Hamilton's the Latest Celebrity Restaurateur


Jack Nicholson has his Monkey Bar. Liza Minnelli and Dudley Moore are investors in 72 Market Street. Arnold Schwarzenegger owns Schatzi. Now actor George Hamilton--"Your Cheatin' Heart," "Zorro, the Gay Blade," "Love at First Bite" and Shannen Doherty's former father-in-law--is getting into the food and beverage biz. He's become a partner in the serious wine bar soon to open at the snooty Wine Merchant in Beverly Hills.

Hamilton, a regular at the annual World of Wines celebration in Newport Beach, buys wine at the 23-year-old shop where customers regularly drop as much on a bottle of Bordeaux as most of us spend for a used car. "George Hamilton has been a friend and a customer for a long time," says co-owner Chris Overstreet. "Now he is officially doing it (the wine bar) with us." Hamilton's spokesman did not return phone calls.

March 28 is the official opening date. "The whole place is topsy-turvy right now," says Overstreet. "But it's going to be pretty spectacular."

Meanwhile Hamilton, who has supplemented his acting income in recent years by refurbishing and selling Victorian houses in Aspen, and as pitchman for a line of skin-care products, is busy consulting on the menu. Michel Blanchet, who ran the kitchen at the revered French restaurant L'Ermitage until it unexpectedly closed four years ago, and then at the Beverly Hilton's L'Escoffier until it too closed, will do the catering. Since the Wine Merchant doesn't have a full kitchen, the wine bar's menu will consist mainly of appetizers, cheeses, caviar and some of the famous L'Ermitage smoked salmon.

"George is still beefing up the menu a bit, adding a few more choices for variety," says Overstreet. "We don't want people coming in right now. It's still an unfinished symphony."


Mama Mia: Louise's is negotiating to open yet another trattoria in the old Red Onion in Marina del Rey. But if the Italian chain backs out of the deal, says a source, the Atlanta-based Hooters is ready to pounce. The politically incorrect bar-and-restaurant chain that features fried chicken wings and waitresses in tight T-shirts and short-shorts opened its first Southern California location on the Newport Beach Peninsula last month and plans to open five more Hooters in the next two years. "Hooters will never get into that space, not in a million years," says Louise's Bill Chait. "We have a signed lease. Besides, Hooters is not exactly your neighborhood-friendly concept."


Daily Bread: The Dalai Lama's nephew is opening his third Tibetan restaurant this month in Indiana. The Snow Lion mini-chain's menu features an eclectic mix of Asian and, er, Cajun cuisine. So far, no sign of the Tibetan national dish tsamp (barley paste) or any of that unstrained black tea flavored with rancid yak butter (a major Tibetan ingredient).

Meanwhile, Nation of Islam, which is headed by Louis Farrakhan, has opened a swank restaurant on Chicago's South Side. The $5-million, two-story complex, which was 10 years in the making, features a small restaurant/takeout for salads and seafood, a buffet and brunch room, and a fine dining restaurant. The entire concept is called Salaam (which is Arabic for peace ).


More Openings: On the local front, Cafe Pierrot on Larchmont has a new name and a new menu. Owner Shuji Kimora now calls his Franco-Japanese restaurant Cafe News. Waiter Robert Birnberg reports portions are larger, the food more inventive, the menu "three times better." . . . San Dong Noodle House has opened on Roscoe, just west of Reseda in the space where Caffe Giuseppe once dispensed osso buco . . . . Jerry's Deli will open branches in Westwood, just north of Hamburger Hamlet, and in Old Town Pasadena. . . . Red, a new breakfast and lunch place, has opened on Beverly Boulevard, east of Fairfax.


Remembered: The restaurant community was saddened to hear of the recent death of David Higer, who ran the Saratoga Restaurant for 30 years on Sunset (the Directors Guild now stands on that spot.) Higer, 84, was credited with being the first Los Angeles restaurateur to offer live Maine lobster. (His brother was a fisherman in New England and used to send them by American Airlines in the early '50s.)

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