists and extraordinary ingredients. His unforgettable drink programs are legendary, successful and beyond compare, while his lighthearted unpretentious approach to mixology is both refreshing and accessible. Learn more at:

About [Boulevard Hospitality Group]: Boulevard Hospitality Group (BHG) is a management company specializing in Entertainment, Dining and Hospitality with a focus on client retention and loyalty. The guest experience is paramount to the success of BHG, and no e ort is spared in creating a warm and inviting atmosphere at all of their venues. While keeping up with current trends and staying at the helm of cutting edge innovative strategies, BHG core values and beliefs start with perfecting the art of hospitality. Led By The Visionary Leadership Of Freddy Braidy, Drew Gates, And Spencer Kushner, Boulevard Hospitality Group Has Established Itself As A Prominent Player In The Hospitality Industry In California. Learn more at:

Jennifer Wales - Marketing & PR
The Royal Hawaiian Laguna Beach
(949) 697-0600 //