Q&A with Bob Lynn of LGO Hospitality

New restaurant The Misfit celebrates Los Angeles' quirks

Bob Lynn, owner of LGO Hospitality, has long said he would rather eat in a bar than drink in a restaurant.

That notion is the inspiration for his newest concept called The Misfit, which opened in Santa Monica, Calif., two weeks ago.

Housed in a classic art deco building that once included a bank vault, the space previously was a traditional French brasserie. Lynn has reworked the 120-seat dining room to be more “Euro-pub” than brasserie, with murals that line the back bar and large striped curtains to tone down the acoustics.

Even before it opened, the restaurant generated buzz with its very unusual recruitment video, which was designed to capture the concept’s theme and tap into the wonderful weirdness that is Los Angeles.

Los Angeles-based LGO Hospitality also operates La Grande Orange Café and the Luggage Room Pizzeria in Pasadena, as well as La Grande Orange Grocery and Chelsea’s Kitchen in Phoenix. The company is now looking for a location for La Grande Orange Grocery in West Hollywood, Calif.

Lynn talked with Nation’s Restaurant News about the new restaurant and changes within his growing multi-concept operation:

Why “The Misfit?”

One of the great things about living in L.A. is there’s such an openness about the way people dress and look and how they are. You often hear the joke that you can’t tell the street people from the rock stars. We love that. When you’re really yourself, we’re all misfits in a way. We’re all different.

Was the recruitment video effective?

I interviewed every staff member and nearly every one of them watched it and loved it because I think they got what we were trying to say. It’s obviously a new idea, and it was made by one of our servers from the early days. We wanted to reach out to the community and potential hires to let them know they can be themselves here. We’re good with tattoos and folks who want to express themselves however. We’re looking for level of professionalism and hospitality, too, of course. But we attracted a very special staff.

Watch the video.

The restaurant is in a touristy area near the Santa Monica Promenade. How does that affect your approach?

There’s really nobody that comes to L.A. that doesn’t end up in three places: Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. It’s really kind of a world market.

But our clientele is 90-percent local. There are towering office buildings all around us, and there are a lot of people that live and work here. They’re young and they’re walking by with their yoga mats.

I think our goal is to be a really nice bar that you can come to all the time. We wanted it to be a very comfortable place for diners to eat alone at the bar. We have three fresh soups every day, and one is vegan. The price point is such that you can get in and out for under $15. If you want to come and have a glass of wine and a bowl of soup, we love that.

Tell us about the menu.

We have things like our grass-fed beef burger, which we’ve had an enormous response to. It’s interesting how many healthy people say it goes down like a salad.

We do a wonderful whole French sea bass, and we do [the late Atlanta chef] Edna Lewis’s fried chicken recipe in an iron skillet. There’s a shredded kale salad and our Brussels sprouts salad. And we have a gluten-free mac-and-cheese made with brown rice that even people who aren’t sensitive to gluten love.

The history of my food is that it’s clean. There are so many trends, but the one thing you can count on with LGO Hospitality is what you order is what you get. There’s no hidden butter or sugar.

We have tons of vegetarian and vegan options, but we’re pretty much geared up to handle anything. You have to celebrate the diversity of the consumer and be flexible.

Who’s the chef?

The chef is Bruce Kalman, who was the executive chef at Chelsea’s Kitchen in Arizona.

What’s the price range?

Prices for entrées range from $7 to $15.

You recently sold your interests in the La Grande Orange location in Santa Monica, not far from The Misfit. Why?

We had collaborated with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, or LEYE, on the restaurant Hub 51 and the LGO in Santa Monica, but I think we have different goals.

It’s all good and everyone’s getting along and everything. We’re creating a bunch of different restaurants, and LEYE is a great company and they had some things they wanted to do differently, so we decided to sell our interests in both Hub 51 and LGO Santa Monica. They changed the name to M Street Kitchen, and it’s all LEYE now.

Any plans to multiply The Misfit yet?

We’d love to open The Misfit in New York, probably Manhattan, but something like the West Village. My wife [artist Sara Abbott] has a lot of connections to New York, and I think it would do great there. One of our partners is starting to look for locations there.

We’re not trying to grow really fast. We’re totally comfortable with maybe one place opening in a year, or maybe longer.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected] [3].
Follow her on Twitter @livetodineout [4]