Hipster takeout cafe arrives, a chef departs, Mama D’s returns to MB, and more dining news – Easy Reader

Restaurant News

DJ Wilson and Kurt Fry have taken over the El Segundo Beach Cafe and renamed it Oceans Cafe & Grill. The couple also own Oceans Prone Paddleboards and hope to make Oceans a destination for ocean enthusiasts, as well as bicyclists and beach goers. The restaurant is on the beach bike path at the foot of Grand Avenue in El Segundo. Photo by Kevin Cody

You can see the wave coming, a cascade of new eateries on the way as restrictions on customer occupancy loosen. They’re making the bet that however fragile the recovery is, however restricted the seating, it’s time to fire up the stoves and build a clientele. This may not immediately make economic sense, but starting the gears turning will stake a claim in an increasingly competitive field. Following is a roundup starting with the one place that has opened in the last few weeks and the many that will soon follow.

Odd name, big buzz: Cheebo started as an eccentric café in Hollywood that became a chain. “Cheebo Express” just opened in North Redondo in the former El Barrio Tacos on Aviation, which suits their delivery and takeout-only model. The menu is heavy on health-conscious breakfasts, salads, and sandwiches. It’s on the pricey side, but this is one of the rare places in the South Bay that will sling out a breakfast or a burger until 2 a.m., and that counts for something (1505 Aviation, RB)…

Jumping the gun: The website for Eddie V’s Prime Seafood on Rosecrans welcomes you to “visit us tonight for dinner,” but if you do, you should pack your own food to eat on the front steps. Based on the pile of UPS stickers on the front door, wine and other essentials are being delivered and the place should be open soon. I have complained about some restaurants that don’t update their website, and it’s a novelty to upbraid one for doing it too soon…

Newcomers announced: Life may soon return to the former Polly’s on the Boardwalk in Redondo, and it’s a spinoff of a nearby eatery. The owners have proposed a deli concept, which they rightly point out is missing from the area. Somehow, I hadn’t noticed a lack of a sandwich shop in this café-intensive location until somebody proposed putting one there. No word yet on how soon they’ll start serving, but they will surely want to take advantage of spring weather and the resulting influx of tourists…

An “awesome” tavern is coming to the site previously occupied by Avenue A, on Pacific Coast Highway in Redondo Beach. Photo by Richard Foss

Something is coming to Avenue A in Redondo, but they’re being coy about what. A new sign is up, but is currently covered by a banner that reads,” Stay tuned… working on something awesome.” The part of the sign that can be read refers to the place as a tavern, so we may infer something about the general focus… Other news from Redondo is about reopenings – Rockn’Brews started serving again on St. Patrick’s Day, and Dominique’s Kitchen will resume service on April 14. Dominique and Liza have been “refreshing” the space after the long closure, so the South Bay’s most elegant French restaurant will have a new look…

Hermosa has been mostly quiet, with the Pier Avenue Rockefeller remodel still underway. Owner Allen Sanford says that the restaurant will have a new look, similar to the Redondo location, with private dining spaces and an enhanced menu… Manhattan Beach has only one big news item:  Mama D’s is returning to Manhattan Avenue next to the Bo Bridges Gallery. Since that wasn’t previously a restaurant, remodeling may be a challenge. They haven’t announced a timetable, and given the amount of work to be done, it will be surprising if they can open before the end of summer.

Cam and Thad Fisco of Portland Kettleworks haul away the copper kettles from what began as Einstein’s Brewery, became Union Cattle and ended as Abigaile Restaurant and Brewery. Over 400 breweries have closed worldwide since the start of the pandemic. Thad said the demand for brewing equipment is still high. Marlin Equity is expanding into the location on Manhattan Avenue in downtown Hermosa Beach. Photo by Kevin Cody

Rosecrans renaissance and beach eats: Despite the decline in office space occupancy, the Rosecrans corridor is home to a new project called Nomad Eatery. It’s in the former Jackson’s space next to the Arclight theater, and those who stop in may see a familiar face. Chef-owner Scott Cooper, who ran Jackson’s, is behind the new venture, but the focus is quite different. There are Middle Eastern selections along with a smattering of ideas from everywhere, and it looks interesting. They don’t seem to have a website yet, but expect to be serving next week (2041 Rosecrans, ES)… There is also news from El Segundo’s westernmost restaurant, which you probably didn’t know existed unless you rode past it on the bike path. The El Segundo Beach Café on Dockweiler had a dedicated following despite a complete lack of signage – people must have found it by following the scent of good burgers to its source. The new owners are DJ Wilson and Kurt Fry, avid paddleboarders, have changed the name to Oceans Café & Grill and hope it will become a gathering place for fellow water enthusiasts. I haven’t seen the menu, but if you bike or paddle over there and try the place, please let me know what you think of it…

A departure:  Austin Cobb, who has been Executive Chef at the Strand House since 2017, has left his job and according to his Instagram account is moving to Costa Rica. His replacement has not been announced, but will have a hard act to follow. Cobb is an avid surfer and a brilliant chef, and no doubt will enjoy the waves, while finding someplace that appreciates his talent…

And speaking about chefs: The movement to a lower tier of pandemic restrictions affects all kinds of businesses, including cooking schools. The South Bay School of Cooking has resumed classes so you can practice your skills at entertaining, which are probably rusty if you have been appropriately careful. If you’re one of those people who spent the last year perfecting your sourdough bread, why not learn some meals that go well with it? Chef Annette will be happy to oblige – see class offerings at southbayschoolofcooking.com…

The booze beat: A while ago I mentioned the resurrection of Side Door in Manhattan Beach, and reported the new name was The Sand Bar. That was almost right – it’s called Sandbar 66, and when I walked by recently they seemed to be doing quite well. The menu is a bit larger than previously and covers the expected sandwiches, salads, and other snacks that pair well with cocktails, of which they serve many (900 Manhattan Avenue, MB)…

Restaurant critic and food historian Richard Foss will discuss “The Strangest Cooking Methods in the World” during a virtual presentation hosted by the Culinary Historians of Southern California, on April 10 at 10:30 a.m. Photo courtesy of Richard Foss

Tooting my own horn… Some readers have expressed interest in my online culinary history events, and as it happens I have a lot of them this month. On April 8 at 7 p.m., I’ll be moderating a panel of Indigenous chefs on the “The Rise of Native American Foods.” The program is sponsored by the NEA and LA Department of Cultural Affairs, and will explore how traditional ingredients are used in the modern world. On April 10th at 10:30 a.m., I’ll present a solo talk about “The Strangest Cooking Methods in the World,” for the Culinary Historians of Southern California, about how people cook in extreme and unusual environments. On April 16 at 10:30 AM, I’ll present “The First California Cuisine,” about food in California before annexation by the United States, and on April 20th at 7 PM there’s a talk called “Food on the Western Trail,” about how the pioneers ate while crossing the trackless plains. All are free, and you can get more information and make reservations using the links at the richardfoss.com events page. If you have enjoyed my writings, I hope you’ll tune in…

Good help is hard to find… Eateries at all levels are enjoying a boom when it comes to dining in, but many are having difficulties finding service staff. Restaurant Business Magazine noted that many experienced servers decided to change careers during the shutdown, seeking predictable schedules, greater job security, and lowered health risks. Some left because their stress increased at the very time that their wages dropped due to shortened hours and smaller checks. I have talked to servers who reported abusive customers withholding tips as punishment for slow service caused by understaffed kitchens. Restaurants that suffered cash shortages sometimes dipped into servers’ tip money to cover other expenses, which is illegal. In an era when Target, Amazon, and Costco have raised starting pay to above $15 per hour, experiences like these can make anyone reconsider their career path. It was surprising to see this industry publication endorse increased salaries and reduced reliance on gratuities so all workers have a stable income, but apparently the pandemic has caused many operators to reassess their strategies. For now, please be generous and kind, or you may next see that server who knows your name and your preferences when they bag your groceries…

In closing: Have you seen a new culinary business that I might not know about, a local event either live or virtual? Your tips make my coverage better. You can reach me at [email protected]ER 

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