It's summer. That wonderful time of year when time seems to slow down and a lazy day on the beach feels somehow productive. Maybe you follow up that long day in the sun with a refreshing beer at a bar that's just a few steps from the pier, and if you're lucky maybe there's a live show playing that night, too. The band's pretty good, so one would judge you if that beer turned into several with a side of some fries, and you made a proper evening of it. This is summer, after all, the season synonymous with all things fun, and you deserve some fun. But this isn't college anymore (or maybe it is - if so, lucky you), and a day full of that much fun is bound to leave you feeling like a brandy-soaked raisin. The best cure for such an affliction, of course, is a big, greasy brunch - so the obvious choice is to swallow your pride, return to the scene of the crime, and order some Loco Moco and a Bloody Mary. That's right - there's a place in this world where you can wander off the beach, enjoy all the debauchery involved in creating a hangover in the evening, then cure it with brunch the next morning while sitting at the very same table. It's called The Standing Room, and we think you're gonna love it.
The Standing Room began, oddly enough, in the back of a liquor store in Redondo Beach. When self-trained chef Lowell Bakke started working at the store to help his cousin out, he realized that its fledgling deli counter could be put to better use - and within a few years, he'd transformed the space into a cult-favorite burger stand that still has people lining up around the corner. If a chef's food can convey his personality, then Bakke's "sammies" paint him as a rebel and a dreamer with a great deal of pride for his roots. They're over-the-top, lighthearted, quirky combinations of Korean and American flavors, all presented with aloha (Bakke was born in Oahu, after all). At first, the joint was actually standing room only, leaving patrons to devour their mile-high, sauce laden burgers crouched atop milk crates in the parking lot, silently praying that they could walk away with their work shirts unstained. As The Standing Room gained popularity, the parking lot was tricked out with tables and chairs, and the line grew longer. A sit-down restaurant and bar seemed like the logical next step.
Enter the Hermosa Beach location, a surprisingly spacious bar/restaurant/music venue just a stone's throw from the picturesque Hermosa Beach Pier, complete with a sizable stage for live shows, a patio perfect for summer day-drinking, and a healthy amount of L.A. Kings paraphernalia. The place is comfortable and full of personality; even in the early morning (ahem, 10 am) when it's nearly empty, it's easy to imagine how lively the atmosphere must be when it's packed on a warm summer night. The menu boasts many of Bakke's most popular sandwiches from the liquor store location, including the sky-high Napoleon Burger, which comes topped with a fried egg and an entire braised short rib, among other things. Brunch is a recent addition to the restaurant's repertoire, and with dishes like Loco Moco, Hawaiian Bread French Toast, and Kimchee Fried Rice, its menu feels like a natural extension of the restaurant's popular lunch and dinner offerings. Sure, there's an Egg White Frittata thrown in for health-minded brunchers, but for the most part this is that incredibly satisfying, almost sinful kind of brunch that is exactly what you need during a summer beach weekend.
On a recent Saturday morning, we went all-in and sampled some of The Standing Room's most popular brunch fare - and of course, wound up with a spread of heartwarming, stick-to-your-ribs, undeniably delicious food. It was probably enough to feed an army - or at the very least, enough to feed a couple of hungry Brunchographers with enough leftover for their hungry boys at home. These portions are no joke.
First up was the Chicken & Biscuits, with passion fruit tea brined fried chicken, fluffy buttermilk biscuits, and a generous heap of thick country gravy. One bite of these biscuits will transport you to the south - they taste just like the ones mom used to make: buttery, salty, with just the right amount of crumb. The chicken is sliced thin, which allows for the maximum fried-chicken-batter-to-actual-chicken ratio, and provides plenty of surface area for all that gravy you're going to want to soak up. To balance out all this salty, delicious richness is a sprinkling of sweet pickle slices (just like the ones grandpa used to eat before supper) and some bright pink pickled onions (which we've determined to be some of the most underrated brunch ingredients - bring on the pickled onions!).
Next, the dish that made Johnna's Hawaiian boyfriend so envious - the Loaded Loco Moco. It begins with a bed of comforting, super-flavorful fried rice that's packed with onions, edamame, kimchee, and pork. Next, a layer of short rib gravy, followed by a perfectly seasoned half-pound beef patty draped with a layer of melted cheddar cheese. To top it all off, a runny fried egg coated in hot sauce and dusted with shredded nori and sesame seeds. Loaded, indeed. This is the kind of meal that you just can't stop eating once you start - it's so comforting that it feels like receiving a really nice hug that you don't want to let go of. So yeah, good luck putting down your fork.
Those buttermilk biscuits made an appearance once again in the Pork Belly Benedict, this time cloaked in a thick, velvety hollandaise sauce, and paired with crispy pork belly and poached eggs. They were just as satisfying as before, and took on a completely different flavor experience when paired with smoky paprika, rich and salty pork belly, and the bright and slightly tangy hollandaise. This is not a dish for the faint of heart, however - "rich" doesn't even begin to describe it - but for a pork lover, this is the ultimate indulgence.
No matter where you're from, the food at The Standing Room will make you feel comforted, like you're getting a little taste of home. Maybe it's all that love that Bakke puts into his recipes, with nods to his family and his hometown, or maybe it's that laid-back, summertime vibe that this place always seems to have. Either way, there's something special about a morning spent at The Standing Room, sipping coffee just steps from the beach, and sharing laughs over brunch with friends.
The Standing Room
1320 Hermosa Ave.
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254