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Several of my friends are in the food or restaurant business, so when one of them suggests a place they love, I listen and will join them for a meal that I know will be (usually) very good on all levels, from chef skill, to products used, to recipes, to service and decor. Baran’s 2239 in Hermosa Beach is the kind of neighborhood gem that every neighborhood wishes inhabited their backyard.

With a tiny parking lot, you best bet is to park a block or two away and give yourself a reason to walk off dinner; or better yet take a car service and enjoy your wine with dinner ($25 corkage for 1st bottle). We brought a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a Gainey Pinot Noir for four of us, so we each had two glasses with our meal and enjoyed the lighter wine with the lighter dishes.

We started with the beef tartare, served with shrimp chips and korean spices. It was a hit with the raw meat lovers like myself, but not so much for the non devotees of uncooked red meat.

The quail with white beans, nuts, chives, and citrus was a delightful choice for everyone. The contrasts in textures and flavors worked well together to bring everyone joy in their mouth:)

The Pork Belly made us all applaud and fight for every bite as we sought to eat just one more morsel of porcine goodness.

To balance out some of the protein we also got the grilled broccolini with pomegranate seeds and a nice bean purée.

Since we were all food lovers, we ordered more dishes as we finished one, so the next up were the seared sea scallops, easily the favorite of the evening, and the waiter graciously offered to add one more scallop for our table of four so we could all eat one 🙂

The fried chicken was an interesting take that was different enough for us to enjoy, while comforting enough for all to say “ah!”

We weren’t sure if we wanted to try the jerk extra spicy wings after the guy at the table next to use said he loved spice, but was in pain after one bite. We literally watched his face turn beet red and two of us decided at the end of the night to take the chance. It was searingly spicy, but edible. The disappointment was that the heat lacked complexity or depth of flavor. We felt that if we were going to endure the heat, there should’ve been more spice or oomph. We would probably never order this again, but we were very glad we tried it.

In spite of the disappointing last dish, I loved everything else, especially the cozy local vibe and the obviously very local clientele. I would come back here anytime with a few friends so we could share a few plates. We ate 8 plates in all (we doubled up on one of the ones pictured) and with the corkage fee on 2 bottles it came to around $75 per person, including tax and a 20% tip, a great deal on this level of service, skill, and ingredients.

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.

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 🙂

Rabano is one of those places that make me appreciate living in the South Bay.  Supporting small businesses that make fresh, tasty. and healthy food is always a pleasure, and the added bonus of having them close by, makes it on my list of go to places when I don’t want to either cook or drive.

It is popular and the parking lot is tiny, so either go at a non peak time, or park on a nearby street like Artesia or Prospect. The parking is the only drawback here; once you get inside you may either order on the tablets in front of the large menu on the wall (there are daily blackboard specials by the cashier) and take a number, or if you prefer human interaction, order at the cash register. The choices are very straightforward, but on my first visit, it was a bit overwhelming. For the bowls, you can choose any item with white or brown rice, ancient grains, or salad. For the salads and sandwiches, it pretty much self explanatory unless you want an upgrade or add on.

I was very impressed at the quality of the ingredients for the prices. Grass fed beef burgers for $12, free-range chicken in the salads and sandwiches, hand made sodas and dressings.

Their pork belly knockout, with lemongrass marinated pork belly, a sweet miso glaze, gochujang, wilted spinach, pickled slaw and watercress on ancients grains for $11.50, was a hearty meal. Tender pork belly with the contrasting bright pickled slaw, and greens made it a filling bowl, but not heavy or greasy. I put my leftovers on arugula when I got home and had a second meal from my leftovers.

The Lechon Cubano of cuban style pulled pork, mojo criollo, black beans, red pickled onions, and sweet plantains for $9.50 nice riff on Cuban pork. I found my serving about half fat, half pork, but even so, there was more than enough pork and flavor to make me happy. I added lots of hot sauce to spice it up, and next time I would ask for more of the pickled red onions to perk it up.

My favorite bowl here is the El Koreano for $11.50 with grilled certified Angus beef (you can choose free range chicken instead), baby bok choy, cucumber, carrot, gochujang, house kimchi, and a sweet umami glaze. I chose it over white rice, but next time I would choose either ancient grains or brown rice. All the contrasting textures and flavors, from the crunch of the cucumbers to the tender meat and the wonderful home-made spice of the kimchi, worked together to create a colorful complimentary composition.

Service was both friendly and efficient, with a harmonious energy that echoed the food they serve; it really is true that the back of the house is as important as the front of the house, and the house at Rabano is well kept inside and out.

Tammie’s Corner House Cafe was literally 1 block from the place I rented in Hermosa, so I had to try it for lunch. It is a great breakfast destination since I saw a line of people waiting for a seat on Sunday afternoon when I arrived at the beach (it also helps that it is one block from the sand). The owner and waitress were both very welcoming and friendly and they give the place a personal friendly vibe befitting a casual beach cafe. Several of the other people were regulars, and I met the family at the next table because we wanted to order the same items. The cute flower boxes lining the patio area also added to the nice ambiance.
I chose the grilled chicken salad for $9.95. Tammie explained that they are known for their huge portions and it was a massive plate, nearly 12 inches wide! The vegetables were done with balsamic, but a bit overdone, as was the dressing. The garlic bread was nicely done and gave me something to soak up the extra dressing with as I enjoyed the generous chicken breast pieces. This was a pleasant healthy plate, not very well executed or extraordinary, but for the service, price, and location, it is outstanding. The breakfast items looked much better, with nearby plates of pancakes, eggs & chorizo, and muffins, all enticing me to try breakfast instead of lunch. The service was so nice I am inclined to come back if I can wake up and get here early enough to want breakfast.

Tammie's Corner House Cafe on Urbanspoon

Abigaile has only been in its present location since February and I hope it maintains its presence as a twinkling gastronomic star in a sleepy beach town. it is packed on week-ends, but since it was a weekday, the place was nearly empty. Happy Hour is from 4-7 and their house made infusions, wines, and small plates are all reduced prices. I asked the bartender if the Penelope house infusion was sweet and he said it was the least sweet and he would go lightly on the agave for me, so I tried this house infused serrano chile herradura, fresh grapefruit juice, agave nectar, basil libation for $9 ($11 non happy hour). It was as spicy as advertised, and I’m glad the bartender Justin made it less sweet for me. I would opt for the house Pinot Noir next time, but I’m glad I tried a house specialty drink.
This place might be beer drinker heaven. They actually brew their own beer on the premises and offer five varieties of home made craft beers as well as a full page menu of other beers and ales for true connoisseurs.
Having the brewing equipment onsite makes the entrance to the place stunning.
I’m glad that I asked before ordering several plates because just the salt and pepper prawns with XO pea tendrils and garlic chips ($13 during happy hour $15 other times) was a complete meal for me. It was the best plate I ate during my entire stay at the beach. It was so good that I will make the 15 mile drive from Los Angeles just to come back and eat this dish! There were so many other things I wanted to try on the menu; they have bone marrow, Peruvian Hamachi Tiradito, local forage mushroom polenta, pao de queijo (Brazilian cheesy puffs), 24 hour braised oxtail ragu, and tempura Blue Lake green beans. With a menu like this, I need to invite an entire city of foodies to taste it with me.
P.S. I went back on a Saturday when they have their special porchetta with kale salad and it is definitely worth making a trip to the beach on a Saturday just to eat this unctuous tender meat treat (and yes the skin was the best part)!
Let’s create a Foodie City, where every day is a delicious adventure!

Abigaile and Ocean Bar on Urbanspoon

Zazou, in Redondo Beach, was one of my favorite restaurants when I lived in the South Bay, and one my first night back, I decided to go with a place I knew, even if it had changed. I chose the 8 hour braised short ribs with mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach for $29. It was a beautiful LARGE plate and I looked forward to my first taste, but unfortunately the meat was not as tender as an eight hour braise should have made it. The flavors were good, not outstanding, but a decent blend of reduced beef stock. The fresh spinach saute and potatoes were both fine side dishes and the carrots and onions from the braising liquid added a nice textural component to this dish. This plate was so large, I could only eat half of it! My waitress was so wonderful she laughed when she asked if I wanted dessert, seeing I had left so much of my main course on the plate. I told her no dessert, but a decaf espresso would be great.
The decaf espresso was great, with perfect crema and made with excellent Lavazza beans.

Zazou on Urbanspoon

I went to Paciugo Gelato, in Hermosa Beach, for my dessert since it gave me time to drop off my leftovers and walk off some of my dinner. I love gelato and to have a place in Hermosa that does it well was one of the changes I loved finding in my old hometown. A small cone or cup can hold up to three flavors for under $5, with exotic options like strawberry lavender, wedding cake, and black pepper olive oil, you can chose something new or in my case, two old flavors, like coconut chocolate rum and extra dark chocolate. The perfect way to end a day is with a stroll along the beach and a cone of excellent gelato!

Paciugo Gelato Caffe on Urbanspoon

A new day meant finding a great coffee place to start my day and it looked like Two Guns Espresso in Manhattan Beach was THE place to get something called a “Flat White”. They use 3 shots of espresso and 6 oz of steamed milk (I got soy) for this smooth nonfrothy drink. I loved it. I especially loved the friendly baristas and the fact that they use Caffe Vita beans from Seattle which emphasize Fair Trade and Organic beans. If you frequent the area (or their shop) get a frequent user card and get a free drink after buying nine. The first Tuesday of every month is Ducati night when you can  drink free coffee as you peruse the latest models of this classic Italian motorcycle.

Two Guns Espresso + Coffee on Urbanspoon

After my Flat White at Two Guns Espresso, I really didn’t need anymore espresso, so even though they had organic coffees and teas, I opted for a light but sustaining breakfast, so I went to Planet Earth in Hermosa. I chose their house made granola with soy milk for $5.95. It was delicious, with bits of dried unsulfured apricots, cherries, coconut, and almonds. They have plenty of options for vegans, those who are dairy or gluten sensitive, and anyone who wants their food to be organic, free trade, and home made. The only drawback to the place is that they are so disorganized they had trouble keeping up with orders and ran out of ingredients like bananas for my granola by 10 am. One customer waited 20 minutes for eggs, another waited 10 minutes for a quinoa bowl. Since most people don’t have the luxury of time for breakfast, especially on a weekday, they need to work on their executions and supplies so their mises (preparation of their ingredients for the dishes) are en place (ready). No matter how good their intentions and supplies, they will not survive without better organization.

Planet Earth Coffee and Tea on Urbanspoon        More Beach Bites tomorrow 🙂
I lived in Hermosa Beach for two years and moved away back to the “Inner City” of Los Angeles because I went to the beach maybe three times in those two years. Something about having the beach at my disposition disposes me to take it for granted. Since it’s been a few years since I’ve actually taken advantage of being at the beach, I decided to rent a room for only $77 per night from AirBnB in my former home town, proving that you can indeed go home again, even though it may not be exactly the same home you left.I stayed over a Sunday and Monday night, so I had practically the entire beach to myself.

The room I rented included full use of the immaculate kitchen, a BBQ, a covered parking space, and wifi. The owner, Todd, provided all the towels, linens, and even beach chairs!

There was even a large dining room off one of the three patios.
The house itself was on three levels, with a living room and loft/office space with a pinball machine that had a wonderful deck.
The top level had a nice couch with panoramic views of the ocean two blocks away and a large patio (hammock use optional).
This was the view from the top level office/deck space.
I had my own spacious room with small patio, full bathroom, walk-in closet, and flat screen tv. The room was so comfortable I could have stayed in it all day if the beach didn’t beckon.
The beach was the entire reason for my stay, so I spent my days on the soft white sand, reading, napping, and trying to decide where to eat:)

>Since we went to Venice yesterday, how about going to Hermosa* today?

The Beach House is an upscale, luxurious, and romantic getaway right on the beach. There are fireplaces in every room, balconies, and if you book a room with a view, the beach is your living room artwork. The rooms are a bit small, but considering you are staying literally on the sand, consider that your room is only for resting in between your outings to the town and seaside. They serve a complimentary continental breakfast, and their concierge can help you with any other reservations, from bicycle rentals (there is a bike path up and down the coast right next to the beach) to spa services.

If you want a touch of extravagance close to home, take a drive down to Hermosa and spend a few nights enjoying what other people fly thousands of miles to experience. Living like a jet setter without having to pay for a jet (or having to get over jet lag) is the best way to live.

*For more about things to do in Hermosa Beach see my earlier post.

Since we went to Venice yesterday, how about going to Hermosa* today?

The Beach House is an upscale, luxurious, and romantic getaway right on the beach. There are fireplaces in every room, balconies, and if you book a room with a view, the beach is your living room artwork. The rooms are a bit small, but considering you are staying literally on the sand, consider that your room is only for resting in between your outings to the town and seaside. They serve a complimentary continental breakfast, and their concierge can help you with any other reservations, from bicycle rentals (there is a bike path up and down the coast right next to the beach) to spa services.

If you want a touch of extravagance close to home, take a drive down to Hermosa and spend a few nights enjoying what other people fly thousands of miles to experience. Living like a jet setter without having to pay for a jet (or having to get over jet lag) is the best way to live.

*For more about things to do in Hermosa Beach see my earlier post.

>A Beach Therapy session is where you spend the day enjoying the beauty of the beach, reading, snoozing, listening to music (with earphones) or meditating. Pick a beach, any beach, then head out and leave all your chores and worries behind.

My favorite beach in Southern California is Hermosa Beach for its’ small town feel (and the fact that I used to live there). I like beaches with on site toilet facilities, shops to get food, drinks, sunscreen, and accessible parking (where I won’t get run over or ticketed trying to park). Another one I like is across from Chautauqua Blvd. in Pacific Palisades; parking there is harder to find, but the peaceful beach is worth the hunt.

Beach Therapy may be the most natural original therapy; my favorite therapist is on Motu Tapu where there are no facilities or inhabitants except the sand crabs and fish….




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