Richard DiSisto found Rican Garces and together they opened Lucy's 51 in beautiful downtown Toluca Lake last September. Its unrivaled acceptance was instantaneous, with crowds assembling there every evening of the week.
It's a restaurant, a cafe, a bar and, since they both are New Yorkers , a warm, welcome "hangout". Not one, not two, but six giant television sets are tuned into every sport imaginable. The bar is overflowing with all kinds of "bargain" drinks and eats available between 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. The location is on the site of the old "Money Tree" and those two have created a new tree, earning them well-deserved dinero.
The place is brimming with earnest, warm welcomes from the hostess, runners, servers and bartenders. You feel their joy instantly. We decided to eat outside on their small, but inviting patio for this was an ideal Southern California evening with a gentle breeze.
Chef Hugo has been enlarging the menu this past year from its smaller offerings: eleven appetizers, five salads, four burgers, nine entrees with nine sides and four desserts. We opted for a sampler of four appetizers:
A. The crab cakes – "C": too much cous cous and not nearly enough crab.
B. Fried calamari – "B": tender pieces with an excellent chile-lime cocktail sauce.
C. Bacon-wrapped shrimp – "B+": a tad well done with a great Caribbean 1000 island dressing.
D. Spinach artichoke parmesan dip – "A": Served hot and bubbly and, oh, so good.
Fran opted for the Ahi Tuna Salad ($13.95): a humongous portion of seared Ahi, garnished with mandarin oranges, dried cranberries, jicama and avocado, atop horseradish sprouts and baby greens in a wasabi, mustard soy mayo dressing with sweet sesame. Chef Hugo goes a little over the top with some of his creations and this one received a delightful smile and two thumbs up from my beautiful wife.
I selected Larry Lipson's favorite, The Chop ($19.95): One center-cut pork chop, chargrilled (also, a bit much), accompanied by his heavenly green apple "Calavados" sauce and sweet potato fries and grilled mushrooms. Give an "A" to both vegetables. Hint: When you're there, ask your server to remind Chef Hugo to put less fire to the chop, the shrimp and any other meat entree you order, unless, of course, you like your food circa 1950's "Jewish-mother style cooking".
We had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with both Rican, the G.M. and Rich, the owner; two of the most affable, interesting guys you ever want to meet. And, get this, Rich and I went to the very same elementary school in The Bronx – I, thirty years earlier! Small world!
People like it here: they like the acceptance; the prices; the cordiality; the variety. And I think you will also. Two things to do when you're there: Ask Rich to tell you the story of how Lucy's 51 got its name; and, even more important, remember to tell 'em Joseph sent you for it may get you an extra shrimp from the barby!
Lucy's 51 10149 Riverside Drive Toluca Lake 91602 Tel. 818-763-5200 Approx. $45 for two w/o alcohol