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Fed Up: Food Fight in Santa Monica

July 05, 1991|KATHIE JENKINS

Restaurant patrons aren't often faced with pickets, but people coming to lunch at Michael's in Santa Monica last Friday were confronted by signs saying "Don't Eat Here," and "Management, Please Pay Us."

The pickets were seafood supplier Paul Moriates and three of this employees. At issue, said Blake Wheeler, general manager of Special Foods, was what he claimed were unpaid bills for seafood. "It was a hard decision to make, but we are not in the business of loaning money," said Wheeler. "We have to pay for our product, and they should pay for theirs." Wheeler claims Michael McCarty came out of his restaurant, grabbed one of the picket signs, threw it over a fence, and told them to leave. They finally did, Wheeler said, with a check for $1,000. McCarty did not return The Times phone calls.

The Special Foods pickets then marched over to nearby Fennel in an attempt to demand payment for what they say are more unpaid fish bills. "The restaurant never returns our phone calls," said Wheeler. He said they left empty-handed after half an hour. "It wasn't worth it, nobody was around." Fennel also did not return The Times phone calls.

WHEEL OF FORTUNE: Wolfgang Puck is betting that the Spago clone he plans to open in Las Vegas will be a success. He notes that Las Vegas has 700,000 inhabitants-- "as many as San Francisco, and the people who live there all year round need a place to eat." He isn't worried about the city's reputation as a mecca for food-freeloaders. "The high rollers don't care about free food," he says, "they'll be glad to have a good place to eat." This will not, he emphasizes, be a Barbara Lazaroff production; he's asked Adam Tihany to design the desert branch. "Barbara's been working so hard on Granita (which should open in the next couple of weeks) that we hardly see each other now--and that's only in Malibu. If Barbara did this restaurant too we'd probably get a divorce."

WHEN IN, UM, PARIS: Joachim Splichal has been trying to persuade Los Angeles restaurateurs to follow the French model and close for a month every year. He hasn't convinced anybody else, but his own restaurant went on vacation this week. He plans to reopen for dinner tonight.

PLATTER DU JOUR: Evan Kleiman, owner of Angeli, is looking for a location for her next project--a family-style restaurant. "I've been flirting with the idea for a while now. I'll start with Italian but am thinking of adding Mediterranean foods." She's found several likely locations, but there's a parking problem. "It's not like it was when I opened my other restaurants," she says. "Now if you don't have enough parking, you can't get a beer and wine license."

COMING SOON: Farfalla on La Brea hopes to open by July 15. The restaurant is spread across two floors: Upstairs is the informal Retroscena, with lots of windows, and sofas and chairs to kick back and eat pizzas, pastas and panini. Downstairs Farfalla will be more formal, with an expanded menu. There will be a bar on both floors--and reservations will only be taken for six or more . . . 8225 Sunset Partners, of Roxbury Fame, are trying to get their celebrity clients to go Downtown. They have begun construction on Coyote Restaurant on the second level of the Wells Fargo Plaza and hope to be open in about three months. The restaurant will seat 230, with another 125 seats on the outside patio. The energetic David Wilhelm (Kachina, Bistro 201, Barbacoa and Zuni Grill, all in Orange County) will be executive chef . . . Michel Richard says he and his partners hope to have the Paris branch of Broadway Deli open by the end of '92. Yann Jacquot, one of the partners in Fennel, will be the Paris liaison . . . Brio in Tarzana plans to open its new next-door bakery today, providing all the permits come through. Specializing in sourdough and rosemary-garlic loaves, the bakery will produce a variety of breads and pastries for its own restaurants (Brio is owned by Alice's in Malibu), as well as for other restaurants and the public. "It will be a lot like La Brea Bakery, in fact we considered calling it La Brio Bakery."

ON THE TABLE: Stringfellows on Via Rodeo (that's the new section off Rodeo Drive that looks like the back lot of a movie studio) is now serving Sunday brunch from noon to 4 p.m. . . . Angeli Mare has opened for brunch Saturdays and Sundays.

HELP WANTED: Are you into the Los Angeles dining scene? Zagat, a yearly Southern California restaurant survey featuring more than 600 area restaurants, is offering very temporary restaurant critic jobs. For a chance to rate your favorite restaurants, send a business size, self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Zagat Survey, 12618 Homewood Way, Los Angeles, Calif. 90049.

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