As Josie–Josie Le Balch's celebrated Santa Monica restaurant–rounds the corner to its 10th year, it will finally have a sibling right next door. The working name (though not set in stone): Next Door.
“I'd like to open a few of them, and anywhere you put it, it would be next to something,” says Le Balch. “It doesn't have to be adjacent to Josie.”
A second restaurant has always been in the cards for the Los Angeles-born chef, even when she debuted Josie with husband Frank Delzio in 2001. But the timing–and economy–has never been right. Until now.
“I was always afraid of doing anything more because it's just not easy opening a restaurant,” says Le Balch. “It took almost two years to open Josie. And we've been planning this for at least two years.”
Next Door (we'll just call it that for now) will be more casual, and will feel completely different from the chef's eponymous restaurant. It will have its own entrance, menu, and “a more everyday vibe.”
As soon as you walk in, you'll see two bars: A counter where chefs will construct cheese and charcuterie plates, grill panini and toss together fresh, seasonal salads; and another for sipping craft beers, wines-on-tap and fresh-fruit cocktails. Next Door will also open for lunch–a boon for the neighborhood.
For the chef, it's a chance to play with the menus more. Regulars would revolt if she ever took her tagine or trout off of the Josie menu. Next Door will have homier, yet still refined dishes, and more variety.
Think: Short rib pot pie, homemade pastas and ravioli, and even fried chicken. Because people always ask for her father's pâté de campagne (he owned the famed Chef Gregoire in the San Fernando Valley, where she started her cooking career), she's considering using it in a sandwich. She plans to serve her fabulous truffle fries, fried rapini with chilies, seafood sausages and flatbread pizzas. No matter what Le Balch creates, she'll continue using seasonal ingredients from her favorite local framers.
Next Door will seat about 50 people, and don't expect tablecloths or having to book reservations. Instead, Le Balch envisions a rustic, more communal space with antique chandeliers and lots of wood and cement accents.
And although the new restaurant won't open until next year (“April, hopefully”), Le Balch and her team–which includes pastry chef Jonna Jensen, and director of operations, David Osenbach–are already scouting locations for the next Next Door. “It takes so much time, we've got to get the ball rolling now.”