With two successful restaurants--Lucques and A.O.C.--you'd think Caroline Styne and chef Suzanne Goin would rest easy. Instead, they've taken over Brentwood's old Hamburger Hamlet and opened their most ambitious project to date: Tavern, a full-service restaurant, bar, gourmet grocery and to-go counter.
The stylish space looks nothing like the former burger joint. Toward the back, real olive trees reminiscent of the Lucques' patio fill the atrium dining room; in the middle, there's a large bar area. But our favorite is the sun-soaked front room where counters are filled with homemade breads and pastries, and prepared sandwiches and salads are ready to take home.
The "larder" is the perfect spot for morning coffee and a buttery croissant or a sandwich at lunch; the niçoise tuna ($11) with egg, olives, fresh tomato and olive baguette is messy but fantastic. Choosing from the grab-and-go-menu (pdf) is the hardest part: roasted beets and carrots or piquant braised Tuscan kale? Crisp chicken stuffed with ham and cheese or slow-roasted Tasmanian salmon with cool dill-cucumber sauce? Sides are $8 to $12 a pint, mains are $22 to $30 per pound, and the offerings change frequently.
Everything tastes personal and homespun, as if this is the way Goin and Styne eat at home. And it is: The delicious cupcakes topped with buttercream frosting are miniature versions of Goin's wedding cake.
Tavern, 11648 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood; 310-806-6464 or tavernla.com