In an era where technology is ubiquitous and time spent in front of screens is dramatically increasing, a movement is growing. Creating an opportunity to cultivate more personal connections via a face-to-face conversation between like-minded individuals, Habitas aims to awaken creativity and inspire new ideas from its central location in Venice Beach.
Founded by Oliver Ripley, Kfir Levy and Eduardo Castillo, Habitas is “an experience-led global hospitality group, a platform for a global, social movement in the places we live, work and travel to,” according to the trio. In addition to a flagship hotel in Tulum, Mexico, the brand recently opened its first two urban clubhouses for members on the East and West Coasts, with one in New York City and the other in Los Angeles.
Located on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Habitas Venice Beach occupies a renovated beach house originally built in the 1940s. The structure sits beside a mural by Portuguese street artist Vhils. Open to all Habitas members, the elegant yet relaxed clubhouse features original, charming elements such as detailing on its facade and redwood and antique windows that reflect a classic feel accentuated by furnishings mostly sourced from estate sales and artisans markets around the world. Some pieces were custom-built for the space; artworks by local L.A. artists add a contemporary twist to the cozy atmosphere.
The ground floor comprises a sun room with a built-in nook, classic 1970’s-era wood-on-glass table, green chaise lounge and Hollywood Regency-style lighting. A parlor—with chairs draped in sheepskin and a glass table—leads to a small courtyard. Adorned with a stone fireplace, green safari chairs, a yellow couch and a hidden bookcase, the living room is the main communal space.
In the kitchen, healthy takeaway and complimentary items are available. Among other amenities, Habitas Venice Beach provides surfboards and beach cruisers, also complimentary, as well as a concierge available by text, WhatsApp or email for questions and bookings. Upstairs, a loft is home to three seating areas with low-bearing furniture, double stacked pillows and tatami mats.
Outside, the backyard—which hosts an outdoor rain shower—also features eclectic pieces such as custom-built benches painted high-gloss black with floral Indochina-style cushions. The nearby garage, meanwhile, was transformed into a space dedicated to yoga and meditation.
Designed like a home environment, inviting members to share memories and ideas through a program of events focusing on wellness, music, art, food and adventure, Habitas Venice Beach fosters a sense of community influenced by a cosmopolitan lifestyle and global culture.
Manhattan Beach has become a bit of an epicenter for delicious and stylish restaurants. Woven throughout our beach community are great little haunts like Homie, the new café with an eclectic beach-bohemian vibe that achieved cult-status basically overnight.
“We feel so blessed that our community has embraced us like it has, and the store is doing so well because of everyone’s support,” shares owner and native Manhattan Beach resident Kelley Bailey Haley, who has restauranteering in her DNA, having worked closely for years with the family who owned Tallia’s and also been part of the original crew that opened neighboring Mangiamo’s.
Haley took a hiatus to pursue nursing in a pediatric center, but her dream of opening her own restaurant never left her. “I wanted to create something small, local, and relaxing,” she shares, “so when this particular downtown location came available, I was on it, and it turned out to be such an amazing spot for us.”
Meanwhile, homie’s chef, Jason LeClaire, another South Bay native who has been cooking flavorful simple food for 30 years, co-created the menu with Haley. They selected simple items that they and their kids enjoy eating. “Our desire was to make fun and easy food that was really fresh and thoughtfully sourced,”
Haley explains. Having grown up in Manhattan Beach, Haley wanted to support local business with her venture, therefore she buys all of her meat products from local meat counter Manhattan Meat Market and bread from the Bread Bar bakery in El Segundo, which delivers provisions daily—fresh and still warm.
Patrons delight over yummy dishes like the Home Skillet, a breakfast bowl with white corn baby squash and avocado on cauliflower rice that is served all day. “People love our breakfast burritos, and we kept that item as a nod to our friends who had the space previous to us,” Haley explains warmly. Other favorites are the Street Tacos, and the Bruschetta is quite amazing. The delicious showstopper dessert is the Betty, which is toasted shortcake, fresh mixed fruit and vanilla cream.
The café also serves a variety of craft beer, organic wine and has just added craft cocktails, being one of only 100 restaurants in California that are experimenting with new alcohol concepts like rice-based Vodka. These concoctions make homie the perfect stop for a Bailey cocktail or a Bloody Mary while enjoying the breezy, carefree atmosphere.
Within the walls of homie’s stylish setting, Haley’s mix of eclectic food and trendy retail is spot-on with her vision. “Since the store was zoned for retail-restaurant, we started experimenting with different ideas and came up with our own line of homie-branded products like T-shirts, hats and candles, which are selling like hot cakes, and the rest of the retail just kind of grew from there,” states Haley.
She also does a great business with her jewelry designer Wendy Stillman, who is known for her abstract tribal art and greeting cards, as well as locally designed MB Surplus jewelry that is fun and edgy. When perusing the store, one finds Haley’s very own line of plants and mini succulents from her gardening collection, livingsmall.
Haley, a self-proclaimed picker who loves flea markets, mixing design eras and finding new talent, has blended it all in the winning recipe that is homie.
1140 Highland Ave, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
310.546.4663 | homiemb.com
“I want our guests at FARMHOUSE to have the same experience they would have if they stayed for dinner at my home,” says Peitso, who opened his eatery this past March.
“FARMHOUSE’s cuisine is heavily influenced by my background in agriculture and understanding of California’s local agricultural community.
I have been growing and cooking my entire life, and I know when ingredients are at their peak during each season, so I have developed a palate specifically for Southern Californian cuisine.”
Set on the street level of the Beverly Center, FARMHOUSE melds traditional American farm décor with contemporary finishes and treatments, such as Craftsman-style moldings, wood ceilings, slate and oak flooring, exposed brick and vintage wallpaper.
The large open kitchen boasting shelves of canned and preserved items is a highlight of the 7,000-square-foot space, which is divided into intimate areas, including a “living room” with a marquee fireplace, “greenhouse” atrium with floor-to-ceiling windows and “farmer’s table” enclave.
Peitso has conceived a menu of simple, vegetable-forward Californian cuisine that’s seasonal and sourced from his family farm and a network of local growers. “Each dish will feature a light touch of culinary technique—such as grilling or roasting in a wood-burning oven—that will let the flavors of the ingredients speak for themselves,” he says.
Among the standout dishes is a lightly seared black cod with local herbed potatoes and a soft-boiled egg; an eight-hour braised lamb shoulder served with daikon Romesco and roasted carrots, and a dry-aged Creekstone burger loaded with pickled vegetables and served on a house-made brioche bun prepared with wheat grown and ground at Peitso’s farm.
As for the beverage program, FARMHOUSE specializes in a handpicked selection of small-batch wine, spirits, Kombucha and craft beer exclusively brewed in L.A.
The must-have drink? A Mad Men-style, 7.5-ounce martini mixed with locally produced vodka.
I want FARMHOUSE to bring a level of agricultural authenticity to its menu that’s in short supply in Los Angeles.
“Most importantly, my team and I want to provide high-quality, seasonal vegetables and protein in an approachable and inclusive environment.”
The newly revamped BALEENkitchen at The Portofino Hotel & Marina in Redondo Beach is quickly becoming one of the South Bay’s hottest spots to dine and imbibe, complete with updated environs overlooking stunning views of the King Harbor and Portofino marinas, as well as new menus, outdoor programming, live entertainment, daily specials and much more.
“The façade of BALEENkitchen recently underwent a refresh, so the management team decided the next step was to update the interiors since it was last done in 2011,” says Duane Rohrbaugh, general manager of the Portofino Hotel & Marina.
The vision was to create a local, fresh beach vibe that was fun, inviting and comfortable.
Restaurant and hotel ownership group Noble House Hotels & Resorts tasked in-house chief creative officer, Scott Colee, and interior designer, Erin Weiner, to bring its vision to reality.
The result? A 3,480-square-foot, relaxed yet refined dining room featuring a nautically-inspired environment, accented by dark wood, shades of cream and blue, crystal chandeliers and a stately fireplace, along with an adjacent waterside patio highlighted by fire pits.
“Upon entering, guests will marvel at the breathtaking waterfront views and elegant design,” says Rohrbaugh. “The style of BALEENkitchen before the renovation was more of a men’s club style of design with darker colors and rich fabrics and leather, while the new design provides a light and airy ambiance and enhances the views.”
As for the culinary offerings, recently appointed Chef de Cuisines Vasili Tavernakis and Paul Dinulescu is now serving a series of new breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner menus showcasing seafood and assorted tapas.
Among the offerings: seafood poke with salmon, shrimp, tuna, avocado, cucumber, wakame salad and soy vinaigrette; yellowtail snapper Hamachi with kohlrabi, Calabrian chile, hazelnut relish and citrus ponzu; and pan-roasted diver scallops with corn-truffle purée, pee wee potato, roasted mushrooms, lardons, blistered cherry tomatoes and jalapeño honey.
A Simply Grilled section showcases fresh shrimp, scallops, sea bass, filet of beef or hanger steak served with baleen steak sauce, chimichurri or caper remoulade. Still, other options include house-made pastries, “Huevos Redondos” and braised duck street tacos.
Also making its debut is the Chefs Table, a back-stage look at dinner service that includes in-depth conversations with BALEEN’s Chefs de Cuisines regarding their dishes and a range of menus starting at $65 per person.
Not to be missed is the lounge, featuring a happy hour and specialty cocktails inspired by Redondo Beach locales.
Think “I’ll Be Your Huckleberry”—with Maker’s Mark bourbon, blackberry, basil, lemon and ginger beer—and “Catch Me If You Can”—with Bombay Sapphire gin, watermelon, passion fruit, hibiscus, and allspice.
The Portofino Hotel & Marina
260 Portofino Way, Redondo Beach, CA 90277
After 35 years in the restaurant business, Michael Franks and Robert Bell are still serving up delicious meals with a side of passion at longstanding Chez Melange. Supplying a unique concept and layout to match, one can dine here according to one’s mood: the location includes the lively Bouzy Gastropub, delightful Oyster Bar, and savory Sea Change eateries under one roof.
Ten years ago, Chez Melange moved from the Palos Verdes Inn to the building at Catalina and Avenue I in Redondo Beach. With the added space and new location, the co-owners were at liberty to explore new concepts that paired well with vibe and clientele of the local village.
“Being a Brit, I always wanted to own a true gastropub like we had back home,” explains Franks. Thus, Bouzy Gastropub was born, with its presence marking the first gastropub in the South Bay. The cozy Bouzy, which hosts weekly live music (a hit with locals), is a place where friends gather for cocktails, craft beer and hearty pub food.
Crowd favorites are the Knife & Fork Pancho Burger piled high with bacon, avocado, chile relleno, and hot sauce; and the New Orleans-inspired Chez’ Famous Fried Chicken Salad, with lettuce Mache, corn, pecans and buttermilk ranch dressing. Bouzy is now open for lunch, Tuesday through Sunday, and every Monday is $5 burger night.
Down the hallway and just off the main dining room of Sea Change, the Oyster Bar is intimate and relaxing. The rustic vibe and ample bar seating makes a great spot to knock back a bit of bubbly while noshing on fresh oysters. This raw bar offers seasonal fresh seafood towers in three sizes and other tasty bits like hamachi sashimi and the Pacific Rim Tostadas with Ahi and Japanese salsa.
The adjacent dining room hosts Sea Change, the seafood bistro. The menu changes daily to “keep the food honest, fresh and seasonal,” says Franks. Scrumptious specialties with a kick include Zarzuela, a Spanish mixed seafood stew that includes lobster and a baguette for dipping. Also on the menu are daily fish specials and delights like the decadent Lobster Grilled Cheese sandwich or Veal Chop with Chanterelle mushrooms.
“You’re only as good as your last meal, my dad always told me,” shares Franks, who desires to make every guest feel at home in his South Bay institution, a place to savor every last morsel.
“We are all about community here,” he adds. To this end, Chez Melange is also part of the garden co-op Seed to Plate, which educates special needs students who help tend to the restaurant’s vegetable, fruit and herb garden at Valmonte Elementary School.
Its bounty is provisioned to Chez Melange. Evident is Frank and Bell’s appreciation not only for their patrons and staff, but the business as a whole. An attitude as inspiring as the food.
310.540.1222 | chezmelange.com
Written by: Joclene Davey
Photographs: Courtesy of Chez Melange
At 929 S. Broadway, Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles is a destination in itself. Built in 1927, the 13-story Spanish Gothic building honors its past. Once home to the United Artists Theatre designed by C. Howard Crane, the structure now hosts a stylish hotel, which, since early 2014, has been at the intersection of history and creativity.
Last October, the hotel’s signature restaurant, formerly LA Chapter, opened its doors as Best Girl. Following the rest of the hotel’s lead in historical homages, the eatery takes its name from a silent movie starring Mary Pickford—also the first film screened at the theater 90 years ago. Shaped by Los Angeles-based Commune Design, the 132-seat restaurant still features the same casual, inviting and airy atmosphere that characterized its former occupant.
Furnished with Thonet chairs, soft leather banquettes, and custom, brass-top tables that provide a striking contrast to the black-and-white checkerboard floor and original poured concrete ceilings and columns, the space is reminiscent of a Viennese cafe with a nod to late 1920s-era L.A. design.
The change is in the plates. Well-known for seafood and fine cuisine—with restaurants such as Providence and Connie And Ted’s, and seafood market Cape Seafood and Provisions—renowned chef Michael Cimarusti developed a different approach for Best Girl, focusing on his favorite meals made at home for family and friends. Chilaquiles with scrambled eggs, tortilla chips, queso fresco, cilantro and scallions; a tonkatsu-style chicken sandwich with yuzu kosho mayonnaise, creamy miso cabbage and sesame; calamarata pasta with Calabrian pork ragu and locatelli romano; and rock cod with Saltspring mussels, fennel, orange, olive and grilled bread are some of the dishes that express the variety of L.A. cuisine, drawing influence from Mexican to Japanese to Italian sources and more.
Among the selection of desserts made by chef Crisi Echiverri, the Bardstown pudding—sticky, bourbon-scented toffee pudding, crème fraiche ice cream and blackberry compote—and coconut pandan tapioca with calamansi, tropical fruit and macadamia nut crunch are favorites. Finally, is Beverage Director Mary Bartlett’s cocktail, beer and wine offerings. By preserving its legacy and L.A.’s multiculturalism, Best Girl makes for a marquee experience.
Photographs Courtesy of Dylan + Jeni (food + portrait) and Spencer Lowell
Courtesy of Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles and Best Girl (restaurant)
New Hermosa Beach hot spot Radici has, like its namesake family, Italian roots behind it—30 years of restauranteering and Pacentro heritage. Mother and daughter duo Laura Francisco and Lucia Gasbarri are the proprietors of Radici, with Gasbarri, the restaurant’s muse. Family recipes, meanwhile, evoke a sense of home, while the atmosphere is relaxed yet upscale.
After years in the business, this crew still runs a tight ship, while making customers feel at ease, like family. “My mom inspects every plate that leaves the kitchen,” says Francisco. A stickler for quality control, Gasbarri is emphatic about using the best-tasting ingredients, right down to the last tomato for her family-style sugo. Known for creating classic Italian dishes with healthy ingredients like Mary’s free-range chicken and veggies from Wang’s Farms, to the slew of imported Italian products she uses daily, Gasbarri says, “I only use the best olive oil from Italy and rarely cook with butter.” In fact, after Radici’s reputation for healthy food caught the attention of pro volleyballers Bill Kolinske and Miles Evans, they became loyal patrons, and the restaurant is now sponsoring the duo this summer.
Gasbarri’s top-secret family recipes and cooking methods define Radici’s food quality and taste. Despite her unwillingness to divulge these confidences, she does say that her Penne Alla Vodka, a recipe typically cooked with Pancetta, calls for good ole bacon to anchor a unique smoky flavor that permeates through the vodka sauce.
Crowd favorites include Pappardelle Bolognese with homemade pasta and authentic ragu, and the Gnocchi Bicolore Gratinati made with spinach and potatoes and topped with gorgonzola sauce. For the carnivore, the Veal Chop Bella Vista in a creamy marinara sauce with fresh tomatoes and bufala mozzarella is satisfying without feeling heavy.
Restaurant manager, Francesca Iacobellis, who recently relocated to the U.S. from Italy, feels right at home at Radici. “The first time I tried Gasbarri’s cooking, I was moved. It was exactly like my grandmother’s,” explains Iacobellis who, as the restaurant’s sommelier, creates the wine pairing program.
“The Italian wines Francesca selects, are always chosen to complement the food,” explains Francisco. The cocktail bar has everything a thirsty patron could desire, and then some. Fans love the house-made Limoncello and a hit-list of classic grappa, including the Grappa Al Cioccolato, which makes the perfect after-dinner drink by combining dessert and a digestif.
Located upstairs just off of Hermosa Avenue, the resto’s chic aesthetic plays well in the open and airy space. Trimmed in windows and topped with soaring ceilings, pops of rose gold amid a sepia tone-meets-flora and fauna palette refine the environment of Radici, which was designed by architect Robert Weimer with finishes by L’Esperance Design of West Hollywood.
An incredible element is a screen-printed feature wall, which serves as a kind of porthole to Pacentro, Italy. “We took a photograph of Lucia’s family home in Pacentro and had the image screen-printed on silver mylar wallpaper to enliven it,” explains Paul L’Esperance. “We always add something dramatic in every space to really personalize.”
Currently, Radici hosts several unique Happy Hours throughout the week, like Wednesday Wine Night, which offers half-off bottled wine and a dinner special of Chicken Parmesan with soup and salad for $19. Parking is easy, with a garage below the restaurant, and forthcoming valet service.
Reservations are recommended ≫ radicihermosabeach.com
Opened in 1927, Santa Monica’s Jonathan Beach Club has served as a private enclave to professional, beach-loving Angelenos through the years. Now the landmark property has an updated look and feel, complete with a Studio Collective-designed restaurant sporting a warm residential style resembling that of an oceanfront Spanish villa.
“With the addition of Little Beach House Malibu (Soho House) and new restaurants like Nobu opening up just down PCH, I think the Jonathan Club management team realized the need for a major renovation to stay relevant with its existing membership, as well as to attract potential new members,” says Adam Goldstein, a founding principle with Christian Schulz and Leslie Kale of L.A.- based interior design firm Studio Collective. “There are just many more options nowadays—both in terms of private clubs, as well as higher-end restaurants and lounges—and the Jonathan Club acknowledged this fact and wanted to give its members a space that was sophisticated yet comfortable.”
The firm chose a picturesque ocean-side Spanish villa as inspiration for the restaurant’s new bar and lounge, dining room, private dining room, and outdoor dining terrace and patio to provide a residential feel for interior spaces to serve as a warm and inviting environment for members’ home away from home. Expect a reimagined floorplan that moves the primary entrance closer to the ocean, with the new dining room marked by passing through two custom arched, blackened steel doors and into a space showcased by soaring wood-beamed ceilings; hand-scraped, wide-plank wood flooring; and a trio of sliding wood-framed glass doors offering ocean views.
A white oak and brushed brass bookshelf topped by a wood planter overflowing with greenery separates the dining room and open-display kitchen, while an intimate bar and lounge space is highlighted by ceilings finished with chevron wood planking; a centerpiece bar fabricated by Eric Beneker using a live-edge walnut slab and custom marble tile; and plush sofas overlooking a freshly re-clad fireplace. A new private dining room features large, book-matched marble slabs, custom upholstered leather wall panels and parquet wood flooring, while two olive trees, a custom green wall and sculptural fireplace give the covered dining terrace a true al fresco feeling reminiscent of a Spanish courtyard.
“One of the bigger moves we made was to reorient the bar 90 degrees, so when members were sitting at it they were facing the ocean,” says Goldstein. “In addition, the outdoor dining terrace now is probably the best beach-front spot in all of L.A. to enjoy a meal. The combination of the amazing view along with the lush vegetation create a truly unique experience unmatched along the coastline.”
Written by Wendy Bowman | Photographs: courtesy of Courtesy of Roger Davies
850 Palisades Beach Rd, Santa Monica, CA 90403
In 2016, the first Tocaya Organica opened its doors. The earthy spot on Pacific Avenue in Venice dished up hearty bowls, burritos, and wraps based on traditional Mexican recipes that were tweaked for local, health-conscious tastes. The carne asada in the popular Barrio Style taco, for instance, is free of hormones, steroids, and antibiotics, and the roasted tomato salsa and avocado that tops it are organic. The sea bass is fresh, caught wild, rubbed with chipotle and seared.
Since day one, it’s been a lightning-fast ride for owners Tosh Berman and Amrou Manaseer, who have since opened four new locations—in West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Playa Vista and Century City. A slew of additional local branches are coming, including Westwood and The Point in El Segundo. (Manaseer and Berman also own upscale West Hollywood hotspot Toca Madera, which opened in 2015.) “When we first opened Tocaya Organica two years ago, many thought that taking on the Modern Organic Mexican space and a vegan-forward approach couldn’t be done, but we converted our entire company into this one culinary concept,” says Berman, whose seven-year stint living in Mexico inspired his restaurants. “I learned that true Mexican cuisine is incredibly healthy, simple and fresh.”
The menu is filled with tasty vegan and gluten-free items, from best-sellers like the Fajita Del Rey Bowl, a tasty menagerie of sautéed poblano peppers, Spanish rice, and vegan chipotle crema, and the Tocaya Salad, which has romaine and butter lettuce, sliced jalapeños and tortilla strips. Tocaya even has its own hearty vegan picadillo made from a pea-based protein with carrots, zucchini, and tomatoes. No sodas, but try one of the house-made aguas frescas, such as horchata or cucumber mint limeade. For dessert, there’s a wildly popular Churro Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich, which can be made vegan or non-vegan.
Though the menu stays the same at each location, Tocaya’s look varies from place to place. When you walk in, expect an airy, communal space with plenty of indoor and outdoor places. That and unfussy, minimalist decor, along with natural materials and a neutral palette with occasional splurges of color. “Our signature design elements are decorative mosaic tiles, herringbone planks, and brass accents,” says Berman, the last of which extend to lighting fixtures and iron-grid seating. Painted Mason jars hold cutlery and glass containers contain pretty succulents, adding homespun charm. A showcase of the brand’s “evolution in design,” says Berman, can be found at Tocaya’s new flagship location at Westfield Century City, which features an open floor plan and an open kitchen. The appealing, elevated design of the fast-casual concept will undoubtedly continue to evolve as the number of restaurants grow. “As for new markets we go into,” says Berman, “we like to incorporate a unique design element inspired by the history of each location.” Like the upcoming San Diego Gaslamp location, which will feature classic touches of brick.
The rapid expansion of the brand, premised on serving chef-driven organic Mexican food in an uplifting fast-casual setting, is a sign of the times. One that will, for many, replace the fast-food taco joints of yore. “I think a lot of our success is due to the fact that we bridged the gap for vegans and non-vegans,” points out Berman, “and created a place where they can go to have great tasting food that uses high-quality, organic ingredients without sacrificing flavor.” tocayaorganica.com