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Beachwood Cafe Returns with New Look and A Fresh Menu

Photos courtesy Beachwood Cafe.
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The first thing you'll notice when you step into Beachwood Cafe, the bright corner spot tucked a ways up Beachwood Drive north of Franklin, is the vibrant blue and yellow tile that runs from wall to wall. The blue and yellow triangle floor pattern eventually gives way to the long running counter, a wide, slick run of marble that stretches almost the length of the place. After that, you'll quietly remark to yourself that the tables aren't pushed together so tightly that you'd have to throw your backside into someone's face if you ever wanted to use the bathroom. There's room to breathe inside Beachwood Cafe, and that's just the way they designed it.

If you haven't yet stepped into the revamped Beachwood Cafe space, you're already missing out on something. Maybe it's the Wine Wednesdays, with discount prices on glasses or full bottles of curated vino from around the world. Or it could be the eclectic breakfasts that kick off at 8 am, where granolas, yogurts and farm fresh eggs share the page with something called the Double Maple Corndog.

For years, this place was the Village Coffee Shop, a no-nonsense diner that used high-backed wooden booths and dense pancakes to keep eaters in their seats. When Patti Peck (formerly of Edendale Grill) snatched up the space last year, it came with a fair amount of grumbling from the locals, and suddenly those heavy booths weren't quite as full of paying customers as they used to be. Now, after a complete design overhaul from noted architect Barbara Bestor, who had previously infused Intelligentsia in Silver Lake with its casually hip vibe, the booths are gone completely, replaced by reclaimed wooden tables and that long countertop. But it took Chef Minh Phan to convince the locals to start returning.

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Phan's balanced approach to her food, particularly with a rejuvenated seasonal dinner menu, is slowly working over the once-skeptical neighborhood. On a recent visit, we were invited to try an assortment of options, beginning with a warm dish brimming with rich, creamy orzo and smoky chunks of bacon - it's the sort of thing that got Jonathan Gold talking early on. For mains, the sake-braised pork with whipped white satsuma sweet potatoes is a warm reminder of meaty Midwestern diner food, without the sagging in your stomach from too much fat and salt. The stuffed Dover sole falls too far on the sweet side, with the tamarind-ginger broth overriding the delicate fish, but the clean boo choy is refreshing. Elsewhere, the cheeseburger is a fair addition to the landscape, and will hold you over when you don't feel like trekking down the hill, but the chuck-brisket-short rib patty blend could use a little salt and a touch more crust from the grill to really sing.

Undoubtedly the most unsubtle thing you'll find on the menu is the Salted Twix, a clever deconstruction of the two-to-a-pack children's treat. Chocolate pot de crème is laid thick inside a glass mason jar, with a dollop of salted caramel in the middle and a sprig of thyme. Simple shortbreads run alongside, with a spoon for scooping. There are precious few bites that incorporate caramel, chocolate and shortbread all at once, but when they come together on your tongue you'll start to resent the grocery store candy aisle for lying to you all this time.

Under owner Patti Peck, and with vision from chef Phan and expertise from architect Bestor, Beachwood Cafe has managed to dissect the elements of a neighborhood go-to and reemerge as something more. Everything from the wines to the windows have been handled with care, and the quality shows in everyone's work. As the canyon dwellers slowly follow their stomachs through the front door they were previously so familiar with, it's not too late for the rest of us in the city to sneak up Beachwood Drive for a quiet evening with lots of elbow room. Now if we could just find a place to park…

Beachwood Cafe
2695 N. Beachwood Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90068 (map)

Tue - Sat: 8am - 10pm
Sun: 8am - 3pm
Closed Monday