The Blue Ribbon team does burgers at Hank’s while Sweet Laurel’s gluten-free treats get a brick-and-mortar home.
Chef Bruce Bromberg, co-founder of the Blue Ribbon empire, has more than 20 restaurants. But there he was inside his new Hank’s burger joint at L.A.’s Palisades Village on Monday afternoon, working the griddle, putting American cheese and blue cheese on perfectly seasoned patties like a veteran short-order cook.
There was a line of more than a dozen people waiting outside while chef Eric Bromberg, Bruce’s brother and business partner, stood at the pass and kept an eye on the dining room. It was the first Monday for Palisades Village, mega-developer Rick Caruso’s highly anticipated outdoor shopping/dining center in the ritzy Pacific Palisades neighborhood.
On the previous Thursday evening, Caruso, who’s known for The Grove and The Americana at Brand, had welcomed VIP guests like Charlize Theron, Kate Beckinsale, Mindy Kaling, and Michael Keaton to an exclusive black-tie opening gala that featured a performance by John Legend. Then on Saturday morning, September 22, Palisades Village opened to the public and about 5,000 people swarmed to the ribbon-cutting with Billy Crystal and Mayor Eric Garcetti. There was a sea of strollers. Many visitors came with their families and also their dogs.
“Everybody comes in holding their dogs like a baby,” says Claire Thomas, co-founder of the gluten-free Sweet Laurel baked-goods brand that made its brick-and-mortar debut at Palisades Village.
It was such a busy weekend that Sweet Laurel racked up close to 1,100 transactions at its cozy 425-square-foot space on Saturday and Sunday. The Sweet Laurel team had to visit the adjacent Vintage Grocers market and beg for clamshells to package its treats because the demand was so high. Vintage Grocers was happy to help even while its shelves were being emptied by ravenous customers. It was such a hectic weekend that Porta Via, a Palisades Village restaurant that finished construction on Friday and served lunch and dinner on Saturday, had to get two deliveries of supplies from its Beverly Hills flagship in the middle of service on opening day.
On Monday, things were still star-studded and busy at Palisades Village, where tenants include a temporary Rachel Zoe store that will be open through spring 2019. Neighborhood resident Adam Sandler tried to walk into Hank’s for a meal at 11:15 a.m. and found out lunch didn’t start until noon. About an hour-and-a-half after Sandler came and went, Eric Bromberg was checking on orders and telling the kitchen that one burger required sauteed greens but no sauteed onions. Eric then asked his brother Bruce whether the restaurant was ready to let a few more people sit down. Yes, Bruce replied.
“I think we’re in a flow now, after the onslaught,” Bruce said at 12:52 p.m.
We tried a double cheeseburger and a Reuben as we noticed a crowd continuing to form outside while Bruce flipped burgers.
“One more thing,” Bruce said with a big smile as we started to leave the restaurant. “Please let people know that we’re hiring.”
So are a lot of other Palisades Village restaurants. Here’s your guide to all the new dining options at this instant sensation.
A new concept from Blue Ribbon’s Bromberg brothers, Hank’s is Palisades Village’s family-friendly burger joint. Beyond colossal double cheeseburgers (with two quarter-pound patties) and excellent skinny fries, Hank’s is serving Blue Ribbon’s beloved fried chicken and sandwiches like a Reuben inspired by Mort’s, a popular deli that used to be in the neighborhood. Because Blue Ribbon is a restaurant group that’s about offering something for everyone, there are also veggie burgers, chicken burgers, burger bowls, shrimp tacos, fondue, salads, pasta, roast chicken, salmon, matzoh ball soup, hummus, all-day breakfast, and milkshakes for the kids, of course.
Blue Ribbon Sushi
On Monday, we saw a young couple sitting outside Blue Ribbon Sushi, enjoying some sashimi while the mom bottle-fed her baby daughter. Knowing how families roll in the Palisades, we predict that kid will be back here in a year or two, feeding herself toro hand rolls while her parents drink sake. If you’re familiar with Blue Ribbon Sushi in New York City or at The Grove in L.A., you know that this is a restaurant with beautiful and dramatic presentations of pristine raw fish and other premium ingredients. At Palisades Village, this means beautiful assorted sashimi served in big ice bowls. There’s also the Palisades Platter with lobster sashimi, wagyu, uni, and o-toro.
London meets L.A. at The Draycott, the first U.S. venture from U.K. hospitality impresarios Matt and Marissa Hermer. The restaurant, named after Draycott Avenue in London’s Chelsea neighborhood (where the couple first met), is where you can pair fish and chips or a burger with a Pimm’s Cup and where guests will soon be able to enjoy afternoon tea with housemade cakes, scones, and finger sandwiches.
The Hermers still run hot spots like Bumpkin in London and also have restaurants and bars elsewhere in Europe and in Asia, but they now live and raise their children in Pacific Palisades. It’s a homecoming of sorts for Marissa, a Southern California native who’s published a cookbook titled An American Girl in London: 120 Nourishing Recipes For Your Family From a California Expat. You might also know her from Bravo’s Ladies of London show. So The Draycott is a family-friendly destination that will soon be adding breakfast, brunch, and lunch, but it’s also a place where you’ll see a martini trolley being pushed around in the evening.
Edo Little Bites
This casual outpost from chef Edoardo Baldi, who has buzzy Italian restaurants in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, is a three-meals-a-day spot with avocado toast, salads, and grilled chicken sandwiches. But we totally understand if you want to indulge in the pastries and pastas here. Eclairs, fruit tarts, and bomboloni are excellent treats for any time of day, and the comforting lasagna and luxurious baked sweet corn ravioli with white truffle sauce are quick-service perfection.
This is an outpost of a crowd-pleasing Beverly Hills restaurant that originated in 1993 and is known for its simply prepared California cuisine and its willingness to accommodate guests who don’t want, say, cheese on a certain salad. Owner Peter Garland has a loyal clientele who come in for dishes like gazpacho, kale salad (loaded with quinoa and citrus and nicely topped with shaved Parmigiano), grilled salmon, and pastas. When we visited the Palisades Village restaurant at lunchtime on Monday, the dining room was full of customers Garland recognized from Beverly Hills.
In the Palisades, Porta Via has added an on-tap wine program, and Garland has already noticed that customers are ordering a lot more beer than his guests do in Beverly Hills. Garland, who opened at Palisades Village with lunch and dinner and will soon add breakfast, wants his new restaurant to be an all-day hangout where you can eat a leisurely meal at 4 p.m. He’s been pleased to hear customers tell him that sitting on the charming patio feels like being on vacation.
The opening of this restaurant has been anything but vacation for Garland, who saw a line of around 70 people waiting outside before he opened for lunch last Saturday.
“We ran out of hamburgers,” Garland says with a smile.
This upscale grocery story is where you can buy loaves of Gjusta sourdough or visit the grab-and-go section for grain bowls topped with proteins like Korean-style short rib, roasted chicken, and lemon shrimp. Culinary director Rémi Lauvand (who was formerly executive chef at Montrachet in New York), is also offering tuna conserva sandwiches, bánh mìs, and his take on Roman-style pizza, including one version with porchetta and chile sauce.
This tightly focused doughnut-and-coffee spot is James Beard Award-winning Seattle chef Renee Erickson’s first L.A. venture. We hear that Erickson (whose Seattle empire is headlined by The Walrus and the Carpenter) is using Palisades Village to test the waters as she considers opening other concepts in L.A. And we think that General Porpoise’s terrific doughnuts, with fillings like chocolate marshmallow, vanilla custard, churro cream, and strawberry jam are going to be a popular indulgence in the Palisades.
“We’re not doing strawberry in Seattle right now because we just do whatever’s seasonally available,” says General Porpoise manager Cam Shaw.
L.A., of course, gives Erickson and her team access to a wider variety of seasonal ingredients.
“We’re really excited to explore the produce that we can do down here,” Shaw says. “We’re looking into different types of custards.”
Another exciting thing is General Porpoise’s selection of sparkling iced tea.
Sweet Laurel co-founder Laurel Gallucci started baking sweets without grains, refined sugar, or dairy because she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder and traditional medicine wasn’t making her any better.
“I was just getting worse,” says the former schoolteacher. “I completely lost energy. It was difficult for me to walk upstairs. I had body systems shutting down.”
She decided to change her diet and realized that she could make delicious, moist, sweet cakes with almond flour, coconut oil, maple syrup, Himalayan pink salt, and organic eggs. These are the core ingredients for Sweet Laurel paleo crowd-pleasers like lemon coconut cake and chocolate caramel layer cake.
Gallucci and Claire Thomas of The Kitchy Kitchen, who both grew up near Pacific Palisades in north Santa Monica, started Sweet Laurel with an Instagram account and served their cakes at private events. That led to wholesaling and a cookbook, and now Sweet Laurel is at a retail-and-restaurant development where more than half the tenants are owned and operated by women. This includes Gallucci and Thomas’ friend Lauren Conrad, who also started online before opening The Little Market, which sells fair-trade home goods at Palisades Village.
“It’s a girls’ club,” says Thomas, who’s using teacups from Conrad’s garage at Sweet Laurel and who adds that Conrad often collaborates with Rachel Huntington of Bonjour Fête, a party-supplies boutique that will open at Palisades Village in November.
Of all the highlights during a busy opening weekend that far exceeded all their expectations and all the economic models they had run based on other shopping destinations, Gallucci and Thomas were most ecstatic about seeing customers who usually have to avoid desserts enjoy freshly baked brownies and cakes.
“We had all these little girls who are celiac, and they’re like, ‘What’s gluten-free?’ and expecting it to be one thing,” Thomas says. “When I tell them, ‘It’s the whole store,’ you can see their expressions of, like, ‘Ahh, I can have everything.’ Just this idea of choice and inclusion has been really fun for us.”
Gallucci is on Instagram all the time, answering questions about what her followers can eat and how to bake certain items and how to adjust recipes for restrictions like a need to be nut-free. Now she has a storefront where she’s happy to do the same thing.
“Our goal is to make it as approachable as possible,” she says.
Approachable, fun, and delicious.
“We’ve always wanted to create baked goods that were inspired by our childhood and nostalgia,” Thomas says. “The thing that makes Sweet Laurel really different is that most gluten-free bakeries and health-and-wellness brands focus on what you can’t eat. It’s very restrictive. It’s like, ‘I’m not having that. I’m cleansing.’ We try to do the inverse of that. Here’s all the wonderful things you can eat. Let’s celebrate.”
McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams
This is arguably the finest ice cream you can find in L.A. McConnell’s, which makes delightfully dense ice cream with milk from its own Santa Barbara dairy, is known for spectacular flavors like Eureka lemon and marionberries as well as whiskey and pecan pralines. Olive oil and salted almonds is sweet-and-savory bliss. On October 12, McConnell’s, which likes to create seasonal flavors, will release its new mapled squash and ginger cookies ice cream. This flavor involves roasting kabocha and pureeing it with a little maple syrup.
There’s an outpost of this chocolate shop at Palisades Village, just like there are See’s Candies locations at The Grove and The Americana at Brand, because this was developer Rick Caruso mother’s favorite candy store. See’s, founded in 1921, makes candy bars, fudge, peanut brittle, lollipops, peppermints, and much more, but it’s the iconic boxes of assorted chocolates that are the ultimate treat and the ultimate gift here.
This is your wellness-minded Palisades Village spot for green juices, ginger shots, and protein shakes. If you’re curious about superfoods and feeling really green, this is the place where you can add spirulina and chlorophyll to your beverages.
Tocaya Organico will add fast-casual Mexican food made with locally sourced organic produce to Palisades Village in the near future. Sumo Dog, whose Asian riffs on hot dogs include a miso katsu dog and a spicy tofu chili dog, will add another quick-service option with a forthcoming popup restaurant. Palisades Village also includes a currently vacant space with a liquor license that could become home to a prominent local operator.