By Kate Stephanus
As referenced in our Henry Rollins cover package this week, a 1924 abandoned Baptist church in Hermosa Beach hosted some of the most influential punk bands in the SoCal scene's nascent days, like the Descendants, Circle Jerks, Redd Kross, and, of course, Blag Flag; some of the latter group's members even lived there.
“The Church” was demolished decades ago, but last year a punk-inspired steakhouse was born on the site, called Abigaile Restaurant. So, in honor of our Rollins issue we grabbed a meal there!
Abigaile arrived in February 2012, taking the place of another steakhouse, Union Cattle Company. Abigaile owner Jed Sanford had long been into bands like Bad Brains and Fugazi, and after seeing Penelope Spheeris' classic 1981 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization — which features a scene inside the Church — had the idea to open Abigaile and honor the location's roots.
When you walk inside the restaurant-bar, its trendy ambiance and on-site brewery don't scream punk; the dim lighting and large windows overlooking the ocean make it seem pretty upscale, actually.
But the walls are spray-painted with phrases like “Punk Isn't Dead” and stenciled with logos for the Misfits, Germs and Black Flag. The tagging, it turns out, was a collaborative effort with tattoo artist Fletcher Dragge (founding guitarist of Pennywise) and the rest of his team at 3rd Street Tattoo.
Sanford went so far as letting the tattoo parlor's artists come in and do what they would to the walls. It's all pretty cool looking and, as a result, the place has something of an edge.
As for the food itself? It's got an edge too, though, like Pennywise, it's also fairly accessible. The fried chicken, for example, is served with gherkins and remoulade, while the bacon is baked with smoked-pork confit and gruyere in a flaky crust. The burrata, meanwhile, is drizzled with truffle oil and spiced honey. The general theme seems to be classic dishes or ingredients, turned on their head. We enjoyed it. One thing's clear, however:
When the SoCal hardcore bands were first starting out, they couldn't have afforded Abigaile's, though most of them could now. A prime ribeye steak, with “truffle parmesan fries, grilled asparagus, and wild mushroom n' bacon,” is $30. That's the most expensive thing on the menu, though, so nobody's getting gouged.
Oh yeah, and in a section from their interview that didn't make the cover story, Ben Westhoff asked Rollins what he thought about the church being turned into a punk-themed steakhouse. His response:
Cool. I went there one time with [Black Flag bassist] Chuck Dukowski. We were walking around back where we used to live down there. We were walking by the church and we decide to look in through some chained door or window and it was completely gutted and gone from the inside.
Now, I couldn't even tell you where [that location] is because I saw it as a 21-year-old in 1981, but yeah it's cool I guess. I'm personally interested in everyone else's history. I'm not really interested in my own history. I don't find myself that interesting, but I find others quite compelling.
See Also: Henry Rollins: Why I Write