Killer Café isn’t your typical late-night diner, but it’s now serving big plates 24/7

By Mike Ryan

Killer Café offers killer views of Marina del Rey harbor Photo courtesy of Killer Café

Killer Café offers killer views of Marina del Rey harbor
Photo courtesy of Killer Café

A singles-only tenant policy at many apartment complexes set the tone the swinging ‘70s in Marina del Rey. Perhaps somewhere between “Boogie Nights” and “Three’s Company,” the marina was a promiscuous paradise back in the day.

These days it’s tough to get a drink after 11 p.m. Most of the swingers have either burnt out or grown up and moved on with their lives, happier holding hands during an afternoon outdoor concert at Fisherman’s Village than chasing fun one glass at a time.

The rise of Silicon Beach, however, has breathed new (night)life into the area by bringing in a younger demographic — techies with money to burn all the way from the Third Street Promenade to Admiralty Way.

Killer Café is capitalizing on that new prosperity. A hip, diner-style concept that opened in May 2012 adjacent to the
goliath Killer Shrimp (a 5,000-
square-foot restaurant and bar that capitalizes on harbor views) Killer Café recently began serving breakfast and dinner 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

When the bars close, a 24/7 diner becomes a refuge for insomniacs and the intoxicated into the early morning hours.

I’ve never finished a night of drinking and thought to myself, “Right now what I need is a big bowl of shrimp.” The menu at Killer Café isn’t necessarily drunk food, but for those sticking close to the marina it’s just about the only game in town.

Killer Shrimp has an edgy rock motif yet is still fun for the whole family — think Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. meets Ed Hardy. Now throw a diner into the mix and you have the Killer Café. Confused? That won’t be much of a problem if you happen to stumble into Killer Café late at night or really early in the morning, when bellying up to the bar or sliding into an oversized booth isn’t much of a challenge.

Killer Shrimp is best known for serving its eponymous steaming bowls of shrimp simmered in a spicy, buttery broth and served with a basket of French bread.

Naturally, it’s also on the menu at Killer Café, along with other mainstays such as shrimp pot pie, prime rib, a Thanksgiving-style turkey dinner and spaghetti with meatballs.

For someone not in possession of 100% of his mental faculties, the Killer Café menu can be a disconcertingly long list of seemingly random entries. There is some standard diner fare as well — omelets, pancakes, burgers — which is a good thing. I can’t say that ordering grilled mahi mahi would be my first impulse at 3 a.m., but I’ve made worse decisions that hour of the day.

Who is to say whether the Killer Shrimp & Grits combo was a better choice? Served with a medley of roasted peppers and potatoes, two eggs and a side of hash browns, the enormous — dare I say excessive? — amount of food seemed sensible at the time. And for $14, the pluses contend with some of the minuses.

While conveniently shelled, the shrimp arrived shriveled-up and could’ve used some more of the highly touted Killer broth to add some flavor to that bland bed of grits. Broken egg yolks and a bit of hot sauce helped, however, and the hashed browns proved exceptional.

Griddle-fried to a crisp on the outside while soft and steamy on the inside, the solid brick-sized serving made for an over-the-top portion (especially since the dish also came with roasted potatoes) but it helped save face alongside the grits and shrimp that, at least on this occasion, fell short of its positive reputation.

The value — especially if we’re counting cash for calories — is, however, hard to dispute.

There’s also a $5 breakfast special — eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast — from 7 to 9 a.m. That’s a small window, but an unreal deal with a view of the harbor to boot.

Compared to the overnight crowd, visiting Killer Café during the lunch rush is another story entirely. Seating is up for grabs, and you’re best off helping yourself instead of waiting for someone to seat you. On the plus side, if you are arriving by boat there’s usually plenty of dockside parking.

If it’s a straight-up diner you’re looking for, old-school greasy spoons such as Dinah’s Family Restaurant in Westchester or the O.P. Café in Santa Monica may be your best bet. But if you find yourself wandering around the marina at 3 a.m., Killer Café is a far, far better option than anything that’s incubating on the 7-Eleven rollers at that hour.