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1. Outside in the Helms Bakery Complex – Bucato Restaurant

Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica has never been the same since Chef Evan Funke left to join Bucato in Culver City. The Italian restaurant is small, well lit, modern, with an indoor and outdoor space. We fell in love with an abstract state of California design made out of chef knives near the host stand. The venue is perfect for an outdoor summer dining experience. One must start with their delicious homemade focaccia or baguette served with butter and ash salt. Bucato is known for their Homemade Pastas, produced in a pasta lab by Kosaku Kawamura on the second floor of Bucato. We tried the Stingozzi, a spaghetti, heavy in pepper and parmesan cheese, but wonderful in flavor. Next, we had the Cavatelli with duck ragu and pecorino toscano, which was our Best Bite at Bucato. In addition we tried the Flat Iron Steak and the spicy pork meatballs which are also a must.

3280 Helms Avenue
Culver City, CA 90034

*at Washington Boulevard

2. Not a normal Picnic in Pasadena – Picnik

When I called to make a reservation for a Saturday afternoon dine out with the family, the hostess explained to me that there is no need for reservations, but show up early for a communal table. I was immediately curious to experience Chefs’ Eduardo Ruiz of Corazón y Miel with Michael Puglisi of Electric City Butcher’s new Sausage spot. Picnik Pasadena offers house made brews on tap and over 11 hand crafted sausage dogs. Picnik has a counter-service setup leaving all to feel like they have entered a Texan cook out located in a 12,000 square foot retail space. Guests can choose a variety of ketchup and mustard sauces, listen to live music, and enjoy side dishes such as corn on the Cobb, house potato salad, pickled red cabbage, house cut Kennebec fries, and farmers’ salad. The hamburger and the fried chicken are average, but the sausage dogs are delicious. Picnik is the perfect spot to visit on a weekend afternoon after retail therapy with the family or friends to enjoy some comfort food. The best bite was definitely not the mac n cheese, but the standard beef hot dog with sauerkraut, pickled red cabbage, sautéed peppers and sautéed onions.

Picnik Pasadena
168 W. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena

3. Summer Fridays at PaliHotel- Hart and the Hunter

Palihotel – most confuses it for the Palihouse in West Hollywood, or a small hotel off of Melrose. However, within this boutique hotel resides a wonderful Southern restaurant. Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing chefs Kris Tominaga and Brian Dunsmoor have opened Hart and the Hunter. Summer Fridays start usually at 12pm, and most happy hours start at 5pm- Hart and the Hunter is a perfect spot to meet friends and grab a bite before your weekend starts. I met a group of girlfriends there on a recent Friday, and waited on their porch and enjoyed a glass of rose, before my gang of girls met up. The staff was attentive, and happy to help. As I pondered through the lobby, and walked around the restaurant, I had to pace back and forth because I was surprised that the small place was actually the place to dine. I had found that what was to resemble a hotel coffee shop was the acclaimed comfort food hot spot- literally dining presumably a max of 50 people. The hotel and restaurant resembled a cross between indie/ woodsy chic. Wooden commune tables, antique fixtures, chabby chic table wear, and American style art. As my party arrived and we dined properly, we started with dishes such as their raved biscuits, pickles of the day, and kale salad. For our entrees we shared the nola style shrimp boil, barbequed east coast oysters, and the Charleston crab dip all of which were spot on for perfect cozy dishes. Hart and the Hunter- southern-ly quaint and perfect for Los Angeles.

Hart and the Hunter
7950 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046

4. Sundays in June – Madera Kitchen

Summer Sundays are our most anticipated during the work week. In Los Angeles, there are many placed to brunch with a group of friends, and Madera Kitchen has just launched their brunch menu. Chef Kirk Plummer brings rustic Mediterranean brunch dishes such as sourdough pancakes with roasted strawberries, candied pistachios, and whipped cream fraiche, oyster- soft scramble, bacon, braised greens, breadcrumbs, and olive oil. Chef Plummer explained that he uses “rich elements to bring out flavor in his dishes”. First time as executive chef, he explains that he is proud of his dinner menu, and that he will change his menu for Madera Kitchen seasonally. Our best bite from the brunch menu was the slow roasted pork, sun chokes, soft poached eggs, brown butter hollandaise, and gremolata. Madera Kitchen is a farm to table restaurant in Hollywood. Chef Kirk Plummer’s is creative, inventive, and definitely displays cuisine excellence in his dishes.

Madera Kitchen
1835 N Cahuenga Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028

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