Richard Foss

Dinner and a show, Trinidadian street food, one less Hawaiian, and more restaurant news

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A La Carte column for 16 July 2020

Lisa Salinas, owner of Mia’s Kitchen, poses as Chef Silas makes a Trinidadian flatbread to order. Photo by Richard Foss.

A Little Dinner Music: The live music scene was one of the many casualties of the pandemic, but one restaurant is working on a way to bring back the excitement of new tunes and the joy of a good meal, together. Baran’s 2239 has partnered with One Talented Universe, which has a high-tech performance space in Hermosa and is dedicated to supporting local music. When you buy a to-go meal at Baran’s, you will be given a QR code that admits you to an online performance of a local band. The show is up for a limited time and the code is good for only three days, so it’s an experience that has some urgency, just like a live event. Baran’s has been turning out remarkable lunches and dinners Wednesdays through Fridays and breakfast burritos on weekends. This week’s offerings for Wednesday through Friday are a four course Vietnamese dinner for two for $65, or a Cuban sandwich at lunch for $14, and the weekend breakfast burritos are chorizo, bacon, or meatless. The website hasn’t been updated with details (they’re working on it), but you can find each week’s menu and schedule on Baran 2239’s Facebook page. It’s great to see someone innovating like this, and I hope the idea catches on.

It took a pandemic to make it happen, but restaurants including The Rockefeller and Creme de le Crepe on Pier Avenue have finally been allowed to offer streetside dining. Photo by Kevin Cody

Beneath Open Skies: Hermosa Beach has been behind the curve when it comes to approving new outdoor dining spaces, but things are changing. Upper Pier has been transformed in a way that is quite attractive, and umbrellas and pop-up shade canopies are beginning to sprout on Hermosa Avenue. I have been told that there are over 35 applicants for outdoor dining spaces, which will be a lifeline for restaurants, but if even half are approved it is going to cut the amount of parking. With many people adverse to using Lyft or taxis, this may reduce the number of potential customers at the very time that an increase is needed. Something will have to be done, and soon, to help unlock the potential traffic for summer:

Openings and Closings: The pandemic claimed another victim when The Grindz at 1601 closed after 7 years in business. Most of their customers had been on their way to or from the adjacent gym, and with it closed, The Grindz just couldn’t survive. On the brighter side, the long vacant Hot’s Kitchen finally has a new tenant. This will be called The Stanton HB, and is related to a restaurant by the same name in downtown LA. That operation sells stylish contemporary cuisine at moderate prices, with a selection of craft beer, so sounds like a good fit for the neighborhood. No clue on how soon they might open, but work on the space is proceeding at a brisk pace. Veggie Grub & Pub has closed too, and a lot of you probably didn’t even know they had opened because they started serving just before the pandemic. I had one meal there and thought the place had potential, and it will be interesting to see what happens next in this space…

Meanwhile in Redondo: Avenue A, which changed hands and reopened early this year, seems to be down for the count. These are tough times for sports bars, which would have difficulty re-creating their boisterous, TV-laden atmosphere in an outdoor space even if there were any games to watch. You can’t even challenge other patrons to arm wrestle unless there is hand sanitizer on all tables and both the participants and referee are wearing masks… Further north, Peachwave Deli & Yogurt shop is open in the former Artesia Produce at the corner of Mackay. The space has been nicely remodeled and still has a small produce section, but without the previous focus on Hispanic and Middle Eastern food (2322 Artesia, RB, 310-372-0007)… A more hidden space also has a new tenant after the closing of the Greentree juice bar. This is one of the ultimate neighborhood hideaways, located just off 2nd Street several blocks west of Inglewood in a residential area. The newcomer is Beach Cities Cafe, offering breakfast and lunch with a selection of chocolates and organic pastries. (2810 Phelan Lane, RB, no website, 424-275-9696)… And a word of reassurance from a local mainstay – several readers have written to ask about The Hudson House, wondering if the lack of activity there meant the place was permanently closed. They aren’t, but their relatively short frontage on the highway and lack of other outdoor space means that it’s not practical to reopen until people are dining indoors again… Note: An earlier version of this article reported that Panela’s Brazilian restaurant had closed, but it was actually their neighbor Greentree that shuttered. Panela’s is still in business and in fact recently expanded. We regret the error.

Manhattan Meets Caribbean: The only recent opening in Manhattan Beach is a surprising one, the South Bay’s only Trinidadian cafe. Mia’s Kitchen is a tiny operation next to El Tarasco on Rosecrans, and they serve the spicy Caribbean cuisine that was strongly influenced by South Asian immigrants in the 1800’s. It’s a rare treat and an addition to the local dining scene, and certainly something nobody has offered locally before (312 Rosecrans Ave, MB, miaskitchen.info, 714-457-0107)… Other openings at the Manhattan Mall and Downtown have been delayed indefinitely, but there is good news on Sepulveda Boulevard as the Source Cafe will soon open next to Big Wok at 10th Street. The ownership is the same as the Source Café in Hermosa, and they will offer a health-conscious menu from Chef Amber Caudle from breakfast through dinner (924 N. Sepulveda Blvd, MB)…

A Modest Proposal: While many restaurants are coming up with inexpensive family specials to cater to cash strapped households, a few are boldly going in the opposite direction. For instance, Flemings on Rosecrans offers two burgers and a liter of Caymus Cabernet for curbside pickup at a mere $115, though you can thin that price to $75 if you choose a bottle of Caymus-Suisun Grand Durif instead. If you prefer a steak, on Tuesday they offer a tomahawk ribeye with two salads, two sides, and desserts for $115 (wine extra). People who order that sort of thing at a time like this should be saluted, because they are almost undoubtedly doing it because they really love the food rather than to impress a date or business associate. If that describes you, check them out at flemingsonline.com

A Different Kind of Event: Culinary educators have been working on ways to bring the tasting experience into your homes, which is somewhat more practical for beverages than it is for items that are perishable or best experienced straight from the kitchen. I’m involved with one of these programs called The Thoughtful Feast, and have occasionally mentioned those events in these columns. The next one is spirits-focused, and is called “A Sensory Experience Of The Artisanal Spirit.” Gin expert Jason Horn will send participants five samples of gin along with the various botanicals used in making it, and on the first of August he and I will conduct a Zoom event where you will learn the history of gin, smell and taste the herbs and spices, and identify their flavors and scents in the spirits. The cost is $100, which includes shipping the box, and we can accommodate only 30 people. You can see more details at this link at Eventbrite.com . If this sells out, we’ll do it again…

Looking Forward: The bankruptcy of prominent caterer New York Food Company, covered in last week’s issue, will leave a big hole in the local food scene and portends a dim future for other entities specializing in corporate events. It will also put two local landmarks on the leasing market, Veranda’s on Rosecrans and the historic La Venta Inn in Palos Verdes Estates. Both are in prime locations but are older properties that may lose some exemptions from current building codes if they are closed for more than a year. There’s an obvious incentive to turn them around and get them running before that happens, even if they don’t immediately make money. In the case of Verandas, this is the only ocean view property with a large parking lot in Manhattan Beach, and an opportunity that is unlikely to be repeated. The La Venta, a restored 1920’s Spanish-style villa with panoramic views of the Santa Monica Bay, would also be a catch. An investor with nerves of steel could make money in the long run with either, but the short-term prospects will frighten off all others. There are other opportunities around our area, but assigning a value to any of them is impossible. What can be said is that if there is anywhere in greater Los Angeles that will bounce back, it will be the South Bay. Things seem to be more likely to get worse than to get better in the short term, but someday we will sit indoors around a restaurant table, reflect on these days, and raise a beverage of our choice in a toast to better times…

And In Closing: Have you seen a new culinary business that I haven’t heard about, a local event either live or virtual? I appreciate your tips and will do my best to answer your questions, and I’ll even be interested in learning about your favorite gin cocktail. You can reach me at richard@richardfoss.com…

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