There couldn't be a happier place than American Farmhouse Tavern & Dining Hall in Manhattan Beach. Happy hour ($4 wines, beers, well drinks and appetizers) is whenever you want to go, lunch, late afternoon or from 9 p.m. until midnight.
No one is happier than chef/owner Orlando Novoa, who is thrilled to be in a large new space (135 seats) just three blocks from his old, 35-seat location. The move took place in July.
The farm implements, old timey kitchen accessories, quilts and vintage photos that you see aren't cutesy decorator finds. They're from a 100-year-old South Dakota farm homesteaded by the family of Novoa's wife Kristen.
The Quilt Room, which is one dining area, amounts to a museum of traditional American quilts, all made by Kristen's mother. The main place to eat is the Chicken Coop, separated by chicken wire panels from The Tavern, where a chandelier composed of Mason jars hangs over the bar. The Parlor, which has a pool table, is for private events.
What you will eat is farm food from California's Central Coast, not South Dakota. Novoa was born and raised in Santa Maria and has incorporated Santa Maria's famous barbecue dishes into his menu. They include Harris Ranch tri-tip, seasoned with a dry rub and grilled over Central Coast red oak.(Novoa is quick to point out that the wood comes from fallen trees.)
Once a month he heads north to bring back 400 pounds of pinquito beans, the small pink beans that are essential to a Santa Maria barbecue. He also collects vegetables from his friends' farms.
A Santa Maria barbecue tradition is to start with a hearty vegetable stew while the grill is fired up. At a Farmhouse dinner, you get an enamel cup of stewed veggies along with bowls of cattleman beans (the pinquitos) and Santa Maria style salsa, which you mix to taste. At lunch, the stew comes already combined.
A tri-tip plate includes sliced steak, grilled bread and a hefty mound of mashed potatoes, buttery and dry rather than a creamy puree.
What makes customers happy is that entrees are part of a complete meal, not a single plate bolstered with sides that cost extra. A trip-tip dinner includes the stew combination, a butter lettuce wedge salad and ice cream or a liqueur.
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If steak is not your thing, other options include pastas, sandwiches, salads, chicken, fish and lamb chops. Central Coast quail will appear when the fall season starts. And on weekends there are robust cattleman's and farmhand breakfasts.
The wine list includes such Central Coast labels as Fess Parker, Firestone, Cambria, Peachy Canyon and Treana. But what really sells is something you'd be more likely to get down on the farm, old fashioned pink lemonade, made fresh daily.
Read more from Barbara Hansen at www.tableconversation.com., eatmx.com, @foodandwinegal and on Facebook.