Local Spotlight: Manhattan House
Near the corner of Sepulveda and Manhattan Beach Boulevard is a location, that for years many businesses tried to make name for themselves, but all ended up closing. And while most people said location was the reason, two friends from New York proved everyone wrong and opened a gastropub, named Manhattan House, at this same location. They decided to focus on quality dishes with an award winning chef and ingredients from local community gardens (there is even a garden in their parking lot). We sat down with the owners Brett Schwartz and Jeffrey Kirshenbaum (pictured above) to get the scoop on the Manhattan House and how the restaurant came to be in Manhattan Beach.
What is the story behind the Manhattan House?
Brett: We knew each other from New York. I was born in Long Island, lived in Brooklyn for 8 years.
Jeff: I was in Manhattan for 13 years.
Brett: Hence, the name “Manhattan House”. But basically a friend of mine hit me up about a bar for sale in Manhattan Beach. I came to check it out and it was basically a dump, but I thought it would be good for a sports bar. Then I met a guy who owned restaurants and he called me a shmuck for wanting to open a sports bar here. He said this area needs neighborhood restaurants and gastropubs, so we decided to go with that. I basically went from “this restaurant isn’t going to happen”, to “ok this is happening” and it happened pretty quick.
Jeff: The right pieces all fell in place, and as each person has come on board it became realer and realer.
It says on your website that Manhattan House uses local community gardens, can you tell us a little bit more about this?
Brett: It was something that was really important to our Chef, Diana Stavaridis. There was an organization in the area called Growing Great that reached out to us while we were under construction. They work with about 70-80 elementary schools across LA, and we work with two of the elementary schools in the area now. There are 12 -15 plots for gardens at the schools, and Deep Roots Nursery down the street donates the seeds. Then we go down to the elementary schools and plant them with the kids. Also, our chef goes down to the school to talk to the kids about how the plants are grown, what you eat, and it becomes part of their science class. We are going to be expanding to a bunch of other schools in the area and do a special kids night here for all of them.
Jeff: The school gardens are our most interactive. We also have another one at Deep Roots garden center, and then our third one is right in our parking lot. We have dwarf citrus trees, herbs, and edible flowers that our chef goes outside and picks every day.
Describe a typical Manhattan House dining experience?
Brett: It's very seasonal because of our local food sources, but we have our core items and we encourage sharing because our dishes are mostly family style. Every dish has different flavors and hits your pallet differently, that’s why we recommend sharing so you can try everything. A fan favorite is Lamb Meatballs, Mushroom Toast, and we also have by far one of the best burgers I have ever had. I come here with my friends and eat when I’m not working.
Jeff: We take a lot of pride in the fact that people can come here and eat regardless of their food allergies or their dietary restrictions. They can have a diverse meal whether they are vegetarians, gluten free, dairy free, anything like that.
Brett: We have one dish that is coming soon that is completely vegan, and if everything vegan tasted like this, I would be a vegan for the rest of my life. It’s called “Carrot-ology”
What brought you to the South Bay?
Brett: My older brother lived in Manhattan Beach, I came here and loved it. I never thought I would own a restaurant and bar but it’s been great, I love the area.
Jeff: I had been coming out to California over the years with friends and family, I had always wanted to live out here but I couldn’t do it with my career. I got to a point in my life where I wanted a change of lifestyle, so I just quit my job and moved to Santa Monica. Got to know the west side, and Brett was down in Manhattan Beach so I would come down here all the time and eventually moved here and haven't looked back.
Name one time you’ve had that "Aha" moment where it made sense to you why you started your own business?
Brett: For me it was when we had our first sale, they loved the food, and it made us so happy that our hard work made people come together and they enjoyed the food. Also, people started coming and telling us that this location had always been failing and that they loved the location and everything about the restaurant.
Jeff: I had taken a job in downtown while we were working on this place. I chose to quit that job and take a leap and it all clicked to me. I had spent all this time in New York loving restaurants, going out and putting restaurant lists together to give to friends. I realized this is everything that I should have been doing and I was finally taking a risk to do that.
TIP FROM DIANA ROBERTS:
- Summer garden salad, wild mushroom toast and the pan roasted Alaskan halibut—so yummy.