When it comes to a restaurant with a view, there was no beating the SideStage this weekend because the high end food came with a direct view of rock stars.
“This was a fantastic experience. To be this close to the music and the stage, everyone was mellow and the food and the service was out of this world,” said 53-year-old South Bay resident James Sanders after eating there Friday afternoon during the As The Crow Flies set at the inaugural BeachLife Festival in Redondo Beach.
“I’ve been in awe. This is fantastic. It’s unbelievable. They let you walk around the stage. You can almost reach over and touch (the performers).. It was just amazing,” he added.
The pop-up restaurant featured three respected chefs each cooking meals inspired by the music on separate days.
Friday night’s chef was Michael Cimarusti, who appeared on “Top Chef Masters” and “Hell’s Kitchen” and runs LA’s Providence and Connie & Ted’s.
Saturday the kitchen belonged to Tin Vuong, the chef-owner of the Little Sister restaurants in Manhattan Beach and downtown L.A.
Sunday celebrated South Bay chef David LeFevre of MB Post, Arthur J and Fishing With Dynamite was set to close the event as Willie Nelson performed next to the restaurant.
It was LeFevre who put together the chefs and helped organize the SideStage.
“You’re on the same stage with the singers and guitarists and bands. It’s not like you’re looking up or down, you’re on the same level as the performers and you can get up from eating dinner and walk about 20 feet to the edge and sit there and watch Bob Weir just a few feet away. It’s insane,” LeFevre said, referring to Friday night’s headliner.
Set up directly to the side of the Hightide stage, this was no ordinary festival pop-up where you would maybe expect it to be inside a large tent eating sample-size bites out of carry-out containers.
This restaurant was legit.
The open air SideStage was separated from the performance space only by waist high metal barrier.
It was decked out with communal dark wood tables decorated with flowers and plants and 60 cushioned chairs under string lights.
Waiters dressed in white shirts and black pants served wine, beer and mixed drinks while food was served on plates with gold-colored metal utensils.
And the menu was what you would expect at a high-end restaurant.
On Friday, for example, Cimarusti served wild yellow tail sashimi, grilled rockfish and an upside down strawberry cake.
“When I first heard about the idea it was hard to picture what it was going to be… and so far it’s been so great,” Cimarusti said as he stood on the stage just after the Chris Robinson set.
Saturday Vuong’s menu included chili lime salted lobster, oysters and crispy pork belly and prawn over vermicelli.
“It’s pretty (expletive) rad. I’m pretty pumped up and really excited about being here,” Vuong said from his backstage kitchen as he prepared food for his next seating in the mid-afternoon.
On Sunday LeFevre’s meal plans included bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuits, caviar crusted French onion dip and a charred cucumber salad with blue crab.
“People are just not used to having this caliber of dining at a music festival,” LeFevre said. “We want this to be like you’re at a restaurant, and oh, by the way, you’re on stage with an incredible band,” he added.
The vibe at the SideStage meanwhile seem to change depending on the performer on stage.
During Robinson’s Friday afternoon set for example, the crowd was rocking and dancing along to the music with many leaving their tables often to get closer to the action on stage.
Later that night when Bob Weir took the stage the crowd was more mellow, with many in the older rocker crowd simply listening to the music and swaying along as they ate dinner.