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Playa del Rey, dining doldrums, is it the weather?

What’s going on in PDR? Last night we had a poor experience at Il Penguini. There was a long wait between courses for mediocre food. The chichen carciafollo was like naugahyde, difficult to cut with a steak knife and served up with shriveled roast potatoes that were tough too. And a scowling, unwelcoming manager/owner who was waiting tables, was either nasty to folks or ignoring them entirely. The busboys were the only friendly faces in sight! With a hefty tab that was not deserving of that type of treatment, I wonder if there is any hope for dining in this sleepy little town.
I noticed that someone has opened up in the space formerly occupied by Chloe. It looks like the name is Minataur but my spelling maybe wrong. It says tapas on the sign in the window and they were mildly busy. Does anyone have something nice to say about this new venue. I really hope so.

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  1. yes indeed it is a sleepy little town where retired people hang out at cafes and chit chat all day, everyone knows each other. That's why don't expect any worthy nightime dining spot. There used to be Chloe, which close down because of landlord problems. I haven't tried Minotaur but with so many 'scene' winebars these day, it is possible that it's just another one of those tapas place with no real dining substance.

    The biggest restaurant there is Outlaws, which I'd never step into as I'm not into huge greasy American BBQ food. But it is probably the only attraction in this area. There's Bistro du Soleil, an okay but rather bland French bistro. The Shack is a so-so burger joint. And Cafe Penguini is already the only slightly 'upscale' restaurant there. There just isn't any place special enough for outsiders to pay special visit. It is a very local-centric area.

    I worked right by the beach and my walking distance lunch spot is a neighborhood cafe called Cafe Milan. Good salad, sandwich sets and lots of bakery delights (danish, bagels, etc.), but it's really a cheap everyday lunch spot kind of place.

    There was a local rumor that they will tear down one of the historic buildings here to built new luxury condos. Perhaps some developer is interested into 'develop' this place? I surely hope not, the locals were pretty against it, I guess they like to remain sleepy and undisturbed.

    1 Reply
    1. re: melodyn

      Totally agree about Bistro Du Soleil. Went there with my parents a little more than a year ago for brunch. I found the food mediocrere and very overpriced. It's one of those places that charges for everything... they had a fee, like $3.50, if you split a dish. I think that's totally ridiculous. The owner also walks around and tries to converse with you, except she's cold and frigid. I wouldn't even bothering giving it a try.

      1. re: Bandini

        The Bistro du Soleil is a drag. The Cliff House at least had a little local charm. About 6 months ago I heard that La Marina was destined to close due to the break-up of the owners. But dang! its still standing. It's a reliable option for PDR. We had a really nice quiet evening there not too long ago with good steaks and good service. So all is not lost, I guess. But I still think they're closing.
        Bandini, do you sometimes take a taco-sabbatical and dig into a hunk of prime?

        1. re: sassille

          absolutely :) can't live on tacos alone (I've tried though)

          I usually order the veal at La Marina though

          I hope they don't close. One of my fav resteraunts.

          1. re: Bandini

            i do believe that they've recently been sold.

          2. re: sassille

            I loved the Cliff House (esp. breaskfasts), but haven't been there in a long time. Do you mean it's closed and replaced with Bistro du Soleil?

            1. re: Scotty

              Replaced - More $$ less quality

          3. re: Bandini

            imho, la marina is the WORST.
            the less than mediocre food might be almost tolorable if it wasn't so expensive.

            1. re: Bandini

              la marina = horrible food at high prices.

              i live in pdr, and do not consider any of the local restaurants as being good.
              that said, there are nearby places that are excellent:

              ayara for well prepared thai food
              cafe del rey--just had an EXCELLENT brunch there yesterday
              metro cafe -- the local place that i WISHED was in pdr
              kc's crepes -- a boba place that serves decent japanese-style crepes open to 10:30pm

              1. re: Bandini

                Sorry to disappoint, but LaMarina Inn has been sold to the people that own the "Brigg" in Venice. It is so sad because the food and service was right on. I hear is is closing in October to be re-modeled

                1. re: cnlsdad

                  doesn't disappoint me.
                  i thought the food was vile and expensive.

              2. I've tried Cafe Pinguini several times and recommend that you drive out of town before eating there. Cantalini's has good homemade pasta (we like the lobster ravioli.) and friendly service - although watch the price of the "not-so-free" wine while you wait on a busy night. Shack burgers are great on a lazy Friday night at the beach. And, we haven't gotten over to Minotaur yet - but I'm guessing we'll be semi-regulars just because it's a wine bar in walking distance. Have to agree with the other poster's re: Bisto du Soleil, La Ma, and Cafe Milan. Outback's major selling point is it's long beer list. Great place to take tourists who want a drink after a walk on the beach; Horrible potato gravy.

                India Tandoori Oven, on Pershing just North of Nicholson, is very good (especially samosas and chicken tikka) - although we always get take out (delivery is exceptionally slow) because they seem to earn and sustain their B rating. And, Singapore Express (on Lincoln/Maxella) delivers their always fantastic soups and curries to Playa, as does Vinny's Pizza in Westchester.

                1. What is your take on Berri's on Pershing? Went there when it first opened and was optimistic but then the menu changed and it became rather disappointing. Would appreciate a review from someone who has been there recently.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Signora

                    Berri's has also just been sold and has been closed for the past two weeks for "re-conditioning." The chef there was fantastic but he is no longer there. He moved to Truxton's, a new terrific restaurant in Westchester. Atmoshpere, service is fantastic. And all at a reasonable price. Great bar. Great asset to the area. Try it. Truxton and Manchester, just east of Sepulveda.

                  2. Well, I live 1/2 mile a way - walk past all the time and never go. I ate there a few times two years ago and thought prices were high for the food quality, decor and service. I have friends who drive down from North Hollywood for the Pizza -- but Pizza for us is delivered by Vinny's - so I wouldn't order it out.

                    Anyway, if you do end up there again - do report back.

                    1. Personally I prefer the pizza at Hanks at Manchester & Pershing and occasionally Beach Pizza at the strip mall at Manchester & Falmouth. I think Vinny's is kinda bland.

                      The restaurant scene is pretty non-existant in PDR. If you want some decent diner food try KJ's Cafe at the bowling alley on Lincoln between Ralph's and OTIS. It used to be kind of a greasy spoon until these two local guys bought it and revamped it. Now it's all fresh, shiny and clean and the food is better than a bowling alley deserves.

                      Nothing spectacular but a good value and tasty enough when you don't feel like cooking!

                      1. we had a decent meal at cantalini's salerno beach.

                        1. I've lived in Playa del Rey for more than a year now, and my boyfriend and I love eating out. Here are our takes on the local restaurants:

                          Berri's Playa del Rey: Yes, this place is a little overpriced, and the service is not always the best, but I do like the thin-crust pizza and the wine selection. It's also fun to sit in the patio area on a nice summer evening.

                          Tandoori India: This is really great Indian food in the area, for a reasonable price. The dining inside is "intimate," and the food is pretty spicy, but very good.

                          The Shack: I think these burgers are better than In-N-Out, and they're made to order. The onion rings are good, too.

                          Cantalina's Salerno Beach: The meatballs were bland, and so was everything else. The service was terrible. I would not go back.

                          Mo's: The meat in the burgers isn't the best, but it's good in a pinch.

                          Bistro du Soleil: Yes, it's overpriced, but it has a pretty view, and the brie quesadilla is nice for an appetizer with a glass of wine.

                          Beach Pizza: It's hit or miss here. The pizza can be thin and cripsy, or sometimes it's doughy with hardly any cheese. It's good, but not consistently good. The chopped salads are really good, though, and I liked the chicken parmesan. The part we hate the most is that I order the same thing almost every time, but the price is never the same. It seems to depend on the order-taker's whim.

                          KJ's Cafe: I agree with the review above that it has tasty food for a cheap price, and everything is cooked to order. The service is the best in town.

                          Italy's Little Kitchen (Lincoln/Manchester): This is our new favorite Italian place. The pasta sauces are delicious, and the meatballs have lots of flavor. The bread is good and hot, and you always have enough of your meal leftover for lunch the next day. I honestly don't know why it's a "B." After you're inside, you forget that you're on a busy street.

                          Tower of Pizza (Lincoln near Manchester): This is a wine and beer only little bar and restaurant that is dedicated to local sports. The pizza is good, and so are the salads. They have popcorn as an appetizer, and a Ms. Pac-Man machine. Apparently, the owner makes turkey every Sunday, so the turkey sandwiches are like delicious Thanksgiving leftovers on a French roll all week.

                          Chicago Chicken & Ribs (Lincoln near 83rd): This place rocks! The salads are big and fresh. The BBQ sauce is so good. Everything on the menu is delicious, and the portions are just right. Chicken, ribs, salmon, burgers, salads, sides---they have it all.

                          Bristol Farms (Lincoln and 83rd): Inside this overpriced grocery store is a little cafe. We had a delicious breakfast---mine was pancakes with fruit and bacon, and he had a sunrise sandwich that had cheese, eggs, ham, and more on an English muffin.

                          Alejo's (Lincoln near Manchester): I used to really like this place, although I thought it was always a little too heavy on the garlic. (The garlic bread balls at the beginning are served with oil with garlic chunks in it, and it's just too much, so I always asked for butter.) The sauces were good, and the prices were right. But it's a "B," and a friend found a cricket in her sauce, so I haven't been back.

                          Hacienda (Lincoln near Manchester): This is a good little Mexican restaurant with good salads and chips 'n' salsa. Service is moderate, and the decor is tragically stuck in the 1980s with several shrines to Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabar.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: wolf8girl

                            Great review of all these restaurants. I think wolf8girl is right on. Don't forget the sushi restaurant down the street from Alejo's on Lincoln. KJ's is terrific for breakfast and basically anything on their menu, which covers a wide spectrum of food choices. And, to all those out there, try TRUXTONS,been open for 8 weeks. Dear Johns is not a bad choice for leather booths, a small venue, good food and entertainment. (located on Culver, just east of Sepulveda

                            1. re: wolf8girl

                              I'm relatively new to the area and still exploring. Your posting was really helpful - thanks!

                            2. I had a lovley dinner last Sunday night at Minotaure. The tapas and wine were very good, all the staff was VERY friendly and the space is cozy.
                              333 Culver Blvd. Playa del Rey, 90293

                              1. Minotaur is an awesome little spot with great ambiance. The tapas were yummy and the wine was good. When I went, there were a couple of guys playing guitar and every seat was full. I would recommend making reservations if you plan on going Thursday through Saturday. Seating is tight/cozy, so if you're claustophobic it's probably not your ideal restaurant. Our server was a little slow and seemed like she was new. However, we were enjoying ourselves so the wait didn't bother us much. The owner came over and spoke with us and she was very nice. I would highly recommend this place for dinner. I will definitely be going back.

                                1. I don't know about dinner, but Bistro du Soleil is great for breakfast. It's small and cute and the breakfast quesadilla is killer.

                                  1. We also live in PdR. A restaurant we enjoy when we are in the mood for Thai food is Thai Talay. They have recently renovated it and it is a quick, inexpensive dinner.

                                    I am surprised to hear the good reports about KJ's. We drive by it all the time but have never stopped. We will have to try it for breakfast someday.

                                    We find that Cantalini's is improving! Our last couple of times there has been a good value meal and tasty. We also find that it is drawing many people from Playa Vista. I really enjoyed their Linguini con Vongole.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Signora

                                      must disagree about cantalini's.
                                      the ravioli was awful.
                                      the red sauce was awful
                                      the pizza was awful.
                                      the spumoni was good

                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                        Italian sandwich was awful too!

                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                          We had similarly bad results at Cantalini. It was not busy but service was slow too.