Pair a classic film at Old Town Music Hall with the ‘nuevo rancho cuisine’ of Sausal

By Angela Matano

Sausal’s Angry Mussels are steeped in a chili cream broth

Sometimes the best option for dinner and a movie is the most convenient one. Park once, easily and cheaply, and settle in for an evening that does not hang in the balance of the mercurial traffic gods.

The small hamlet of El Segundo sparkles with many hidden gems, all tucked together in the manner of cities of yore, and with parking spaces galore. Nestled snugly between the 405 and a “Metropolis”-like Chevron Refinery (because, well, Los Angeles), this forgotten pocket of a seaside town in the South Bay boasts uncommon charms.

The sparkliest diamond in El Segundo’s crown has got to be the Old Town Music Hall. This revival house focuses on truly vintage cinema, from the Silent Era up through about the first half of the 20th century. For silent films and the century-old shorts that precede the talkies, live accompaniment by The Mighty Wurlitzer — a mesmerizing 1925 wind-powered theater pipe organ — truly transforms the film-going experience.

This weekend’s offering is “Casablanca,” a film so iconic it needs little introduction. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman’s astonishing on-screen love story will nail you to the floor. One of the greatest films ever made, “Casablanca” combines romance and drama, with the backdrop of World War II amping up the tension. The chemistry between Bogart and Bergman is undeniable, and the tenderness will break your heart. In a good way.

While the “nuevo rancho cuisine” conveniently two blocks away at Sausal may not strike the particular note of Morocco in the 1940s, the restaurant’s cuisine does harken to an achingly bygone era. Celebrating California’s history, the menu focuses on the Spanish and Mexican flavors that inform our local culture. The mode of cooking also celebrates our state’s past — slow-roasting, smoke and wood fire featuring prominently.

Tacos at Sausal come in many shapes and sizes. The spiced cauliflower taco bursts with disparate flavors and textures, like chia seeds, cashew crema and pepita-habanero mixta (pumpkin seed and pepper). A more traditional choice, the pork al pastor sings its own tune as well, achiote marinated and studded with pineapple.

For those heeding the call of the nearby sea, the “angry mussels” steeped in a chili cream broth will satisfy that craving. Adventurous eaters can also look to the sky for inspiration and order the duck mole enchiladas. The short rib picadillo empanadas are supreme comfort food, rounding out a menu that offers something for just about everyone.

While some of the food at Sausal harkens backward, much of the menu reflects today’s vegetable-forward California flavors, with fresh, seasonal ingredients featured in interesting ways — like jicama slaw with radish and mint, and caramelized Brussels sprouts with shrimp powder.

Sausal’s taco platter offers an unexpected variety of flavors

Not all great restaurants seem to care much about sweets these days; the offerings often feel like an afterthought. Not so at Sausal. Pastry chef Natasha MacAller consults with chef/owner Anne Conness on scrumptious confections like gingersnap pumpkin pie and Spanish sticky date cake with spiced pecans.

Valentine’s Day is a good excuse to indulge, if you need one. There will also be an optional $60 prix fixe three-course menu on Feb. 14, with a main course of filet mignon, fajitas, chili relleno or seared ahi tuna followed by chocolate-dipped strawberries and Mexican truffles for dessert.

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

“Casablanca” screens at 8:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday (Feb. 9, 10 and 11) at Old Town Music Hall, 140 Richmond St., El Segundo. Tickets are $8 to $10. Call
310) 322-2592 or visit

Sausal is at 219 Main St., El Segundo. Call (310) 322-2721 or visit