When Campanile introduced grilled cheese night on Thursdays with then-co-owner Nancy Silverton at the panini press, those casual evenings perked up the dining scene. Sometimes it seemed as if all of L.A. would stop by for her variations on the grilled cheese theme and a festive, bargain-priced meal. And those Thursdays are still going strong.
Now theme nights are catching on with other restaurants. Think of it as a one-night pop-up. Why should restaurants have to be exactly the same every night anyway? Theme nights give them a chance to dress up or, more often, dress down, have a little fun and introduce the place to a new crowd.
Lobster Mondays at Jar
East Coast expatriates can get their lobster fix on Monday nights at Jar through August. That's when Suzanne Tracht cooks up a three-course lobster-centric menu, with a different one each week. $55 buys you dinner, including a summer dessert and a cocktail dreamed up by bartender Margo Tyler. Her menu for July 9 is lobster spring roll with black vinegar dipping sauce, roasted Maine lobster served family-style with corn succotash and market shell beans, grasshopper sundae and that secret cocktail. Note: Tracht asks that you specifically request the lobster menu when making a reservation. (The regular menu is available as well.) To see more menus at lobster Mondays, visit the website.
8225 Beverly Blvd. (at Harper Avenue), Los Angeles, (323) 655-6566, http://www.thejar.com. Lobster Mondays, $55 per person.
Salumi bar Thursdays at Mozza Scuola
Every other Thursday, Chad Colby, chef at Mozza's Scuola di Pizza, hosts a salumi bar. He's not just slicing any old cold cuts: They're ones he's made from scratch. Every two weeks, he butchers a whole, sustainably raised heritage pig and uses all the bits and pieces to produce his own salumi, or cured meats. Some of them you may have tasted at Scuola's fixed-price pork feasts. But this is à la carte: $22 buys you a tasting of five house-made salumi — maybe a bacon tenderloin pâté, spicy Tellicherry pepper dry-cured salami, finocchiona dotted with hand-chopped fat, capicola and butcher's mortadella (made with all the exotic parts). That 2- to 3-inch slab of bread on the grill is for the fettunta. It's simply rubbed with garlic, slathered with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Also to covet: sizzling unctuous pork belly sausage, wonderful vegetable sides, mixed pickles and simple wine by the quartino. Fun. The salumi bar goes weekly starting in August.
6610 Melrose Ave. (at Highland Avenue), Los Angeles, (323) 297-1130, http://www.mozza2go.com. House-cured salumi, $5 each; any five, $22. Sides and other dishes, $4 to $6; secondi (usually hanger steak and/or white trout), $15; desserts, $9. No reservations.
Focaccia Thursdays at A.O.C.
Can you believe it? Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne's wine bar A.O.C. is about to celebrate its 10th birthday. New this season: focaccia nights on Thursdays. Subscribe to their Twitter feed for updates on the three focaccie featured on any given Thursday. When I dropped by a couple of weeks ago, I tried a sweet little round (about 8 inches in diameter) topped with mozzarella and roasted cherry tomatoes followed by another flatbread with a cassoulet theme. That meant a smear of cannellini bean purée with green garlic and duck sausage chunks. Slicked with olive oil, the crust is baked to a crunchy deep gold in A.O.C.'s wood-burning oven. Add a Green Goddess salad and frozen nougat with candied tangerines and pistachios for dessert and it's a casual dinner for two, best enjoyed at the long bar where you can talk wine — and L.A. restaurants — with your neighbors.
8022 W. 3rd St. (at Crescent Heights Boulevard), Los Angeles, (323) 653-6359, http://www.aocwinebar.com. Focaccia, $11.