The positive response also speaks to the anticipation surrounding the restaurant, which owner Brad Johnson hopes will attract other midscale shops and eateries to Baldwin Hills. Situated between the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, which is undergoing renovations, and a crumbling stretch of shops known as Marlton Square, Post & Beam has its grand opening on January 10th. Until then, Armstrong, who was born in nearby Inglewood, is focusing on the kitchen, making sure the food lives up to his expectations.
From start to finish, Post & Beam was a 15-month process. Armstrong first saw the space, which was formerly a Golden Bird Fried Chicken, when 8 Oz. Burger was still open on Melrose Avenue. "It wasn't much to look at, but it seemed like a really interesting opportunity," he says.
He's keeping Post & Beam's opening menu small, not more than two dozen dishes. There are pizzas (including one with housemade pork sausage); small plates like charred broccolini, sticky ribs and black eyed peas with sweet potato; large plates like beer-brined pork chops, roasted salmon and, for those who are a fan of the steaks at Table 8, an Angus beef sirloin. Armstrong's personal favorite, both to eat and to cook, is the grilled octopus with garbanzo beans, preserved lemons and cracked olives.
Many of the dishes are enhanced with produce from Post & Beam's patio garden, which Armstrong relishes. Not large enough to provide for the restaurant, it should supplement what they get from local farmers markets and vendors. It's not Armstrong's first time running a restaurant garden.
"I had a pretty decent size garden at Chadwick [in Beverly Hills]," Armstrong says. "That was years ago around 2001. As much as we were into it, farm-to-table wasn't as big then as it is now. Now, I have a lot more land to work with."
The Post & Beam garden is still in the experimental phase. With this first crop, Armstrong says, "I really just wanted to test the soil and see what would grow here."
So far, the garden includes mache, English peas (which should be ready in about 60 days), radishes, escarole, Russian kale, cavolo nero, Tokyo turnips (rounder and sweeter than standard turnips), watercress, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, beets, parsley, fava beans, bull's blood lettuce and a Meyer lemon tree. In the next couple weeks, he hopes to plant herb beds. With 2800 square-feet of space, he has plenty of room.
"I'm just happy that we're open," Armstrong says. "Now is when the hard work really begins."