Hidden tacos, squashing a rumor, eatery openings, wine dinners, and other dining news

Dining decks on downtown Manhattan Beach streets must be removed by March. The city hopes to develop a plan that would allow at least some of the decks to be reinstalled. Photo by Kevin Cody

A Eureka Moment: The Mexican stew called birria has become more widely available in the South Bay recently, and now a new restaurant in Rolling Hills Estates is serving a modern riff on it: birria ramen. This dish was apparently invented almost a decade ago in Mexico City, but Fuego Cravings is the first place I’ve seen serving it locally. When I heard those two words together, I did indeed start craving it, so the restaurant is well named. It’s not the first modern Japanese-Mexican fusion dish, since Sinaloa-style sushi has been around for a while, but it sounds interesting and I’m going to try it. (550 Deep Valley Dr. #155, RHE)…

Surprising and unsurprising closings: After nine years in business and expanding from one location to three, King Harbor Brewing suddenly closed at the end of December. The tasting rooms in Riviera Village and the Boardwalk looked busy the last time I stopped by, so this was quite a surprise. Competition in the microbrewery scene is fierce, with nine in Torrance and three in El Segundo, and it’s inevitable to wonder if this portends a shakeout in this industry… Calimex on Artesia also closed at the end of December, a sad end to a restaurant that had been around for decades. After the place changed ownership a few years ago they planned an ambitious transition to a South American fusion restaurant, but the pandemic put an end to that. No word about what comes next… It’s no surprise that the Joe’s Crab Shack in Redondo closed, because the food was abysmal and the building had become shabby. The once high-flying chain has shrunk from 140 outlets nationwide to 39, suggesting that even an ocean view can’t make people enthusiastic about greasy seafood in a tacky environment. Whatever comes next will undoubtedly be an upgrade… And there’s a note of hope for fans of Korean-style chicken who have been concerned about the sign on Hermosa Kentucky that says, “Closed due to Covid.” They do hope to reopen again soon, but haven’t set a date. I wish the proprietors and employees good health and a return soon, and will update you when they’re frying up birds again.

Antidote To Coffee? Coffee shops have been springing up on just about every corner, but tea is making a comeback. The latest newcomer is Presotea, an outpost of a Taiwanese chain that offers a bewildering variety of tea drinks, made with either black or fruit teas. Boba is offered, of course, as are milk, brown sugar, and other add-ins. Also on offer are freshly made waffles, with the same more-is-better attitude toward toppings. It sounds like a lot of fun, and I wish they were open later than 8 p.m. so it was a more viable dessert option (1100 Manhattan Ave., MB)…

Mexican Plus Mexican Equals: I heard there was a new taqueria on Artesia and was surprised because I hadn’t seen a sign. That’s because there isn’t one – it’s located inside the Empanada Shop. Takaria offers a range of tacos and a few other items, including chilaquiles, mole poblano, and a breakfast burrito that sounds intimidatingly spicy. The host establishment has expanded their offerings too, and besides a wide range of empanadas now serves tamales. It’s all to-go, though there are a pair of tables outside for those who just can’t wait (1908 ½ Artesia, RB)…

Meanwhile in El Segundo: The Kebab Shop has opened on PCH, the latest in a series of Middle Eastern fast food places in the area. They offer the Turkish/Lebanese classics, and it’s worth noting that their website has a handy allergen key so those with dietary restrictions can figure out what works for them. That’s considerate, and I hope more chain operations do this (460 N. PCH, ES)… Also in EL Segundo, the International House of Pancakes is still there. That has been the case for 50 years, but is worth saying because there have been rumors that it will close, or already had. Yes, the chain has shuttered other locations in California, including the one in Rancho Palos Verdes, but this one is still going strong…

Event Alerts! And there are several this week, including several with unusual themes. Uncorked’s next major offering is on February 1, focusing on Poggio Amorelli from Tuscany. While many of their tastings are no-reservation, this one isn’t – it’s limited to 20 people and costs $25. Reserve by calling (424) 247-7117… They’ll offer a more frivolous Super Bowl snack and wine pairing a week later that will tell you what to pair with pork rinds and Doritos, and no, I am not kidding. I find this frightening but may show up out of slightlymorbid curiosity. They’re offering a wine and chocolate pairing on February 15, the day after Valentine’s Day, and that’s more my style. Get information on all of these at uncorkedwineshops.com… If the Super Bowl snacks pairing isn’t your style but you’re a fan of the game and the beverage, you might go to Radici on February 7. That evening’s wine dinner will be hosted by winery owner and former LA Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo, who will be pouring wines from his family’s vineyard. Five courses with wine will be $110 plus T&T, and there’s a reservation link on the website at radicihermosabeach.com… Fishbar has started hosting monthly wine dinners, and the next one on February 15 features Siduri Wines. Siduri specializes in Pinot Noir, and three of the courses will be paired with wines of that grape from The Willamette valley, Santa Barbara, and the Russian River valley. There are multiple seatings beginning at 6 p.m., and wines will be available for purchase by the bottle. It’s $85 plus tax and gratuity…

Odds and Ends: Local Kitchens was scheduled to open over a month ago on PCH in Redondo, but construction has been delayed again. According to management, watch for service to start in “the second or third quarter of 2023”… I was very impressed by the California-Brazilian food at Tapizon in El Segundo, and their latest menu change brings them a bit toward the Golden State. They have greatly expanded the number of vegan items, including a vegan feijoada, the national dish of Brazil. I am eating less meat these days, and look forward to trying their version of this rich, satisfying stew… And congratulations to Silvio’s for getting a full liquor license on the Pier Plaza, something that I would have thought impossible. Love it or not, cocktails are a big part of many people’s dining experience, and serving them makes a place more attractive to customers. There’s still no word on when Silvio’s will add those items listed as “coming soon” on their website, and I’m curious about them. The word “soon” has a rather elastic meaning and sometimes stretches into the far future…

Thoughts On MB Dining Decks: Manhattan Beach is axing the dining decks that block streets while keeping sidewalk dining, and it’s a consequential move. Restaurants on Manhattan Beach Boulevard will be most severely affected, particularly those on the steep sections by the pier. The sidewalk is too narrow, slanted, and crowded to accommodate even a table for two in that block, so those restaurants will lose substantial revenue on the seating that is most desirable in pleasant weather. Manhattan Pizzeria will have it particularly tough, because they’ll lose more than three-quarters of their seats, and having more parking space for take-out orders won’t make up for that. Sidewalk dining will help where is is practical, but it’s a less attractive proposition than the decks, particularly where slanted parking spaces mean that every car coming into a space shines headlights on your table, and some departing cars and motorcycles rev their engines on the way out of the space. There are a lot of electric cars in the area, but not enough that this won’t be a problem.

The big winners will be restaurants in Hermosa, for whom this will be a lifeline. The Downtown restaurants have been unusually quiet of late, and a cut of several hundred seats per night in the city next door will send a flow of customers their way. The Manhattan City Council says they will be working on a new program to bring back outdoor dining in the city, but under the best of circumstances that is likely to take enough time that the upcoming summer’s business is lost. Many eateries will have the resources to hang on and hope to win customers back after the new plan is developed and implemented, but some won’t. It may be a boon for retail shops, but maybe it won’t – those hundreds of people who come to town to eat stop to buy things as they stroll to their chosen eatery. Several factors will influence the outcome, including the possibility of another Covid surge that sends people outdoors again, and I can’t predict what will happen. I do know that there are restaurants in town that I won’t dine at indoors because those spaces are cramped and overwhelmingly loud, and their dining decks are the only place I can have a pleasant meal there. I’ll be looking for alternatives, and I won’t be the only one…

And In Closing:. If you know a restaurant opening I might’ve missed, a culinary event that should be covered, or just about anything related to food that I should know about, please send the information my way. I’m at richard@richardfoss.com. And as long as you’re on the internet, check out past restaurant reviews on our website at EasyReaderNews.com/restaurants. ER

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