Richard Foss

Bowls in, bars out, bakery delivers, wine and candy

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A La Carte dining column for 22 October 2020

Mama D’s on Pacific Coast Hwy. in Hermosa Beach has brought its New York atmosphere to its outdoor patio, complete with Italian tuck and roll booths. Photo courtesy of Mama D’s.

MB Stays Healthy: Those who enjoy their meal in a cup have been crestfallen at the closure of the Jamba Juice in Downtown Manhattan Beach, which has been a mainstay for over a decade. They will be happy to hear that they won’t need to learn a new address for a healthy food destination, though they’ll have to wait a little while. The incoming Health Nut specializes in salads, but also offers sandwiches, wraps, and yes, smoothies. It’s the third in a Valley-based chain, but the employees at the existing locations could not provide a timeline for the opening of this one. Another healthy option is about to take root north of downtown at Highland and Marine. Brazilian Muscle Bowls does not offer bowls of actual muscles, or even mussels, but instead serves Acai bowls, smoothies, shakes, and a smattering of both vegetarian and omnivore-oriented tacos, pizzas, and wraps. Will this be the business that makes a go of this difficult space? We can’t be sure, but it’s certainly different from anything that has been there before…

Closings: It has been hard to keep up with who is closing permanently and who is just reorganizing, but a few changes have become clear. Hey 19, which livened up their West Torrance neighborhood and had a popular following, has called it a day. It’s a sad end for an ambitious enterprise that briefly turned a residential neighborhood into a nightlife and cocktail destination. Slater’s 50/50 had considerable advantages over Hey 19 thanks to their prime location, but failed anyway thanks to abysmal food and service. Since redevelopment of this area is still up in the air and likely to stay that way for a while, I expect we’ll see someone else move in on a short lease. I’ve heard rents in this building are sky-high, even for beachfront locations, so the place may stay vacant for a while. And in Riviera Village, Pho Show is being replaced by Crazy Fish, which follows the popular model of your choice of seafood grilled or fried in various combinations. I don’t know how you assess the sanity of a fish, but will take the word of the management that theirs are unhinged…

Openings, now and soon: Avenue Italy has been open for a week in the former Bottega Romana space, offering a slightly different menu from their original location in Rancho Palos Verdes. They offer classic pizzas, pastas, and salads with an interesting wine menu and full bar, and add to the competition for upscale Italian in a city with many options (215 Avenue I, RB). A very unusual Italian place will be opening on Catalina near the Redondo Pier as Pura Vita, which opened the first vegan Italian wine bar in the USA a few years ago, moves into the former Enrique’s Cantina. I have no idea how soon that might happen, but based on peering through the windows, some remodeling is in progress…  A more modest operation will soon take flight at Red and Louie’s Deep Dish, which is poised to open in the former Locale 90 space in Hermosa. Another currently vacant space on Hermosa Avenue seems destined to turn into a sushi and ramen bar – when the ink is dry on the deal, I’ll let you know. Some other openings around town have been delayed by canny owners who have clauses in their leases stating that they don’t have to pay full rent until the business opens. This means they have an incentive to delay if their location has little or no outdoor space, or if constructing one would be prohibitive. And I just found out how much that can cost, because Mama D’s mentioned in a press release that their Hermosa patio cost them $30,000. It’s a very pretty space, but they’ll have to sell a lot of pizzas to make their money back…

The bakery comes to you: Redondo Beach has a new bakery, but you can’t stop in to check out the goods. South Baked is run from a licensed kitchen by a pair of locals whose business was idled by the pandemic, and who decided to create their dream job instead of wait for things to resume. Their specialties are cookies and a luscious looking olive oil cake, but they also make sourdough bread sometimes. They deliver, but need one day’s notice. Check them out at GetSouthBaked.com…

Event Alerts – and there are some: Shade Hotel in Redondo is taking advantage of their ocean view rooftop space by having another socially distanced dinner, this one themed around Dia de los Muertos. On October 30 and 31 you can enjoy four courses of regional Mexican food made according to the staff’s family recipes along with beers from George Lopez Brewing. $65. Check the menu on the “dine” tab of their website at rb.shadehotel.com. On a more whimsical note, Uncorked is having a virtual pairing of wine and Halloween candy. I attended their virtual tasting of Bordeaux wines last month and it was great fun, and I confess that I’m intrigued about this one even though I don’t like most Halloween candy. If you have a sweet tooth and enjoy wine, check the details and buy your kit at uncorkedhermosa.com. The price for a kit that will serve four is an appropriate $66.66… And if you prefer French classics without candy corn or Kit Kats, they have another Bordeaux tasting coming up on November 6th. Three bottles of elegant Cabernet-based wines from the Left Bank will be offered along with tasting notes and a Zoom class for $85. One class sounds frivolous, the other serious, but both will be enjoyable and educational…

Bits And pieces: You may have noticed that the former Downstairs Bar at 9th street and Manhattan Avenue has been boarded up, and probably weren’t surprised because that tiny space had very little potential to serve during the pandemic. The management is taking advantage of the enforced closure to do a complete remodel, so when things do open again, it will be pretty: The Rockefeller in Redondo has been productive about remodeling their exterior and just debuted a new “backyard” with colorful benches, cornhole setups, and other amenities. Does the South Bay have room for a pleasantly landscaped beer garden? The question answers itself…

Don’t go away mad: The weaponization of Yelp reviews has been a problem for some time, as people leave one-star rants over things that restaurants can do nothing about. This has involved various failings by delivery services, so that a restaurant’s reputation is harmed thanks to a driver who doesn’t work for them and can’t find an address. The newest variation on this problem involves people who show up at restaurants shortly before county-imposed curfews and are furious because the restaurant will not seat them. Others have gotten angry because they have to vacate their table before their conversation with their companions has ground to a halt. I have been in downtown Manhattan Beach and seen the cops with ticket books in hand trying to catch restaurateurs who have an occupied table a minute after the deadline, so I know it happens. This is the worst business environment of our lifetimes, and it’s hard enough for restaurants to stay in business without jerks using irresponsible social media posts to harass them. If you are doing this, stop it. If you see others doing it, inform them or flag their posts as the harmful nuisance they are, and perhaps consider not supporting or contributing to the social media sites that enable them…

And in closing: Have you seen a new culinary business that I might not know about, a great event either live or virtual? Do you have a favorite patio or know a place doing takeout with unusual flair? You can reach me at richard@richardfoss.com. ER

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