Richard Foss

Avenue A Brings Craft To A Neighborhood Pub [Restaurant Review]

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Avenue A co-owner Marty Rodriguez with his daughter Brittany and customers Juan Hernandez and Amy Frena. Photo by Brad Jacobson.

Avenue A co-owner Marty Rodriguez with his daughter Brittany and customers Juan Hernandez and Amy Frena. Photo by Brad Jacobson.

My father lost about half of his teeth in a childhood football game, a fact that didn’t deter him from enjoying all team sports. He’d watch professional leagues, college ball, or the neighborhood kids playing a pickup game. He cherished time spent explaining rules to his own un-athletic children around the TV, and as a result I still enjoy watching sports even though I showed no aptitude for any of them.

I don’t generally go to bars to watch games because the food at such places is generally stuff that teleported from a freezer to a fryer. This may be calculated to replicate food at an actual ballpark, and so draw fans for the same reason someone can miss their mother’s cooking even if she was bad at it.

A friend who likes sports bars repeatedly talked up Avenue A in Redondo, saying it straddled the line between a sports bar and a gastropub. I was skeptical, having heard this sort of thing before, but stopped in to see what they were doing. On that first visit the experience was promising – the house salad with greens, avocado, sunflower seeds, corn, and garbanzos was nice, and a marinated skirt steak surprisingly good. They also demonstrated skill at making cocktails and had beers that weren’t pale yellow, and while watching sports I’d like to enjoy at least one of those items.

I returned recently to Avenue A along with my brother, who is even more of a sports bar skeptic than I am. He looked suspiciously at the wall of TVs as we were entering and relaxed when he found that they were all muted – neither of us likes the deliberate cacophony when multiple games are blaring. Instead there was a soundtrack of 70’s album rock, and we selected our food and drink to the strains of tunes we first heard in high school.

We began with the most contemporary item on the menu – lollipop lamb chops with a side of house-made hummus and pita triangles. The three meaty chops had been grilled with balsamic vinegar, which is a pretty much foolproof recipe. The combination of sweetness and tartness with red meat is very Middle Eastern, and it worked well with the hummus. This was made in a more dry style than most found in the South Bay, where most restaurants serve a more oily, creamy version, but hummus is made differently around the Mediterranean.

Appetizers at Avenue A: Lamb chops with hummus and spicy edamame. Photo by Richard Foss.

Appetizers at Avenue A: Lamb chops with hummus and spicy edamame. Photo by Richard Foss.

We also tried a bowl of edamame beans in hot garlic sauce, a good flavor combination but a preparation that guarantees you’ll go through many napkins. I’d have greatly preferred shelled beans so I could have just eaten them without getting my hands sticky, but finger food is a bar tradition and I understand the appeal.

Those hot soybeans deserved something cool on the side, and we decided to start with a Tropical Storm (rums, amaretto, ginger beer, and lime juice) and a Manhattan. There are several cocktails called Tropical Storm, but this recipe is different from any I’ve seen, and it makes a delicious drink. Despite the good beer selection here and a decent and moderately priced by-the-glass wine list, the cocktails here are the draw.

For dinner we planned to order the chicken with sautéed mushrooms and artichokes, but our server recommended the ribs so highly that we decided to try them. She also mentioned that the pizzas are handmade with fresh dough and sauces, so we ordered one with roasted garlic, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, and pinenuts. The pizza would have been a credit to most South Bay Italian restaurants, the crust light and the toppings well- blended. The topmost layer was a nice mix of mozzarella and Parmesan, the spinach chopped and added at the end so it didn’t get soggy, and all in all it was a hit.

Most ribs from non-specialist restaurants are slow-baked in an oven, which makes them exceptionally tender but bland. The meat literally fell off the bone when I picked up the first rib here, so I knew these were made in that style. The sauce was sweet and mild, and we found out too late that a spicier version was available. They were good bar or general restaurant ribs, but not the product of a serious rib shack. The portion was substantial and came with choice of potato and a salad with our choice of several homemade dressings, in our case a tangy strawberry vinaigrette.

We enjoyed our meals while musing on one of the good things we had just discovered about sports bars – if you’re not paying attention to the screens and everybody at the bar starts shouting, something interesting happened so you should watch the replay. In the midst of this a mustachioed gentleman who had been watching games with the regulars came over and introduced himself as Marty, one of the owners. He was obviously proud of the effort that Avenue A has put into the food, and responded thoughtfully to both our praise and critiques. This made me like the place even more – at most sports bars the food is an afterthought, but here somebody has their eye on satisfying people who want a good meal.

Avenue A does a lot of things right, with food and service well above most of their competitors. It’s not as much fun as watching games with my dad was, but it brought back just a bit of that feeling.

 

Avenue A is at 800 South PCH in Redondo – parking in lot or street. Open Mon-Thu 4 P.M. – 11 P.M., Fri 4 P.M. – 1 A.M., Sa noon-1 A.M., Sun 9:30 A.M. – 11 P.M. Full bar, some vegetarian options. Menu at avenueabarandgrill.com, phone 310-316-2832.

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