The South Bay is a world of its own, with its own colorful cast of characters and, of course, its pub crawl of a bar scene. The enclave is isolated from the rest of L.A. by 405 traffic and its location south of the 10. It’s just not a part of the dining conversation. There are a few establishments working to change that, however, and among the best is Hot’s Kitchen in Hermosa Beach.
For anyone south of LAX, this is very good news. Chef/owner Sean “Hot Sauce” Chaney (of Hot’s Cantina, North Hollywood), for whom the restaurant takes its name, presents a modern take on American comfort foods, as well as those from north and south of the border.
The beachside café may look like a regular burger and taco joint, but Hot’s Kitchen is more like haute cuisine working undercover. Hot seamlessly blends high art and street foods into single dishes.
Furthermore, every aspect of the restaurant attempts to be eco-friendly, including hormone-free, grass-fed beef, reclaimed wood for the bar, recycled plastic bottles used for chairs. Beer is served from kegs, not bottles or cans.
Why you should go:
The dining room at Hot’s Kitchen is typical of a Hermosa Beach eatery, open and airy, with sports playing on TVs at the bar and throughout. No white linens, classical music or romance; instead, it features a bustling atmosphere with a friendly vibe – perfect for a casual get-together.
What to order:
Hot’s Kitchen has the most exotic tacos I have yet to encounter – about 50 on the menu at any given time, and no matter what else you’re having, these should be sampled. Categories include chicken, beef, pork, ocean, vegetarian and, the exotic.
I sampled a handful: Korean, featuring beef, with kimchee and green onions; Ancho, with pulled pork, cilantro, crispy onions and ancho barbecue sauce; Thai, with chicken, spicy peanut sauce, carrots, roasted coconut and green onions; Eel, which includes enoki mushroom, avocado and eel sauce; Tofu Curry, with tomatoes, peas, green onions, yellow curry and sriracha. There are also exotic tastes for the bold – Italian Sausage, Gyro, Alligator, Duck Confit, etc.
Burgers are the other star of the menu, and buns are made fresh daily by Breadbar Bakery – possibly the best buns in town. From classics like the Chili Cheese Burger and BBQ Bacon Burger to original selections such as the Old Rasputin, with fried fungus, Rasputin sauce, roasted tomato, goat cheese and Dijon mustard; and the Spanish Burger, with Serrano ham, Manchego cheese and Piquillo pepper spread.
And for dessert, ice cream sandwiches come courtesy of Milk, with flavors like salted caramel, grasshopper, peanut butter and more.
There is no hard alcohol here, instead, there is a wide array of artisanal beers, one of the better selections in town – about three dozen beers are available every day, and everything is on tap. There is also a strong wine list, and about 90 percent of those wines are from relatively local vineyards.
What people are saying:
Freelance critic and KABC radio show host Merrill Shindler wrote for the Daily Breeze, “Hot’s Kitchen, where the motto is ‘Small Plates – Family Style Dining” – a motto that doesn’t really express what needs to be expressed, which is: ‘Hot’s Kitchen – Where There Are More Tacos Than You’ll Find in All of Mexico!”
Eating in Bed, a local blog, had this to say: “These were definitely the best clams I’ve ever eaten. … These clams changed my mind; they were amazingly tender, meaty and flavorful in a spicy beer broth with linguica, spinach, onions, garlic and a piece of cheese bread. … Everything works together, and the amazing textural contrast between the linguica and clams was one of the best combinations I’ve ever tasted. … this dish changed my perception of clams. … If you’re within 100 miles of Hot’s, you should go just for the clams.”
The blogger says of the restaurant, “some of the best food in the greater Los Angeles area. … on a scale of 1 – 10, the food at Hot’s Kitchen in Hermosa Beach landed firmly on the 11 mark.”
What I think:
Hot’s Kitchen is well worth crossing the 10. Still, I wish it was in my neighborhood because I would eat there every week. Additionally, I’m very impressed with Sean Chaney’s commitment to sustainability, his creative cooking and his work with local charities.