Malibu Inn on PCH has been many things in its 60 years (more than 60 if you count its original location, erected farther inland). Tourist draw, biker hub, Sunday brunch spot, concert venue, post-surf fill-'er-up and local hangout. At one point, it was Crazy Horse, a saloon and rock concert venue owned by Neil Young.
Since January, Malibu Inn has been closed, undergoing a transforming from divey, low-end roadhouse to hip, midscale roadhouse. When it reopens April 13th it will feature a new menu by Top Chef season 7 runner-up Angelo Sosa.
Outside, the place looks deceptively small. Inside, it seems vast, and the decor has been rethought, from top to bottom.
Designer Andrew Alford, who worked with Kelley Jones on Kimpton in New York, wanted to meld the Malibu Inn's multiple identities, so visitors couldn't quite tell what's new and what's vintage. The chairs in the main room are covered in a chartreuse material, the color recalling 1970s kitchenware. The Jimi Hendrix mural near the entry remains, but it now includes a sea of faces behind the performer, who once floated in the eternal void. A few feet away, specialty wallpaper features scenes of Malibu life: A hippie, a surfer, a bikini-clad hottie, a stagecoach. Look closely at the stern, mustachioed Uncle Sam staring down from above the waitstation, and you'll notice it's painted over a vintage 7-Up sign. The snakeskin chairs in the back lounge are a newly commissioned imitation of vintage airplane seats, and they sit across from a kitschy, thrift store paintings.
The patio has plenty of tables, its own outdoor bar, a newly erected stone wall replacing the glass barrier and a fountain trickling down from the hillside to soften the incessant hum of PCH traffic. The billiards room in the back offers cheeky wallpaper, poker-playing dogs (only in the realm of art not in the realm of reality), and an old car jutting out of the wall above a massive airbrushed tag proclaiming “Malibu.”
Sosa, who worked with Jones on Buddakan, hasn't revolutionized the menu, which is still in flux. He's giving it more of an upgrade, making slightly classier bar food with better ingredients. Crisp, fried Korean-style chicken wings with roquefort instead of blue cheese dip, a dash of sriracha in the guacamole that he calls “voluptuous” for the fish tacos. Everyone's favorite dish, including Sosa's, seem to be the cocoa-rubbed shortribs that are then smoked and braised in a sauce Sosa describes “as not exactly a mole but like a mole.” He says he tries to make all his food with “the Y factor” — “Y” as in “yummy.” “It should be so good, you want to eat off your own finger,” Sosa says.
When it reopens, Malibu Inn be one of only a few places in Malibu to stay open that late. And yes, there will be music.