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Having guests come to visit makes me actually go visit the beautiful beaches in my backyard. Hermosa Beach is 5 miles from where I live and I know some active fit people who walk, bike, or skate along the paved path from Dockweiler Beach to the Pier in Hermosa and back. Decades ago, I used to bike it, but these days I drive it 🙂

Hermosa Beach Pier is completely pedestrian and lined with bars, restaurants, and a few shops.

 Once the sun sets, the lights go on and it begins to look like a movie set:)

Sunset signals time for Happy Hour, and Abigaile is the local brewery and gastropub that is my go to spot in Hermosa. I wrote a blog post about them back in 2012, when I stayed in Hermosa for a staycation, and I’ve been back since, but it was fun to introduce new people to Abigaile. Happy Hour is 5-7pm and we came for the food, but as a warning to beer lovers, they are upgrading their equipment right now, so their selection of brews is limited at the moment.

 Their menu changes often, but if you see French dip on it, order it!

 

 

 The loaded tots with sunnyside egg on top is messy and fun to share.

Mole nachos had a nice depth of flavor that made my meat loving friends think the chicken was beef!

We took a short walk back to the Pier after eating, and got a gorgeous sky send off before we drove away.

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Happy Hours are some of my favorite times of the day; in a Venn diagram it is the sweet center spot.

 

I’ve written about a few of my favorite places in previous posts, so today’s post is an addendum of some places where I have gone, but are not on my rotation of frequent visits, either because of location, or selections.

Salt Creek Grille has several locations scattered throughout Southern California, and they feature very comfortable and chic decor, with a varied menu Happy Hour is M-F in the bar and lounge from 4-6:30 pm. Choices range from $6 for chips to this $11 plate of mesquite grilled baby back ribs with cole slaw and Asiago garlic fries. The meat was tender and the BBQ sauce was sweet but not over done, and the fries were nicely done, although I could have done without the sprinkling of asiago.

It was a good deal for the food, but I didn’t care for the Paloma, a beautifully presented drink with a candied grapefruit rind, but so sweet it was like drinking dessert. I would have opted for a martini but they make theirs with Tito’s and it’s not a brand I like. Ah well, I think I will just have wine next time.

Local Kitchen in Torrance is a family friendly sports bar that delivers all that you would expect from a neighborhood place, including huge portions, and a large selection of beers. I love their yardbird salad, so I went in one day during happy hour, which is 3-6 pm everyday at the bar for their wings at $7.50. It was a HUGE portion, definitely enough to share with 2 or 3 people. They have a decent selection of wines, but go for one of their beers on draft here, like the Smog City IPA.

Abigaile in Hermosa serves some of the best bar food in the South Bay, and their happy hour M-F from 5-7 pm is their testing menu for food that may or may not make it to the main menu. The menu changes constantly, but if you see the French dip on their menu, it a worth ordering for the tender meat and rich dipping sauce that is perfectly dunkable with the pretzel bun.

Before dunking,

after dunking 🙂

The Whisper Lounge in the Grove, offers happy hour M-F 3- 6 pm, and all day on Sunday. The calamari was over fried and dry, but the short rib sliders for $8 were so good that we contemplated ordering another plate. Their wine selection has enough depth and quality to make a wine snob (like me) happy, and with happy prices $4 less than regular, my friend and I indulged in 2 glasses each:)

No matter where you are, there is bound to be an option (if not happy hour, maybe go to the gym, yoga studio, or a movie) that is better than sitting in freeway traffic for a few hours, and that alone should make you happy 🙂

Loving food and living in Los Angeles for most of my life, there are a few chefs I have followed as they have moved around town. Some of my favorite places are the ones where a chef left the steady income of a big name brand to open a smaller, more personal, and casual place where they can showcase their talents without anyone reining them inside a certain kind of menu. The risk for doing what they love means their wallets will pay if the gamble with the public palate craps out, but after years and sometimes decades at the helm, hopefully the sixth sense of balancing creativity with cash flow comes as second nature, and they find their groove with their groupies.

Lunetta and Lunetta All Day share a kitchen and the captain at the helm is Raphael Lunetta with some partners who know food. I loved JiRaffe, and I have enjoyed his skills at Broadway Deli and Patina over the years, but Lunetta All Day may be my favorite iteration to date of the mélange of Mediterranean sensibility in Californian. Even the decor reminds me of the seaside cafés in the South of France, so of course I started with a nice glass of vinho verde for $6 during an afternoon Happy Hour.20180524_170523There is a small but inviting outdoor patio with a small nook, providing outdoor dining when the temperature permits (which is most days in Southern California).20180524_172206I came for the octopus tacos $9 for two, and they did not disappoint with tender morsels and good vegetables. Of course I also added hot sauce, and of course, they had three options 🙂20180524_171244I was invited to an evening tasting of their new summer menu at Lunetta and enjoyed the meatballs for $16 so much that when I came back with a friend for lunch I raved about them, so she ordered them and literally cleaned her plate! This side salad came with the tender meatballs on creamy polenta, so it was a hearty but balanced meal.20180712_12274520180712_122739I was going to order the grilled fish until I learned that it was salmon…so disappointed that even in California, Americans will eat salmon, but rarely eat any other fish. I understand restaurants can’t stock fish no one orders, so please EVERYONE in the USA, order a fish besides salmon and tuna!!!!! I beg you!!!! Try one that has a head and tail, that is NOT tilapia! Ok tirade over….so instead I ordered the tuna Niçoise which was delightful for $18.50 and came with a salad on the side like the meatballs!  The tuna was seasoned correctly, and I loved the farm egg with the rich yolk, cooked to perfection! I was carrying my French gray salt so I added some to my salad for the extra oomph I love, but I think most people would enjoy it was it was served.20180712_183327We saved room for dessert and we were eying the table next to us eating the lemon ricotta pancakes (yes for lunch), so we ordered a brownie $3.25 and one pancake $5.25 with blueberry butter and maple syrup as a dessert 🙂20180712_131806We discovered the brownie had chocolate chunks in it!!!!!Surprise hidden treasure of decadent richness that was not just the right amount of sweetness. Spending time with a good friend is always a sweet experience, but sharing a meal together at Lunetta All Day made it a mini vacation to the mediterranean 🙂20180712_131327

Sausal means Willow in old Spanish (before this area became part of the US, this was Alta California, as opposed to Baja California which is still part of Mexico). The old styles of ranch cooking over flames and wood are now used with fresh local ingredients to create the cuisine that epitomizes the best blending of the old and new world sensibilities.

Since The Yelp Elite event, Experience El Segundo, I’ve been wanting to come back and enjoy the small town hospitality and flavors. As fate would have it, I am moving here! I will now be a local in a town that is literally midway between my South Bay friends and my Valley friends! While I was sitting in both Sausal the the local cafe, Blue Butterfly, the people who walked in were ALL greeted by name (none of them were named Norm)! I am very much looking forward to becoming part of this community 🙂

Happy Hour at Sausal is EVERYDAY from 3-6pm and their margarita was one of the tastiest and strongest I’ve ever imbibed for only $6. It was brilliant to serve it with a half salt rim because drinking from the midway point gave me just enough salt!

One of the Happy Hour Specials was the batter fried shrimp taco for $4 that was piled high with crunchy slaw. I had to cut it in half to get a bite into my mouth!

Since I had not eaten lunch, I ordered the chorizo quesadilla for $7, that was big enough to share.

Did I mention, I had not eaten lunch? I also ordered the short rib empanada, perhaps my favorite $4 happy hour bite, filled with tender tasty beef, and surrounded by a perfect crunchy pastry.

My first Happy Hour experience was so good, I had to repeat it a week later, with a beef mole tostada, loaded with so much tender, delectable chunks of shredded beef that every mouthful made me smile:) Even more amazing than the flavor was the quality and quantity of the serving at Happy Hour of only $4.

I could have easily stopped eating after the beef tostada, but I wanted just one more bite, so I chose the wild caught crispy ling cod fish taco off the regular menu for $6.50. Served on a blue corn tortilla, with charred tomato crema, and lots of grape tomatoes, this may be one of be best fish tacos I’ve ever eaten!

For vegetarians or vegans they offer a cauliflower taco $6

The margarita was so strong, that I stopped by Blue Butterfly for an Americano before driving away. I think I’ve found two places where I will become one of the regulars they know by name:)

Does anyone know what this is?

Are any of you fans of the TV series M*A*S*H*? Klinger’s favorite diner Tony Packo’s is famous for this! I was asked all those questions and didn’t know…so I will tell you the answer: a fried dill pickle! It was delicious! Sour, crunchy, salty, and you will definitely want more than one slice! Friends who live in the area near Old Town Torrance know this place well and had almost polished off the entire plate of ale battered fried pickles ($6.95) before I got there! They saved me one just because they love me:)

It was my first fried pickle, my first visit to Red Car Brewery, and my first Impossible Burger, a trifecta of winning experiences!

One of my friends ordered the Cobb Salad ($13.95) with balsamic and no bacon….I don’t share my friend’s palate, but the dish looked fresh. She didn’t care for the balsamic so asked for some ranch which she added to the salad…it didn’t seem to help her opinion of her meal.

Another friend ordered the grilled salmon ($17.95) with fresh vegetables which he demolished with relish.

I have been wanting to try the impossible burger, so when I saw it on the menu I had to order it! It came with coleslaw and either a salad or fries, so I opted for fries.

It was a very decent vegan burger with good taste and honestly with all the other components of the burger, it could have passed for meat. My friends thought the texture was a bit odd but they enjoyed it nonetheless.

I’m sure there will be return visits, but next time I will get there early and grab at least TWO slices of the fried pickle!

I live near the coastline again, but much further south, so when I am in the vicinity of my old neighborhood, I stop by for some of the local places that are now a trek (24 miles=1+ hour in traffic) from Palos Verdes.

 

The Independence is just a short block away from the beach, and they have a great Happy Hour. This is where I had my first Paloma, and I must say none I’ve had since have even come close to the perfectly balanced tart tequila and grapefruit drink I had here. The Happy hour half off price of $6 made it even better 🙂

I had the oysters, but I would order something else, like the mussels or meatballs at this gastropub next time.

Every so often I crave a great donut….Sidecar is my favorite in Los Angeles, and their gingerbread during the holiday season with powdered sugar stars (which I messed up, sorry) is as beautiful as it is delicious. I’m glad it is seasonal or I might devour one a day (ginger is good for you after all)!

 

The most dangerous donut is their bacon donut, especially when it is warm….I am not responsible if you eat more than one 🙂

Los Angeles is infamous for its traffic, and sometimes it just is not worth getting on any freeway or surface street until it’s a bit less clogged. Notice I said “a bit”…lately it seems there is no “off peak” time anymore, but unless you are masochistic or have the patience of a saint, avoiding anytime between 4-6 pm might save a life (your own if you have high blood pressure). Happy hours are a great invention to get some food and calming liquid into your system. Please don’t over indulge and drive drunk, but if you have some time and eat something, one drink might mellow you out for your 2-3 hour commute. I take the metro more  often than I drive, so not only do I get to indulge in adult beverages, but I also watch the cars on the freeway from my perch on the rails 🙂

I took the metro Expo line to the terminus at Santa Monica and discovered the Independence about a block away. Weekdays from 3-6pm they offer a selection of $5 drinks and bites. I had my first Paloma here and loved it! It was nice and tart and strong enough that even though I was walking, I only had one 🙂

I couldn’t resist the oysters, but I wouldn’t choose them again….the lack of expert shucking left bits of shell and they were not the freshest. Neighboring patrons had the mussels and meatballs that smelled wonderful, but I didn’t want to ruin my appetite for dinner.

I was out in Claremont and happened to be in time for Bardot’s Happy Hour from 3-6pm on weekdays. They have special promos most evenings and Wednesday is Whiskey night with $7 cocktails and delicious $3 bites like crab cake sliders. I had a food issue which was resolved so quickly and professionally that I went back the next week.

The drink and food specials change depending on the day of the week for happy hour, so when I went back it was Martini Monday night; $7 for top shelf brands like Ketel One, Grey Goose, or Bombay Sapphire. I chose a “hot and dirty”, basically a dirty martini with a splash of tabasco 🙂

The $5 tuna tartare was fantastic with a bit of seaweed, guacamole, mango, and micro greens to complement the very fresh and excellent ahi. The crispy fried and salted wonton chips were so good that I defy you to have just one!

I already love Red Herring for brunch, but after trying their happy hour, I also love them for later in the day. Their Happy Hour is Tuesday-Friday from 5-7pm when you can get wine or cava for $7 and duroc pork belly bacon BLT sliders for $5 on a parker house roll (you get TWO for that price).

Frida is a popular place for Mexican drinks and bites, but I’d never tried them until recently. They have Happy Hour everyday from 3-7pm, with additional late night Happy Hour Sunday-Thursday from 9-10pm and Friday-Saturday from 10-11pm. Well drinks are $5 and margaritas are $6 (add $2 for Cadillac or Agave). I chose the spicy and was very pleasantly surprised by the level of spice 🙂 

I didn’t want to drink on an empty stomach, so I ordered a veggie taco with portobello, zucchini, bell peppers, and tomato for $4. It was just enough to absorb some alcohol without filling me up too much to eat dinner.

When two friends braved the freeways to come see me, we stopped by for a quick drink and bite at Eden on Brand before a show. The space is modern, light, and airy, with the bar as the central focal point underneath a light sculpture.

One of my friends craved mac and cheese so we ordered it off the regular menu for $12. The pasta was a bit dense and thick for the lightly creamy sauce, but she enjoyed the flavors nonetheless.

Besides our drinks being discounted, their shrimp ceviche, with avocado cream, radish, and yuzu, was only $7 instead of $12. We all enjoyed this so much we would have ordered another if we had not been running late to the show. My friends loved their mojito, and when I told the bartender I preferred my paloma less sweet, he adjusted it perfectly 🙂

I think that happy hour doesn’t have to involve alcohol or savory food, and it can be anytime you want something to make you happy!

Three Twins organic ice cream makes me happy and if you don’t live near a location, you can buy their products in many markets nationwide. My cone of mint confetti in a teensy size was the perfect portion for me after a big lunch.

My other friends combined scoops of cardamom, strawberry, and Mexican chocolate to create their own bowl of joy:)

I may be a wine connoisseur, but I am a beer novice. I tasted my first beer in England before I was old enough to drink in the US, and after one sip, I decided I would rather drink cider. Many years later I tried some Japanese beer with my sushi and discovered that it was a fine beverage, but it was not my favorite, nor my first choice with my Japanese meals (I prefer sake). My first encounter with a beer I actually liked was in Belgium when I tasted the brews of my friends and found that I actually would have chosen their beer instead of my very mediocre glass of wine. Once I moved back to the US and was faced with the exorbitant prices of good glasses and bottles of wine, I wondered if a locally produced craft beer might actually be a good alternative. I have several friends who are well versed in beer and very happy to introduce me to their world. Another great educational resource here is the wonderful American attitude of service which means that many places will give you a taste of several beers so that you can decide which you prefer (unheard of in Europe). Aside from one pub that served four tastes of beers that my friends and I literally spit out, most places that pride themselves in their beers, offer delicious choices.

Most breweries offer food, and sometimes their food is as tasty as their beer, e.g., I would go to eat at Abigaile in Hermosa Beach even if I did not drink beer.

Some of my dearest friends live in San Pedro so when I visit them, we head to the San Pedro Brewery. It’s a very casual neighborhood place that feels like a West Coast version of Cheers where everyone knows if you are a local, and yes, they may even know your name. My friends knew the other patrons and the owner, and visa versa. Out of towners are welcome and treated like guests who will become regulars. Their menu includes everything from huge salads, to ribs, pasta, and full entrées. Most prices are in the $10-$15 range including the sides. They brew their own beers (they have won 80 awards), and have a blackboard full of choices ranging from blondes to stouts if you prefer another brewer.

Besides beef burgers, they have chicken, with a side of pasta salad,

ahi with vegetables (the teriyaki sauce was too sweet for me),

and of course fish and chips (my favorite of the three) with a crunchy crisp beer batter and tender cod, served with coleslaw and fries.

This unusual shot was called “chocolate cake” and tasted like a slice!

Congregation Ale House has several locations, all playing along the theme of a church where you would want to give thanks to a Beer and a Burger for saving your weary body from trekking somewhere else. They aren’t a gastro pub, but they do decent versions of snacks and burgers all for around or under $10.

This is their regular burger, always made with rib eye,

as is their weekly special California burger. They tend to cook them more done than not, so if you like your burger rare, you will probably not find it here.

Every table seemed to have an order of the spicy wings, served up in a very generous portion (about 8 pieces) and fairly spicy heat, with great crudites.

The specials on tap change constantly, and they will allow you a taste or two before deciding, so you can be sure to find something you like before committing the sin of ordering blindly 🙂

One of my friends used to live in South Pasadena so she suggested that we meet for lunch at Heirloom Bakery. They have a nice outdoor patio and they are only a few steps from the South Pasadena Metro stop, so it’s a pleasant and easy stop for breakfast or lunch. I chose the turkey panini with fresh spinach and tomato with a schmear of pesto that helped elevate the flavor beyond the ordinary.

My friend chose the quiche of the day and I had a taste so I could write about it. The filling was light but I found the underdone. The fresh tomatoes on the side were a nice touch, but some needed some dressing and a better presentation imho.

My friend ordered the bean salad as a side and this definitely needed some zest and seasoning.

On another evening my friends and I walked over to Communal half a block away from the Farmers’ Market for some craft beers and more food.

They were very generous with allowing us to taste several before making up our minds. I decided on the locally brewed Smog City Amber Ale. We ordered the twice fried Kennebec fries for $5 but they were too starchy for my taste, although my friends liked them.

We also ordered the crispy chicken wings with spicy porter BBQ  sauce and we all enjoyed them $8.

The hit of the evening were the mussels (a special) with a spicy tomato broth and a fabulous garlic toast that was absolutely perfect for either a full meal or for sharing.

Yelp Elite events in Paris are all fun, but the one last week at Les Piaules was one of my favorites:) Les Piaules translates to “little room” or crashpad” so it’s a perfect name for a hostel! Les Piaules is also a local hangout offering free wifi, 3€ ($3.30 USD) craft beer, and weekly events like live music and movies. This is one of the rare places that comfortably and easily allows tourists to mingle with people in the neighborhood.

A spacious outside terrace lets everyone take advantage of the rare days when it doesn’t rain, but comfortable sofas and stuffed chairs inside by the fireplace offer a cozy haven when the weather is chilly or wet.

Rooms come in a variety of sizes and prices, ranging from private double rooms with its own bathroom, to a shared dormitory for eight with shared bathroom. Prices range from around 35-120€ ($40-140 USD) depending on the season and space. This is one of the 4 bed dorms, with privacy blackout curtains, individual sockets, a private locker, and reading lamps.

The sense of humor of the owners is evident in the hallway signs 🙂

If you want to escape your room, and don’t want to relax in the bar, the rooftop is reserved for guests of the hostel with panoramic views of Montparnasse to Sacré Coeur.

Even on a gray day, the sunset over Paris rooftops is a picture worthy way to say goodnight 🙂

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