Preservation and Progression
Nieuport 17 Honors its past while embracing the present
By Robert Brink
944, May 2011
“We’ve become the finest photo, art and aviation museum in the country,” says former Naval aviator and Nieuport 17 founder, Bill Bettis. “There’s not a thing on these walls that wasn’t given to me personally by an aviation legend who walked into this restaurant.”
Founded over 40 years ago on the corner of Newport Avenue and Irvine Boulevard in Downtown Tustin, Nieuport 17 (also the name of a World War I airplane) began as a restaurant and accidentally evolved into a historical landmark and encyclopedia of aviation.
The entire interior of the restaurant features a unique collection of museum- worthy artifacts, photos and paintings from aviation history, many of which are autographed by world-famous pilots and decorated military officers, including the father of Nieuport 17 co-owner, Cameron Irons, who served with Bettis in the Navy. Even the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. is trying to get their hands on some of the extremely rare and valuable collectables. “When I die,” says Bettis, “I told them they can have some of the pieces they are looking for.”
The main dining area is a Disneyland Haunted Mansion and old school hunting lodge hybrid. A myriad of antlers, elk heads and vintage fighter plane art lines the walls. The vaulted ceilings are grandiose, but not as grandiose as the banquet room that seats 100 guests ... at one table.
“There’s no other restaurant in Orange County that can seat 80 guests at a single table, let alone in such a unique and intimate setting,” says Rob Hallstrom, owner of 714 Media and public relations for Nieuport 17.
The fine dining menu is traditional, known for its steak, seafood, free sides and salads, along with its wine list and classically crafted cocktails. The clientele is equally traditional and has been loyal for decades. And loyalty like that doesn’t come without exceptional service—opentable.com recently recognized Nieuport 17 as “number one in service” for Los Angeles and Orange County.
For younger, hipper foodies, Nieuport 17 revamped it’s bar and lounge area, and appointed new executive chef Marco Collin. The Barnstormer Bar is now serving up local craft beer, signature cocktails and gastropub fare like flatbreads, mac and cheese, sliders, tuna tartare and truffle fries alongside nightly live music, including jazz, piano and acoustic performers.
There’s something delightfully relaxing and rewarding about sinking deep into a premium oxblood leather sofa in front of a 14-foot fireplace, with an all-antler chandelier overhead, listening to live jazz and sipping on Nieuport 17’s signature Old Fashioned on a Friday night, while droves of OC scenesters in fedoras, with chest tats creeping out of their V-necks, are out at Club X or Lounge Y, waiting in line for a shot of Jägermeister. If smoking indoors weren’t against the law, OC’s finest pipe and cigar smokers would be here in the N17 lounge, kicking back and having conversation that isn’t muffled by the mind-numbingly loud auto-tuned hip-pop played by a “DJ” with a MacBook Pro in the corner.
Nieuport 17 may not be for everyone, but thankfully it exists.
13051 Newport Avenue, Tustin
714.731.5130 | nieuport17.com