Once the buzz about The Standing Room spread across the beach cities, it was only a matter of time before this little burger counter found a home with more elbow (and standing) room. Started in the back of Catalina Liquor in Redondo Beach in 2011 by a beach dude named Lowell, The Standing Room didn’t stay hidden for long. Within months, stories of stacked burgers and jammed parking lots motivated the curious and hungry to make the pilgrimage. Lowell’s anything-but-traditional burger menu set him apart and earned The Standing Room a cult-like following.
The Standing Room’s location in downtown Hermosa Beach brought the goodness from the original and added a full bar, live music, a cool vibe and enough seating for actual sitting. With reclaimed wood and exposed brick walls, super high ceilings and lantern lighting, the room feels like lounge-meets-rock-n-roll club; the short stumbling distance to the sand keeps it casual. Dining tables line the space, and each one has a view of the stage. The outdoor patio faces Hermosa Avenue, so it’s an ideal spot to camp out for the summer and grab friends for happy hour or Sunday Funday.
Perhaps as an homage to the gone-but-not-forgotten Café Boogaloo, Lowell and business partner Jason paid close attention to the live music element of the scene. Acoustic musicians entertain guests Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m., and weekends rock with touring bands, a full light show and dancing. You can check out the band schedule on the Facebook page or at www.thestandingroomhb.com.
The Standing Room’s bar is the surprise here. The tall, backlit back bar is really nice, as bars go…at second glance, however, guests notice the staggering variety of artisanal small-batch whiskies and the election of more than 70 craft beers. The 14 taps serve up everything from white to wheat to porter, and the draft list rotates often. Bar Manager Chris has developed an impressive scratch cocktail menu to round out the house as well.
My maiden visit to The Standing Room was on a late Thursday afternoon. The acoustic music was just getting started, and I scored a center seat at the bar. I chatted with the bartender about Hermosa Beach’s warm reception of the concept and about the origins of some of the unusual menu items. Turns out that the “secret” to some of the seemingly disparate combinations is Lowell’s upbringing in Hawaii by a Korean mother—toppings like kimchee, hoisin barbeque sauce, sesame leaf and gouchu jang sauce give some of the burgers a Korean twist, but the jaw-dropping presentation is 100% SoCal.
I started with a spicy margarita from the cocktail menu, which was the perfect frothy antidote to the full-tilt afternoon sunshine. Chris recommended the Chop Salad and Shishito Peppers as a lead-in. The salad was a large portion for a starter and was composed of shredded lettuce, crunchy vegetables and a fried egg, tossed with a zesty roasted red pepper dressing. The shishitos were tossed with soy reduction and spicy gouchu jang sauce, and the serving was definitely shareable. The combination of the cool, crisp salad and the fire of the peppers was satisfying and delicious.
The Standing Room’s signature burger, the Napolean, arrived, and I knew a to-go box was in order. It was delivered atop a bed of truffle parmesan fries, and the burger itself was simply a tribute to the burger-loving masses. Topped with spring mix, carmelized onion, bacon, fried egg, cheddar, gouda and American cheeses, Korean aioli and tomato jam, this colossal short rib concoction transcended “burger” and went straight to “gourmet meal.” It was juicy and savory and cheesy, and it was plenty for dinner and a big lunch the following day. And those fries. Whoa.
The Standing Room is open daily from 11 to 1 a.m., with happy hour specials weekdays from 4 to 7 p.m.