Client: 1321 + MOD Outlet: Daily Breeze
Date: May 6, 2011 Visitors per month: 477,392
Old Torrance gets a new gastropub
By Nick Green Staff Writer
Posted: 05/06/2011 07:09:40 PM PDT
Updated: 05/06/2011 07:15:40 PM PDT
Owner Steven Torres, left, and Chef Greg Paul, have opened the Tap Room Bistro in Old Torrance. (Robert
Casillas / Staff Photographer)
With the opening Friday of 1321 Taproom Bistro, Old Torrance has finally tasted the gastropub
dining trend that favors craft brews over Coors Light and gourmet food over greasy pub grub.
Sporting the rough-hewn wood and metal motif that has become a gastropub trademark, 1321
Taproom Bistro seeks to pair 55 craft beers, including 16 on tap, with eclectic dishes.
So if your thing is to dig into entrees such as barbecue lamb ribs or braised oxtail enchiladas
washed down with a Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout or an Allagash Tripel, 1321
Taproom Bistro is for you.
"It's an opportunity to do something that's interesting and kind of in the moment for the local
community," said Executive Chef Greg Paul, a 1998 Peninsula High School graduate who has
spent most of his career at upscale eateries on the Westside.
"It's really a gathering place, a public house, for drinking," he added. "But it's a place where you
can enjoy better-than-average food - food that has a soul, has a purpose."
And pairs well with microbrewed beer, not the sweet yellow lager associated with Joe Sixpack.
The term gastropub was coined 20 years ago in England.
It's an attempt to push the gastronomic boundaries of often leaden pub fare - think bangers and
mash or greasy battered fish and chips - into a still casual, but evocative dining experience
"It's totally and completely undefined," said Merrill Shindler, editor of the Los Angeles Zagat
Survey and the Daily Breeze restaurant critic.
"It's another way to give you some salty foods so you'll order some stuff to drink," he added. "A lot
of these places are built around small plates - the plates of exotic cheeses and exotic cured
meats, plates that are just olives and nuts that go well with the drinks you share with friends."
Southern California came relatively late to the craft brew party.
Ales and other heavier fare caught on quicker in the Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest, where
the climate was less amenable to ice cold, fizzy thirst-quenching lagers (although San Diego was
a notable exception).
But Old Torrance has now hosted two craft beer festivals in the parking lot of the Red Car
Brewery down the street from 1321 Taproom Bistro.
Redondo Beach institution Naja's, which a decade or so ago was one of the few places local craft
beer quaffers could find a huge selection of specialty ales, has just wrapped up its third IPA
festival, a celebration of India Pale Ales.
And now the South Bay is seen as one of the last frontiers for gastropubs, which have worked
their way south from Hollywood and the Westside (Santa Monica's Father's Office) and north from
San Diego County (Escondido's Stone Brewing Co.).
"Stone really pushed it to the next level," said Mike Siorda, beverage director with Hermosa
Beach's Hot's Kitchen, a gastropub that is less than three months old and has 36 varieties of
"carefully chosen" beers on draft.
"We haven't had a big microbrew scene, but it's getting big and hip right now," he added. "Women
and younger people are getting into craft beers. It's the cool new thing to do. People are realizing
you can actually go out and have two or three beers and it's like having a whole lot of Coors
In fact, so ubiquitous are gastropubs becoming that some, such as Hot's Kitchen, are beginning
to distance themselves from the trend.
Siorda points out that many gastropubs serve one large - and often relatively pricy - meal,
although a large list of appetizers is also common at many.
In contrast, Hot's Kitchen is all about small plates, including more than 50 different kinds of tacos
"I wouldn't call it a gastropub personally, I would say it's more like an American tapas concept,"
Siorda said. "It's all over the board.
"You can order an array of tacos and it comes out on a platter for a few people and they can pick
and choose what they want," he added. "It kind of brings people together. We've got some
common tables and you might meet your next best friend over a good beverage and good food."
It's the neighborhood vibe of gastropubs that attracts both owners and clientele.
Westchester residents Nick Roberts and his wife, Brooke Williamson, enjoy the atmosphere so
much that two years after opening Redondo Beach's Hudson House - they call it an "American
pub" rather than gastropub - they opened The Tripel in Playa del Rey about a month ago.
Hudson House opened on Pacific Coast Highway, but away from the pier with its more youthful -
as in long-neck Buds and hot wings - vibe. And The Tripel is tiny - all of 700 square feet and 30
"We wanted a place that was more of an adult place," Roberts said of the Hudson House
location. "We like the smaller places, we like neighborhood places."
Similarly, 1321 Taproom Bistro - there's no pub reference in that name, either - considers itself
equal part restaurant and bar, but without pretensions, Paul said.
The restaurant is the first of several that MOD Restaurant Group plans to open in "under-the-
radar, emerging neighborhoods," which pretty much describes Old Torrance.
And, it too remains a reflection of the neighborhood.
Owner Steven Torres, a 1999 Torrance High School grad, has accented the restaurant and bar
with pictures and a large mural of Old Torrance chosen by his brother, Brian.
Olympic runner and World War II hero Louis Zamperini, city father Jared Sidney Torrance, the
first train to steam its way into town and a proud group of prohibition-era Torrance cops with
confiscated liquor bottles are among the images adorning its walls.
"I love Torrance's old world charm and beauty," Steven Torres said. "1321 represents an
excellent opportunity for MOD to work with the community in a joint effort to continually develop
the environment of Old Town."
As well as the rustic yet timeless marriage of craft beer and quality food you can find at
"It's a trend," Shindler said, "but it's not a trend that seems there should be any used-by date on."
South Bay gastropubs
Good food. Good beer.
That's pretty much the definition of a gastropub.
Here are some of the newest gastropubs that have popped up in recent months in the South Bay.
Just don't ask for a Miller Lite when you walk in.
Torrance: 1321 Taproom Bistro, 1321 Sartori Ave. The South Bay's newest gastropub opened its
doors Friday in Old Torrance. Initially open for dinner only, it will expand to include lunch and
weekend brunch hours in the coming weeks. There 55 different craft beers available, including 16
on tap. More information:www.1321downtown.com or 310-328-1321
Redondo Beach: Hudson House, 514 North Pacific Coast Highway. This 2-year-old "American
pub" boasts a sleek, industrial vibe with 60 different craft beers, including four on draft. More
information:www.hudsonhousebar.com or 310-798-9183.
Manhattan Beach: M.B. Post, 1142 Manhattan Beach Blvd. This brand new gastropub has
already become the "it" eatery in the upscale beach city with 17 different beers, including five on
draft. More information:www.eatmbpost.com or 310-545-5405
Playa del Rey: The Tripel, 333 Culver Blvd. A former wine bar turned gastropub, this tiny place
has devoted almost as much room for cold brews - it boasts 64 specialty beers, including 14 on
draft - as for customer seating. More information: thetripel.com or 310-821-0333.
Hermosa Beach: Hot's Kitchen, 844 Hermosa Ave. Open for less than three months, this "surfer
meets sophisticate" gastropub has 36 rotating specialty beers on tap and specializes in exotic
tacos. More information:www.hotskitchen.com or 310-318-2939
- Nick Green