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Category: Charlie Amter

Good Girl Dinette nears completion in Highland Park

Goodgirl Eating L.A. reports that Diep Tran, former co-owner of the Blue Hen, is close to opening her Good Girl Dinette in Highland Park. Interestingly, Tran seems to already have a growing fan base online thanks in part to her blog. The Eagle Rock/Highland Park booster has been writing about her struggles in opening the forthcoming restaurant over the last year or so. But Tran is on top of things, judging from the posts, and after reading her blog, I'm now more likely to visit the intersection of Figueroa and Avenue 56 this spring.

Blogging about construction progress and menu refinement certainly seems like a nice strategy for future first-time restaurant owners when it comes to generating interest for new dining destinations. Not that the blog in any way seems contrived or exists solely as a marketing tool: It's clear that Tran is passionate and sincere about Vietnamese food, and food in general (she was featured in a KCRW-FM segment last month regarding her "good girl suppers"). Still, I expect pre-opening blogging may become a trend, if it's not already, amongst future Web-savvy first-time restaurant owners.

-- Charlie Amter

Photo: goodgirldinette.blogspot.com

'90210' cast says yes to Grace

Grace2 What do the mayor of Los Angeles and the kids from the television show "90210" have in common?  Both are fond of Beverly Boulevard restaurant Grace.

Sure, everyone already knows that the cast of "90210" films at Kokomo Cafe on Beverly Boulevard.  But this morning, I spied the cast and crew filming a scene from a forthcoming episode of the teen drama across the street at the decidedly more adult dining destination Grace.  I'm not going to pretend that I watch the new version of the show, which was recently renewed for a second season, but I must admit that episodes of the original back in the early '90s were viewed en masse (ironically, though, swear!). I might start watching the updated take, however, just to see what they end up calling Grace in the series. 

-- Charlie Amter

Photo: The scene outside of Grace this morning. Credit: Charlie Amter / Los Angeles Times

Recession Busters: Free food, drinks tonight in Silver Lake


The Times has already covered Barbarella Bar, so we'll keep this one short.  Silver Lake's new bar and restaurant is hosting a small party this evening for those who have yet to drop by the former Zen Sushi space.

Owners will serve complimentary samples from their menu (think lamb lollipops or avocado egg rolls), 10-ounce martinis and lots of artisan beer (they have 24 craft brews on tap) from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

RSVP before the end of the work day to barbarella@wjagency.com.  And yes, the gathering is open to all and not just "media" types.

-- Charlie Amter

Photo: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Dana Point joins "restaurant week" fray this weekend


Hot on the heels of Los Angeles and Orange County restaurant week promotions (both of which have been extended to last over a week), the Dana Point chamber of Commerce has announced the city's first restaurant week.

The inaugural edition of Dana Point's restaurant week promotion is in conjunction with the city's Festival of Whales, which begins this coming weekend.  Recently reopened eatery Proud Mary's is not among the seven dining destinations in the group, but Restaurant 162 at the Ritz Carlton and  Brio are both offering specials related to the latest restaurant week to hit SoCal.

For more information and menus of participating locations, check this website.  Several other food-related events for both this coming weekend and next (we like the BBQ/free concert at Baby Beach Sunday the 15th) can be found on the Festival of Whales' calendar of events.

-- Charlie Amter

Photo of Brio owner Enzo Scognamiglio in his restaurant before it opened in 2001 by the Los Angeles Times

Update your kitchen soundtrack with a food-themed MP3 mix

Turntable Forget cooking while your old CD copy of the "Big Night" soundtrack plays in the background.  If you really want to get in the mood to cook for a dinner party, or just your loved one(s), this lively food-themed MP3 mix will have you jumping in the kitchen in no time. Rapper-producer Cool Calm Pete recently put together this fantastic collection of songs about food. He's Seoul-born, but based out of New York; his aunt apparently owns a restaurant in Manhattan's Koreatown district.

Here is the track list, courtesy of Theme magazine.  To hear it, simply click on this link (if you have iTunes or any MP3 player installed it should start to play automatically). 

-- Charlie Amter

Photo: Troy Maben / Associated Press

Golden State soft opens, sets this Thursday as official opener


No need to wait until March 12; the Fairfax District's Golden State has already arrived.  Over the weekend, we stumbled on a lively scene in the former Nova Express space at 426 N. Fairfax, as friends, family and curious pedestrians checked out the new cafe with a California twist at a soft opening.  Locals checked out the menu (everything from various sausages to Scoops gelato), and most approved of the reasonable prices ($6 for the sausage, for example) that are more in-line with nearby Damiano pizza than neighborhood newcomer Animal.

As The Times reported last year, the small restaurant/cafe, managed in part by Jason Bernstein and James Starr, will serve a sampling of what they feel is good from the Golden State.  Think offerings such as a grilled cheese with California farmhouse cheddar from Modesto and beers from Craftsman.  Samir Mohajer, the chef at Cabbage Patch, helped design the menu.  The plan is to reopen Thursday after a few days of additional preparation, with opening hours expected to be announced soon.  Count on a busy weekend in the eatery as neighborhood residents seem eager to check out the nicely redesigned space (a radical departure from the dark, sci-fi-themed Nova Express), which boasts exposed brick, high ceilings, a mustard yellow exterior and large windows which allow unfettered views of Canter's Deli. 

-- Charlie Amter

Photo: The scene inside Golden State on Saturday. Credit: Victoria Smith

The Olive on Sunset taking over Boa space inside Grafton Hotel


Last week, we told Daily Dish readers about Spanish Kitchen owner Greg Morris' plans to open an upmarket grocery store called The Oaks off Franklin Avenue this spring.  But that's not the only project the 37-year-old has in the works this year. 

Beginning this summer, Morris says he will start work on transforming the Boa Steakhouse & Lounge space inside the Grafton hotel on Sunset Boulevard into a new dining destination called the Olive on Sunset.

"It will be a casual Italian restaurant and lounge," he said.  "We are redoing the front so that Olive will open up to the street.  That's what people want on that stretch of the Sunset Strip and we hope to make [Olive] more of a bistro-style experience."

Morris added that the forthcoming restaurant would not be too fancy, and that he will serve up "lighter, easier fare with great ingredients."   The vibe at Olive might be analogous to his La Cienega haunts such as Spanish Kitchen or the Belmont, but perhaps a bit more upscale.  Still, everyone is invited to this culinary party, according to Morris.

"All my restaurants have always been about accessibility," he said last week.  "It's nice to be able to go to a place where you feel welcome."

According to reps at the eatery, Boa is expected to close in late April or May in anticipation of a move just down the boulevard to Luckman Plaza (9200 W. Sunset Boulevard).

- Charlie Amter

Photo of Boa courtesy Grafton hotel

Your tax dollars at work: The one list area restaurants don't want to make

Ratvermininfestation Most people are familiar with the letter-grade restaurant ratings that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health doles out (A, B, etc.) to drinking and dining establishments around the city.  But few taxpayers probably take the time to look at this list, which is updated on a regular basis and tracks the temporary closures of bars, restaurants and fast food outlets all over town.

It's safe to assume that it's the one list in town restaurant and bar owners pray they never end up on.  I spied a few spots I've been at over the last few months, and it sent a tiny shudder down my spine when I saw the reason cited for one closure (vermin infestation).  To be fair, most, if not all of the restaurants that were cited have since cleaned up their acts.  And even restaurants with spotless kitchens sometimes get unlucky when inspectors drop by (mice are sneaky little fellows).

Regardless, it's nice to know that officials are looking out for repeat offenders, and keeping diners from getting sick.  See if any of your favorites are on this dreaded food facility temporary closure list, which is searchable via ZIP Code.

-- Charlie Amter

Photo: Does a 10-foot inflatable rodent have rights? The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in early February that this inflatable rat put up by union protesters outside a Dunkin Donuts distribution center in Woolwich, N.J., has free speech rights. (Brian Branch-Price / Associated Press)

Recession Busters: Cecconi's, Sutra offer significant discounts this week

Sutra2 Today is turning out to be a financially prudent one for Daily Dish readers. In addition to Betty Hallock's list of recession specials and Jessica Gelt's martini find in Beverly Hills, two more deals are ready for your list.

Cecconi's, which we wrote about last week, is now open, and I just spied this fantastic opening week special on their website: All food is 50 % off this week. The special is good until Feb. 27 (drinks not included).

In addition, Costa Mesa's Sutra restaurant and nightclub is hosting an event called the Art of Vodka on Friday night. For $40, diners receive a five-course meal and five Grey Goose-based cocktail pairings. Menu items include seared pork tenderloin medallions, ahi salad and ginger-pear martinis. 

We're not sure how good the food will be, but for that price, who's going to complain?  In addition, Sutra says the first 50 diners to make reservations will take home a Grey Goose gift bag with four 200-milliliter bottles of vodka inside. For more information on the event (an art show featuring pieces inspired by Venice Beach "graffiti and culture" also debuts inside the club that evening) or to make a reservation, see the club's website, buy tickets here or e-mail nilo@sutrabar.com.

Click here for more recession busting dining deals.

-- Charlie Amter

Photo: Diners inside Sutra. Credit: Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times

Details emerge on Steven Arroyo's Potato Chips

Pchipsbeverly2 Steven Arroyo's revamp of his Cobras & Matadors-adjacent wine shop, Bicentennial 13, is finally nearing completion.  After a few delays, Potato Chips, as it's now called, has been open in "soft" mode for more than a month now.  The upmarket store is cheery with an interior orange-and-blue color scheme. 

Similar to Bicentennial 13, patrons will be able to pick up a nice bottle of red from the spot on their way home (or they can drink it with dinner at Cobras & Matadors).  But Potato Chips, as the name implies, will also be a place where neighborhood regulars can pick up ready-made sandwiches and more on the go.  As of now, all that is available at the shop is wine, beer and well, potato chips.  But Joshua Lurie at Food GPS recently scored some nice details about what may be coming next month or so.  Lurie says Michael Ruiz will be designing the menu and that certain items at the new Beverly Boulevard shop might be similar to what was served at the (now closed) Glendale shop Ingredients, where Ruiz was chef. Think salads, sandwiches and maybe even a few surprises for the grab-'n-go crowd, beginning this spring.

Potato Chips, 7613 Beverly Blvd., (323) 931-4995

--Charlie Amter

Photo: Charlie Amter


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