Richard Foss

We’re open! We’re closed! We’re confused!

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A La Carte column for 02 July 2020

Slice and Pint’s Jake Briskpoli serves Sheryl Main of Hermosa and longtime El Segundo resident Helen Capo on Richmond Street, which has been closed to cars and dressed with tables. Photo by Kevin Cody

Bending Time And Space: The march of public dining into parking lots, parking spaces, alleys, and courtyards continues, sometimes on a grand scale and sometimes small. A stretch of Richmond Street in El Segundo has become an outdoor plaza, and restaurants everywhere are eyeing every possible space where they might be able to put a table with appropriate distance from its fellows. In many cases these are the most attractive and enjoyable seats in the house, which is making things confusing when booking reservations that don’t specify location. As if that wasn’t disorienting enough, many restaurants that used to follow a regular schedule are reacting to unpredictable traffic by closing whenever things are slow or they run out of food, regardless of what hours are posted. While I usually include opening hours in my reviews, these have been changing so quickly that they should be regarded as advisory only. I recommend you call ahead to restaurants even if reservations are not usually necessary or offered, because knowing that some more people are on the way may make the difference between them deciding to close for the night or not…

And Now The News: Downtown Hermosa continues to be strongly impacted by the lack of tourist traffic, and it is looking increasingly unlikely that some businesses will survive. The owners and management of several places have gone into hiding and don’t answer emails, though it was possible to see clues that things were not going well. A case in point is Outpost 406, which hasn’t officially announced their closure but scrubbed their Facebook page a few weeks ago. Shutting down that popular method of communicating with customers is generally a sign of death in the modern world… Elsewhere in the area there have been some actual openings to report. In Hermosa this includes the Habit Burger Grill at the corner of PCH and Pier (719 Pier, HB), in Manhattan the first Southern California location of San Francisco chain Tacolicious in the former Mama D’s (1129 Manhattan Ave., MB). Riviera Village gained the Swell Deli, named after the swells in the nearby ocean rather than any of the other meanings of that word. Owner Adam Orr makes his own pickles and condiments and is a connoisseur of Italian meats, and though they have opened with a limited menu he has big plans for the future. (1702 Catalina, RB). You business owners are all brave souls, and I wish you success to match your courage…

Long Awaited, Now Even Longer: A month ago it was hoped that Pacific Standard Prime Steakhouse in Redondo might be open by the Fourth of July. That won’t happen because there is a huge backlog in issuing permits, so the opening is now scheduled for July 23. Spare a thought for the management here and at all the other projects around town that are struggling to get their doors open, and give them all the support that you can…

Changes Coming, Or Not: Three restaurants are under new management, Mosa and Martha’s in Hermosa and the Riviera Mexican Grill in Redondo. Bob Lombardo was a partner in Mosa when it opened with Anne Conness’s stylish Italian food. Conness left to focus on her restaurant Sausal in El Segundo, and Lombardo is making plans for the place’s reopening. He envisions a more casual concept that will still have a Mediterranean focus, with an opening likely in August… Meanwhile at Riviera Mexican Grill, nothing has changed despite the arrival of new owners Chris Bredesen of Rockefeller and George Loren of Captain Kidd’s and R10 Social House. Rumors have been swirling since the place sold, but on a recent visit the menu and style were unchanged, the patio the same extravagantly muraled space as ever. Martha’s 22nd Street Grill is different in decor, the building repainted a dazzling white and under renovation, but word is that the concept won’t be substantially changed when they reopen. File this under “Why mess with success?” in the appropriate drawer…

Caffeine At The Ready: I missed the opening of La Terraza coffeehouse in Redondo earlier this year, but I have a good excuse since it debuted just before it and everything else closed down. The cafe at the corner of Avenue D and PCH is open for coffee, light breakfast and lunches, with housemade tamales on Tuesdays. They don’t roast in-house but make a variety of drinks using La Colombe, which is a well regarded major brand (1201 S. PCH, RB)…

El Torito on the Redondo Pier brings back the traditional Sunday Brunch, with personally distanced service. Photo by Richard Foss

Buffets Aren’t Dead: The buffet brunch is an endurably popular way to while away a weekend morning, but it has been an endangered species due to the pandemic. It is alive and well in a reimagined version at the El Torito on the Redondo Pier, where the standard self-serve version had previously been a fixture for slightly family gatherings. Now the staff serves some items from the buffet at your direction while others are brought to your table to order. Though I find the food at El Torito generally underseasoned,  the new service experience is an upgrade. It was a well-spent morning enjoying brunch with a view of the beach, and the mimosas and sparkling wine that are included with the meal just might have helped the experience. Other Pier businesses are reopening too, and I saw diners in Old Tony’s, Kincaid’s, and some of the casual dining operations. I used to hang out at this pier a lot as a teenager, and it made me happy to see the place come back to life…

Speaking of Coming Back To Life: More restaurants that had been closed have reopened, and some that had already been in business have increased their hours. Among the resurrected are Manhattan House in Manhattan Beach, which used the enforced downtime to install a wood-fired pizza oven. Their new menu is solidly Italian and moderately priced, and I’m glad to see them back. This often overlooked gem is just a bit away from the beach hubbub and is a relaxing locals hangout, so if you haven’t visited lately you might give them a try. They’ve moved tables into their parking lot so the ambiance isn’t quite the same as usual, but they have stated that they intend to remain open  (1019 MB Blvd, MB)… Elsewhere in the South Bay, Chef Melba’s has opened for Sunday brunch, serving eclectic items that range from simple french toast and huevos rancheros to the elegant seafood items that have brought her a dedicated following over the last 15 years. There are tables indoors, on the sidewalk, and in their quiet rear patio, so they have nearly the seating that they did before things got strange (1501 Hermosa Ave., HB)…

Paradise Bowls in downtown Hermosa Beach emphasizes health food and health behavior. Photo by Richard Foss.

Useful Medical Advice: At Paradise Bowls in Hermosa there is a sign posted by the door that reads, “Pulling your shirt over your mouth is not a mask.” This is something I didn’t consider that anybody might do until discovering it was prohibited. I have taken to keeping a mask in my car in case I accidentally leave the house without one, and having another in the pocket of the jacket I usually wear when I go out in the evening. Based on some of the pretty and stylish neckwear I have observed lately, I predict that bandanas in colorful colors may remain a fashion item even after all of this is over…

And In Closing: We used to run this column only once a month, because that was generally enough to cover the various local events and changes. You’ll be seeing it more often as we try to keep abreast of what is going on. In the current situation it is hard to keep up with who is doing what, and I value your help. Do you know about any openings, closings, changes, maybe even a few events? I may be dreaming on that last part because so few people are running dining events, but hey, it could happen. Drop me a note at richard@richardfoss.com…ER

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