If you’ve ever been to the South Bay, you’ll notice right away how vast and diverse this part of Los Angeles is compared to the rest of the county. People seek good food to not only satisfy their hunger, but to satiate their desire for good living. Food and beer are serious leisurely topics to converse and enjoy with company. So when a restaurant like 1321 Downtown Taproom actively tries to promote not only seasonal ingredients, but showcase local breweries, it no longer becomes another great find, it becomes a creative collective for the people.
Located in the center of Old Town Torrance, 1321 Downtown Taproom finds itself both beautiful and innocuous. Sitting near the end of Sartori Avenue, brick and black iron presents itself on the face of this pub. Chic black fabric line the tops of canopies, and simple numbers and letters gently remind you what the name of this restaurant is; a name you won’t soon forget.
One of the terms you hear often in architecture is “form over function”. It means most architecture has this relationship where either the form or design can impede any real function of a building and vice versa. Luckily, this restaurant has no problems in balancing both. Designed in the shape of a “U”, when you enter, you’ll see the vast expanse of the interior. The brick and mortar design still continues through, with plush leather booths and mahogany colored wood infused within the tables. The main dining room floor is designed similar to a big living room. Large flat screen televisions are found on each wall around you, but the big one in the middle is located with shelves, books, knick-knacks, and the random collectibles you find in the homes of your friends and enemies.
Turn towards the bar and you make a complete 90 degree turn into a beautifully stretched bar. Lights hang lazily down from the ceiling, and you get to see the vast scope of draft beers on tap. The bar is where you’ll find the most life at night, with characters from different stories in life occupying the high stools to warm up the space. If there ever was a bar that simply works without fuss or flash, this would be it.
Sitting down at the bar, service should be intimate and friendly at the same time. You’ll be spending lots of time with the bartender so it’s best to form a good relationship for the next hour or two. Luckily, creating a bond won’t be very difficult here. The service was quite warm and inviting. If you ask them to be more involved in your experience, leaving food and drink selection to their tastes, you won’t be disappointed. The staff has such great knowledge of their restaurant, you can slowly sip your worries behind over that great beer they just brought you. However, more than being knowledgeable, you get the sense of pride emanating in their gestures. The staff has pride in the restaurant and being a part of it. You can see eyes get bigger when they speak about their food, or swells of excitement in intonation when they speak of their beers. When a staff takes pride and personal investment to their work, it rubs off onto you. You start to fall in love.
1321 Downtown Taproom has a rotating menu that changes every few months or so. Though the menu doesn’t have consistent items, the change allows the experience of dining to never get old and never get boring. It allows the chef to be creative whilst also sharing his love of food to those who are lucky to eat it.
The menu is much smaller than most restaurants, but this isn’t a bad thing by any means. Instead of having a vast menu, a smaller menu means more attention for each dish without the clutter of having to attempt 80 different entrees. However, when a dish doesn’t reach expectations, it runs the risk of ruining the experience. For example, the 1321 Burger was a bit underwhelming to its flavor. Though the roasted garlic aioli is a fantastic idea, the actual meat of the burger seemed underseasoned. Pancetta was also in the burger, but it was so overcooked, you would have thought it was just crispy parts of the burger patty.
Yet, don’t let this discourage you from the rest of the menu. Their pork fries were amazingly decadent. Coming in a hot iron skillet, this love-fest is made of fries topped with gratuitous heaps of kurobuta pork, chipotle cream sauce, and beer braised onions that infused its essence in every bite. This “small plate” item was almost good enough for a meal in itself.
Then there was the Weekly Flatbread. This week it was flatbread topped with kurobuta pork, thinly sliced turnips, asparagus, and this amazing turnip marinara they created for the underbelly of the flatbread. The sauce was so amazingly creamy yet savory. One bite and you’ll want to bath in its glorious magnificence.
The Kracken Ribs also were memorable without being ostentatious. Made of the ribs of kurobuta pork, this dish is infused with Kracken black rum, coffee, coconut palm sugar, and celery. The meat is super tender and falls right off the bone. The black rum kicks in a bit of that island flavor which is then complimented by the coconut palm sugar. To balance it all out, the coffee mellows the flavor so anyone can eat and be happy with it. Pair this with the pork fries and you have a feast no one would state as being meager in flavor and proportions.
If the food might have been a bit underwhelming, then the beer selection will completely make up for it. With a vast selection of beers available both in draft and out, 1321 Downtown Taproom makes sure to support their local breweries. Outside of one or two breweries, 1321 Downtown Taproom supplies a rich selection of beers from all the local breweries in the South Bay. It might have perhaps one of the most robust selection of beers in all of Torrance. Whether you’re destined to try the creamy, yet sweet flavor of The Dudes’ Blood Orange fruit amber beer, or want to experience what Banana Bread beer smells and tastes like, this place has got not only your back, but the hard working brewers of South Bay as well. One of the few restaurants you can go to without ever touching a single item of food, and still leave completely satisfied and full because of the depth of their drinks.
With more and more gastropubs popping up in Southern California, it’s great to see more restaurants challenging themselves to create unique dishes based on the season and available ingredients. Even more, a restaurant that emanates pride of their community creates food that not only feeds the people, but connects it. With daily specials showcasing every aspect of their restaurant, and a calendar of special events coming up, including their 2 year anniversary on May 6th involving the mayor of Torrance, ribbon cutting, and $0.25 burgers, 1321 Downtown Taproom is everything locals love about a restaurant.
1321 Downtown Taproom
1321 Sartori Avenue
Torrance, CA 90501