Simmzy's: Savvy suds by the surf
Mike Simms looks around his compact, 47-seat new Manhattan Beach pub and says, "We had two options -- beer or food. You can see which one kind of won out. We have more beer selection than food selection."
Not that anyone in the packed Simmzy's Saturday lunch crowd was complaining. The limited menu, from Anne Conness (who has had stints at Napa Valley Grille, EM Bistro, Campanile and Saddle Peak Lodge), is varied enough to keep things interesting. Offerings include two gourmet burger styles, a chateau steak, pulled pork panino, market greens and more. The menu expresses a dedication to seasonal, local, responsibly grown ingredients, with one caveat -- "OK, well, the beef is from the Midwest, but let's face it, that's where a lot of cows live." Granted, there are a lot of cows near Coalinga too, but Simmzy's goes with Niman Ranch, which includes Midwest farms. And some of that meat goes into "Simmzy's Awesome Chili," a concoction involving beef and pork, Fritos, cheddar, sour cream and Boont Amber Ale, which brings us back to the beer.
There are 24 rotating taps with a chalkboard listing price and alcohol content to help visitors choose. On this Saturday the taps include Magic Hat #9, which just arrived in California last week after 14 years of sating East Coast suds-sippers. (My sister, who lives in Savannah, Ga., raves about the brew and drives over the border into South Carolina to get hers.) Vermont-based Magic Hat is so far available in just a few SoCal spots, and Simmzy's (along with Naja's Place, Barney's Beanery and others) is one of them. The pub plans to be on top of more rare arrivals: Simms says it's on the list with Stone Brewing Co. for specialty releases.
Mike "Little Simmzy" Simms is the wine guy (the wine menu is divided into "Good," "Great" and "Where Did You Get That"); his brother Chris, or "Big Simmzy," is in charge of the beer selection. (Asked whether his brother is "Big Simmzy" because he's older or weighs more, Mike laughs and says, "Both.") Chris Simms is not in this afternoon, perhaps busy with his Lazy Dog Cafe locations. Restaurants are the family business: Starting with the pair's grandfather and moving down through the generations, the family has established the French Quarter in West Hollywood, the Mimi's Cafe chain, Lazy Dog and the Kettle, which is merely paces from Simmzy's. Indeed, Simmzy's exists in part because another Mike Simms project, the forthcoming Tin Roof Bistro in the Manhattan Village development, was taking more time than expected.
Mike Simms says he figured he'd do something quick and easy -- buy an existing restaurant. He bought the Ebizo's Skewer space, about midway (1/2 mile each way) between his and his brother's residences. "There was no beer bar in Manhattan Beach," Simms says, and he and his brother, who are home brewers, wanted one within walking distance. After getting the space, Simms says they "started drawing how many kegs we could fit in here." The answer: about 24. And the small space, Simms says, is right for the more experimental taps he and his brother wanted. So far, so good: "I knew Manhattan Beach wanted specialty beer, but the reaction has been unexpected."
Kris Mackerer-Derrico and husband Tony Derrico, who own the next-door clothier Bella Beach, say they take lunch at Simmzy's nearly daily. She promises that "the blue cheese french fries are phenomenal," and he adds that they're "off the wall." Sadly, I've already ordered and am nearly finished. The "Bacon Blue Deluxe" burger ($11.50; Omaha natural Angus beef, blue cheese, candied bacon, lettuce, tomato, garlic aioli and frizzled shallots) is a solid gourmet burger, though the waitress' suggestion that "it could change your life" seems a little, albeit good-naturedly, farfetched. The regular, non-blue-cheese shoestring fries are a pleasant accompaniment.
The restaurant is dedicated to localism and craft beer. On Mondays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Simmzy's has guest bartenders -- "local personalities," as the menu puts it. Thursdays feature particular breweries. This Thursday is dedicated to Einhorn of San Luis Obispo.
Open just a few weeks, Simmzy's is already bustling. Like its surroundings, it's breezy and upbeat. There are a few bar seats and several tables. The restaurant's front space opens out onto the street, which leads down to the Pacific. With a reasonably priced gourmet pub menu, 24 well-curated taps and the beach just down the hill, Simmzy's is poised to be a relaxing beach hangout.
Simmzys is located at 229 Manhattan Beach Blvd. in Manhattan Beach. Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri. 11 a.m.-midnight. Sat. 10:30 a.m.-midnight. Sun. 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m. (310) 546-1201.
-- Blake Hennon
Photos: Blake Hennon / Los Angeles Times