Comeback of a Classic
Forman’s Tavern joins Toluca Lake’s bustling Riverside Drive restaurant scene, bringing a modern vibe along with a storied past.
The old Lucy’s 51 location has undergone quite a transition with the arrival of Forman’s Tavern, owned by ACME, the same restaurant group that owns Laurel Tavern, Beelman’s Pub and Spring St. Bar.
Lucy’s 51, occupying the space since 2006, served up live jazz and martinis (specialty: key lime) in a dark-lit, kitschy-cool bar complete with leopard print seating and a constellation of light-up frogs hopping across the ceiling.
In creating a rustic atmosphere for its “signature elevated pub food,” Forman’s borrows the look of an East Coast hunting lodge, with taxidermy and historic photos on forest green walls and a friendly communal table in the center as one seating choice.
BLACK AND WHITE Family photos include Hattie (Pat) and Kenny Stieroff, owners of Toluca Hut—later renamed Pat and Kenny’s Lamp Post—at the location from the early 1940s to 1950.
While Forman’s looks East Coast, the restaurant carries with it a long and storied West Coast history. First, it’s named after General Charles Forman, founder of Toluca Lake. And from the 1950s to the 1980s, the location was home to the Money Tree, notable for serving drinks to Hollywood celebs including Dean Martin, W.C. Fields, Liza Minnelli and Frank Sinatra.
Before that the location, which the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce tells us was owned from the 1930s to the 1980s by Moe Howard of Three Stooges fame, most likely housed the Toluca Hut restaurant, a name later changed to Pat and Kenny’s Lamp Post in honor of the couple running it.
While the timeline remains sketchy, relatives of the Stieroffs say the couple probably operated the restaurants from the early 1940s to 1950. Pat was also known as Hattie, and she, like Kenny, was born in 1908. Fun fact about Kenny: Prior to entering the restaurant business, he was a professional roller skater who skated in the Roller Derby and managed the Hollywood Roller Bowl at Sunset and Bronson boulevards.
DIVINE BEGINNINGS Ahi ceviche with avocado garnish
But back to the present: Forman’s opened in late August and is winning raves for its house-ground burgers. Executive chef Nick Coe employs an 801-pound smoker and tosses the meat patties on a woodfired grill; that smoker also helps produce some mighty tasty chicken wings. Creative appetizers include short rib carpaccio, roast marrowbones and the very sticky spicy-bacon caramel popcorn.
Forman’s also serves small-batch whiskeys and specialty cocktails including a sophisticated old fashioned with Old Forester bourbon, Averna, Benedictine and cherry bitters, and a pineapple spicy margarita with a ring of chili pepper, which at today’s gastropubs seems to be the new alternative to salt.
10149 Riverside Drive, Toluca Lake. Noon to 1 a.m. daily. 818-760-6900.