Demi Stevens of Ortega 120 opened the doors of her new establishment, Hey 19 Public House, a few months ago sans the fanfare that would normally surround such a successful restaurateur.
She and her team have been busy and have spent the time since putting finishing touches on the space, fine-tuning the menu, circulating a petition and applying for a live entertainment permit.
Serving lunch and dinner daily, Hey 19 is located off the beaten path in a residential neighborhood at the crossroads of Anza and Calle Mayor.
I have a short history with this establishment, so first, the back story….
When Hey 19 first opened, I stopped in one weekday afternoon to chat with Demi. The bartender asked if I’d like to order something and glancing at the lunch menu, I spotted the grilled cheese sandwich.
Grilled cheese is pretty basic fare, and while many restaurants have recently put a culinary spotlight on it and created versions never before imagined, a simple grilled cheese sandwich is comfort food at its best.
That afternoon, the sandwich came with a side of fries. When I returned a week later, it was on the dinner menu with a cup of tomato bisque. I’ve stopped in half a dozen times since and ordered the grilled cheese every time….it is that good.
The decor and food at Hey 19 ooze retro Americana from the 70s and 80s. The menu comes in a Pee Chee folder, the iconic Farah Fawcett poster hangs behind the bar, no two chairs are alike and the name is taken from a classic Steely Dan song.
The menu is bursting with comfort foods: fried chicken & waffle, double cut pork chop, mac & cheese, burgers, short ribs, skirt steak and more. It’s the type of food you want to eat curled up by a roaring fire.
Fortunately, I was recently invited to attend a media preview dinner and seized the opportunity to break my grilled cheese addiction.
Demi hosted a group of local bloggers, writers and other media types on a very busy Thursday and started the evening off with a couple of the house specialty cocktails including the #19 – a house infused orange bourbon. Bourbon is not my libation of choice but this cocktail was tasty and went down smooth.
We began with a sizable charcuterie board featuring smoked and cured meats, local honeycomb, artisan bread and cheeses and a house made pate that was fresh, light and full of flavor.
The ‘Tabled Tartar’ is a gorgeous dish. We all stared at it for a while before someone finally dug in with a chip. Prepared with Ahi tuna, ponzu, avocado and micro cilantro, it tasted as fresh as it looked.
The hearty rosemary roasted cauliflower and Brussel sprouts were served with a garlic aioli and worked well as an appetizer. It would make a great side dish, too. Note: nostalgia only goes so far – your mother never made Brussel sprouts like these.
The mac & cheese is served in one dish, two ways – half with bacon, half with jalapeno. I’ve long been a fan of bacon and jalapeno in my mac & cheese but this is the most flavorful and cheesy version I’ve ever had. Don’t waste your time trying to make this dish at home – it will never be as good.
The double cut pork chop has been the most popular item on the menu and with good reason. The Sterling Silver chop is served with Maker’s Mark Chutney, a sweet potato mash, collards and kale. It’s a little slice of Southern heaven right here in the South Bay.
I’ve always been a sucker for short ribs and was looking forward to ‘Chrissy’s Night Off’. The braised bone-in short rib is served with pee wee potatoes and carrots in an earthenware crock. The meat was tender and juicy, and I swear, it fell off the bone just looking at it.
The’ Frou Frou Pasta’ was light with a hint of citrus and topped with shrimp. If you’re in the mood for pasta, go for it – it’s delish. I just didn’t find it as impressive as the other powerhouse dishes.
The servers eventually brought out the grilled cheese but it no longer held me captive. There are just too many other wonderful items on the menu to get stuck on one dish. That’s not to say I won’t pop in some rainy afternoon for a little toasty, cheesy goodness.
Hey 19 has a full bar, a half dozen specialty cocktails, bottled and draft beer and a small, but well-curated wine list very reasonable priced.
In addition, they now have an entertainment permit and offer live music and dancing.
Hey 19 is a casual establishment with a relaxed vibe and comforting food. The staff is warm and friendly and will make you feel right at home. Don’t be surprised to find yourself lingering at the table.
For additional information and to make reservations, call 310-378-8119.
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Hey 19 Public House is located at 4525 Calle Mayor in Torrance.