Breakfast after Dark
Nighthawk reinvents the most important meal of the day with breakfast burgers, drunken French toast and spiked cereal milk
By Jessica Koslow
Venice residents circa the late ‘70s and early ‘80s may remember strolling down the boardwalk toward the red, white and blue sign of Lafayette Coffee Shop. Heading to this favorite breakfast spot was a daily ritual for some and a weekend treat for families. It was a hang for just about every colorful character who called this eclectic community home.
Jeremy Fall may not remember the Lafayette, but he’s the mastermind behind a new beachside diner — this one focused more on evenings out than early mornings: Nighthawk Breakfast Bar.
Serving a.m.-inspired grub until after midnight every day of the week, Nighthawk set up on Washington Boulevard (in the spot where Le Cellier once offered Gallic-Southeast Asian fare) on Aug. 11 after a run in Hollywood that ended in May.
“We had this location on our horizons before we closed,” says Fall, who lived in the Venice Canals 15 years ago, before it was hip. “I always wanted to open by the beach. This concept feels very California to me: a laidback, cool, comfort-food experience. Venice screamed the epitome of that California culture I was trying to capture.”
Fall’s late-night breakfast bar is an intimate space — 62 seats total, with just four freestanding tables, a long booth with a handful of tables, a bar and a long communal table with no chairs.
Unlike in Edward Hopper’s famous 1942 painting “Nighthawks,” in which a stylish couple and one lone gentleman sit at a late-night diner counter, Nighthawk Breakfast Bar is packed nightly.
“We wanted to welcome the community first and get to know the regulars before this becomes a destination,” Fall says. “We have people who have been here four, five times. We’ve had people come in twice in one day. I’m grateful. We know people on a first-name basis.”
Against his family’s sage advice, Fall has been working in the hospitality industry for the past 10 years. His mom owned a restaurant and is currently a food and beverage director at a hotel.
“Never get into the industry,” she told him. Yet, he did exactly that, working in nightclubs, interning at bars and working for hospitality groups. He eventually opened his first bar in 2014.
“It’s in my blood,” says Fall. “You pick up things growing up that become part of you. I have a passion for food and beverage. This is what I want to do.”
Everyone has memories of breakfast at midnight, of eggs and bacon at Denny’s or Swingers, Mel’s or Norms.
“Breakfast for supper is big in the U.S.,” says Fall. “It’s nostalgic to all of us. Nighthawk is a more creative execution of a late-night breakfast spot: farm-fresh ingredients, a menu designed by Spago-alum Chef Greg Schroeppel, a live DJ, all paired with a bar setting.”
The menu includes bestsellers like “Benedict” fries, with smoked ham, raclette cheese, hollandaise sauce and a sunny side up egg; chicken & biscuits with bacon sausage gravy; the candied bacon breakfast burger, with white truffle cheese, crispy potato strings and a fried egg; and Drunken French toast, dripping with pear brandy and topped with pear compote and mascarpone mousse — “the best French toast I’ve ever had,” declares Fall.
Cocktails include boozy floats and spiked cereal milks, like Honey Nut Cheerios and bourbon and Froot Loops and gin.
Nighthawk is in good company, popping up on a stretch of Washington that has seen a flurry of new eatery activity. Right by the beach is Leona, featuring upscale California cuisine, and sharing the 400 block is Charcoal Venice, from Michelin-starred chef and owner Josiah Citrin of Melisse in Santa Monica.
“We’re all different concepts,” says Fall. “We all do something different. You can go to one, two or three spots in one night. We’re not competitors.”
Fall has an obvious affinity for Venice. “It’s important for me to be here,” he says.
“Venice has the laidbackness of beach culture and the palate and refinement of the city,” says Fall. “I could have opened on Abbot Kinney, but that’s almost becoming the billboard of Venice. You go there to say you’re there. It doesn’t feel like heart and soul of actual Venice culture, which Washington Boulevard actually does.”
Fall continues: “In last 10 years, all of our palates have developed. The hospitality industry is at same level as the entertainment industry in L.A. now. You hear about food as much as movies. People used to eat to live, and now they live to eat. New York and Chicago have been like that for years, but we’ve caught up to them tremendously. L.A. has developed its own food culture.”
And now “New Venice” has its very own ultra-cool late-night breakfast bar.
Nighthawk Breakfast Bar 417 Washington Blvd., Venice (424) 835-4556 nighthawkrestaurants.com