If you didn’t book a weekend escape – and the thought of fighting traffic on a major road trip is not your idea of relaxing, bypass the airport hassle and try taking a day trip just south of LAX instead.
A longtime underdog dining neighborhood, LA is starting to take notice of this little main street in El Segundo sandwiched in between the airport and Manhattan Beach. In a corner strip mall just a few doors down from Sausal (modern Mexican), Chef-owner Jackson Kalb and General Manager-owner Melissa Saka (Hillstone Restaurant Group) have opened a tiny pasta restaurant called Workshop Enoteca that has already been compared to Felix in Venice for quality and taste. Chef Kalb started working at age 13 at Melisse restaurant with Josiah Citrin, then went on to Joel Robuchon Alina, Union Square Café and Factory Kitchen – among others.
You’ll want to try all of the pasta dishes but perhaps start with the short ridged tubular pasta with spicy pork ragu, sage and pecorino, the handkerchief pasta with nut pesto or the ricotta gnocchi with pastrami lardons. While the pasta is worth the drive, one surprise was the kale salad. It’s loaded with avocado, sweet and spicy almond vinaigrette and a little Reggiano cheese, so not the typical hum-drum version that is on most menus.
The duo also gives credit to the top farmers they work with for exceptional produce such as Harry’s Berries, JJ’s Lone Daughter Ranch, Maggie’s Farm, Coleman, McGrath and dozens more.
This is such a charming town to wander around with boutiques, art galleries and even a brewery, you will want to linger after lunch or dinner. With the LA Times taking up residence nearby, and so many other major corporations and production companies, this intimate eatery might need to start looking for a larger space soon. https://www.eatworkshop.com/
Continue your drive south with a stop in Redondo Beach for a Spanish meets coastal French-inspired feast and fine gin cocktails at Gabi James. We last spotted Executive Chef Chris Feldmeier’s at Osteria Mozza and Moruno at the Grove, and we are happy to report that his classic ham and cheese croquettes, creamy layered tortilla Española and Pan Con Tomate (with the option to add Manchego cheese, Jamon Serrano, or Tuna Conserva), are back and ready to be consumed as bar food or for a pre-dinner snack. For dinner, you will want to order the paella but it’s best shared with at least two people.
After a refurb by designer Ana Henton and local architecture firm Blanchard Fuentes design, Gabi James has taken over the old Zazou space on Catalina Avenue and is still owned by Gabriele family, who brought Café Pierre to Manhattan Beach dinners decades ago, and more recently, Love & Salt.
They also offer a great Saturday and Sunday brunch with a Spanish breakfast sandwich with ham, cage-free eggs, and Gruyere or housemade Merguez with eggs and mechouia, Grilled Asparagus with poached eggs, brown butter, almonds and bacon, and an ‘Ugly Drum’ Hash featuring Ugly Drum pastrami, eggs and red onion, served with toast.
Vincenzo Marianella has created some specialty cocktails but most importantly, has a hefty list for “national drink of Spain” gin & tonic, along with vermouth and sherry drinks. Of course, you can expect Spanish and French wines, a house-made sangria with red or rosé wine along with Spanish lager on tap. For brunch, try the Bourbon Buzz with bourbon, Amaro Ramazzotti, coffee, vanilla syrup, cacao and cream or the Redondo Snapper with gin, mezcal, sherry and housemade Bloody Mary mix.
The beauty of this location is it also has a charming downtown area with retail, coffee shops and galleries, but you are also right on the beach for an oceanside stroll post dining adventure. Http://www.gabijamesla.com/