Lemon Butter: Best of L.A.'s Theatre Adjacent Restaurants and Bars - August Edition


MoniqueLeBleu

MoniqueLeBleu

Event Editor, Registered Critic, Writer


Lemon Butter is a bi-monthly column featuring choice restaurants, lounges, Happy Hours, and other spots where hospitality is offered, that are convenient to theatre venues throughout Los Angeles. For distances and times given traffic and parking are not factored in. Where available, contact all hospitality venues for valet or parking information and/or reservations.

This month's Lemon Butter covers just a few restaurants in the Silver Lake, South Pasadena, and Downtown LA areas, with one recognized by the Michelin Guide which only just recently returned to Los Angeles!


The Chicken and Waffles at Preux & Proper, Downtown, Los Angeles. Photo by Dan Watkins.

PREUX & PROPER

This Michelin Bib Gourmand awarded restaurant is just a few minute's drive from the Music Center's Ahmanson, Mark Taper Forum, Dorothy Chandler, and Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Executive Chef Sammy Monsour and restaurateur Joshua Kopel bring southern cooking to Los Angeles to their New Orleans-inspired DTLA restaurant.

Cocktails include the Punk Evans comprised of Effen Vodka, lemongrass, ginger, and frozen watermelon balls, an Alabama Slammer featuring Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Sipsmith Gin, yellow chartreuse, lemon, lavender, and grape soda, the Hells Bells made with Real McCoy Rum, ginger peach tea, and lemon, and the refreshing Green Gullah made with St. George Gin, green chartreuse, pineapple, lime, ginger beer and chipotle.

For a starter or bar bites, there's the Cajun “Popcorn” Rock Shrimp with Monsour's buttermilk marinade, cornmeal crust, Creole remoulade, and chunky cocktail sauce,  the Dungeness Crab Hushpuppies with Low-Country Boil Spice, charred Poblano butter, house bourbon barrel-aged green hot sauce, and the Southern Fried Mississippi Catfish that's marinaded in buttermilk before it is dipped in cornmeal and fried, then is served with house pickles, celery salt, and red remoulade.

There are also cool and crisp salads Baby Iceberg such as Pop’s Chop, with North Country bacon ends, heirloom tomato, scallion, Humboldt Fog goat’s cheese and buttermilk dressing, the Chicken Bacon Cobb with house chicken bacon, heirloom tomato, cucumber, hard-boiled egg, queso fresco and avocado ranch, or the OGO Caesar prepared with Monterey Bay seaweed, mustard frills, caper berries, Parmigiano and toasted yellow-eyed peas.

For main dishes there are the fried chicken plates, featuring Chicken & Waffles served with two boneless breasts on cinnamon sugar, cornbread waffles with bourbon-maple, crushed pecans, marjoram, and "really good" butter, Chicken & Biscuit prepared with two boneless breasts and a handmade buttermilk biscuit with charred Poblano butter, Serrano jelly and bourbon barrel-aged green hot, the Nashville Hot served with two boneless breasts, house pickles, Pop’s Slaw on thick cut brioche with a choice of "Hot," "XXX," "Reaper," or "Hellfire" sauce, and a Whole Fried Game Hen comprised of four quartered bone-in game hen with Low-Country seasoning, buttermilk dressing, parsley, scallions and dill, or the Crispy Braised Dr Pepper Wings which include twelve whole wings served with a pomegranate-habanero BBQ, lime crema, and cilantro.

With their South City Fried Chicken moving to Preux & Proper for lunchtime pop-ups Monday through Saturday, Preux & Proper now serves that buttermilk brined chicken in their Southern city-themed sandwiches, like the Chapel Hill topped with “Pop’s Slaw,” Jenny’s pimento cheese, house pickles, and crispy Tarheel country ham. The Greenville, their take on a Club, features that crispy chicken with hickory-smoked chicken bacon, house mayo, gruyère, baby iceberg lettuce and heirloom tomato, The Austin, with Rojo bean hummus, burrata, Javi’s Tia’s Hot Sauce, pickled radish, cilantro, blue corn tortilla crumble, and heirloom tomato, the Nashville seasoned with a Nashville rub, chili oil, house pickles and a sweet and tangy Cookout slaw, and a personal favorite, the New Orleans, with creole remoulade, cajun spice, Thai basil, a fried egg, benne seeds, and ginger-miso BBQ.

There are staple sides including the Slaw, Kennebec Fries, a Watermelon Cucumber Salad, Braised Collards, Low-Country BakedBeans, and Preux & Proper’s famous Cast Iron Mac & Cheese.

For dessert, Preux & Proper’s Pâte à Choux Beignets made with “bananas foster” dulce de leche, and powdered sugar, Maria’s Strawberry Shortcake served with a house buttermilk biscuit, brown butter solids, and crème fraîche vanilla ice cream, or Chef Sammy’s Banana Puddin’ featuring candied walnuts, bananas, Nilla wafer, and toasted coconut.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

PREUX & PROPER - 840 South Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90015 - (213) 896-0090

Distance to the Ahmanson, Mark Taper Forum, Dorothy Chandler, and Walt Disney Concert Hall  - (1.5 miles, 9-15 minute drive)


The Mole Enchiladas Poblano at Casita Del Campo in Silverlake, California, June 23, 2019. Photo by Monique A. LeBleu.

CASITA DEL CAMPO

CASITA DEL CAMPO in Silver Lake houses the Cavern Club theatre and is walking distance to the Lyric Hyperion.

Legendary Casita Del Campo celebrating 57 years in Silver Lake serves fresh fruit Margaritas, like the Strawberry and Pomegranate Margaritas made with fresh lime juice, triple sec and tequila, along with flavors like apple, peach, melon, and banana—perfect for Summertime cocktails before a show downstairs at the Cavern Club.

The vibrant and colorful restaurant features homemade Mexican fare like the shareable Casita’s Special with six crispy mini tortillas topped with chicken, beef, beans, jack cheese, sour cream, fresh guacamole, chopped tomatoes, and peppers, the cheesy Enchiladas are prepared with a choice of protein or can be served vegan with a light tomatillo sauce, the Mahi Mahi, grilled and topped with red bell peppers, onions, cilantro, tomatoes and is served with white rice, black beans, and plantains, the Pollo al Cilantro, with fresh cubes of chicken in a butter sauce, with olive oil, spices and cilantro, and the Cochinita Pibil--a pork tenderloin marinated in spices, achiote chili, and fruit juice, slowly baked and served with white rice and black beans. All of their entrees are served with soup or salad, rice, beans, and hot corn tortillas.

Rudy del Campo, a successful dancer on Broadway, Las Vegas and a “Shark” in the film 'West Side Story,” opened Casita del Campo in 1962 with his family. He met Nina del Campo in 1965, where they fell in love. Rudy passed in 2003, but restaurateur Nina del Campo continues to work at the restaurant where she's been in charge of the business since the 1960s. The restaurant, traditionally and festively decorated with moons, Moravian stars, holiday decorations of the month, with “West Side Story” memorabilia throughout, also has glorious enclosed patios which contain Nina del Campo's brilliant artistry—her hand-inlaid glass mosaic tables designed by her and representing Mexican art and culture. These should not be missed in a visit to this landmark Silver Lake restaurant!

CASITA DEL CAMPO - 1920 Hyperion Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027 - (323) 662-4255

Distance to the Cavern Club Theatre  - None. You are there!

Distance to the Lyric Hyperion Theatre  - (0.1 miles, 1 min. drive, 2 min. walk.)


The Chicken Karaage, front, and Spicy Tuna "Tacos" during Happy Hour at Ai Restaurant, South Pasadena, California. Photo by Monique A. LeBleu.

AI RESTAURANT

AI RESTAURANT in South Pasadena, next door to the landmark, re-purposed Rialto Theatre, and very near the  Fremont Centre Theatre and South Pasadena Theatre Workshop is a best-kept secret when it comes to Happy Hour quick bites and a cocktail just before the theatre...or anytime.

One Yelp reviewer referred to the Ai Bar as the "Cheers" of South Pasadena, as the place is indeed that popular with diehard locals, especially during Happy Hours.

Although a modest assortment at their full bar, their collection Japanese beers are choice, as is their sake and Chef Fumito's select Japanese whiskeys. Their house Chardonnay (typically Hess) is a good value at $5.50 a glass, as is the "Ai Tai" of Bacardi Light rum, pineapple, lime, orange juice and Almond Orgeat syrup, with a float of Myers Dark rum at $8.

Happy Hour and the best deals are Tuesdays through Saturdays 4-7 pm., and Sundays 5-7 pm, which features a variety of specially priced items that can make a fantastic “tapas” style shareable dinner with bar bites such as the crispy fried Chicken Karaage, the Grilled Shishito peppers, the Ika (squid) Tempura, Mussels prepared in white wine, garlic & olive oil, the spicy Tuna Poke marinated with a seaweed salad, and the ever-popular Spicy Tuna "Tacos" on wonton tostadas.

Some of the sides include String Beans sautéed with Garlic Sauce (which is the same sauce for the off-menu Garlic Edamame, if you ask for it), Steamed Asparagus' served with a miso-based dipping sauce, Steamed Spinach sautéed with garlic and served hot or cold, Okra served Tempura, or steamed Shumai dumplings (Deep fried or steamed), the Agedashi Tofu, a deep fried Tofu in broth, and fried shrimp, squid, scallop, and other assorted Tempuras.

If you are lucky, Fumito San might have the melt-in-your-mouth Lamb Chops during Happy Hour, which come with a garnish of a very creamy mashed potato salad and dipping sauce. When he has it, this is a must have!

Aside from lots of hot plate combinations and sushi to order, Ai Restaurant is one of the last Japanese Restaurants to provide “Love Boats”–large table-service boats filled with preset and to order sushi assortments. There are also assorted “Don” or Rice Bowls with ebef, Chicken Katsu, Tempura, and unagi, and Udon Noodle Bowls of beef, chicken, Tempura, Nabeyaki, or Soba with Tempura.

Cut rolls are relatively simple, such as the Yellowtail & Green Onion Roll, Jumbo Shrimp Tempura Roll, or the seasonal Soft-Shell Crab Roll, along with assorted Sashimi to order and Chirashi Bowls (Mixed Sashimi over Rice.)

Word of warning: as a family run business, the restaurant is incredibly busy during lunch and large groups sometimes take longer to serve. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.

Itadakimasu!

AI RESTAURANT - 1013 Fair Oaks Ave, South Pasadena, CA 91030 - (626) 799-0534

Distance to the South Pasadena theatre Workshop  - (450 ft, 1 min. drive, 5 min walk)

Distance to the Fremont Centre Theatre  - (0.2 miles, 2 min. drive)