Even if pre-Memorial Day etiquette has been violated -- with white shoes and pants already busted out in advance of this weekend -- that doesn't mean the official start of summer is off limits. Outdoor eating, drinking and reveling is a longstanding Los Angeles tradition that should be honored. A few of al fresco events start this weekend, while others have been underway for a few weeks now. Hotels in particular are taking advantage of the people-drawing power of poolside hanging.
Katana on the Sunset Strip reintroduces its "Red Sun BBQ Garden" this Memorial Day weekend from 5:30-11:30 p.m. every Sunday through Labor Day weekend. Think tiki torches, signature fruity drinks, meat on sticks, a couple of noodle dishes, and $5 happy hour items.
8439 West Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 650-8585 or www.katanarobata.com.
Rush Street in Culver City opens its rooftop bar (apparently the only one in the Heart of Screenland from which to conduct studio surveillance) with its manly but market-friendly food. Rush Street's brunch menu also features the 3 Olives Bloody Bar to customize Bloody Marys with Santa Barbara Olive Company goods.
9546 Washington Blvd, Culver City, (310) 837-9546 or www.rushstreetculvercity.com.
The mildly mid-century retro Avalon Hotel and its kidney-shaped pool that always brings people back a few decades has a lot planned for the summer. We were recently invited to check out the poolside scene and eats at the Avalon Hotel's blue on blue restaurant in south Beverly Hills, which in a few months will undergo a major renovation. (Top designer Kelly Wearstler will revisit her first hotel project.) The Avalon's May through September activities include its "Groove on Blue" happy hour featuring DJ Grand Marquee and single-digit priced food and drink on Thursdays from 7-10 p.m., the Detox/Retox program that starts this Sunday from 2-8 p.m. with pretty virgin or boozy cocktails, and the new Chef's Cabana family-style dinners.
Executive Chef Scott Garrett's menus incorporate ingredients harvested on the hotel's rooftop (see photo); what they can't grow themselves, they get from farmers' markets and other sustainable sources. Garrett likes the challenge of cooking "for people who put more thought" into what they want out of their Chef's Cabana menu, which is planned in advance yet has the feel of a spontaneous gathering, and he even encourages them to join him at the farmers' market. Restaurant Manager Ryan Hoffman showed us around the garden perched above Olympic and cultivated in self-watering EarthBoxes, which includes some familiar varieties of herbs and plants, but also some surprises that make their way into dishes like watermelon gazpacho, green bean and quinoa salad, and crab & melon tartlets. Amazon Chocolate heirloom tomatoes, fresh chickpeas, culinary lavender and variegated sage aren't typically stocked at your local Whole Foods.
9400 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 407-7791 or www.avalonbeverlyhills.com.
Deeply plush Peninsula Hotel is hardly synonymous with barbecue, but they're doing a classy three-course menu by Executive Chef James Overbaugh and Chef de Cuisine Brandon Weaver on weekends from 4-9 p.m. through September 1. Dishes served on the recently rehabbed rooftop include a "Chef's Inspired" gazpacho, Peking duck spring rolls and Szechuan cucumber citrus salad, choice of grilled protein, plus sides and dessert. Cost is $55 per person (includes valet parking), and an extra $15 buys a one-and-a-half-pound lobster.
9882 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 975-2855 or www.peninsula.com.
1000 Westmount Dr., West Hollywood, (310) 657-7400 or www.chamberlainwesthollywood.com.
Not all of the hotel sun soaked or moonlit merriment is in Bev Hills or WeHo. The Langham Hotel in Pasadena also has its Terrace casual space and the Sunday Champagne Brunch ($75 per person, $35 children under 12). And while it might be SO 2002, the views from the Standard Hotel Downtown rooftop pool and bar areas never get old. Don't forget Silverlake Wine Wednesday tastings from 5-8 p.m. in the ground floor lobby lounge if fresh(ish) air isn't your thing.
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The Langham, 1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave., Pasadena, (626) 585-6218 or reserve online.
Standard Hotel, 550 S. Flower St., Downtown, (323) 662-9024 for more info.
And to get a break from the tyranny of oppressively tasteful earth tones and modern decor, it's hard to go wrong with the polychromatic ornate details surrounding Figueroa Hotel's pool lounge and labyrinth of rooms. Hanging lanterns galore!
939 S. Figueroa, Downtown, (213) 627-8971 or www.figueroahotel.com.