Not-Your-Mama’s Food Court
New and improved South Bay shopping venues up the ante with exceptional food fare.
- CategoryEat & Drink
- Written byBonnie Graves
I am from New Jersey, which means I know a thing or two about malls—let alone Bon Jovi and The Boss. Malls are where you go to find the latest hot fashions from The Limited and Benetton, whilst wondering which metallic lipstick color best complements your two-tone Jordache jeans and aerosol Aqua-Netted bangs. Food is not a part of this equation, unless one wants to grab a quick Orange Julius or something.
My, how times, hairstyles and the venerable food court have changed. This month we took a look at two incredible South Bay dining destinations that are in fact located in malls. These aren’t your ordinary breed of malls, though, and along with updated retail shopping come updated dining options. Forget the grim kiosks with fluorescent lighting and filthy tables.
Both Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance and The Point in El Segundo offer carefully curated food outlets that run the gamut from artisanal ice cream to sensational sushi to farm-fresh produce at your table. Say goodbye to hotdogs on sticks, limp french fries and microwaved pretzels … and get to know these two inspiring restaurants while you exercise that AMEX card.
The Point in El Segundo showcases a variety of excellent dining options: beloved Mendocino Farms, the aptly-named Smitten Ice Cream and burgers at Hopdoddy that may well supplant your In-N-Out habit, to name just a few. For me, though, it was the opening of Superba Food + Bread that got me psyched.
DITCH THE TRAY
Left: Superba’s stylish interior.
Friends of mine opened the first Superba Snackbar and Superba Food + Bread in Venice, and I was excited to see what owner Paul Hibler and his American Gonzo Food Corp. might bring to the South Bay. (He’s the guy that gave us Pitfire Pizza, by the way. You’re welcome.)
Everything at Superba is, well, superb. From the breezy, light-filled space to the unforced smiles on every employee’s face, Superba feels happy.
I arrived for a late breakfast with friends at 10:30 a.m., and the girls and I were still chatting (and digesting) at 2 p.m. From ladies who brunch to young families navigating strollers and high chairs to a lunch-rush of folks in work apparel, Superba handles them all with grace and warmth.
But it’s the food—oh that yummy food—that keeps all these disparate diners delighted. The day menu is casually divided into “Breakfasty” and “Lunchy” categories—no finite meal periods here, so you can experience the curry chicken salad that blew me away while your friend can go straight to purgatory with eggs.
It’s the freshness of what they’re serving, the inventiveness of the presentation, the artfulness of color on the plate that impresses. You can buy yellowish curry chicken salad at Bristol Farms in a little plastic takeout container, or you can eat the delicious version that Sous Chef Lynne Tolentino made for us. Executive Chef James Trees is blessed in this hire; Lynne came out and chatted with us, and she is a pure delight.
Patina-trained and passionate about what she cooks, Lynne and I talked about the explosion of great restaurants in the South Bay and why she’s happy to be a part of it. With talent like this behind the stoves—let alone the finest pastries and breads made in Los Angeles—Superba Food + Bread deserves the successes it is already enjoying.
It should be on your weekly “must-visit” list. Stop in for a morning bomboloni pastry or for a glass of great wine at happy hour or for a lingering lunch if you have the time and the stomach capacity. (Portions aren’t shy.)
In similar spirit is Great Maple, located at Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance. Much larger in scale than Superba, everything about Great Maple is spot-on. From the gorgeous Parisian décor that cheekily evokes a lost Torrance “rue” to the absolutely flawless service staff to the bacon-festooned maple donut served warm from the oven, this restaurant rocked.
I knew nothing about its ownership or back-story in this case … and came away not just satiated but impressed. Great Maple is the kind of restaurant I would have opened, had I actually married that cute New York chef guy. It’s warm and inviting, with just enough Francophilia to keep this writer delighted.
Menu highlights from Great Maple included the aforementioned donut, which should qualify as the eighth venal sin in and of itself, and two classic lunch sandwiches. The Great Maple French dip and the “Tuileries” turkey burger disappeared alongside some addictive Parmesan truffle fries; at $20 and $18 respectively, these lunch sandwiches aren’t inexpensive but are frankly more than big enough to split for two.
In keeping with the France-meets-Torrance metaphor, the wine list offers some fantastic pours from lesser-known appellations like Nimes and Corbières. I must also give a shout-out to the house-made lavender-infused lemonade—so so so yummy—and to our wondrous waitress Vanessa, whose flawless mise-en-place and warm service would be equally at ease in a Michelin-starred restaurant.
In an area historically known more for Toyota and Japanese markets, le Great Maple is its own little appellation of sorts—an outpost of fresh California fare with lovely French grace notes that will have me driving down there again and soon. Come for the shopping, but stay for Great Maple at Del Amo.
Superba Food + Bread
830 South Sepulveda, Suite 100 in El Segundo
21434 Hawthorne Boulevard in Torrance