June 05, 2011

1321 Downtown Taproom Bistro

Last Friday, after a full lunch at Joy Mart and happy hour at Casa, I trekked from Burbank to Torrance (during rush hour, mind you) for a last minute dinner at 1321 Downtown.  Like I said in my recent Midtown Lunch'er interview, " if the food (and wine) is worth it, I’ll be there – rain or shine."  Well, I was there, and they [1321] delivered.

First Impressions:

When I first turned onto Sartori Ave., I was greeted with a dead street with many cars, but no bodies - I'm talking creepy apocalyptic status.  But when the distant sounds of music and laughter wafting from the restaurant grew closer, my fears began to dissipate, and when the warm and lively atmosphere greeted me at the door, I was back to my excited state of earnest eating.  A personal greeting at the door from Chef Greg Paul didn't hurt either.

After being seated in the back corner of the restaurant (perfect for people watching), I took a moment to soak in everything -- and I knew immediately from the large flat-screen mirror TVs (so cool!), dark, rustic wood paneling, old-fashioned lights to the antiquated typewriters and various tchotchkes adorning the wall shelves with detailed precision, that this place is serious.  Seriously awesome. 

The Eats:

But is the food as brilliant as the decor?
Simple answer: Most definitely yes.

The best thing to do at any great restaurant is to allow the chef to do his or her thang, to create gastronomical magic.  So that's what I did.

During the wait, I stared blankly at the extensive libation list.  If you're a beer-lover, this may be a piece of heaven, but if you're clueless like me, the pages and pages of options are overwhelming.  Once again, Chef Paul came to the rescue.  Round one: Delirium Tremens (it's not nearly as ominous as it sounds).  Yay pink elephant!

So it begins...

Beets & Burrata Salad (gold beets, red beets, pickled onions, watercress, tomato relish) - $12


Seasonal Tomato & Burrata Flatbread w/ Basil - $9.50


Pale Ale Mac (4 cheeses, skillet baked) - $9

A closer look.

The mac n cheese was good, but not the best.  I would love to see more flavors like a kick of green chiles or maybe even some bacon.  Of course burrata is always a tough act to follow, loaded with four cheese or not.

Allagash White & Allagash Curieux

Intermission with the Allagash brothers.  Mmm mmm.  Annnnd back to the show!

Tinga de Pollo (shredded chicken slow-cooked w/ hot & sour onions, smoked jalapeno) - $8.50

The tender chicken is just spicy enough to have you reaching for more.

Rock Shrimp & Chilean Crab Cake (w/ guacamole & cabbage slaw) - $13

This hummungo crab cake may quite possibly be the best crab cake I've eaten in my life.  I loved the thick pieces of fresh crab and shrimp encrusted in a light, but buttery batter.  Plus, the guacamole sauce and slaw added another dimension of tastes that kept me raving until the very last bite.

Sticky Bun in Skillet (w/ chocolate and powdered sugar)

By this point, I had difficulty breathing because my stomach was reaching full capacity.  This happens to me a lot.  I think it's considered borderline gluttony.  I must repent.  But after I sample the chef's special sticky bun 'cause when that's on the dessert menu (which isn't always the case), you simply make room.  You won't regret it.

Final Thoughts:
1321 Downtown is classy, cozy, and casual both with its food and overall vibe.  Stop drooling, go, and feed your hunger.  It will be good times.

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cuisine: American
location: Torrance
hours:  M-Th: 4:00 PM - 11:00 PM; Fri-Sat: 4:00 PM - midnight; Sun: 4:00 PM - 10:00 PM.
website: { 1321 | yelp }
attire: Casual 
parking: Street parking or public parking lot
notes: Only open for dinner for now.  Good for group-dining. 
There's a special/ theme each night! (subject to change). 
Mon: Mac N Cheese; Tues: Torrance Locals; Wed: Beer & Bacon; Thurs: Movie Night; Fri: Fish Fry; Sat: Live Music; and Sun: Jazz Brunch.