Blue Ribbon Expands Empire in L.A. With Burger Restaurant Opening This Fall
Hank’s, which is scheduled to debut in Pacific Palisades this September, is a modern American burger restaurant that will offer comfort food like a wild mushroom burger, matzo ball soup, and Blue Ribbon’s beloved fried chicken. Hank’s is part of development company Caruso’s Palisades Village, which will feature high-profile restaurants alongside boutique shopping, a movie theater, a park, and more along pedestrian-friendly Swarthmore Avenue.
In New York, Blue Ribbon is known for having spots where you can roll in for a post-midnight dinner. But L.A. is a city that goes to bed earlier, and lots of Pacific Palisades residents have children, so Hank’s will focus on being a casual, family-friendly restaurant. This will be a place where children can customize their meals and pound shakes while their parents enjoy craft cocktails and selections from the extensive beer and wine list.
“We’re kind of evoking that communal neighborhood spot where you can go all times of day: with your kids after soccer practice, after work for a drink,” Blue Ribbon’s Bruce Bromberg tells Food & Wine. “You can grab some eggs and pancakes in the morning.”
Hank’s, which will open at 10 a.m. daily, will also serve breakfast items throughout the day. Guests will able to build their own burgers, including chicken burgers. Want to fortify yourself with fries and fondue before or after a day at the beach? There will be no judgment from the staff here.
The kids’ menu will have more than a dozen items, including healthy choices like fresh salmon.
“My daughter, Tanner, is fully in charge and will make sure I get the right things on the kids’ menu,” says Bromberg, who runs Blue Ribbon with his brother Eric. “I can guarantee you that.”
To ensure proper quality control, Bromberg is moving to the Palisades with his wife and 10-year-old daughter.
“My brother and I have always been extremely cautious about putting our name on a restaurant and not really being present,” Bromberg says. “I’m very excited to be near the restaurant and to be able to cook on a daily basis and be involved in everything.”
Blue Ribbon has always cooked seasonally, so Bromberg is obviously amped about playing around with California produce at Hank’s. Plus, living in the Palisades has its perks.
“My daughter’s a surfer, so we’re excited about the proximity to the ocean, Surfrider Beach in Malibu, and all the rest of that,” Bromberg says.
Hank’s is named after developer Rick Caruso’s late father, and it’s also honoring the past by serving dishes inspired by the gone-but-not-forgotten Mort’s, a neighborhood deli that many Palisades residents adored. Mort’s was, among other things, featured on Curb Your Enthusiasm. (On the show, it was known as Leo’s and had a sandwich named after Larry David.) The Brombergs are working with Bobbie Farberow, who was the wife of late proprietor Mort Farberow, to create menu items like banana-oat pancakes, soups, and sandwiches.
“We probably need to build a really great Reuben,” Bromberg says.
The goal is to turn Hank’s into the kind of neighborhood gathering place that Mort’s was.
“I get how a restaurant like Mort’s becomes the heart and soul of the community,” says Bromberg, who grew up eating at the Morristown Deli in New Jersey. “That’s a real focus that Rick, my brother, and I really discussed, making something that’s integral to the community.”
Beyond the dining-room tables, banquettes, and patio seating at Hank’s, the Brombergs want to evoke an old-fashioned soda-fountain counter. So there will be barstools at a counter facing the open kitchen. The dining room, designed by Asfour Guzy Architects, will feature automotive photographs (children like cars, after all), lamps, and chandeliers that contribute to the nostalgic feel of the place.
Blue Ribbon has a reputation for after-hours dining in New York, but the heart of all the Brombergs’ restaurants are big menus with something for everyone at all times and during all moods.
“People from all parts of the world come to our restaurants,” Bromberg says. “But at the end of the day, we’ve always made neighborhood restaurants. I’m always entertained when someone looks at the menu board at Blue Ribbon and walks away. What exactly were they looking for?”
Palisades Village’s grand opening is scheduled for September 22. Beyond Hank’s, the development’s food options will include Al Forte by Madeo, chef Edoardo Baldi’s Edo Little Bites, Seattle chef Renee Erickson’s General Porpoise coffee/donut shop, Matt and Marissa Hermer’s The Draycott, McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, Porta Via, SunLife Organics, Sweet Laurel Bakery, and Vintage Grocers. Plus, the Brombergs, who operate both Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill and The Fountain Bar at Caruso’s The Grove, are planning a second Palisades Village restaurant that will be announced soon.
It’s all part of Caruso’s big push into making dining as much of a draw as anything else at its developments. The Grove is where Dominique Ansel recently opened a bakery and his first sit-down restaurant, 189. Caruso’s The Americana at Brand has a restaurant collection that includes Din Tai Fung and The Tsujita. Caruso has real estate across the street from The Americana that’s home to Eggslut and Shake Shack.
“I think for many years, L.A. was a bit challenging for New York restaurateurs,” Bromberg says. “I think the culinary scene in L.A. has evolved quite a bit in the last ten years. I think L.A.’s excited instead of cynical at this point. L.A.’s become more accepting and eager to try different things. We’re excited about continuing to grow here.”