Los Angeles

ImageIn many places in the world a bakery is often the nexus of a neighborhood.  A place where the locals meet to buy baked goods and bread. Bread, the so-called ’staff of life,’ is inexpensive nourishment to many people. Slowly but surely The Village Bakery and Cafe has become the nexus of our Atwater Village neighborhood. Much like their sisters in Europe, it has a walk up counter with a shelf of various types of bread behind.

When I go in and see the stacks of freshly baked baguettes it feels a bit like it did when I bought the daily loaf while living in France. The difference here is you can also order coffee, a house-made pastry, breakfast or lunch, then sit and WiFi it up for as long as you want. Since it’s located very close to the horse stables and riding schools along the Los Angeles River, I’ve seen more than a patron or two wearing English riding boots and jodphurs as well as the occasional cowboy boots. A bit of local neighborhood color.

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newcafes.jpgYabu, Il Fornaio and Musha are my favorite restaurants. They have great food and they're comfortable and affordable. I'd go to them every week if I could. Having said that, without realizing it, I'd fallen into a rut. It took my wife, Michelle, to shake things up and get me to try two new restaurants.

R+D Kitchen is part of the Hillstone restaurant group that includes Bandera, Gulfstream, and Houston's among others. Recently opened at 1323 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, R+D took over an address that was something of a black hole. Montana Lounge and Yu Restaurant had failed. Even a successful entrenpeneur like Wolfgang Puck couldn't make the space work for him. With the Aero theater directly across the street, this should be a good location.

Good design makes such a difference. The previous tenants had sealed off the space, creating dark interiors. Walking into the restaurant, it's easy to see that R+D came up with a fresh approach. With a minimalist design, a skylight in the middle of the dining room, an L-shaped bar to one side, and windows that open out onto Montana, R+D is inviting both inside and out.

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