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A neighborhood gathering spot with many tastes

EARLY BIRD: House Cafe

With a modern, eclectic look, Bruce Marder's new cafe has a diverse menu of mostly California and Italian dishes and is open long hours.

January 25, 2010|By S. Irene Virbila | Restaurant Critic

Bruce Marder has opened House Cafe in the former Pastis space on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles. It's out with the rustic French d├ęcor, in with a more modern and eclectic look. As with all Marder restaurants (Broadway Deli, Capo, Cora's and Brentwood -- and way back, West Beach Cafe), good art hangs on the walls. Marder and designer Dean Singer haven't changed the basic layout other than to dismantle a wall that divided the dining room. They've added a bar with seats and a glassed-in wine storage area along the north wall.

The appeal of this space has always been the big windows in front that open up in warm weather to let in the breeze. There's a fenced-off sidewalk terrace in front too, this time with heat lamps installed above. Manager Rod Bonios, a veteran of Brass-Cap and other Marder ventures, even found room for a tiny office sequestered behind a velvet curtain.

The menu, at first, is something of a puzzle, cramming so many diverse items onto one page, some downscale, some upscale, some snacks, some relative feasts. Most dishes are in the California and Italian vein with some Middle Eastern and North African touches added to the mix. Turkish breakfast, with tea, anyone?

House Cafe is meant to be an easygoing place, a neighborhood cafe where you can always find something to eat at practically any hour. The place is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. for breakfast all the way through to 11 p.m. Check out the earthy yellow lentil soup, generous house chopped salad, a prosciutto egg panino and Wagyu burger. More substantial noshing includes a fine meatloaf with mashed potatoes, rustic Italian sausage with polenta, or spaghetti and meatballs. I can vouch for the eggplant bufala, served piping hot in a cast iron skillet.

Specials chalked on the board in back add interest to the small menu. And for big spenders, or romantics, check out the dishes for two, which includes a côte de boeuf. They also do take-out, including wines at 45% off wine list prices.

From the crowd taking up every seat on a weekday night, it's clear the neighborhood is more than ready for a modestly priced, flexible option like this one. Tables are close together, the noise level high, so it's not the place for a quiet intimate dinner. House Cafe is more someplace to grab a bite before or after a movie or a shopping expedition on Beverly Boulevard.

irene.virbila@latimes.com

House Cafe

Where: 8114 Beverly Blvd. (at Crescent Heights Boulevard), Los Angeles.

When: Open 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

Price: Breakfast items, $4 to $16.50; salads, $9.50 to $14; sandwiches, $9.50 to $15.75; appetizers, $6 to $14.50; pasta, $12 to $16.75; main courses, $14 to $26; desserts, $7 to $9. Retail wine (to-go only) $45% off wine list price.

Contact: (323) 655-5553; www.housecafe.com.

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