Celebrity chef Richard Blais is known for his appearances on the reality cooking show Top Chef, and as San Diego’s top restaurateur with his fine dining restaurant Juniper & Ivy, and fine-casual fried chicken eatery The Crack Shack.
Fine-casual restaurants are popping up all over Los Angeles since restaurateur Danny Meyer of Shake Shack came up with this culinary term. Now other chefs are taking off with this concept, blending speed and convenience of fast-casual with a chef-driven menu and upscale touches.
Blaise’s touches include an elevated food and bar menu showcasing innovative California cuisine and whimsical decor. He partnered with chef Jon Sloan and Michael Rosen in 2015 to open an all-day breakfast, lunch and dinner menu that revolves around chicken and eggs in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood. The chefs fry, grill and prepare healthy, and not so healthy, but oh so satisfying dishes that appeal to all.
This concept became so popular, that Blais and his team opened other “Shacks” in Encinitas and Costa Mesa. Now one is in Los Angeles at the Westfield Century City near Nordstrom.
Walking to the glass and wood “Shack,” we were greeted by an enormous white rooster statue, before following a long hallway to the order counter. Looking over the menu, we noticed the restaurant has a glass and metal Moët & Chandon vending machine located in the large bar area. It’s filled with hundreds of chilled small bottles of Imperial Brut or Imperial Rosé.
Moët & Chandon first introduced the vending machine in London a few years ago, and then the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas became the first U.S. destination. Now Arnaud’s French 75 in New Orleans and The Crack Shack in Century City have one too.
Since Blais is also a James Beard nominated cookbook author, his books including – Try This at Home: Recipes From My Head to Your Plate are on displays for guests to look through or purchase.
We decided to order one or two items from each “cocky” category on the menu to share family style. The “Other Cluck” section listed chicken oysters, Mexican poutine, deviled eggs, schmaltz fries and six mini biscuits. We noticed the deviled eggs come on a tray with four halved eggs topped with candied “crack” bacon and a french toast crumble. That sounded good. My daughter also wanted to try the fries and small biscuits served warm with a miso-maple butter spread.
My husband ordered one of the fried chicken sandwiches named Señor Croque. Others are humorously called Double Clucker, Malibu Barbie Q and Coop Deville. I selected a healthier bowl called the Downward Dog. Others in the salad section are named “Anti-salad power bowl”, “Miso healthy bowl” and a Baja chop salad.
Since the Crack Shack makes milkshakes from Salt & Straw ice cream, my husband and daughter ordered a honey lavender purple shake and a deep brown chocolate one. I received a token for $20 to retrieve a personal size Moët & Chandon bottle.
Taking our number and looking for a table, we commented how the indoor dining room is large, light and bright with concrete flooring, metal chairs with plaid upholstered backs in soft blues and cream colors. There are whimsical wall posters featuring LA Galaxy, Los Angeles Dodgers, and LA Lakers players with chicken heads replacing the player’s face. It’s silly, yet adds to the fun of not taking itself too serious atmosphere. They even have chicken coop wiring above some of the booths near the full bar.
The large square style bar has mixologists making and pouring craft cocktails and strawberry frose’ slushies. There are a variety of beer options that include King Harbor, Beachwood, and Mother Earth. Wines can be poured in two glass sizes or ordered by the bottle. The selection includes a light whites, rose’ and reds.
Since it was a lovely day, we sat out on the front patio at a wood table, under black umbrellas and waited for our food to arrive. I took my token back into the bar area and inserted it into the machine. A robotic arm moved to the number I pressed for a bottle of Imperial Rosé. With a soft mechanical sound, the bottle was taken from the refrigerated case and deposited into a tray that opened to reveal my selection.
Returning to my table, a server brought a flute and shiny gold Moët pourer, so I didn’t have to drink straight from the bottle. The bubbles complemented the richness of our fried chicken, eggs and biscuits meal.
Taking a bite of my husband’s crispy chicken sandwich, I enjoyed the layers of bacon, a fried egg, melted cheddar, smear of miso-maple butter all between a brioche bun. It’s thicker than most, juicy and enhanced with “crack spice” a proprietary blend of spices from Le Sanctuaire in San Francisco.
There are six different handmade sauces to elevate a burger or fries even more. The sauce station offers “Crackup (ketchup)”, “Sweet Heat”, “Ranch”, “Sriracha 1000 Island” “Kimchi Barbecue”, and “Baja Hot Sauce.”
My healthier bowl arrived with thick hummus on the bottom and up the sides, bite-sized local grilled carrots and beets, sunflower seeds, quinoa, and rocket arugula. It was delicious with a light lemon yogurt vinegar sprinkled on top.
Crack Shack offers a Happy Hour every Monday through Friday where guests receive special priced beverages and crack snacks from 3 to 7 p.m. These deals will have you “crowing” after a day of shopping or before an early movie.
Before leaving we learned that Blais and his team are opening another Crack Shack in Old Town Pasadena on Green Street before the end of 2018. $-$$ 10250 Santa Monica Blvd. (424)320-0046.
This article was also featured in the August 16, 2018 – Beverly Press