Richard Foss

Love for vegans, chilli roast a new tradition, several bottles of rum, and other dining news

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A La Carte column for 01 August 2019

Partners Ulises Pineda-Alfaro, left, and Joe Lin, right enjoy lunch at Al Barrio Tacos. Photo by JP Cordero.

Summer Rush Transit: No matter what you think of services like Lyft and Uber, they are helping to keep beach city restaurants alive. It’s not just tourists. Locals who don’t live within convenient walking distance are using them to avoid driving in circles looking for parking. I talked to a Lyft driver who said that she was slammed with rides of 15 minutes or less within the South Bay, most between residential areas and restaurants and bars. I’d criticize people who are too lazy to walk to dinner, but after all, I was taking a ride myself when I heard her tale…

Beach City Barrio: The turnaround was quick, and El Barrio Neighborhood Tacos is up and running. The owners were sushi chefs who noticed the lack of street tacos in the South Bay and decided to fill the void. I haven’t had a chance to try their food yet, but look forward to it – there’s always room for a top class taqueria (1505 Aviation, RB)…

Artesia Awakens!… The Natural World Market and Cafe is open on Artesia in North Redondo, and as you might expect the emphasis here is on simple and wholesome organic cuisine. They have separate sections of conventional, vegan, and gluten-free pastries, a touch that shows they understand this clientele. (2302 Artesia, RB)… Nearby, the venerable Calimex restaurant has a fresh new interior, menu, and chef. It’s a considerable upgrade in style but so far the price point is the same. Given the relatively slow pace of change on Artesia, this is a remarkable burst of activity. There is at least one other eatery in this area that is likely to change hands soon, so this is definitely an area to watch…  

Openings and Closings… I only recently noticed M & Love Cafe, because the location on Highland north of Marine has a very low profile. This is likely to be a place of pilgrimage if you are a vegan or avoid glutens, because that describes their whole menu. The menu of sandwiches, smoothies, and sweets is short but interesting, and they bring high style to restricted diets (3319 Highland, MB)… A few blocks away, the branch of Yellow Vase at the corner of Marine has called it quits. This location was never as successful as the others and suffered from slow and apathetic service. The ones in Hermosa, Redondo, and PV remain open…

Two Triumphant Returns: Those who stop by the Etta’s Strudels table at the El Segundo or Redondo farmer’s markets may recognize an old friend. In the 1970s El Segundo had a Hungarian strudel shop run by Alex and Etta Palfi. Etta is now in her 80s but still making the pastries that brought visitors from miles around. Until they get their shop open you can call for delivery – (310) 526-4047. Their menu is at ettasstrudels.com… Another return shows how much the restaurant business can get into your blood. Addi da Costa had been running restaurants for decades when he shut down his famed restaurant on Torrance Boulevard, but his retirement lasted only a few months. He has confirmed that his longtime chef Gurbachan Singh will be on board for the reopening of the restaurant as Addi’s Darbar. Redecorating is in progress, and it will be open by the end of summer…

Works In Progress: Some long-stalled renovations are underway. Work has started at  the former Cantina Real space on PCH and the former Main Street Cafe in El Segundo. The Manhattan Beach space will become two businesses, a barbecue concept by Big Wok and a branch of the Source Cafe in Hermosa. The El Segundo spot will become Tapizon, a Brazilian fusion place. Meanwhile work is progressing quickly at the former Serve on Second, which will become a “Coastal Italian” concept called Mosa. The remodeling of Suzy’s to become Barsha Restaurant has started, and they’ve opened up the room in a way that makes the space seem larger and brighter. The stage is still intact, and they should start serving a Mediterranean-North African menu in a few months. Work is also progressing at Fonz’s, and the changes there are major. The building has been gutted and the outdoor patio is being eliminated, so when they finally reopen the look will be very different. Things are going slower at Flying Fin, the Hawaiian fusion place that will replace the original Mama D’s. When they started what was supposed to be a cosmetic overhaul they discovered the building needed extensive work to meet modern earthquake standards, which threw their plans of being open for summer out the window. They expect to be serving by the end of the year…

Event Alerts: You have two interesting options for August 10. One is the first annual Hatch chile roast in the parking lot at the Manhattan Beach Gelson’s. For those who aren’t familiar with this tradition, chili peppers from the Hatch Valley in New Mexico have a prized flavor that is brought out by roasting, and they’re only ripe for a few weeks of the year. You can get fresh-roasted chillies for home cooking or try dishes made with those chillies at the market’s cafe that weekend. The roast is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and this is your only chance of the year to get them… If the thought of roasted chillies makes you want a beer you’re in luck, because the brew-centric Bite at the Beach is that same day. Over 30 restaurants and craft brewers will be serving at this event, which is staged on a movie set at the MB Studios on Rosecrans. There will also be live music, magic, and more. $55 – check Eventbrite for more details or to reserve… August 14 is a good day to have a taste for seafood, because the Bluewater Grill will be hosting a “Sustainable Swordfish Salute” that evening. Forty bucks gets you the chipotle blackened fish with sides paired with selected white wines, and the restaurant has their own boat, so you know it’s fresh. (310) 318-3474 to reserve…

And A Bottle Of Rum – Several, in fact: Here’s something different – a rum pairing dinner by the water in Redondo. On August 14 Sea Level at Shade will pair several top shelf rums, both neat and cocktailed, with a three-course meal. They haven’t released the menu yet, but I’m guessing a tropical theme. $95 – check Eventbrite for details… If you prefer wine, you might head for Fleming’s on the 16th, when they will have a wine dinner featuring Belle Glos, which is noted for Pinot Noirs. That includes a rosé from that grape, and the ones I’ve had were luscious. (310) 643-6911 to reserve… And finally, on August 24th the Taste at the Beach will return to Hermosa’s Community Center on Pier Avenue. This benefit for the Hermosa school district will feature food and wine from several local places and is only $65 online or $75 at the door– more details and a ticket link are at TasteAtTheBeach.org…

Sometimes you can blame the messenger: I have heard from some readers whose complaints about restaurants aren’t really the restaurant’s fault. They’ve looked online at menus and then showed up in person to find that what was offered was almost completely different. In many cases it turned out that the menu they were looking at was posted by a food delivery service, which hadn’t bothered to update it or showed prices that included a hefty cut for their service. Folks, if you are going to a restaurant because you want a specific thing you saw online, make sure that you are actually looking at the menu they posted on their own site, not a delivery service or on Yelp. It will save you recalibrating your taste buds for the items the restaurant is actually serving…

And In Conclusion: Your tips help me keep up with what’s happening around the neighborhood. Any openings I missed, any events, any other places where I can get great rum drinks and strudels? Please send an email to Richard@RichardFoss.com. ER

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