Charlie Parker might have worked in some of the best kitchens up in Northern California (consider such places as Manresa, Ubuntu, and Plum), but he brings a decidedly casual affair to the rather sleepy area of West Los Angeles along Pico Boulevard. With David Fleisher (formerly of Seven Grand) taking care of cocktails and front-of-house, they’re pushing the gastropub envelope at Freddy Smalls, the brainchild of The Counter Burger owner Jeff Weinstein.
Jeremy Fox, Parker’s mentor, consulted early on with the menu but Parker is applying the neighborhood aesthetic of Oakland’s Plum restaurant, with a few simple, well-made pub favorites (that eschew the same-old burger/pizza/hot dog variants) in favor of market-fresh vegetables, house-made charcuterie, and dishes like the crispy pig ear open-faced sandwich. Amid the start of dinner service, we sat down with Parker and Fleisher to hear about their start in the restaurant industry.
Cooking for the ladies to cooking for the foodies
Parker first started making grilled cheese sandwiches for his brother’s girlfriends before venturing into a now-defunct Italian restaurant in Woodside as a dishwasher (and eventually throughout the kitchen). He gained inspiration from the old public television show, Great Chefs, where microphones captured the din of overhead fans more than the mumbling voices of chefs. Still, the show featured proper technique as well as a realistic portrayal of life in the kitchen instead of today’s more celebrity-driven food culture. From there, he earned an externship at David Kinch’s highly lauded Manresa in Los Gatos, where he worked alongside Josef Centeno (of Baco Mercat and Lazy Ox Canteen) and Jeremy Fox.
He eventually became sous chef at Manresa and worked with Fox at Napa’s Ubuntu, a vegetable-focused restaurant. Parker also spent time at a butchery and a high-volume pub in Woodside, picking up skills that enabled him to flourish at Daniel Patterson’s Plum Restaurant in Oakland. During this time he earned a Rising Star Chef award from the San Francisco Chronicle.
From Oakland’s Uptown District to West Los Angeles
If you look through the menu for a burger, you won’t find one. It’s unusual for a gastropub with high aspirations, but Parker more than makes up for it with a slew of fantastic dishes that are ideal for sharing. The Baller Board features the likes of Rabbit Mortadella and country pork that go perfect with slathered on warm crusty bread.
Reuben’s Gluttony, essentially a deconstructed reuben sandwich, contains delicious sliced corned beef atop a bed of tangy kohlrabi sauerkraut, as well as a roasted bone marrow log. Parker’s New School Chicken Parm re-imagines the old-school classic using bundled mounds of dark meat chicken, encrusted with bread crumbs and covered with gooey mozzarella. The hulking dish comes in a cast-iron skillet and sits in a puddle of tomato sauce to bind everything together.
Finish the meal with a Belgian waffle with apple slices, or if you’re still hungry late at night, get this pig ear sandwich.
Simplicity in cocktail form
Look through GM David Fleisher’s cocktail menu and you generally won’t find more than four ingredients in each drink. That’s because Fleisher wants to use only ingredients that will play off the featured spirit in every cocktail.
Take the Stumbling Cowboy, for instance, where you get Old Overholt Rye with house-made sarsaparilla and candied ginger. Fleisher likens it to an old Western Rum and Coke, sweet, earthy, easy drinking. You can also have a Mayberry Smash, with Death’s Door gin riffing off of fresh berries, sage honey, and lemon. If cocktails aren’t your drink of choice, a well-tailored selection of craft beers line the taps.