Richard Foss

Infernal pizza, high level dining, scam sites, and more restaurant news

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A La Carte column for 30 July 2020

Lines and outdoor dining have created a busy, festive atmosphere in downtown areas like Upper Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach. Photo by Kevin Cody

Fragile resurgence:  A superficial glance at the dining scene makes it look like things are almost back to normal. There were lines for Sunday brunch at Pier Plaza eateries, and business looked brisk just about everywhere. The Redondo Boardwalk was lively on a weekend afternoon too, with Naja’s regulars making up for personal distancing and the lack of live music with loud conversation between widely spaced groups and dueling boom boxes. It was almost like normal, but with sunshine. You might expect the same experience as a typical summer season, but that’s not happening. Many eateries are running with reduced staff who have to do extra work sanitizing tables, and they’re operating with fewer people in the kitchen, which results in slower service. This is unavoidable. Please, people, be kind to your servers and tip generously. Anyone who is dealing with the public is under stress right now, so don’t get in their face because your coffee wasn’t refilled immediately or your omelet didn’t arrive at the same time as your friend’s tacos….

Hell’s Kitchen makes pizza: Lucifer’s Pizza has a daring marketing concept — their logo shows a nattily dressed Satan serving up a pie. Their box is emblazoned with the slogan “Damned Good Pizza.” I suspect that this packaging will not lead to deliveries to church picnics and similar events, but it might catch on among a younger and gleefully ironic crowd. The former Pizza Hut at Goat Hill has been painted black, making a low-profile location even less noticeable, but that doesn’t seem to have hurt business — the place was slammed when I stopped in yesterday. Based on that visit the pies are pretty good, and they offer unusual toppings like roasted pumpkin and Greek lamb. This is the part where I’m supposed to say that they are devilishly good, but instead I’ll just note that I’ll be back for another one soon (400 N. Sepulveda, MB)…

Chillin’ at The Point:I had never heard of Van Leeuwen ice cream before someone told me about about their new location in the Point at PCH and Rosecrans, but the company has been around since 2008. They started in Brooklyn and specialize in organic and vegan products, including versions based on oat milk and coconut milk. Their artisanal ice cream gets rave reviews among experts (and if someone had told you as a kid that there was money in being an ice cream expert, you probably would have changed your career path). They opened a few weeks ago and have been doing well despite the lack of scorching weather so far. As an aficionado told me once, the people who eat ice cream when it is cool out are the ones who are really dedicated to the craft. (850 S. Sepulveda, ES)…

Rooftop Japanese: Sea Level restaurant at Shade Hotel in Redondo usually serves very close to the waterline, but they have started serving on the rooftop patio in what is usually an event space. Rather than offer their usual menu on weekends, they came up with the idea of serving Izakaya-style food. This style of dining originated in Japanese taverns, a meal of small plates of sushi, sashimi, and cooked items. Since it originated in taverns, it won’t surprise you that it goes well with beer and sake, which will also be available. Dinner service is from 4 to 9, weekends only. For more information, reservations, and a menu, check their website…

Mexican on the way: The people at Baran’s 2239 have announced their intention of opening a Mexican restaurant in the former Marie Callender’s take out in Redondo. That operation will be called Tigres Fuego Tacos & Ceviche, and is scheduled to be open by the end of August. Exactly when will depend on having all of their permits in order, which has been a complex situation for everyone. The health and safety department has had a huge backlog due to a shortage of inspectors while many licenses are up for renewal, so take all announcements of planned openings as educated guesses. Based on the breakfast burritos Baran’s serves on weekends and the chicken enchiladas that were a to-go special recently, it will be worth the wait…

Go To The Source: Many restaurants are open for dining in but a lot of us are still ordering take-out, and this seems to be a good time to remind you that you should order by phone or from the restaurant’s own website whenever possible. Some websites have been set up by third parties to intercept traffic and redirect it to their own delivery service, and they occasionally try to hide the fact that they are charging extra fees. Yelp is a major offender, but far from the only one. Another site called “restaurantji” has gone so far as to contact me asking me to “update” my reference to a restaurant by linking to their page. The restaurant in question has their own website and the owners had never heard of this company. Places that mislead customers, charge referral fees, push their own delivery service, or try to redirect people to other businesses siphon away profit at a time when every penny counts. Make sure you’re on the right link before you click…

Speaking of The Source: The cafe by that name has opened in Manhattan Beach, though you might not have noticed it. The Source’s sign has a very pretty rendition of their logo, but the name of the place is in a less visible spot on the front of the building. They’re between Big Wok and India’s Tandoori, and they’re serving health-conscious and flavorful contemporary food. I particularly recommend the beet salad which includes that vegetable raw, pickled, and roasted, and the tacos using cassava flour tortillas rather than corn, which I didn’t know was possible and turned out to be delicious. There’s a lot going on here, so check their menu online. There’s no outdoor dining space yet, but there is plenty of parking behind the restaurant so grab and go is easy (924 S. Sepulveda, MB)…

Mosa Is Mosta The Way There… Mosa restaurant already had two attractive outdoor patios, and is building a third along Second Street. Those will presumably have at least a sliver of an ocean view, so should be popular even after we are allowed to dine indoors again. No word on the new menu yet, but they intend to reopen by mid-August…

Dining out: Outdoor dining has been a lifeline for restaurants, but a greater challenge for some than for others. Six months ago, it didn’t matter that your restaurant was on a steep hill or had a narrow sidewalk, but when you are trying to arrange outdoor dining either can be limiting factors. Some have shown great ingenuity in creating welcoming spaces in unpromising locations, while others have taken advantage of flat areas that were previously underutilized. Primo Italia recently started serving on what they refer to as their piazza, which was previously known as “that empty space you walk past to get to Primo.” It’s a pretty environment with little traffic noise, and they’ve decorated it with lights, umbrellas, and plants. It has to be a lot more work for the staff to drag all of the tables and chairs out at the beginning of the evening and then store them at the end, and I hope it’s worth it for them and for everyone else who does this…

Staying safe or courting risk: It seemed to me that most local servers were following the rules with regard to cutting disease transmission — wearing face masks and gloves, wiping surfaces frequently, etc. It was therefore sad to find that public health inspections in LA county showed that only 17 percent of businesses were in compliance. Maybe the beach cities are doing better than average, but it is still something we all have to watch. If you see a business operating carelessly, tell the manager while you are there and send an email to the owners saying you won’t return until they fix the problem. You might also look for a posted notice pledging compliance with the “Safe in the South Bay” program, a project by the Beach Cities Health District that seeks to encourage best practices. We got where we are today because people in power underestimated the problem, and now it’s up to us to use our buying power to flatten the curve…

And in closing: Have you seen a new culinary business that I haven’t heard about, a local 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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