Photo by Leah LeMoine
While our highs are still depressingly in the 80s – so disheartening for this part of November, no? – the evenings have been getting a little cooler lately. The other night was chilly, dare I say. What better place to while away a few crisp afternoon and evening hours at a media happy hour than the famously pretty patio of Chelsea’s Kitchen?
The Arcadia classic is just as charming as ever. Shade trees provide a verdant canopy under which old friends catch up, family members celebrate milestones and business folks unbutton their collars and relax a bit. String lights and a brick-framed fireplace provide figurative and literal warmth. A steady stream of aromatic smoke unfurls gently from the restaurant’s wood-burning rotisserie and grill in the smoke yard around the front.
It’s a gorgeous spot to enjoy drink specials, Southwest-inspired noshes and the company of friends old and new.
Happy hour pricing is limited to drinks, unfortunately – see specials below. The food is so tasty, though – and the portions so generous – that you won’t mind paying full price for starters and snacks.
Green chile cornbread ($13) is made to order and comes to the table in a square cast iron pan the approximate temperature of the sun. Mind your fingers and forearms as you use the metal pie server that comes wedged into the quadrants of sweet, smoky, ever so lightly spiced cornbread to scoop out your portion. A rosette of whipped butter on the side gilds the lily. I can’t believe this tender, incredibly moist bread is gluten-free. If I had celiac disease, I’d have a standing weekly order at Chelsea’s for this stuff. Delightful. (I also can’t help but think it would make for an incredible cornbread dressing for Thanksgiving. Just putting that out there.)
Photo by Leah LeMoine
Nachitos ($16) are as cute as they sound: a pile of petite freshly fried corn tortilla chips topped with house-made guacamole, pico de gallo-y salsa, tender chunks of chicken (veg option: green chiles), generous plops of sour cream and shaved jalapeños and chiles. I’m not sure which cheese they use (Asadero? Oaxaca?), but it’s absolutely perfect – melty, savory and just salty enough to play with the bright flavors in this dish without obliterating them. These nachitos would make a fine lunch, and I’m bookmarking it for the next time I’m stumped on where to go for my midday meal.
Chelsea’s is also famed for its Hatch chile queso, tuna tartare with guacamole, and shrimp ceviche, but we decide to go with full entrées after our starters. The day’s heat has finally dissipated, and we want to linger and enjoy the vaguely crisp November night.
Two of us order Mary’s Organic Chicken ($25), a deliciously smoky half-bird rubbed in a Spanish spice blend and slow-roasted on the smoke yard’s rotisserie. Flecked with bits of Italian parsley, it’s nestled in a pool of rich, ultra-savory chicken juices. My PR pal Nicole’s order of colcannon potatoes (mashed potatoes with bits of kale) looks absolutely perfect for soaking up those luscious juices. My grilled asparagus is delicious, but not as good for sopping. Wait, where’s the rest of that cornbread?
My writer friend Marilyn tucks into her smoked turkey French dip ($20), a pile of demonstrably moist house-smoked turkey (it’s so tender and juicy it’s slumping over itself) on a garlic aioli-slicked French roll made by Chelsea’s sister concept, LGO Bake Shop. She invites us to try some of her house-made fries, which are skinny, impressively spiced little things. They taste like they were rolled in a spice rub worthy of their meaty compadres – it’s salty, peppery, savory and a little sweet. Those + a glass of Champagne would be a delightful happy hour snack next time.
Photo by Leah LeMoine
Nicole insists we finish with a little something sweet, so we share a piece of decadent, fudgy chocolate cake and a slice of ethereally light and fluffy Key Lime pie with graham cracker crust. As we share our desserts and try to convince Marilyn to watch The Real Housewives of any city, I feel a wave of contentment wash over me. It’s just so nice to be out with friends.
Happy hour brings $7 draft beers, $8 well drinks, $8 LGO wines and $9 signature cocktails. I’m already a fan of mixologist Kevin Dunn’s Basil Gimlet (vodka [I substitute gin], fresh basil and house-made lime cordial) and the Diego Rivera (tequila, grapefruit and fresh thyme), which Nicole and Marilyn order. I’m feeling wine-y, so I go with the white sangria. Slices of citrus and apple float in a peachy orange sipper, helping balance the sweetness with their acidity.
Next time I’ll try the Oaxaca Oaxaca (mezcal, lavender honey, Peychaud’s apéritif and serrano pepper). It will be the perfect pairing for my nachitos.
Happy hour runs Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m.