happy hour

Standing Room Only

A buzzy burger joint turns fun foodie spot in Hermosa Beach

Written by Joclene Davey

Known for its burgers and live music hall, The Standing Room in Hermosa Beach is gaining a bar food meets foodie reputation via its updated menu. The restaurant’s unique twist on simple menu items and vast assortment of whisky make for a lively spot to indulge unique fare and entertainment.

Owner and chef, Lowell Bakke launched The Standing Room in Redondo Beach from the Catalina Liquor Store as a take-out location. The spot quickly became a success due to its famously oversized burgers and Asian-American influence. The good fortune of the first location convinced Bakke to launch a second outpost with additional menu items, live music, and a full-service bar.

Expect a step-up in the burger category with a variety of options like the Dressed Burger, with arugula, caramelized onion, bacon, smoked Gouda cheese, blue cheese, Korean aioli, tomato jam and a fried egg. Another standing favorite is the Cash Burger, with Japanese Shishito peppers and crispy onions.

The menu, however, has more of a Gastropub feel, especially once Bakke brought on chef Matt Webb. Starters received a unique spin like togarashi spiced pork rinds and soft shell crab sliders on black steam buns. The eatery also began adding plated options, a promising future for foodies looking for new locales with fare to sink their teeth into. A perfect example is the Short Rib Bibimbap, a typical Korean dish, made with a succulent chunk of short rib meat served with sticky rice, Korean pickles, assorted vegetables and a runny egg.

Scattered throughout the menu one finds interesting ingredients like poignant Korean kimchi as well as seasonal items found in the Summer Peach Salad or Watermelon Kale Salad. “My mother is Korean and that definitely has influenced my cooking, along with being raised in Hawaii, which is a melting pot of Asian influenced food,” shares Bakke.

Restaurant by day and local hang out by night, The Standing Room features live music Thursday through Saturday each week. From local bands to jam night, the atmosphere is relaxed and rock-n-roll. Happy hour throughout the week offers great drink and food specials at unheard of prices, like all you can eat Taco Tuesday, including a draft beer, for $15.

One of Standing Room’s latest drinks, the Bloody Bull (a Bloody Mary with beef broth, homemade beef jerky and blue cheese-stuffed olives) alongside a hearty brunch on Saturday and Sunday might just be the cure one needs after a jam session the previous night. Hawaiian French Toast with Nutella, bananas and coconut will certainly satisfy any sweet tooth, while the Kimchi Fried Rice with Portuguese Sausage will appease even the most ferocious appetite.

Bakke is one to keep an eye on, with his growth mindset and creative spirit. He states, “We are always exploring opportunities for new locations, and pushing for new concepts and something fresh, but we won’t rush it.” Some things are worth waiting for.





Sign of the Times

MessHall Kitchen presents an elevated reflection of L.A.’s comfort dining sensibilities

Written by Constance Dunn | Photography Courtesy of Paul Jonason and Courtesy of Messhall Kitchen

Though the legendary Brown Derby restaurant chain is long gone, the site of the Los Feliz branch still stands on the corner of Los Feliz Boulevard and Hillhurst Avenue, only now it’s home to MessHall Kitchen, a sunny eatery that reflects L.A. style and eating sensibilities just as keenly as the Derby did before it went the way of the flapper in 1960.

“It’s got a camp vibe to it,” says MessHall manager Anthony Ko, explaining how the restaurant, with its clean, welcoming lines and glossy wood (designed by Greg Bleier of Studio Unltd, responsible for Rose Cafe, Moruno and others), was configured as a place where people could mingle. “It was about bringing people together in a mess hall kind of environment.” Whether one sits at a fireside patio table or keeps to oneself at a private booth, the atmosphere at MessHall is cheerful and welcoming, and a scan around the dining room shows a guest range spanning from children and artsy young locals to mellow, mature couples.

The focus is on American classics that have been creatively reinvented under the lens of local, organic and seasonal. “The chef works with what he can source fresh from our purveyors,” says Ko. Which apparently is a lot. Menus are packed with items to satiate the entire kaleidoscope of the L.A. palate—from the most comforting of comfort foods to selections for vegan, gluten-free or allergy-prone diets.

Brunch is a current rage, and on weekends Angelenos queue up to dine on Huckleberry Pancakes iced with Key Lime cream cheese or MessHall’s famous Campfire Benny—eggs atop a pleasant mound of bacon planks and soft grit cakes, held together by a sultry smoked tomato bisque.

“We have our healthy options and our real brunch-y items,” says Ko. “The food you need on a Saturday or Sunday morning after a night out, but with our own spin on it.” Not to miss on such mornings are freshly squeezed concoctions like the Army Green Gale, an arsenal of antioxidant ingredients from green apples and spinach to ginger and mint.

Lunch and dinner menus are diverse—from Mead Braised Sausages served with toast points to fresh salmon served on a seasonal Okinawa-potato puree—though popular mainstays include the house chicken sandwich, where homemade buffalo sauce coats crisp, moist chicken (“You can’t go wrong with our buffalo sauce and blue cheese slaw,” notes Ko). This, and the Mess Burger made with slow onions and aged cheddar.

The Cobb Salad, said to have been created in the 1930s at the Brown Derby, is pleasantly reworked by Executive Chef Charbel Adaimy as a pliable, pan-friend chicken breast topped with the regulars—chopped iceberg, avocado, bacon, blue cheese and so forth—but with a pleasantly uniform distribution of flavor, and meat so moist it can be managed with a fork.

No matter the time of day, one can order a selection of oysters or a shrimp cocktail with strawberry cocktail sauce from the raw bar—another au courant L.A. fixture. All are fine accompaniments to Bar Director Austin Mendez’s dedicated cocktail list of classic-feeling originals, which includes favorites like Penicillin (scotch, lemon and honey, garnished with slabs of sugar-coated ginger). Hannibal’s Plan, a tequila-based cocktail with fresh watermelon juice that’s served with a rim of spiced salt, represents the spirit of the list: fresh juices and exotic spirits pleasantly and unexpectedly contrasted, often with a cheeky twist.

Visitor’s note: Though serious about ingredients and execution, MessHall’s weekly calendar is filled with fun, from T.V. dinners served in throwback trays on Monday to classic cocktails on Thursday and family barbecue packages on Sunday evening.




Made in the Shade

From a convivial new happy hour at Shade Manhattan Beach hotel to a new luxury boutique hotel set to open this fall in Redondo Beach, hospitality developer Zislis Group continues to make its mark on the South Bay

Written by Wendy Bowman

In the 10 years since Michael Zislis created his first Shade hotel in downtown Manhattan Beach, the luxury boutique destination has emerged as a popular gathering and getaway spot for locals and visitors alike. Now he expects his newest Shade hotel in Redondo Beach to proudly carry the torch, while also helping to ignite the area’s waterfront revitalization. Here, DIGS asks the visionary entrepreneur, restaurateur, hotelier and philanthropist about the new Shade, updates in Manhattan Beach and more.

Describe Shade Manhattan Beach. Why has it become so popular?

Shade has been an awesome success for us; it’s the hub of downtown Manhattan Beach and the center of the city for functions, meet-and-greets, and charity events. It has a ‘yacht-shui’ vibe. The furniture in the rooms makes it look like you’re on a luxury yacht, and because I’ve spent a lot of time in Japan, there’s a thread of Asia throughout with green pebbles on the walls and floors, silk madras wallpaper and shoji doors.

The new “Shade Hour” happy hour at the zinc@shade restaurant and lounge is creating quite a buzz.

While building the hotel in Redondo, I saw they have a lot of happy hours and also how full they were. So, I said, ‘Let’s do this at the new Shade, but we’ll do it at the old Shade to test it out.’ We’re only about a month in, and it’s already been a huge hit. It’s somewhere that everyone’s been meeting after work [Monday-Friday, from 3-6 p.m.]. We’re offering half-off on chef Ashley Oates’ appetizer menu, which is fantastic. It’s beautiful California cuisine, with a little more of an Asian, seafood flair. We have ahi on fried rice, artisan pizzas, mini-sliders, sashimi and these short rib banh mi tacos that are my favorites.

We also offer half-off on all of our draft beers, specialty cocktails and wine by the glass. We don’t limit anything. And we have live music on Sunday and Thursday nights and a DJ spinning from 9 at night on Friday and Saturday.


Why did you decide to expand the Shade brand with a new hotel in Redondo?

Knock on wood…Shade Manhattan Beach has been sold out since it opened. It’s been 10 years, and we run at about 97-percent occupancy annually. So, we’re sold out most nights except Sunday. I thought, we have to get another hotel with all the calls I get all day. So, Redondo Beach is our next expansion, because it’s two cities down and a natural evolution for us.

Tell us about the new Shade.

Redondo is a broader palette for me. In Manhattan Beach, I was limited on space, whereas Redondo is a sprawling two-acre project on the water’s edge. So, I could build my dream restaurant and a large event facility, and I was also able to separate the hotel from the event facility.

It’s all in one at Manhattan Beach—with a courtyard in the middle for weddings, a sky deck on the roof, a patio out front and the conference rooms all in the hotel. Redondo will have 54 rooms, all ocean-view, and then a huge rooftop pool deck and our newest concept restaurant, Sea Level, in a separate culinary building. Sea Level will be like zinc@shade, but with a bigger emphasis on seafood—since it’s right on the water’s edge and it’s in my heritage; I opened Rock’n Fish 16 years ago, and it has been a staple in Redondo and Manhattan Beach.

You’ll see more seafood-friendly options, like king crab rolls, that tie into that Asian theme and food I like. On the second floor is the Horizon ballroom, which has beautiful 20-foot ceilings and wraparound balconies with views from Palos Verdes to Malibu. The Aqua Deck is an outdoor space on the sky level; it’s unique because it has two kitchens, and one is certified kosher.

The rooms are spectacular. They even have bathtubs on the balconies. The shower is inside, and there is a two-person tub on the balcony.


Any big plans for the grand opening?

We’re planning a ribbon cutting at the end of September. Then we’re partnering with the Rams Legends Community to host an event for the public, where they can come in and view the game on Oct. 2 and visit with legends like Rosey Grier, complete with a red carpet and a charity/silent auction component to benefit the Rams Foundation.

What do you hope the new Shade will bring to the area?

I think it’s going to bring a rebirth. When I opened Shade in Manhattan Beach, no one thought it would work because it was on the upper end of town, and now it’s became the center of town. Redondo Beach is on the tipping point of a rebirth. I see that rebirth starting on Oct. 2 when Shade opens.

There’s nowhere to go but up with the waterfront in Redondo; it’s time.

What does the future hold for Zislis Group?

I think I’ve played my Redondo card to the fullest tilt. My dream would be to open the Shade brand in downtown Santa Monica and Napa Valley.


Baleen Kitchen and Lounge


Standout cuisine and blue-water views uplift this under-the-radar South Bay eatery.


“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.

462A8566This 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.