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After a makeover, Gladstone's Malibu is ready for its close-up

July 15, 2010 |  6:00 am

Gladstone's Malibu, the iconic 33-year-old seafood restaurant that lays claim to 700 feet of prime beachfront real estate where the river of traffic on Sunset Boulevard flows into the estuary of the Pacific Coast Highway, had been having a bad decade, or two.

If it was going to weather the twin storms of recession and the wrath of Yelp, it was going to need an extreme restaurant makeover. But the fact that it would be saved by Sam Nazarian -- one of Hollywood's most glittering night-life players -- made for a particularly interesting rebirth.

Despite being one of the busiest restaurants in Southern California (it serves about 6,500 to 7,000 meals per week during the summer), Gladstone's had gained a reputation for crummy food and spotty service (the L.A. Times gave it zero stars in a 2008 review). Wads of tourist money supported it, but the community -- well-to-do elites living in Malibu, Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica -- treated the place like kryptonite.

"It's kind of like a really good villain. You enjoyed disliking it," says 27-year-old Kent Hutchison, who remembers going to Gladstone's to fool around with his friends and drink beer but never to eat the food.

The owner, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordan, wasn't keen on that reputation, so he says he sold 34-year-old Nazarian and his luxury hospitality group SBE a 20% stake in the business, with the goal of sexing up the restaurant and once again making it a destination for locals.

To read the rest of Jessica Gelt's story and look at a photo gallery of the new restaurant and food, click here.

Photo: The seafood risotto at Gladstone's is flanked by a strawberry mojito. Credit: Christina House / For The Times