It’s not summer just yet, but Southern California’s restaurants are ready to take advantage of the warmer weather with outdoor brunches, nighttime markets and backyard brew fests.
Caribbean Fusion Brunch
822 W Washington Blvd
Marina del Rey, CA 90292
Critically-acclaimed chef Roy Choi (who sparked the food truck phenomenon with his Kogi BBQ Truck) made waves when the delightfully airy (and aptly named) Caribbean restaurant Sunny Spot opened. When the restaurant’s weekend brunch debuted last year on the patio, it cemented Choi’s name as the man who could do every meal — breakfast, lunch AND dinner — to the (fusion) hilt. The brunch was on hiatus for cooler weather, but it’s back and some of the offerings include the Hangover Plate, Blueberry Pancakes, Diablo Shrimp and Grits, Roasted Veggie Omelette and the Two Fisted Cheeseburger. And yes, there’s a $10 Jerk Bloody Mary is on the menu every Saturday and Sunday. Brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Yamashiro Farmers Market
1999 N Sycamore Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90068
Yamashiro – a replica of a Japanese palace built in the early 1900s and a historical Los Angeles landmark — runs a seasonal farmers market with City Farm starting this week through September. Yamashiro is the highlight, of course, featuring a reinvigorated menu by executive chef Brock Kleweno. New offerings include Middle Eastern-slash-Asian pitas, Merguez Braised Lamb with shiso tatziki, Harissa Shrimp with cucumber relish, and Shwarma-Marinated Beef with citrus tahini. For fancy takes on trendy food, try the Pomegranate Quinoa Tabbouleh. The variety of food to buy and take home is superlative as well. Hillside Family Farms bring fresh produce from San Diego County; gourmet food trucks such as Heirloom LA and their lasagna cupcakes are on board, as is the Flat Iron food truck for burgers; and the Bolani East West Gourmet for healthy meals. And while CoolHaus is about to open another storefront in Pasadena, those who don’t want to drive all that way for their Mintimalism sandwiches, the Farmer’s Market is their best bet. Family activities abound; there will be live music, birdhouse painting and arts and crafts by Art Rebel. The market opens Thursday, April 4 from 5 to 9 p.m. and runs every Thursday through September.
Cherry Blossom Festival At Chaya
525 S. Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071
Chaya Downtown celebrates a three-week Cherry Blossom Festival on their outdoor patio starting this week, and will feature with an assortment of shareable small plates celebrating “Kaika,” the opening of the first cherry blossom. The Japanese say cherry blossoms signify transience in life and the arrival of the spring season, and Atsushi Kenjo, executive chef, is letting guests build their own Hanami Bento ($22 for 3 items; $28 for 4 items). In the event that the East-meets-West fusion of classic Japanese dishes and other exotic food genres don’t float your boat (but how can the Japanese Eggplant Baba Ganoush with Yuzu Pepper, Lemon Oil and Pita, Coffee BBQ Mini Pork Shank with Chipotle Miso and Duck Confit Spring Rolls with Sweet Miso Glazes go wrong?) the happy hour cocktails are on point (and cherry-flavored, too). A Cherry Bellini with cherry sorbet ($8) and Sakuratini ($8) are on the menu, as well as a variety of Japanese sake flights.
Guiltless Summer Cocktails
327 Newport Center Dr.
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Fashion Island’s Brasserie Pascal (2012 Golden Foodie Award Winner for Best Happy Hour in Orange County), is helping you keep your new year’s resolution (and prepare for bikini season) with low-calorie “Guiltless Summer” cocktails . The cocktails range from $9 to $13, but better yet, they’re only 100-200 calories each. Spring Into Summer, with Chopin Rye Vodka, St Germaine, lemon juice, and sugar free sweetener is less than 200 calories. The Pomegranate Skinny Margarita , with Sauza Silver, fresh lime, agave nectar and POM juice, is only 140 calories. If you’d rather be eating, the “Sunset Dinner” menu (available from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday) features filet mignon and salmon entrees for $13 each.
Slater’s 50/50 Lake Forest
24356 Swartz Ave.
Lake Forest, CA 92630
Legendary half-beef, half-bacon burger house partnered up with local breweries for a childhood cancer benefit — making it a bacon, beer, and burger bonanza. More than 10 different craft breweries will be at Slater’s 50/50 in Lake Forest to benefit the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation. Ritual, Bootleggers, Hangar 24, Rough Draft, Ballast Point, El Segundo, Golden Road, Fireman’s Brew, Deschutes, Cismontane, Noble Ale Works, Sam Adams, Latitude 33, Valiant, and Taps will be on hand for guzzling along with staple Slater’s menu items, including the B’B’B’ Bacon Burger, Buffalo Mac and Cheese, and more. Slater’s 50/50 Backyard Brewfest will take place Saturday, April 6 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. General admission tickets are $30 in advance (available online)/$40 at the door, and include food tastings, beer, music, and other activities.
395 Santa Monica Place (3rd Floor located in The Market)
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Matthew Kenney, one of the world’s biggest purveyors and cheerleaders of the raw food movement, is opening M.A.K.E. Out , a juice bar that offers a portable version of Kenney’s plant-based fare at his Santa Monica restaurant and culinary school. Keeping it fresh and local, juices and smoothies such as the Spice-C (orange, pineapple, cilantro and jalapeno) or Melted Chai (banana, dates, coconut, cinnamon, maca) will be created daily from seasonal ingredients bought at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. The menu will offer choices from a price range of $2 to $12, with kale chips, Seaweed Rye, Fennel Almond, and Zaatar Flax crackers and desserts such as vegan Chocolate Truffles and macaroons ($2). And if you want to take home M.A.K.E. Out, bottled supplements will be sold as well.
Napa Valley Grille + Duckhorn Vineyards Wine Soirée
Napa Valley Grille
1100 Glendon Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90024
When I was growing up, soirees were Catholic high schools’ version of a mixer, where prepubescent boys could put the move on girls in braces. On April 4, Napa Valley Grille will have quite a different version of a soiree, by hosting a mixer to feature California wines by Duckhorn Vineyards, producers of Bordeaux varietal wines. The event will cost $55 per person and will take place on the restaurant’s outdoor patio. On the menu will be artisanal cheeses and seasonal harvest selections and hor d’oeuvres by Executive Chef Taylor Boudreaux and wines from several Duckhorn Vineyards’ estates including Paraduxx, Goldeneye, Migration, and Decoy.
National Grilled Cheese Month Celebration
The Counter Custom Built Burgers
Now that build-your-own burgers are so popular, the Counter is taking on build your own grilled cheeses in honor of April — aka National Grilled Cheese Month. Every week in April, The Counter will introduce a new kind of grilled cheese for $7 each at all 14 The Counter locations. April 1 through 7, enjoy The Greek: feta cheese, sharp provolone, cucumber, olives & spinach on Texas toast with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. April 8 through 14, try The Kicker: Tillamook cheddar, jalapeno jack, fresh jalapenos & tomatoes served on Texas toast with chipotle aioli. The Caprese will be served April 15 through 21: mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, julienned basil & balsamic glaze served on Texas toast. April 22 through 28, try The French Onion: gruyere cheese & caramelized onions served on parmesan sourdough bread. Finally, April 29 and 30, get hit with The Trifecta: Tillamook cheddar, American & provolone served on Texas toast.