The interior at Aprons is bright and stylish, and has touches that evoke a past Mexican restaurant. Photo by Richard Foss

Can a casual family restaurant survive in downtown Hermosa?

If you ask Beach Cities residents what our area lacks when it comes to restaurants, the answer is clear: casual family restaurants. Not fast-food, counter serve, of which we have plenty, but a place where people of all ages can relax and dine on the style of American food they might find in a classic coffee shop or diner. The reason we don’t have more of these is obvious: counter serve places with minimal staff and establishments with high alcohol sales make more money, and rents in the South Bay are high. Most of the full-service family places in the area, like Scotty’s, Good Stuff, and The Kettle, have been in place for decades and have lower operating costs.

That doesn’t keep some brave entrepreneurs from trying to fill that need, and one opened recently in Hermosa. Aprons took the place of two successive Mexican restaurants, and the current décor has elements that reflect that, like the stylized agave leaves on the pillars and behind the bar. Someone with an excellent sense of design added Americana elements to make it pretty and stylish in a way that suits their new direction. The exterior sign advertises that they’re open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and there’s a dinner menu on the website, but that’s aspirational — they’re currently only open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

On three visits I saw people ordering breakfast even at midday, and they’re obviously getting a following for their versions of American favorites. The Benedicts (called “Benny’s” for some reason) are popular, and we tried two of them, the Mediterranean and Mexican versions. The Mediterranean is two English muffins split, toasted and topped with a poached egg, lightly grilled spinach, tomatoes, onions, olives, and feta, topped with hollandaise and a dusting of green onions. The Mexican version is made with chorizo, egg, avocado, queso fresco, tomato, red onion, and cilantro, and is topped with a mix of tomatillo and hollandaise. Mixing tomatillo and hollandaise is a nifty idea, and while both Benedicts were good, that one was my favorite. Both came with generous sides of potatoes, and were a hefty meal. The house potatoes are cottage fries with onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno and are for those who like their meal zippy, while the hash browns are conventional. On all three visits the potatoes were soft and cooked with very little oil, so if you like yours crisp, you should make a special request.

Front, the avocado toast at Aprons, rear, their breakfast burrito with fruit and two sauces.

My wife tried what they referred to as a B.A.T.S omelet, which contained bacon, avocado, tomato, and spinach rather than any flying nocturnal mammals. Omelets here are made with three eggs and are light and fluffy but filling — if you prefer it made with two, they will oblige. I had a breakfast burrito, but didn’t enjoy it as much as the other eggy items because the sausage and bacon had been diced finely, and the hashed browns were not as crisp as requested. I may be peculiar in preferring a variety of textures in my burrito, but I do, and they weren’t there in this case. I did ask for sides of both their red and green sauce, and found both on the mild side, but the green had a nice tartness and mild heat. The burrito was served with a fruit cup of strawberries and pineapple, a pairing that worked well with the sauce.

We both did enjoy the buttermilk pancakes, which were enormous, very light in texture, and served with real maple syrup. Avocado toast with guacamole, pico de gallo, two poached eggs, and feta was listed on the “light side” section of the menu, and it was light compared to the burrito, but was a full meal nevertheless. The berry toast was better as a delicate meal, sourdough bread topped with whipped goat cheese, fresh berries, and a drizzle of balsamic. Putting balsamic vinegar and a few specks of pepper on strawberries is almost always a good idea unless they’re homegrown berries at the peak of ripeness, something hard to find even at farmer’s markets.

A bacon-chipotle burger at Aprons. Fries are included, but arrived on a separate plate and are not shown.

From the lunch menu I tried a chipotle bacon burger, a properly grilled half pound patty with a mildly smoky chili sauce, cheese, lettuce, and bacon on a brioche bun, and their chili. The burger was solidly executed, while the chili was a surprise. It wasn’t highly spicy but had an excellent broth with a nice balance of cumin, oregano, and herbs. They used ground beef rather than chunky meat and included beans, both of which are heresies to purists, but taken as a whole it was very good indeed. Good housemade chili is rare in the South Bay, and this was among the best I’ve had locally. It doesn’t reach the Olympian heights of Hop Saint’s, but that’s only available one day a week, and I can get this any day. It is served with cheddar cheese and white onion by the cup or bowl and is available in an omelet at breakfast. I’d suggest that they offer it as a chili size or a chili burger too, because it’s that good.

Any bowl of chili looks like any other bowl of chili, so you’ll have to try it to know that this one is really good.

The restaurant has a full bar, and while they deliver cocktail menus on arrival, they don’t push drinks here. The vibe is of a classic American diner or coffee shop with modern touches rather than a bar. On all of our visits, families were there with kids, and a few with dogs on the patio. The coffee is old-school too — no baristas are on duty, and while their brew is better than truck stop java, you don’t come here for the fancy stuff.

One downside is that on all three visits, the service was slow — the food arrived hot thanks to friendly and efficient servers, but they obviously are a bit understaffed. If you go to Aprons expecting a leisurely meal in a nice environment, you’ll get what you came for.

This restaurant is a work in progress, with some changes ongoing in the menu. They removed the stuffed French toast that I had found unimpressive on my first visit, also a wild rice porridge I had been intending to try. I hope they continue experimenting and eventually open for dinner, because the menu online looks attractive, and the Beach Cities need more places like this. It’s the kind of restaurant that people say they want, and now it only remains to be seen whether people will actually support it.

Aprons is at 1320 Hermosa Avenue in Hermosa Beach. Open 7 a.m – 3 p.m. daily. Metered street parking and in nearby structure. Wheelchair access good. Outdoor patio, full bar. (424) 490-4023. Apronshb.com. ER

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