Continuing on my love of South Bay's resurgence in the dining scene (see: Strand House, MB Post), I had the lucky chance to check out American Farmhouse Tavern for a media dinner in late September. While it was a bit more inland and away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Manhattan Beach, I was intrigued by its menu (particularly the complete meal concept) so again I went to the M.B. (which has already became one of my favorite beaches in town.)
Upon arrival, I took notice of the place's interior. True to its name, it has a rustic-country farmhouse feel with a few modern touches here and there, such as studio lights juxtaposing against vintage family portraits and assorted wall curios.
While waiting for the dinner to commence, I settled into the bar and got a cocktail, the Buffalo Smoke made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, St. Germaine, peach nectar and a bacon-wrapped sugarcane. The drink leaned a bit too sweet for me at first, but it later proved to be a nice contrast against the smoky, savory bacon. Of course, it's also ingenious for being a cocktail I can drink AND eat at the same time!
After a while (and a few small bites to keep our appetites at bay,) we were escorted into the Parlour Room in the back for our dinner. As I noted, what sets American Farmhouse Tavern apart is the complete meal menu, where almost every entree includes soup, salad, choice of side AND choice of dessert. And the four-course dinner is totally worth the bang for the buck, ranging from $13 for a Linguica Sausage sandwich to $29 for a bacon-wrapped filet mignon.
On this particular dinner, we sampled a fwe items from their fall menu -- but first off we started with
Farmhouse vegetable stew with cattleman beans, Santa Maria vegetables in broth and Santa Maria-style salsa that you get to combine to your liking. This starter was a delightful mix of contradictions, with the delicately savory broth set against the zesty pico de gallo-esque salsa, and the rich, hearty beans.
Of course, I appreciated the "customize-your-own" aspect. As you can see, I kept mine on the light side with way more broth & veggies -- since I know there'll probably be plenty to nosh on later.
After the soup came the wedge salad, which was another much-welcome surprised. Whether than the typical wedge of milquetoast iceberg lettuce & bland tomato drowning in a heavy Bleu Cheese dressing, here it's a flavorful blend of Bibb, grape tomatoes and carrot-onion strips in a tangy-spicy Cabernet Vinaigrette. Normally another pet peeve of mine are salads that I have to use a knife on, but I definitely didn't mind cutting this up and eating all those tender, crunchy, flavorful layers of vegetables.
After that came the trio of entrees, which I was more thankful to split with my +1.
A generous cut of perfectly-roasted prime rib with creamy horseradish and savory au jus, plus a thick cut of Texas toast and two ice cream scoops worth of addictive mashed potatoes (that we later found out was made with LOTS of butter...) In short, solid and comforting steak 'n potatoes fare.
Next we tried the Housemade pappardelle pasta with butternut squash, spit-roasted duck, sage and browned butter - a decidedly 'sweeter' entree thanks to the squash and a hint of sweet spices, the components definitely scream 'Autumn!' and this is an interesting seasonal spin for the pasta dish, though I might prefer this more as a half-portion primi dish than a full-on entree, being one of those pastas that's fun to eat for the first few bites, but a bit overwhelming to finish, though my friend was more than happy to doggy-bag the remainders for lunch the day after.
Pecan-crusted rainbow trout with lemon herbed butter and rice pilaf - a straightforward-sounding dish that was excellently executed, the fish was firm and not dried out, and the crust lends a pleasant woodsy, nutty crunch without being too greasy or gritty. The lemon butter was a nice addition, though I think the fish was totally fine on its own. And the pilaf is a decent accompaniment, fluffy and tender, though less memorable of a side dish compared to the buttery taters.
Even though we were stuffed to the brim after all those belly-busting courses, I couldn't resist the pie a la mode that came out. Flaky crust, check. Not-too-sweet fruit filling, check. Alas, even with my love of all things sugary, I only finished about half this pie.
Of course, as we chatted with the chef & public relations rep throughout and after the meal, they made it known that there's no shortage of incentives to come back. From a fried half-chicken night (Sundays) for $15, to a lunchtime/pre-dinner/late-night happy hour with $4 draft beer, wines and well drinks, and the occasional entertainment events from Monday Night Football to live Jazz performances.
Though between the budget-friendliness, deliciously satisfying meals and the MUCH easier parking are all the perks I need to keep me coming back for more!
What Do Others Say?
- South Bay Foodies said "given the grill, the cocktails, and the fun farmhouse theme, I’m sure they will be setting the standard for Taverns & Dining Halls for a while."
- Gourmet Pigs noted that "if you're looking for a simple meal with great grilled meats, look no further."
- LA Weekly's Squid Ink praised their happy hours, mentioning that "there couldn't be a happier place than American Farmhouse Tavern & Dining Hall in Manhattan Beach."
- South Bay Sparkles said "a place to go out for dinner that’s traditional and yet has a few memorable twists."
American Farmhouse Tavern
924 North Sepulveda Boulevard
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266