Whetting the Appetite for Shopping

Going out to eat is an indulgence, and while no restaurant can literally save you money, a conveniently located restaurant in the South Bay can actually help cut down on your grocery bill: Bristol's Cafe inside sleek Bristol Farms in Manhattan Beach.

We've often heard the sensible advice not to go shopping while hungry. That especially holds true at Bristol Farms, a gourmet shop the size of a supermarket. The choices here are so varied and tempting--everything from imported French butter and cheeses to a mousse of foie gras from the respected purveyor D'Artagnan--that if I attempt to roll my cart down the aisles while I'm hungry, my appetite ends up emptying my wallet. The simple cure? Stop in first for a bite at the market's casual Bristol's Cafe.

Intrigued by his mom's cooking, the cafe's chef Bruce Jacobs knew at an early age he wanted to cook for a living. In the seventh grade, the Massachusetts native enrolled in a home economics cooking class. The move brought a barrage of verbal attacks from his friends as fierce as those heard when Red Sox fans turned on Carl Yastrzemski after he struck out in the 1967 World Series at Fenway Park. Jacobs had the last laugh, however, because, he says, "Being the only guy in class, it was a great way to meet girls."

At Bristol's Cafe Jacobs tries his hand at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Early shoppers can stop in for bagels with cream cheese and Nova lox ($6.50) or "the good, bad & ugly" ($5.75), two eggs over easy on tortillas with ham, jack cheese, salsa, avocado and home fries. Specials might include French toast stuffed with cream cheese and strawberries, topped with pecan butter and served with bacon or sausage ($4.95).

Two appealing choices from the sandwich lineup are the shrimp and avocado club with a remoulade sauce ($6.95) and the grilled veggie mozzarella sandwich with eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms, red bell peppers and fresh basil on a baguette ($5.95).

After 4 p.m. the cafe serves dinner specials such as the Mediterranean medley of bay scallops, shrimp and baby clams sauteed with garlic, peppers, capers and tomatoes in a white wine sauce ($12.95) served over linguine. On Fridays, nearly everyone orders the cioppino ($12.95).

Even if you're not shopping, Bristol's Cafe is worth a stop for a casual meal of simple, fresh food.

Bristol's Cafe is at 1570 Rosecrans Ave., Manhattan Beach. (310) 643-5229. Open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. Window service is open at 7 a.m. for patio or to-go orders.

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