I was saddened to see the Italian Cucina Rustica next to the Japanese restaurant Sake on Honolulu Ave. close its doors permanently. It was just another restaurant in the charming and bucolic town to vacate.
Surprisingly, Town Kitchen & Grill took over the space in January 2015 and had their grand opening 19 days later. Owners Jim and Angela Collins are locals in the community. They have various family members helping out in the contemporary design restaurant.Cody, their niece, is one of their best servers. She is friendly and enthusiastic about the menu and restaurant.
For me, the food needs to be good to come back again. Also, the service needs to be friendly and attentive. It helps if the atmosphere is inviting. Town Kitchen & Bar wins the trifecta for all these requirements.
Jim and Angela put an ad on Craig’s List in need of a terrific chef. When Corey Kelso walked in, they liked him immediately. Jim being a big foodie liked that Kelso was the chef at Mastro’s restaurant in Beverly Hills for almost three years.
He is an expert at grilling protein and writing up whimsical menu dishes such as Spectacular Salmon, Irresistably-
Tender Lamb Chops, Kicked Up Caesar, Not-Your-Mama’s Brussels Sprouts and Just Give Me The Cheese pizza.
We made reservations at 7:45 p.m. and weren’t too hungry, so we split two dishes – The special fish of the day, a halibut on a bed of smashed potatoes and the Town burger. Both were excellent.
The halibut was cooked perfectly and healthier than the certified Black Angus burger with a garlic aioli, bacon, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. It was served with a side of their house made crisp chips dusted with a secret spice. Next to the chips is a container of blue cheese for dipping the chips. The creamy blue cheese mellows the heat on the chips. It’s a vegetarian version of buffalo wings dipped into blue cheese. I’m not a big chip eater, however, I actually liked the thick and crisp chips a lot.
For starters the Not-Your-Mama’s Brussels Spouts and flash fried golden brown and tossed with a warm bacon vinaigrette and dusted with Asiago cheese. A table near us ordered the dish and I made a note to try it on my next visit.
The menu offers four salads with dressings made in house. They make their own pizza dough for their four different types from Margherita to rustic sausage. Ask your server to have it prepared “Ramani Style” with Jalapeño peppers and bacon for an additional spicy and savory pie.
On their pasta section they offer an almond and chicken risotto with sun dried cherry tomatoes and a Good Ol’ Fashion Lasagna baked in their 600 degree pizza oven. Since chef Corey became a grill master while working at Mastro’s, he grills the Town rib eye, lamb chops, organic chicken breast and burger expertly.
Save room for dessert. Cody our server recommended the salted caramel gelato cake. It was a thin layer of chocolate cake and the lightly salted flavored caramel on top. They also have a lemon tart, creme brûlée and a brownie made with double chocolate, vanilla bean ice cream, berries, caramel and chocolate ribbons.
Town has a nice cocktail menu with drinks under $14 and a red and wine menu with glasses starting at $7. Corkage is $20, however if you purchase a cocktail or wine it is free.
Friendly Owners and Staff
The Collins moved to Glendale in the late 60s and have never left the community. They came into Cucina Rustica often for dinner and one night learned that the owners wanted to retire and sell the restaurant. It seemed like the ideal opportunity to mix their love of cooking with their passion for staying in the community. Jim and Angela enjoy strolling through the restaurant and chatting with guests. One of Cody’s aunt’s makes handmade caramels that are presented to guests at the end of the evening.
Cody proudly told us her uncle and aunt changed the interior by removing the plaster wall, revealing beautiful brick. They took out the booths and made a much larger and longer bar. Every stool was occupied while we dined. Guests enjoy the friendly bartenders who are happy to make your favorite drink with their large selection of spirits. It’s a fun spot to sip and eat.
The tables are mostly for two to four guests, however they can easily be pushed together to accommodate larger parties. I recommend making reservations, because the Friday night we dined at Town, it was packed with happy diners.
Prices: $8 to $24
2276 Honolulu Ave. Montrose, California 91020
Phone (818) 248-1881 Website: http://www.townkitchenandgrill.com