Chic and casual restaurants dress up with “stuffy” meal ideas


The best refined and relaxed concepts are a marriage of opposites that strike the right balance: fine dining in a fun setting for customers who want quality without pretension or fuss. See also: Caviar and tater tots. High tops with a tuxedo. Southern rock music and a dry aged steak. Grilled Chicken and Brown Rice Bowls for Dogs. Chandeliers and graffiti. Hot sloppy chicken sandwiches on a velvet sofa. Tailed shrimp taquitos. Carrot-fed Angus beef burgers with macaroni and cheese balls.

Why would these contrasting elements of style and flavor appeal to a restaurateur or chef so much? The many guests who want to wear flip flops while eating fine food.

Holiday atmosphere in Southern California, heatwave on the menu

Leigh Lupinacci conjures up a few of these hypothetical guests to create the experience at Esperanza, the fine casual eatery in Manhattan Beach, Calif., Where Lupinacci is a partner and director of food and beverage.

“A guest can stop after the beach for a light seafood crudo meal of fresh cut sea bass ceviche blanco and Sonoran scallop aquachile, then come back a few nights later for a nice cut of steak. from New York, Oaxacan carnitas or pollo mole blanco, “she said. “Guests can walk around after a day at the beach in flip flops and shorts or come in at night for a special celebration they’ve been planning for months. “

Much like the Southern California vibe itself, this concept can swing from flip flops to haute couture high heels, from beach volleyball matches to glamorous gala events.

The key constant to a neat casual concept? “The attention to every detail of your visit will be the same every time,” said Lupinacci.

This connection with customers and the kind of experience they want is also the origin of Lazy Dog, a refined and relaxed concept with around 50 LaBrea locations in Boca.

“We continue to find new ways to connect with our customers where and when they need us with fun offers like our frozen and scratch TV dinners and our Lazy Dog Beer Club, a membership program with quarterly themed outings. and in the restaurant. benefits, ”said Marketing Director John Williams.

John Williams quote, Lazy Dog

What’s on the menu for refined casual perfection?

Esperanza’s Lupinacci illustrates the difference between ‘laid back’ and ‘refined casual’ with menu items: ‘Chile’s rellenos are delicious, but not all Mexican restaurants offer them with fresh lobster tail, shrimp. Mexican whites and grilled corn, ”she says. “Everyone loves traditional crispy tacos and enchiladas, so we take it a step further by using grated short ribs and natural chicken, mixes of artisan Mexican cheese and mashed Peruvian white beans. “

She adds that the refined casual style is also a perfect description for Manhattan Beach. “We reflect this ambiance to our customers by serving modern and refined food and drink in a beautiful, inviting and unique atmosphere while providing welcoming and friendly service and hospitality,” she said.

The refined and relaxed end of the party should be an experience that guests will seek and even envy.

“Everything was created with the intention of the guest saying, ‘I want something that I can only get in Esperanza… let’s go!’ Lupinacci said.

This sense of high fun foods is also strong at Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, where an unpretentious platter of nachos and cheese dip is projected into the stratosphere of casual chic as it becomes a lobster and spinach queso.

Quote from Yavonne Sarber, Agave & Rye's

Chandeliers and spray paint, super empanadas and Super Mario

The high-low aesthetic is once again present at Agave & Rye’s 10 locations, located in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. “We know our customers are looking for something affordable,” said Yavonne Sarber, founder and CEO of the boozy taco concept. “Customers are looking for a unique experience and ambiance.

This unique aspect is more important than ever, Sarber concluded. “Over the past year or more, people have also learned that they can cook at home,” she said. “Many have become accustomed to their habits, cooking at home becoming a comfortable habit. Now they are looking for an escape that is worth the venture.

Quote from Yavonne Sarber, Agave & Rye's

The Agave & Rye experience features large-scale, old-fashioned arcades with games that pull the right strings of nostalgia for the adult “kids at heart” who grew up playing Mario Bros. The murals on the wall bring home the sensory-memory experience.

Become refined casual

Sarber revealed that plans are under development for Papi Jocho’s, a Mexican street food concept with franchise and licensing opportunities for employees, and an unnamed third concept that “targets a specific niche market. ‘guests who may not want to be’ wine and dine ‘in a stuffy environment but still want the luxury of the food often served in this type of environment, ”she says. “We want to bring a little southern rock and steak tattoos.


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