WRITTEN BY CONSTANCE DUNN
ILLUSTRATION BY JAY BROCKMAN
This South Bay institution is known for its unapologetically rich ice cream, made fresh daily in batches and stocked with generous amounts of fruit, caramel and other goodies. Long lines are the norm on warm nights and on Two Buck Tuesdays, when locals queue up for scoops of Graham Central Station—an alluring meld of chocolate malt and graham crackers— and super-creamy Banana Cream Pie, both top-sellers. Kids, on the other hand, are fond of color-packed selections like Cotton Candy or Blue Moon, aka blue raspberry.
Malted milk shakes and massive banana splits are menu mainstays, and seasonal offerings include pumpkin pie ice cream, available in autumn, and a fresh peach sundae, served in summer. One of only three California locations, Handel’s is located in a modern strip mall yet sports all the trappings of a classic ice cream stand, from cheerful teens serving cones through tiny service windows to children dancing with glee and smitten couples holding hands.
Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt
1882 South Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach, CA 90277
424.247.8861 | HandelsIceCream.com
Standout cuisine and blue-water views uplift this under-the-radar South Bay eatery.
WRITTEN BY CONSTANCE DUNN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY PAUL JONASON
“A little playful, a little traditional” is how Executive Chef Richard Crespin sums up a recent prix fixe dinner at BALEEN Kitchen, where savory grilled watermelon served with heirloom tomatoes and feta cheese, plus a straight forward steak frites topped with Béarnaise sauce, were among the offerings.
This elegant, tucked-away spot in Redondo’s King Harbor, pegged by Zagat as “One of the Top 10 Best Restaurants for Waterside Dining in LA,” offers more than just alluring marina views, however. It’s home to Crespin’s well-honed culinary touch, which lands duck confit carnitas spiked with Thai Asian spice on the starter menu next to a steaming pot of littleneck clams. (“Basic, French style.” Crespin confides. “Lemon and thyme. Butter.”)
Ideal for an intimate dinner—the room is sedate and tasteful, while the service is attentive yet unobtrusive—or a sunny à la carte weekend brunch, BALEEN Kitchen will, for Easter, offer its DIY Bloody Mary Bar and an expansive spring brunch.
And there’s always happy hour, where BALEEN Lounge, a spacious, polished area just steps up from the dining room, serves up seasonal bites, from a colorful quinoa salad to a soft shell crab nestled on snap pea rémoulade, along with a six-tap lineup of the South Bay’s most creative craft beers. Happy, indeed.
When restauranteur Jed Sanford and his partner, chef Tin Vuong, considered opening a steakhouse in Hermosa Beach, they knew they’d surprise many. For a traditional place like Steak & Whisky isn’t exactly the type of fare that had been topping the duo’s South Bay dining docket for the last three years. The pair, whose company Blackhouse Hospitality Management is known for such South Bay spots as Abigaile, Little Sister, Dia de Campo, Wildcraft and Ocean Bar & Lounge, is usually associated with edgier concepts.
“My first place was Abigaile, where all the punk bands used to live,” says Sanford, sitting ensconced in a comfortable leather-upholstered booth at Steak & Whisky while sipping a glass of classic Napa Cabernet. “This is kind of doing the opposite, something really high-end … People love the crazier things we’ve done, but sometimes doing clean, classic food is important too.”
Once the partners acquired the space on Pier Avenue formerly occupied by Hibachi, it took a year to re-imagine it as Steak & Whisky. “We wanted to cover something that was super traditional. Something that’s comfortable for people … Just really stripped down, back to simple, classic cooking,” Sanford explains. “We wanted to kind of go back to an older period, ” he continues, referencing the early decades of the 20th century—that “Central Coast of California cattle ranch meets the ocean” era. This, Sanford adds, along with Nucky Thompson’s place in Boardwalk Empire, a show he loves, inspired the concept. “Something about old-soul places resonates with me, and Tin, a lot.”
And with Steak & Whisky’s soft lighting, exposed brick walls, dark wooden bar, leather seats and plush booths, Sanford has succeeded admirably in creating that precise feel. The food is a success too, as Vuong has joined forces with former Tavern on the Green chef John Shaw, offering luscious 30-day dry-aged prime beef (the porterhouse is a thing of true beauty), Japanese Wagyu ribeye, Duroc pork chops and more, all accompanied with classic sauces like béarnaise or peppercorn.
Plus, the culinary duo is also cooking up a few less traditional items. Sanford says, “We’re doing certain things a little differently … Like the Ham Hock Ravioli is a little different than what people normally see; the way we do the Lamb Pot Pie is unique, and we have things like sweetbreads on our menu. The idea is to give diners some interesting dishes, and some classics as well. It’s not about showing off, it’s about just being good.”
The whisky element shows off some with a massive bar stretching to the ceiling, stocked with top-shelf whiskys from around the world. With styles ranging from traditional Scottish, American and Canadian single malts to the latest from Japan, Sanford proudly states, “We have some wonderful whiskys from some very interesting places.” Look above the bar to see ten whisky lockers, where regular patrons can store their own special bottles. The restaurant also has an extensive wine list, including a selection of rare finds, perfect for a steak pairing.
Steak & Whisky
117 Pier Avenue
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
Special menu items drop anchor at Fishing with Dynamite in Manhattan Beach, just in time for some celebrating.
If you haven’t already ventured into chef David LeFevre’s fabulous seafood eatery called Fishing with Dynamite, then get there in the next few weeks for some special dining. For they are celebrating Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras with limited-time menus designed to get you drooling.
The Manhattan Beach restaurant is intimate, with seating for only 35 guests, so to get in on the fun we advise luring in a limited reservation via phone or Open Table now.
In celebration of Valentine’s Day, LeFevre has concocted the “Love Boat” seafood platter, filling it with chilled, super-fresh selections: six oysters, two Peruvian scallops, four shrimp cocktail bites and a half-pound King crab—for $48.
Also on the special menu is Steamed Black Cod in Thai Red Curry ($19); Whole Atlantic Lobster with Meyer Lemon Potato Puree and Drawn Butter ($44); and Dark Chocolate Ganache Cake and Raspberries ($9). All is a recipe for a seriously decadent evening at one of the hottest restaurants in the coastal enclave harboring it.
Chef’s got the good times rolling straight through Fat Tuesday (Feb. 17), too, with a hearty Gumbo concocted with shrimp, chicken, linguisa (spicy smoked pork sausage), hot sauce and basmati rice. So don your beads and boas to dinner for an authentic evening out.
And if those specials don’t entice your taste buds, the talked-about toque has (much) more to offer. Don’t miss trying one of his seasonal offerings, especially if you see the whole New Zealand Tai snapper ($48) on the menu. It’s “First Dibbs!” for a reason—and a crunchy delight. The Maryland crab cake is the genuine article, and save room for the pretzel and chocolate bread pudding served with house-made ice cream, a sweet finish to share with your favorite dining partner.
Fishing with Dynamite
1148 Manhattan Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Recently opened neighborhood pub, Hey 19 Public House, enlivens the South Bay.
When Ortega 120 restaurateur, Demi Stevens, decided to take over the space on Calle Mayor in Torrance that once held Zina’s, she knew she wanted something completely different than her popular Mexican place nearby, paving the way for Hey 19 Public House.
“I wanted it to be a relaxed place where locals can come to eat, drink and dance a little,” Stevens explains, while happily pouring a glass of her #19 concoction, a smooth-as-silk, house-infused orange bourbon mixed with fresh lemon, lime and orange that slides down the throat like butter—dangerous, for certain. “We also make our own ‘LemonAde’ and ‘GingerAle,’” she adds.
Infusions aside, such attention to detail is everywhere in this casually cozy, retro place, its Hey 19 moniker cueing the Steely Dan song of the same name. Along with featuring projections of old television shows on the walls (All in the Family playing the night we’re there) are posters of Farrah Fawcett and Star Wars memorabilia. There’s also Banksy prints, mismatched chairs, wacky light fixtures and even a photo of a loincloth-clad Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. mode adorning the drink menu. The convivial setting really makes you feel like a teenager again—a cool kid hanging out your cool friend’s basement.
Take the food menu—offered up in none other than a Pee-Chee portfolio (raise your hand if old enough to remember those!)—which features dishes made from locally sourced, non-GMO and hormone-free organic products. Try the Eric in a Blanket, house-made sausage in a puff pastry, or the Tabled Tartar, made with perfectly prepared Ahi tuna, avocado and ponzu for starters; then move on to Chrissy’s Night Out, mouth-watering, slow-cooked short ribs, or the tasty Froo Froo Pasta, made with local shrimp, Mayer lemon, kale and goat cheese.
Hey 19 also serves pub fare too, including burgers, fried chicken and waffles, and T-bone steak, and there’s always a friendly crowd at the bar, where live bands play a couple of nights a week. Needless to say, dancing is encouraged—and in a sense expected. Plus, this rollicking public house serves a limited menu until 1:30 a.m., a rarity in the South Bay; and they’re open for lunch, too. Now that word about Hey 19 is spreading, we predict that, soon, locals may not be the only SoCal folks in the House.
Hey 19 Public House
4525 Calle Mayor
Torrance, CA 90505
Former Side Door proprietors Lou and Grace Giovannetti bring old world hospitality, bespoke design, and creatively rendered Italian food to Torrance.
Those passing by Hillside Village at the base of the Palos Verdes Peninsula have probably noticed some changes over the past few months. The space that was formerly Il Toscano, a decades-old local hangout that shuttered in the spring of 2013, has transformed into a newly remodeled and re-imagined Italian restaurant aptly named Lou’s on the Hill.
Lou and Grace Giovannetti, former owners of the Side Door in Manhattan Beach, officially opened the doors to their new hilltop restaurant last Thursday, January 22, after soft opening in late November. They were met with capacity crowds who gathered to experience the start of a new chapter in the local dining scene — one that promises artfulness in its atmosphere, cuisine, and hospitality.
“California’s rich seasonal bounty is the inspiration for our food and drink menus,” the restaurant’s namesake explains. “We wanted to present artful Italian food, creatively rendered, touching every corner of the Mediterranean, paired with craft wines and inventive cocktails.”
At the helm in the kitchen is Executive Chef Eric Mickle, a gifted up-and-comer who honed his skills working with world-renowned chefs in various ventures. In his most recent endeavor, Mickle ran the day-to-day operations at Gordon Ramsay’s BurGR in Las Vegas, but ultimately began itching for his own restaurant.
“Lou’s came around at the right moment where Lou needed a chef and I needed a kitchen,” Mickle recalls. “Lou really sold me on it and what they were trying to do here. Once you meet Lou, you’re hooked.”
Since that serendipitous meeting, Lou says that Mickle “has been given the reins to create and interpret modern Italian based on his palate and favorite flavor profiles utilizing the best of what California bounty offers in the Italian tradition of house-made, handmade, fresh ingredients.”
To that end, it is no wonder they refer to their particular offerings as “Cali-Ital,” something Chef Mickle says is more of an approach to the food than a style of cuisine. “I want to take what I can get locally and do what an Italian grandmother does, which is buy the best product as close to home [as possible] and not mess it up,” he explains.
One of the restaurant’s points of pride, the wood fired oven, is used for more than the already-popular pizzas. The wood fired lamb ribs pair flawlessly with pomegranate and citrus agrodolce, while the 14-ounce American kurobuta pork rack brines for 24 hours before being roasted on the bone and selling out nightly. The restaurant also features an array of small plates, charcuterie, and handmade pastas, in addition to housemade desserts, digestivos, and craft wines and cocktails.
The artfulness and care seen in the food and drink is carried beyond the kitchen and bar to every corner of the elegantly revamped establishment. “We want people to feel like honored guests,” Lou says of their promise of Old World hospitality. “We strive to create the best possible experience, to engage guests’ senses and emotions. Everyone who is part of the team has hospitality DNA. It’s a trait we seek when hiring staff.”
Anyone who knows Lou Giovannetti knows that no venture of his would be complete without the celebration of jazz and swing. Former patrons of the Side Door will recall Sundays when Lou would croon crowd favorites — a pastime he says is not over. The musically inclined purveyor plans to introduce a late-night monthly residency at Lou’s, where he will perform, and to host guest artists such as Niki Lindgren of Naughty Niki and the All Nighters, who performed at the grand opening.
“Lou’s is about craft, the hand of the maker, and a well-lived life that engages your senses,” Giovannetti explains. “[It’s about] the camaraderie of a night out with friends and the pleasure of breaking bread and sharing time with loved ones.”
Lou’s on the Hill is located at 24590 Hawthorne Blvd, Torrance, CA. Visit them online at www.lousonthehill.com
For 31-year-old Executive Chef Eric Mickle, there was not a single defining moment that propelled him to become a chef. He always enjoyed cooking and appreciated the ability to be self-sufficient from a young age.
“I got into cooking by accident, really,” he explains, recalling when he needed a job and found one cooking at a restaurant in Legoland. “Now, 15 years later, I have never received a paycheck for anything else.”
While 15 years dedicated to honing a craft may sound like a lot, Mickle is the first to point out that he is still a teenager as a professional, saying good-humoredly that there is sometimes a childishness present in his food. “Like our Nutella tart. That came around because I wanted chocolate pie.”
Joking aside, Mickle demonstrates a tremendous amount of experience, wisdom, and humility. He has worked with some of the most prolific chefs in the world, both in the States and abroad, including Michael Mina, Mario Batali, and Gordon Ramsay. When asked who influenced him most professionally, Mickle points to David Varley.
“[Varley] took the time to teach me how to butcher and be a saucier,” Mickle explains. “He gave me his time because I was willing to give him my time. I never learned these things on the clock. I would come in hours before my shift to learn from someone who is a tremendous influence on me as a chef. It is something young chefs are missing. They won’t do it unless they are getting paid to.”
Looking to his food philosophy, Mickle says he is not sure he has developed one yet. Still, one method he stands behind is allowing ingredients to be what they are. Rather than overwhelm a dish, he uses a select few ingredients in creative ways. He points to their salmon dish as an example.
“It’s fennel — a very under-utilized vegetable in my opinion — and blood orange. But I wanted to bring out different characteristics of each.” To do this, the chef constructed a raw salad with blood orange and shaved fennel in addition to roasted fennel and blood orange reduction. The fish is seasoned with a small amount of fennel seed and the plate is garnished with — what else? — fennel fronds.
When asked what his top tips are for aspiring chefs and restaurateurs, Mickle offers few but powerful words: “Hard work, flexibility, love.” As for his own career, the chef displays equal parts gratefulness and contentedness.
“I am lucky. I get up and do exactly what I want to do every day. I wouldn’t do any of it differently.”