Taix French Country Cuisine
What’s better than dining in an old school restaurant complete with cozy booth seating, great vintage decor, a colorful waitstaff and decent pricing? How about dining in an old school French restaurant with all those same attributes? Oui!
Taix (pronounced “Tex”) has been a Silver Lake mainstay for decades, consistently serving up quality French country cuisine to all sorts of hungry Angelenos since 1962. Its location on Sunset Boulevard near Alvarado assures that a large part of that constituency is composed of hipsters (and their admirers). Don’t fall into that category? Don’t worry; one of the most refreshing aspects of Taix is that is also attracts a hodge-podge of regular diners from all walks of life… and that’s just the way the Taix family wants it.
Marius Taix, Jr. opened the first location of Taix inside his father’s hotel, the Champ D’or, in 1927. Located downtown in LA’s “French Quarter,” Marius Jr.’s restaurant relied on family-style recipes passed down through the generations, some of which dated back to the time before Marius Taix, Sr. and his family emigrated from France’s Hautes-Alpes region.
With French food somewhat of a novelty at the time, business at Taix flourished so well that the restaurant outgrew its digs, relocating instead to its current outpost in Silver Lake.
These days, Taix features multiple lavish dining rooms virtually left untouched since its 1962 debut. (Set of Drifter Brady even shot a 2012 episode of Mad Men here.) Still, the “321 Bar” is a much more relaxed, and modernized, spot to sip that litre of Tempranillo, and its fireplace is the perfect supplement to a bowl of French Onion on that rare chilly LA day. (Just make sure they’re not hosting some amateur comedy showcase that night!)
Favorite dishes from the menu include old standbys like steak frites and moules mariniers – though a special shout-out must go to the Taix Burger and French Dip. (With such great quality at affordable prices, neither is to be missed!) Set of Drifters tip: Do not order more than your tummy can handle! All entrees at Taix come with fresh French baguette that you’ll want more than a few pieces of. It makes sopping up all those heavy French sauces that much more decadent!
Aside from the tasty foodstuffs, one of the restaurant’s greatest assets is its family-inspired tradition. Several members of the waitstaff have been at this location since its inception. During a previous visit in 2008, Argentinean-born octogenarian Fernando gave us great recommendations prior to our Buenos Aires holiday.
More recently, however, we met out favorite server of all, Antonia Becerra. At 81 years young, she reminded us of a mix of Cloris Leachman and Marlene Dietrich. The manner in which she poured out our soup and served our wine came with an old world attitude full of sarcasm and wit, and one that you just don’t find very often in these days of politically-correct customer service. (All joking aside, she did make Brady’s birthday lunch one to remember by joining us tableside to sing “Happy Birthday.” Ahhhh, the memories.)
Having celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2012, Taix French Restaurant features contiguous lunch and dinner service daily from 12:00 PM until 10:00 PM. An abbreviated late night menu is also available from 10:00 PM until 1:00 AM, but only Wednesday through Saturday. While we hope it’s not one of those retro LA greats eventually destined for the chopping block, we recommend hitting up Taix sooner rather than later just in case. As they say, “Soyez là ou être de forme carrée.
Taix French Restaurant - 1911 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026, (213) 484-1265
old school steak on parade
Vegetarians, you may stop reading. Right now, we’re dishing on meat, and lots of it. More specifically, we’re talking steak, a topic your Set of Drifters have plenty of local experience with... Clogged arteries, be damned, give us a dark, wood-paneled restaurant with red vinyl booth seating any day and we’ll be there with bells on! So, what are our favorites?
Well surprisingly, even in über-health conscious LA, there’s a veritable treasure trove of old school steak houses that have managed to escape both the 21st century diet craze, and redevelopment by greedy Real Estate moguls. Depending on your location in the city, we may just have a few (okay, many) recommendations for the Prime Rib lover in you!
Staying near Culver City’s vintage Film & Arts District? Then do yourself a favor and hit up Dear John’s. You can’t miss the place as its gleaming red and white vintage sign beckons from either side of Culver Boulevard. Once inside, classic booth seating awaits, facing a full bar that boasts strong tropical drinks and quixotically charming musical entertainment on weekends. We’ve been here both during the day and at night, though thanks to its windowless interior, you’ll never what o’clock it is, and why would you want to? Dear John’s is a definite “regulars” hang-out. You can tell by the way the bartenders warmly chat with the patrons. Still, the groovy sassabone waitresses are always looking for a few new tips, so what are you waiting for? The time is now to check out Dear John’s, a definite contender for your next favorite local watering hole (in the wall)!
Now if you find yourself hanging out on the “West Side,” we recommend meandering down to Santa Monica Canyon’s West Channel Road, and the legendary steakhouse The Golden Bull. Originally part of a larger chain, this place has been here for decades, as noted by the horde of black-and-white photos that decorate its cramped entrance way and depict local canyon life. Inside, you’ll meet the Boho-chic locals that have long made the canyon their home. These are the people who still think steak has some health value and should be eaten on a regular basis!
Though the dining room could use a decor refresh, we love The Golden Bull’s simple, but quality food, cozy bar and killer Sunday brunch! And did we mention the celebrity sightings? Betty White’s been here (as evidenced by the autographed photo that hangs by the fireplace), and before her 2012 passing, Phyllis Diller used to stop by every Wednesday for a steak sandwich! Set of Drifters tip: Literary buffs may also get off on the fact that A Single Man author Christopher Isherwood also used to hang out here prior to his 1986 death.
Of course, one of the better perks at The Golden Bull is their graduated price menu which lowers top-notch items like Surf ‘N Turf and Chateaubriand depending on the specific hour of your visit. (Early bird dinner specials from 4:30 PM until 7:00 PM will run you $15 to $18 USD, including bread, soup or salad.) Top it all off with a dirty martini and you’ll be ready to hit nearby Will Rogers State Beach! Gay-owned - and quite friendly - this is the last of the “Golden Bulls,” so check it out now while you still can!
Another favorite on the West Side is the old steakhouse haunt named Billingsley’s. Until the recent death of Leave It To Beaver star Barbara Billingsley, you might have been able to talk jive with her in a scene out of Airplane. The restaurant chain is owned by her two sons, though interestingly enough, father Glen Billingsley was the original owner of The Golden Bull chain, of which this restaurant was originally a part of.
What we like about Billingsley’s is, again, its booth seating, a friendly waitstaff and some rather darkened vintage interiors, made only more intriguing by a series of aquariums that separate the banks of seating. Our fave dishes at Billingsley’s include hearty steak sandwiches, impeccably seasoned fries and a mean Cajun seafood pasta dish! (Set of Drifters tip: They even serve “green goddess” dressing!) There is another Billingsley’s located in Van Nuys, but unless you hit up the location in West LA near the 405 Freeway, how else are you gonna mingle with our favorite server haunch Kim? You can’t miss her since she is always bedecked in the reddest acrylic nails and lipstick this side of Hollywood Boulevard!
Speaking of which, one of the most famous steakhouses in all the land is located on the boulevard between Cherokee and Las Palmas. “Proudly serving Hollywood since 1919,” the waiters at Musso & Frank Grill look almost as old as the establishment itself, stuffed into overly starched red and black uniforms that must see their fare share of A-1 sauce from time to time. Celebrities, too it seems. From Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford of the Silent Era to Marilyn and Liz Taylor in the 50s, Musso & Frank has played host to the stars, writers, directors and producers who, for decades, made Hollywood the most talked about enclave in the world!
Almost 100 years in, the interior still looks fab! The food, unfortunately less so. Our one-time visit included a side salad of iceberg lettuce that was far too shabby for the entree’s elevated price. (Your pockets could be considerably drained by chops that start at $19 for lamb kidneys and go all the way up to $43 for Porterhouse steak!)
Of course, no mention of LA’s legendary steakhouses can be complete without the famed Smoke House in Burbank. It’s by far definitely our favorite. Originally opened in 1946 as The Red Coach Inn, the Tudor style building was transformed into the Smoke House to appease crew members of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show when it first changed coasts from New York to Los Angeles. Located directly across from Warner Bros. Studios, the spot is still a favorite for those in “the biz.” Perennial Oscar bait George Clooney even has his own booth named after him. (The restaurant is so loved by the actor that he even named his production company after it! Film/ TV buffs might also recognize the steak joint as the setting of scenes from movies and television shows like The Office and the recent Academy Award darling Argo.)
Perhaps because of this caché, the Smoke House is busy no matter what time of day we’ve visited. What we ultimately like about the spot is its attention to detail. The interior, divided into a main dining room and a more casual bar, is mostly immaculate, from the white table cloths all the way down to the rolling burgundy vinyl chairs!
You usually find us in the “Old Smoke” bar section, where even the bright light of day cannot fully illuminate its well-planned darkness. Cool air-conditioning only adds to the overall retro vibe, made complete by an extensive bar menu of tasty goodies like “bite-sized sirloin steak” and enormous onion rings accompanied by a delicious mesquite BBQ sauce! And did we mention the famous garlic cheese bread? Yikes. That stuff is simply addictive!
Yes, the Smoke House is the granddaddy of LA steakhouses, and a spot you should not miss while on a tour of the area.
Set of Drifters tip: Try to plan your visit for a Friday night when modern-day lounge lizard Marvin Robinson performs soul standards, watered-down disco jumpers and amusing renditions of “current” hits like “Get The Party Started” by P!nk. Or, if you prefer a Saturday night out, make sure it’s one featuring Jimmy Angel, a 70-something rockabilly crooner (and former teen idol) presumably modeled after one-time classmate Elvis Presley! According to his promotional material - which he hands out to the audience in between sets - Angel was not only a professional player for the NY Yankees, but also the adopted son of a notorious crime family who would later perform for four American Presidents (at the White House no less) and numerous Prime Ministers during his decades-long invasion of Japan! It just doesn’t get better than this...
Dear John’s - 11208 Culver Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90230, (310) 397.0276, http://dearjohns.net/home.php
The Golden Bull - 170 West Channel Road, Santa Monica, CA 90402, (310) 230-0402, http://www.goldenbull.us/
Billingsley’s - 11326 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90064, (310) 477-1426, http://billingsleysteakhouse.com/
Musso & Frank Grill - 6667 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028, (323) 467-7788, http://www.mussoandfrankgrill.com/
Smoke House - 4420 West Lakeside Drive, Burbank, CA 91505, (818) 845-3731, http://www.smokehouse1946.com/
Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour (Santa Clarita)
As a child growing up in Southern California, I can think of no place I enjoyed hanging out more than Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour. The franchise, modeled after an old-fashioned turn-of-the-century ice scream saloon had everything a child could want: hot dogs, candy, a video game arcade, red-flocked wallpaper... Of course, the best part of Farrell’s was its signature birthday treat, the Farrell’s “Zoo Sundae.” This jumbo treat arrived table side rather formally inside a giant silver trough carried by at least two staff members. Others would follow, singing “Happy Birthday” while banging on a large bass drum! Surely a similar experience at our elevated ages would elicit unparalleled embarrassment, but as a child, there was no better thrill!
Sadly, a large portion of the Farrell’s chain is now extinct. Nevertheless, as a special birthday for a friend of ours, your “Set of Drifters” managed to rekindle some of that lost childhood innocence by traveling to the Mountasia Fun Center in Santa Clarita! (The spot boasts one of two last remaining Farrell’s franchises.) Although certainly more modernized from the original concept, Farrell’s inherent fun still shines through. The restaurant is themed in early 1900’s patriotism with wide stripes of red, white and blue carried throughout. We loved the vintage stained glass lamps and collection of framed menus from Farrell’s almost 50-year history. To complete the Americana vibe of yore, the staff dons signature pork pie hats and bow-ties, though in truth, the costumes somewhat clash with the multiple piercings and wrist tattoos on display.
Don’t expect much out of the kitchen; standard hot dogs, burgers and fries are the menu’s finer points, and yet, it’s the ice cream that you’ve really come all this way for. (Don’t worry, the drum still beats when birthdays are announced, though regrettably, “I made a pig of myself at Farrell’s” T-shirts are no longer available. Screw political correctness!)
Adjacent “Mountasia” is an arcade filled with various newfangled video games, skee-ball and things of that nature. Ultimately, Farrell’s is a fun and unique place to take kids for a special treat, though if you are one of Farrell’s original fans, you may just want to make the special trek through the "Valley" for some much-needed nostalgia, or perhaps even a souvenir mug!
Farrell’s at Mountasia Fun Center is open Monday through Thursday from 12:00 Noon until 9:00 PM, Fridays from 12:00 Noon until 11:00 PM, Saturday from 11:00 AM until 11:00 PM and Sunday from 11:00 AM until 9:00 PM. Seasonal hours may apply, check the Mountasia Fun Center website for more information. Set of Drifters tip: We hear new franchises may be opening up soon in Brea and Rancho Cucamonga, so it looks like this is one Southern California classic that is about to rise back from the ashes!
Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour (At Mountasia Fun Center) - 21516 Golden Triangle Road, Santa Clarita, CA 91350, (661) 253-4386
http://www.mountasiafuncenter.com/ and http://www.farrellsusa.com/
Those visiting the illustrious Magic Castle in Hollywood (see "sights") may notice another imposing building seated nearby high above on a hill. By golly, is that a Japanese temple? The answer is yes, and no. The cool looking “Buddhist shrine” is actually Yamashiro, the legendary restaurant named after a “mountain palace” in Kyoto. Originally realized in 1914 as a private manse by a pair of brothers who wished to house their incredible collection of Asian antiques, the property has switched hands a number of times in the decades since.
After a brief stint as a private club for Hollywood royalty, the property’s lush interiors and gardens were completely stripped following the outbreak of World War II and the tanking of Japan’s reputation in America. (Locals assumed the building was some sort of weird military lookout for the enemy.) Developers worked hard to disguise any Oriental features by burying them under layer sand layers of black paint. The estate became a boy’s boarding school for a few years until Thomas O. Glover purchased the grounds in 1948 in hopes of transforming them into a hotel. Once he realized what extravagance had been so expertly hidden a decade prior, Glover made it his mission to restore Yamashiro to its once and former glory.
Careful restoration of estate’s many buildings continued over the following decades, though it was not until the 1970s, and the opening of the restaurant, that "Angelenos" got their first look at the impressive view from this “mountain palace.” Dining options at Yamashiro run the gamut from sushi to modern Pan-Asian standards. Dinners here are expensive, and perhaps best suited to special occasions. Still, when placed in such an outstanding setting, any outing here could automatically be considered a special event.
Yamashiro is open Monday through Thursday from 5:30 PM until 9:30 PM, Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 PM until 10:30 PM and Sundays from 4:30 PM until 9:30 PM. The Lounge, which also serves light fare menu options, is open daily from 5:00 PM until closing. Another popular spot, the outdoor “Pagoda Bar,” is also open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 5:00 PM until 10:00 PM (weather permitting). Set of Drifters tip: Warmer months see Yamashiro playing host to a local Farmer’s Market in its parking lot! Check out Executive Chef Kleweno’s fusion tacos grilled alongside a variety of other tasty foodtsuffs, both Asian and otherwise. Expect wine-tasting and local artisans as well. The Yamashiro Farmer’s Market is open Thursday nights from 5:00 PM until 9:00 PM from April to September.
Yamashiro Hollywood - 1999 North Sycamore Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90068, (323) 466-5125
Nestled in the foothills of Mount Hollywood, lies the tiny Village of Hollywoodland. Yes, that’s right Hollywoodland, the birthplace of “Hollywood.” You see, the Hollywood sign originally contained four additional letters, as it served to advertise a 1920s housing project that capitalized on the rugged terrain adjacent to Griffith Park. Though much of that “ruggedness” has since given way to multimillion-dollar homes scooped up by those who write, direct and act further south in the current “heart” of Hollywood, the original “village” still remains. And at its center surprisingly lies one of the best little cafes in the city – complete with views out to that famous aforementioned sign.
Before its 2012 renovation, Beachwood Café (formerly the “Village Coffee Shop”) was nothing more than your basic greasy spoon. Luckily, owner Patti Peck saw new potential for the space, and with the help of award-winning architect Barbara Bestor, transformed the café into colorful, but relaxed, spot that should make Tory Birch swoon. No inch of the color-blocked décor has been left to chance, with even the bathrooms worthy a trip, if just to wash your hands.
So, how about the food?
Set of Drifters Doug says the BLT (with applewood bacon and herb aioli) is one of the best he’s ever tasted. Similarly, brunch fans will be thrilled by any one of their fancy egg dishes named after nearby geographic locations (Mt. Lee, Runyan and Laurel canyons, just to name a few). With freshly squeezed juices and coffee that is now off-the-hook, Beachwood Café is the perfect pit-stop, whether or not you’re hiking up to the Hollywood sign, or taking it easy horseback via a trek up from Sunset Ranch (see “sights”). Set of Drifters tip: Make sure to try the baked Brioche French Toast served with a choice of bacon butterscotch sauce or crème fraiche and fruit compote. Either is faboo!
Beachwood Café is open from 8:00 AM until 10:00 PM Tuesdays through Saturdays, and Sundays for brunch only from 8:00 AM until 3:00 PM (closed Mondays). We have not had the opportunity to check out their dinner offerings just yet. Perhaps a return trip is in order! The Village of Hollywoodland is accessible off of Beachwood Canyon; see “sights” for directions and additional nearby attractions.
Beachwood Cafe - 2695 North Beachwood Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90068, (323) 871-1717
old school diners and delis
An ever-expanding metropolis of innumerable communities, Los Angeles certainly has its share of vintage eateries. Of course, you already know that your Set of Drifters love retro signage and Mid-century goodness, and diners of yore seem to have this in spades. So what are you waiting for? Join us as we highlight some of LA’s “big Kahunas” in terms of delicatessens of diners...
...Or shall we say “Dinah’s?” Yes, with a menu that features waffles, pancakes and pies alongside many other American diner staples, Dinah’s Family Restaurant boasts one of the most notable signs this side of the Colorado! Who can resist the enormous red and white beacon that proclaims, in a groovy ‘60s font nonetheless, that their famous chicken is the “best cluck for your buck?”
Inside, the classic California “Googie” design is made especially wonderful with brightly colored red booth seating and blue Formica tables! Dinah’s is a great stop along Sepulveda Boulevard, especially if you’ve just arrived hungry from LAX and a long flight with no food! You can even hear the planes landing while you dine. We love it (particularly the sassy serving staff)
Nearby Pann’s Restaurant and Coffee Shop is another infamous LA Googie dining haunt. Opened by husband and wife team George and Rena Panagopoulos, Pann’s has been serving up quality diner fare at its La Tijera Boulevard location since 1958. The architectural and interior designs here are so well loved that they’ve been awarded the LA Conservancy’s Award for best example of a Classic American 1950’s Coffee Shop! It’s no wonder the place has been featured in a number of popular TV shows and films like Bewitched and Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 classic Pulp Fiction.
We actually first came to Pann’s for a birthday celebration and received a free ice cream sundae as a gift! Sadly, Pann’s is just a little too far away for us to our daily hangout, and thus, we will not be using the frequent diner’s card they handed out with our check. Still, the restaurant’s place in history makes it certainly worth checking out when zipping down La Cienega Boulevard toward the airport. You might even want to top off your visit with a donut at the famous oversized architectural landmark, Randy’s Donuts (located at the corner of La Cienega and West Manchester.)
Elsewhere in town, lovers of classic LA dining will not want to miss Canter’s Delicatessen in Hollywood. Don’t worry. You won’t be able to avoid its impressive signage when zipping up Fairfax near Beverly Boulevard. As a young lad, Set of Drifter Doug spent many a late night seated under that trippy autumn motif ceiling sobering up with french fries, or a bowl of Matzo ball soup. Since the place is always packed day or night, it seems that tradition has continued to this day.
Once inside, visitors will be first confronted with Canter’s beloved bakery, the cases of which parlay a fantastic array of freshly-baked breads, bagels and pastries. Our personal favorite has always been the cheese danish. Trust us, we feel pretty guilty if we don’t purchase at least one these beauties “to go” for the following morning’s breakfast.
Since its opening at this location in 1953, Canter’s has been famous for its New York-style deli classics. Expect mountains of tasty sandwich options, soups and salads from their extensive menu, and if you’re lucky, sightings of cheesy rock stars and/ or “celebs” seated amidst the open plan booths of the main dining room!
Canter’s also features a groovy dive bar called “The Kibitz Room,” complete with musical entertainment every night of the week. (Check their website for more information.) This blast-from-the-past is open from 10:30 AM until last call at 1:40 AM! Now, that’s what we call service! Why not rock on up for a martini before lunch? Set of Drifters tip: Cantor’s is located in the shadow of nearby Television City, The Grove outdoor shopping mall and the legendary Farmers Market. So why not make a day out of it? (See “Gumbo Pot” below and “Shine Gallery” in “goodies” for more information.)
Still hunkerin’ for more chicken soup and Saltines? Other potential love-fests for Los Angeles diner enthusiasts include Phil’s, Du-Par’s (as seen in Valley Girl) and Norms, though truth be told, the first, housed inside an old train car, is currently closed, and the last? It always seems to let us down in terms of quality AND service!
Dinah’s - 6521 South Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90045 (310) 645-0456, http://www.dinahsrestaurant.com/
Pann’s Restaurant - 6710 La Tijera Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90045, (310) 670-1441, http://www.panns.com/
Randy’s Donuts - 805 West Manchester Boulevard, Inglewood, CA 90301, (310) 645-4707, http://shop.randys-donuts.com/
Canter’s Delicatessen - 419 North Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036, (323) 651-2030, http://cantersdeli.com/
Phil’s Diner - 5230 Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood, CA 91601, (818) 985-3463
Du-Par’s (Studio City) - 10236 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City, CA 91604, (818) 766-4437 and DuPar's (inside the LA Farmers Market) - 6333 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90036, (323) 933-8446, http://www.du-pars.com/
Norms (West Hollywood location) - 470 North La Cienega Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90048, (310) 657-8333, http://www.normsrestaurants.com/
El Cid tapas & more!
We love El Cid, the historical Spanish restaurant located on the border of Los Feliz and Silver Lake. Aside from its well-appointed menu of spicy tapas (i.e. succulent marinated mushrooms, roasted patatas bravas and chicken empanadas), the best thing about El Cid may just be its legendary sangria, a secret concoction that will have your head spinning before the night is through! (Make sure you have a designated driver kids!)
Your Set of Drifters have spent many an afternoon into evening hanging out under the impossibly-tall poplar trees that line El Cid’s patio. A restaurant only since 1961, El Cid is perhaps best known to Hollywood historians as the location where film director D.W. Griffith first screened his controversial masterpiece Birth of A Nation (1915). Griffith also built the property with an attention to detail on par with the movie. Those looking to indulge in some rather sumptuous interiors need look no further. And did we mention the flamenco?
The Almardiente company serves up their fury of passion and precision every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening. Flamenco shows cost $35 USD and include a three-course dinner as well. Seating begins at 6:30 PM; reservations are appreciated.
Later in the evening, El Cid also hosts local bands, comedians, poets, and at times, even burlesque performers. We happened upon the joint one night for dessert only to find the patio jammed with has-been punks on hand to enjoy the return of 45 Grave! The unexpected evening had attracted kids from nearby neighborhoods as well as suburbs further afoot. We so loved spying on the Goth disciples who arrived in white make-up and neo-rave attire, only to return to their cars afterward and wipe the powder completely from their faces. (Can’t let Mom and Dad see you like that!) El Cid is open Monday from 6:00 PM until 12:00 midnight and Tuesdays through Sundays from 6:00 PM until 2:00 AM.
El Cid - 4212 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90029, (323) 668-0318 http://www.elcidla.com/
LA’s best breakfasts that have nothing to do with chicken ‘n waffles
After living in the same place for more than six years, exciting possibilities for even the most every-day elements of life can often emerge through basic experience... not that we’re calling breakfast mundane mind you. In fact, the “sunrise” meal is Set of Drifter Brady’s all-time favorite, and he can often be found chowing down on bacon ‘n eggs or French Toast at virtually any time of the day.
We’ve already covered steakhouses and delis, so now let us present our “Favorite Breakfast Spot Awards:”
Best Airy-Fairy Waffles - Inn at the 7th Ray: This place is a hoot, though we’re almost certain it intends not to be. Located in the hippie-dippy artisan enclave of Topanga Canyon, the Inn at the 7th Ray invites brunchers from near and far with an elegant brookside dining patio, and some of the most creative, health-conscious breakfasts south of Portland. We loved Executive Chef Bradley Miller’s Belgian waffles with yogurt/ berry cream almost as much as the basket of freshly-baked poppy seed and apple persimmon cakes that arrived prior to our meal. And yet, it’s the people-watching that is ultimately this establishment’s best asset. (Just don’t tell management that.)
When it’s not hosting hoighty-toighty weddings, the Inn serves lunch Tuesday through Saturday from 11:30 AM until 3:30 PM with dinner on tap Tuesday through Sunday from 5:30 PM until 10:00 PM. Of course, it’s the Sunday Brunch from 9:30 AM until 3:00 PM that people are really talking about! Set of Drifters tip: Make a day out of this one. A Drive through Topanga Canyon is beautiful, and can be accompanied by great shopping at Hidden Treasures and Hillbilly Thrift. (See “goodies” for more information.)
Inn at the 7th Ray - 128 Old Topanga Canyon Road, Topanga Canyon, CA 90290, (310) 455-1311, http://innoftheseventhray.com/
Best Basic Breakfast - Patrick’s Roadhouse: We love this place for its simple fresh food, good pricing and charming Old World kitsch interiors. That being said, a visit to Patrick’s does not come with some flaws. While parking in Santa Monica Canyon is pretty bad in general, here, it’s just plain terrible. (Double-parkers beware of roving enforcement officers!) In addition, the place is usually jammed - a good sign that the food/ value is good, but a drawback when so much of the mismatched vintage furniture is in poor condition. (Who wants to sit on a hard bench for an hour while waiting for your Russian Love Match waitress to return with a pot of coffee?) Still, if you’re on the West Side and clamoring to see the ocean, this 35 year-old hangout is an institution worth checking out! Patrick’s is open Monday through Saturday from 7:00 AM until 3:00 PM and on Sundays from 8:00 AM until 4:00 PM.
Patrick’s Roadhouse - 106 Entrada Drive, Santa Monica, CA 90402, (310) 459-4544, http://www.patricksroadhouse.info/
Best Food/ Ambiance Match (assuming you can get a table) - Cora's Coffee Shoppe: A perennial favorite of West Side locals, Cora’s is a small restaurant that’s big on flavor. Usually crammed to the gills, the 25 seats of this refined establishment sit under a charming arbor ensconced in colorful bougainvillea. If you can’t make it all the way up to Topanga Canyon, it makes for a refreshing spot to take out-of-towners who long for a bit of (well-intended) nature. We recommend the Turkish eggs and wagyu ‘kobe’ style coulotte steak & eggs. Yumm!
Another nearby spot easily swapped for Cora’s is Coast at Shutters on the Beach. Perhaps a little more expensive, but no less crowded, this spot is a must for any fan of sweet treats. Coast’s rendition of lemon ricotta pancakes is simply divine when served with seasonal berries. And who can beat that beachside view?
Cora's Coffee Shoppe - 1802 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90401, (310) 451- 9562, http://www.corascoffee.com/
Coast (at Shutters on the Beach) - 1 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90405, (310) 587-1707, http://www.shuttersonthebeach.com/santa-monica-beach-restaurants
Best Opportunity to Spot Nipped ‘N Tucked Fitness Freaks - Courtyard Kitchen: A much-needed takeover from Cafe Dana, this six or seven table outfit is positioned on upscale Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. While the proximity to a Revolution Fitness center is more annoying than you can imagine, it does promise some rather funny people-watching. The best asset, however, is the food. Taking a simpler, more upscale approach to food than its predecessor, Courtyard Kitchen offers tasty New American renditions of both sweet and savory stand-bys in a small, but pretty setting that could (almost) double for New Orleans - if you squinted hard enough. Set of Drifters tip: Try the Euro-influenced French Toast and Eggs Benedict Royale.
Courtyard Kitchen - 1211 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 587-2333
Best Place to Host That Long-lost Facebook Friend Reunion - M Street Kitchen: There’s a reason this weekend brunch mainstay is busy to the gills, despite ample indoor and outdoor seating. M Street Kitchen serves up some of the most inventive, and portion-appropriate, options in all of Santa Monica... though you’ll have to fight your way past the dog- and baby-brigade to sample them. We loved the “lemon skinny pancake” and the “Acapulco omelet” that blends together avocado, jalapenos and cheese with crispy tortilla strips! (Make sure to add some Mexican-style hash browns as a side.) Service may be a bit relaxed here, though if you are taking the time to catch up with old friends, you will hardly notice! Set of Drifters tip: It’s not all about breakfast at this voluminous 2-in-1 restaurant. Next door at Stella Rossa, scrumptious pizzas and other bar-friendly foods accompany a host of beers and wine in an open-air setting that is perfect for your next Happy Hour!
M Street Kitchen and Stella Rossa Pizza Bar - 2000 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90405, (310) 396-9145, http://mstreetkitchen.com/ and http://stellarossapizzabar.com/
We also recommend:
Gilbert’s El Indio - 2526 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90405, (310) 450-8057, http://gilbertselindiorestaurant.menutoeat.com/
Tacos Por Favor - 1406 Olympic Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404, (310) 392-5768, http://www.tacosporfavor.net/
Porto’s Bakery & Cafe - 3614 West Magnolia Boulevard, Burbank, CA 91505, (818) 846-9100, http://www.portosbakery.com
Barone’s Pizza - 13726 Oxnard Street, Valley Glen, CA 91401, (818) 782-6004, http://www.baronesfamousitalian.com/
Monte Carlo’s Pinocchio - 3103 West Magnolia Boulevard, Burbank, CA 91505, http://www.montecarlodeli.com/
Musha Izakaya - 424 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90401, (310) 576-6330, http://musha.us/
Noma Sushi Restaurant - Sushi Restaurant, 2031 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-4848, http://mybestsushi.com/Noma_Sushi/
Gumbo Pot (at the Los Angeles Farmer’s Market) - 6333 West 3rd Street, #312, Los Angeles, CA 90036, (323) 933-0358,
The Galley Restaurant - 2442 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90405, (310) 452-1934, http://www.thegalleyrestaurant.net/
Cholada Thai Cuisine - 18763 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265, (310) 317-0025, http://www.choladathaicuisine.com/rt/
Froggy’s Topanga Fish market - 1105 North Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Topanga, CA 90290, (310) 455-1728, http://www.froggystopanga.com/
Chez Jay’s - 1657 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90401, (310) 395-1741, http://www.chezjays.com/