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Style / Restaurants : Top-Down Dining

June 02, 1996|S. Irene Virbila

In LA, eating outdoors is a way of life. And there so many ways. Want a meal on the deck with an ocean view? Or dinner on the terrace in the mountains? Perhaps an elegant patio supper at a posh hotel is more to your liking. Whatever your style, we've got the restaurant with the food and fresh air to match.

Up on the Roof

BARNEY GREENGRASS:The stylish deli-cafe atop Barneys New York has a wonderful umbrella-decked terrace with a view of Beverly Hills. You can even see the Hollywood sign off in the distance. All this and some of the best smoked fish to be found on either coast, flown in from the respected Manhattan purveyor, Barney Greengrass. I, for one, can't get enough of their superb Nova Scotia salmon and sable, preferably with a couple of toasted bialys on the side. The herring is terrific; so is the chopped liver, the tuna fish and the whitefish salad.

Barneys New York, 9570 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 777-5877. Expensive.

THE ROOF GARDEN: Surrounded by roses, palms and fragrant herbs, the Peninsula's smart California cafe on the roof is just a few steps down from the pool, where power breakfasters settle in for fresh fruit smoothies, spa cereals and fluffy strawberry ricotta pancakes with raspberry butter. Housemade pastries are delicious, and at lunch there are pretty little salads and one of the best burgers in town, grilled Angus beef with Tillamook cheddar.

Peninsula Beverly Hills Hotel, 9882 Little Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 551-2888. Moderately expensive.

By the Sea:

BACK AT THE BEACH: A spinoff of the casual Santa Monica restaurant Back on Broadway, this is a terrific spot for a late breakfast. Tables and molded plastic chairs set on the sand put you about as close to the sea as you can get in a restaurant setting. Bring your shades and an appetite: Fresh-squeezed juices, huge omelets filled with mushrooms or feta, tomatoes and spinach, and piles of roasted potatoes.

445 Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica; (310) 393-8282. Inexpensive.

WEST BEACH CAFE: Ever since this classic California cafe added a large, breezy patio with tall palm trees, heat lamps and strings of lights a couple of years ago, there's been a rush for the outdoor tables on balmy summer evenings. At lunch, enjoy shelter in the shade of the big canvas umbrellas for the cafe's Mexican breakfast (quesadilla, huevos ranchero and chile relleno all on one plate), crisp Belgian waffles smothered in berries or eggs soft scrambled with smoked salmon.

60 N. Venice Blvd., Venice; (310) 823-5396. Moderately expensive.

THE TERRACE: Set in a quirky oceanside hotel that dates from 1888, the casual Terrace restaurant boasts a setting that looks right onto the beach. The So Cal menu is, if nothing, eclectic: burgers and pizzas, Thai ribs and Chinese chicken salad to rock shrimp tostadas and swordfish fajitas.

Hotel Laguna, 425 S. Pacific Coast Highway, Laguna Beach; (714) 494-1151. Moderate.

CAFE ZINC: Imagine sitting at a zinc-topped French cafe table sipping a glass of fresh peach juice or a frothy cappuccino, nibbling on flaky homemade scones or a wedge of vegetable-laced frittata. The food is tasty and sophisticated but the setting is beachy casual: a lovely patio lush with potted plants. Breakfast until 11 a.m., lunch until 5 p.m.

350 Ocean Ave., Laguna Beach; (714) 494-6302. Inexpensive. Cash only.

RUBY'S: With the promise of sun and a salty breeze, there's few better places for a juicy burger and a cherry coke than the rooftop deck of Ruby's at the end of Balboa Pier. Polish off that RubyDoobyDoubleCheeseburger[ (substitute turkey or veggie patties for the choice ground chuck if you like) and basket of shoestring fries with a double vanilla shake. There's a pretty good malted waffle for breakfast, too. Soon to open at the Huntington Beach pier.

#1 Balboa Pier, Balboa; (714) 675-7829. Inexpensive.

Higher Elevations

SADDLE PEAK LODGE: For more than 90 years, the impossibly romantic Saddle Peak, a former hunting lodge of stone and rough-hewn timber, has been a mountain escape for city folk. Its doors open wide against a backdrop of rugged mountain scenery onto a broad, shady terrace for brunch and early evening dining beneath the stars. With Josie LeBalch back in the kitchen, the food has improved: pumpkin flapjacks with mesquite-broiled ham at brunch, and at dinner, the sophisticated game specialties.

419 Cold Canyon Road, Calabasas; (818) 222-3888. Expensive.


In the dog days of summer, try a drive into woodsy Topanga Canyon to the Inn of the Seventh Ray. Let's face it, the new age food is nothing to get excited about--and it's pricey to boot. But there is that terraced garden next to a murmuring brook. The best meal here is Sunday brunch ("A day of reflection and creating anew," intones the menu) with both a vegetarian and a traditional buffet, plus "Ohm letts" of various sorts, vegetarian or crab quiche, and Belgian waffles drizzled with real maple syrup.

128 Old Topanga Road, Topanga; (310) 455-1311. Expensive.

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