Petros Benekos has built a successful business bringing the flavors of Greece to Southern California, with restaurants in Manhattan Beach and Century City, an event space in Santa Barbara, and until recently, Petros Cafe in El Segundo.
He's been around long enough to know that to remain relevant, you need to pay attention to what your customers want. Which is why he recently rebranded his El Segundo location as a casual all-American joint called E S Chophouse.
The interior is little changed, still light and bright with several TVs for sports addicts. There are some Western details; wait staff attired in cutoffs and flannels, a country-western playlist, seat cushions made from blue jeans, and a rack of classic 501s in the corner beneath an American flag.
These Vintage Levis are part of Petros's avocation.
As a child he was obsessed with Westerns starring John Wayne and Paul Newman, and he's spent decades collecting vintage jeans, jackets and cowboy boots from the 1920s-50s.
Owners of the thrift shops he scoured took to calling him "The Greek Cowboy." For years he resold the second hand duds to upscale retailers like Barneys and Fred Segal, but he now warehouses them in what may be the world's largest private collection.
Take a seat at ES Chophouse, and you're greeted with a plate of crisped slivers of potato skins to munch on while perusing the menu.
You'll still find several Mediterranean favorites (all those garlicky Greek dips with pita) alongside mainstream salads and flatbreads, wraps and burgers, steaks and pastas.
As Petros, who lived in El Segundo for several years, says, "We already served the twenty percent of El Segundo who were interested in Greek dining, but now we also have American comfort food with a wider variety to appeal to people with families, the people who aren't sure what Greek food is."
A reasonably priced wine list features a dozen California whites and reds, by the bottle or glass, many of them from Petros own label, produced in partnership with several respected California winemakers, like Stags Leap and Fess Parker, and bottled for his restaurants.
Main courses include salmon grilled with lemon infused olive oil. It's crispy outside and tender inside, simple and delicious. I had mine with a Petros Greek salad with the traditional cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, feta, and olives and the unusual American addition of avocado, which serves to makes it less tart and more creamy.
The 50/50 burger is a standout. Half beef and half lamb makes for intensely flavorful patty, with a fabulous gooey topping of grilled onion, cheese, and garlic aioli. This is what the marriage of Greek and American cuisine should taste like.
The half-rack of babyback ribs were somewhat less successful texture-wise, I'm blaming that on an opening night rush, but the Greek honey barbecue sauce is inspired, and the accompanying Caesar intensely garlicky.
Homemade phyllo spinach pie is Greek specialty and off menu treat for those who love the original Petros. Flaky and delicate with a side of garlic yogurt tzatziki. Desserts made in-house include a chocolate mousse, made more interesting with a thin canopy of vanilla, along with scattered almonds, berries, and a chocolate drizzle. They also offer cheesecake and vanilla bread pudding.
For more intimate dining, there's a private chef's table that can be reserved for parties up to 10.
ES Chophouse 131 W. Grand Ave., El Segundo open daily 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. closed Sundays
Eileen Shields is a South Bay food writer: contact at email@example.com