We get excited over restaurant openings touting famous chefs or restaurant groups these days, but some little-known, family-owned places are serving up some great food without all the hullabaloo. Such is the American Farmhouse Tavern in Manhattan beach, which recently moved from a 35-seat restaurant to one down the street that seats 135.
I was invited to a recent press dinner. We convened at the bar for some appetizers including toast with creamy guacamole and salad topped with tender, juicy slices of tri tip.
Some of their cocktails actually sounded interesting. I ordered the Buffalo Smoke (Buffalo Trace bourbon, peach nectar, St Germain, maple smoked bacon wrapped sugar cane stick, $10)
They also have a good selection of beers on tap, including Allagash White ($8). There are tons of happy hours and daily specials too, including $4 wine/beer/well drinks/appetizers on weekdays (11-2pm, 4-6:30pm) and Fridays and Saturdays from 9pm on, $3 draft beers on Mondays, etc.
American Farmhouse Tavern is run by owner/chef Orlando Novoa who hailed from Santa Maria. Appropriately, the restaurant serves Santa Maria style barbecue like grilled meat and fish alongside Central Coast wines. They proudly grill their meat over Central Coast red oak (the wood comes from fallen trees so it's sustainable).
When you look at the prices of the entrees, consider the fact that all meals here include vegetable stew, cattleman beans, Santa Maria style salsa (you're supposed to mix them all together to your taste) and after-dinner liqueur, or a scoop ice cream.
I love red meat so obviously my favorite was the medium rare Harris Ranch tri-tip, seasoned with a dry rub and grilled over Central Coast red oak.
I'm usually wary of eating chicken at restaurants, especially white meat, as they can be dry but I loved their perfectly moist Roasted Game Hen ($18)
If meat isn't your thing, there's always a fish dish on the menu. We had the 8 oz Grilled Atlantic Salmon ($24)
We finished our night at The Parlor, a room in the back complete with pool table and TV, usually reserved for private events.
The dinners here are also served with an after-dinner liqueur. We had the Tan Ferrari made with Amaratto, Kahlua, and Bailey's (more of a dessert than a digestif). At the time of our visit, they only had ice cream for dessert but I heard they have since started serving pies.
What I particularly loved about this restaurant are the photos that decorate it. These old photos of farmhouses and the people in them aren't just stock photos picked out by an interior decorator. These are actual photos of the 100-year-old South Dakota farm owned by the family of Novoa's wife Kristen. A photo of her grandmother and great aunts also grace the front of the restaurant's menu!
Did you know back in the day you can buy a do-it-yourself ten-room house for $2000??
If you're looking for a simple meal with great grilled meats, look no further.
Starting in the fall, the Farmhouse will start serving 34oz bone-in prime rib, quail, venison, and also fried chicken. As Sophie Gayot properly put it on our table, "when you can grill like this, don't fry!" - but our city loves fried chicken so damn much they'll probably make that much more money serving fried chicken.
American Farmhouse Tavern
924 N. Sepulveda
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Disclosure: this meal was hosted