The friendly folks at Mo’s Place will warm your heart as they fill your stomach
By Richard Foss (Richard@RichardFoss.com)
I have a new favorite sports bar.
The previous sentence may come as a surprise to longtime friends and readers who know that I don’t like sports bars. The food is usually mediocre, conversations are drowned out by blaring TVs, and there is no
other restaurant category where you have a fair likelihood of sitting next to someone who screams or curses every few minutes. And besides, with the exception of an occasional football game, I don’t really like watching sports.
So it is a rarity when I find a sports bar that I don’t want to immediately escape. I only visited Mo’s Place at the Beach in Playa del Rey because one of my readers sent an email recommending that I try the weekend breakfast, which he said was good, cheap and served in a fun atmosphere.
I’m in favor of all of those things, so we decided to drop in on a Sunday morning. Mo’s was pretty packed, but we were shown to a shared table — actually, a pool table with a board over it — and handed menus. I figured out what I wanted quickly, and as my wife dithered I scoped out the room. It was obviously a local crowd; servers greeted many patrons by name, and there was lively chatter from table to table. Some of the conversation did involve the games that streamed on a set of TVs around the edge of the room, but the room wasn’t a howling din: the TVs were muted, and though the place was lively it wasn’t deafening.
We chose a French toast combo and a Mexican scramble of eggs with ground turkey, cilantro and onion with tortillas, served with salsa on the side. It was pretty good but would have been even better with a bit more spice. The salsa was a bit on the wimpy side, but a shot of the hot sauce that was on the table pepped it right up.
The French toast combo was also a standard dish made well, though with one difference: the sausages were English bangers rather than standard breakfast links. I generally prefer the spicier, coarser American links, but I enjoyed these for the novelty. The service was friendly and reasonably fast for a full house, the staff aided by a compact, cheerful fellow who strolled around refilling coffees while chatting with customers. That would be Mo himself, and after saying hello he proudly informed us that the restaurant was only a few weeks from its 20th anniversary.
Though breakfast was good rather than outstanding, the vibe of the place had been charming, and we decided to return for dinner. Once again we had a friendly, opinionated server who was happy to tell us what she thought was best. We also saw our waitress from breakfast, who stopped by to welcome us back even though she had a full complement of tables to serve.
We started with split pea soup and onion rings, both homemade. The soup was made without the salt pork that often dominates the flavor, but a dose of what tasted like white pepper and ginger gave it a pleasant spiciness. As for the onion rings, they were a bit oily but crisp, fresh and tasty.
My wife ordered fish and chips, while I decided on a rib eye steak with mashed potatoes and broccoli. The meal that arrived was something to raise an appetite and then tame it. It was a big piece of meat, as least 12 ounces, and perfectly cooked. It was simply seasoned and exactly the medium-rare I had requested — as good a steak as you can get for 21 bucks.
The fish and chips hit the mark too, the batter crisp and free of oil despite the fact that the fish inside was moist. This is something of a balancing act; it’s much easier to undercook fish
so the exterior is soft, or to leave it in a few more minutes and have the fish as well as batter dry and crisp.
As we were finishing our dinners and getting ready to depart, one of the friendly people at our table suggested we hang around. A Monday night ritual was about to begin, one that occurs only during football season. As soon as the game is over, Mo appears in costume and conducts a combination raffle and improv comedy routine. This particular evening he was a flower girl, and he handed out roses in between telling jokes and handing out a mix of weird trinkets and cool stuff. The performance was hilarious, and we were thankful that the regulars at our table had let us in on the secret. As we left my wife remarked that she had laughed so hard her facial muscles ached, which is one certain sign of a fun evening.
Our evening at Mo’s was a reminder that a restaurant is more than a place that serves food — the ambiance and hospitality make all the difference. Had we had this same meal in a place where the service was competent but reserved, the décor characterless, we’d have no reason to return. A meal taken in good company tastes better, and Mo, his staff and his customers certainly qualify.
Mo’s Place opens at 11 a.m. on weekdays, 10 a.m. on Saturdays and 9:30 a.m. on Sundays.
Mo’s Place at the Beach, 203 Culver Blvd., Playa del Rey (310) 822-6422 mosplacepdr.com