City Restaurant has been sold. No closing date has been set, but co-owners Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger estimate that City will stay open at least another 6 weeks. New owner Ron Salisbury plans to relocate his Southwestern-style Sonora Cafe to the La Brea Avenue address.
After unsuccessfully trying to negotiate a new lease a few months ago with his downtown landlord, Salisbury began scouting for a new place. "(City) is a great location and the building is simple and clean," he says. "There's not a lot of decor to tear out."
Milliken and Feniger first opened City Cafe 11 years ago in a tiny storefront on Melrose. Despite the fact that the place only seated 35 at a counter, the restaurant developed a cult-like following. Soon the chefs outgrew the postage-stamp-sized kitchen, renamed the restaurant Border Grill and opened City on La Brea. While City Cafe was cozy and intimate, City Restaurant was super-modern and huge. What came out of the kitchen was an expanded version of the eclectic blend the chefs perfected at the cafe: spicy Indian chicken, Thai melon salad, Portuguese mussel-and-cockle stew.
Unfortunately, the last few years have been difficult for Los Angeles restaurants and City is no exception. "I wish I could say we are going to be around for 25 years," says Feniger, "but that just wasn't meant to be."
Feniger and Milliken plan to put a lot of energy into their remaining restaurant, Border Grill 2 in Santa Monica. "It's good and strong and current," says Feniger.
"It worked out beautifully," says Salisbury, who also owns El Cholo and two other Los Angeles-area restaurants. "We are moving among friends, and I can walk to work for the first time in my life."
SHORT-ORDER CHEF: Last month Santo Pietro restaurant closed for six days and reopened as Canyon with a new look and a new menu by David Slay, chef/owner of La Veranda in Beverly Hills. A week later, the consulting chef walked out of the Studio City restaurant, across from CBS Studio Center.
"The original plan was to break away completely from Santo Pietro and that's what I went there to do," says Slay. "Then the two partners and a wife got involved. . . . It was pointless."
"David is used to working in his own restaurant in his own little world," says Canyon co-owner Steven Sukman. "We tend to approach decision making from a teamwork perspective."
According to Slay, Sukman and his partner Frank Monteleone couldn't make up their minds what they wanted to be. "They were trying to be accommodating to the studio grips who wear muscleman T-shirts and drink beer out of a bottle and to my La Veranda customers. The two clienteles are not a good mix."
"We service the studio in its entirety," responds Sukman, "from executives in suits to guys who may sit at the bar. The fact remains that David created the entire menu--except for one chicken sandwich--and trained the staff. That's what he was hired to do."
CARD TRICKS: When Visa struck a deal with Wolfgang Puck to stop accepting the American Express card at his Spago and Granita restaurants, American Express took out full-page ads in Los Angeles and San Francisco in protest.
Now, to get you not to leave home without it, American Express is paying its most frequent restaurant-goers a one-time $25 reward if they use the card in a local restaurant. "As you know, there are many fine restaurants in your area that warmly welcome the Card," writes American Express President Thomas O. Ryder in a letter to selected cardholders. "The next time you dine at one . . . I invite you to send me your American Express receipt and I'll see that you receive a $25 American Express Gift Cheque."
"The letter is not something punitive against Wolfgang Puck," says American Express spokesman Marcos Rada. "It's to reward our card members for their loyalty."
Rada refuse to say how many letters were sent out. "We are pretty tight-lipped about that."
THE LAST SUPPERS: Trattoria Angeli hosts its final Passover dinner Monday and Tuesday. The prix - fixe dinner at $28 a head includes charoset, braised artichokes, beef and leek croquettes or white fish, egg-drop soup with Passover pasta, lamb with vegetables, green salad, and macaroons for dessert.
Also, on April 8 and 9, it's an all-you-can-eat B.Y.O.B. buffet for $20 per person at the West L.A. restaurant. "It will be like coming to a party," says chef/owner Evan Kleiman. "All our regulars can come and say goodby and we can encourage them to come to our other places." It's business as usual at Angeli Caffe and Angeli Mare.