Richard Foss

Mama D’s MB closes, Montana-themed restaurant opens, two new Yellow Vases, Events, and more dining news

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A La Carte column for 17 October 2018

Cory Nauman relaxes on a bench made in Montana by his sister Michelle, who made all of the furniture, from reclaimed barns and bridges, for Nauman’s newly opened Outpost 406, on Hermosa Avenue in downtown Hermosa Beach. Photo by Kevin Cody

Downtown Will Smell Different… After over a quarter-century in business, the original Mama D’s will soon close. Like many downtown businesses they have been facing substantial rent increases, and it’s hard to make big money selling relatively inexpensive plates of pasta. Founder Chris Davidson spends his time at the Redondo Beach location, so those of you who can’t live without their hearty classic dishes just have to drive a bit further. Rumor has it that the new tenant will offer Japanese and Hawaiian food, which sounds like a good fit for the neighborhood…

Not Just For Pottery Collectors… The people who own the expanding Yellow Vase Cafe empire celebrated two openings recently, on PCH in Hermosa and Highland Avenue in Manhattan Beach. One is high visibility, one low, but both offer the same menu of stylish breakfast and lunch items with bakery goods, coffee, and beer or wine. The one in Manhattan Beach has been drawing a remarkable crowd to a location that has been tough for the last few tenants, and may finally break the spell on this difficult location… Elsewhere in town, the California Pizza Kitchen has reopened in new digs at the Manhattan Mall, and work continues on the nearby space that will become Urban Plates. There are other restaurant tenants scheduled to move in, but the property managers aren’t giving out any names at this point…

A Genuinely Unique Idea… A Montana-themed restaurant called Outpost 406 Pub and Eats is opening in Hermosa Beach, and before I go any further I’d like to point out just how unusual an idea that is. There are Montana-themed restaurants inside that state, but the only other one I have been able to find elsewhere is in Kharkiv, Ukraine. They serve steaks, fish, and that old Montana specialty, sushi topped with melted cheese. That last item isn’t on the menu at Outpost 406, but they do offer bison burger sliders, rainbow trout fritters, and other things you can actually get in owner Cory Nauman’s hometown of Kalispell. There are some concessions to California ideas, like putting the lumber camp hash inside a tortilla to make a breakfast burrito, but most of the flavors here are straight from the Big Sky country. It’s a different kind of culinary diversity, the flavors of one of our own regions right here by the beach, and it will be interesting to see how this experiment turns out (1314 Hermosa Ave., HB)…

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And In El Segundo… I regard every new Thai restaurant as an extension of civilization, so the opening of Jetta Thai Cuisine on Main Street in El Segundo is naturally a happy thing. They have opened with a limited menu of Bangkok-style favorites but promise to add more dishes after they’ve been in operation for a while. The space is small, stylish, and most important to them, well populated already at lunch. Parking is a pain, as it is everywhere in that neighborhood, but it’s worth circling the block for a great green curry (243 Main St., ES)…

Event Alerts!… Dominique’s Kitchen makes cassoulet only once or twice a year and nobody else in town makes it at all, so if you want to try this famous French stew of smoked meat, duck, and sausage with white beans you need to grab your chance. The next opportunity is on October 21, when they’ll be celebrating six years in business. A three-course meal is sixty bucks plus the usual, and the place is sure to fill fast. Call 424-247-9024 tres rapide for your reservation… Chez Melange is no stranger to food events locally, and they have a wine dinner coming up that looks very promising. Master Sommelier Gillian Balance, one of only 25 women in the world to hold that title, will preside on October 29th at a “Best of Napa” event. Five courses of superb food and wine will set you back $95 plus T&T – call 310-540-1222 to reserve… And I usually don’t take note of Halloween-themed events, but Second City Bistro in El Segundo has one that seems noteworthy. They have invited winemaker Wes Hagen to preside over a tasting and appetizer buffet on October 31, at the modest cost of 31 dollars. Wear those costumes, because there will be a contest. I’d presume that no personas involving elaborate masks should be worn, as you’ll want to be able to eat and drink comfortably. Call 310-322-6085 to join the fun…

Hearing From The Other Side… In last month’s column I mentioned the problem of excessively loud and echoing restaurants, and that obviously struck a chord. I received more reader mail than for any other column in at least twenty years, and it ran 100% in favor of more serene environments. I decided to contact the co-owner of a restaurant that I particularly liked for their food but that I had found dauntingly loud, Baran’s 2239. Jason Baran explained that it can be hard for a restaurateur in a new space to know what the acoustics in their space will be like, and very expensive to do anything about it once you know you have a problem. The architecture of modern buildings starts with concrete floors and high ceilings, both of which lend themselves to lots of echoes bouncing around. (I’ll note that most restaurants want to keep the hard floors because they’re easy to keep clean, so at least that aspect is hard to mitigate.) Jason said that Baran’s has been listening to their customers and they have installed some sound absorbing material, so you may find things to be better on your next visit. I’m glad to hear that at least some restaurateurs are actively searching for solutions, and salute their initiative…

The Party Rolled Away… A reader asked me why the monthly food truck gathering didn’t seem to be happening at the Redondo Performing Arts Center any more. The short answer is that they weren’t making any money, so they have decided to suspend the events while rethinking the idea. As it happens I talked to someone a while ago who said that the reason they didn’t attend was that they don’t like food trucks because there was no place to wash up before and after eating. At this location there are rest rooms only thirty feet away, but they aren’t well marked. If the trucks return, they might want to let people know they exist and are open…

The Scariest Thing About Halloween… Cakes shaped like spiders and Mexican candy skulls don’t scare me, but someone in the South Bay has come up with a food item that sounds genuinely frightening. For a limited time only, Mickey’s deli will offer a pizza topped with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos (r) as the ultimate Halloween food. I will not speculate about the taste, but I predict that they will sell a lot of beer with it…

And in conclusion… Any new openings, any food events, and places offering food from some other state that is poorly represented here? (I’m waiting for the Ohio-themed place so I can get Cincinnati Greek chili with Grand River Valley wines. And yes, I like both.) If you know a secret gem, I’m at richard@richardfoss.com…

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