The Kick Ass Kitchen, located inside the Love Hate Rock Bar in East Los Angeles, serves up dishes like Bloody Metal Shrimp Cocktail, the B.L.T. (Better Like This) salad and the Box Office Bomb hamburger.
The menu is the brainchild of rock bassist and chef Michael Davis of Temple City.
“It's rock 'n' roll because it's unique and it's something you're not going to get anywhere else,” Davis said. “You can get a burger anywhere, but you're not going to get a burger with poblano aioli sauce anywhere.
“The menu itself is designed around my rock 'n' roll life; each burger is named after something very personal to me. Not all of the items have specific names, but 80 percent of the menu has a specific name and a story.”
The Kick Ass Kitchen's offerings include short ribs, tacos, chicken wings, burgers and sandwich wraps, plus two to three specials each week featuring items you would find in an upper-end restaurant, like shrimp angel hair pasta.
There are also thematic specials, such as Blackhawk Down (bourbon-glazed chicken wings), which Davis served when the Los Angeles Kings played the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and international dishes toasting the countries playing FIFA World Cup soccer.
Davis is flexible with the menu. If a customer wants something not on the menu, but sees the ingredients for it among the listed dishes, Davis is willing to make it. This flexibility helped Davis get the opportunity to take over the kitchen at Love Hate Rock Bar.
Last August, Dave Lozano, Jerry Gutierrez and Juan Gonzales bought Rudy's Baja Grill with the intention of building on Rudy Lopez's work in the area for the past 20 years. Lopez mentored them and the bar did well, but the kitchen, still serving Mexican food, languished.
“In East L.A., you can walk down to the corner and get the same food,” Lozano said. The owners decided to do something different: open a hip bar with a rock theme.
“I wanted to have something in the area so you don't have to drive to Pasadena to enjoy good music and good food,” Lozano said.
The men learned about Davis from his brother Brian Davis, who also works in the restaurant industry. They set up an interview and decided immediately that Michael Davis was the right choice for their kitchen.
“He has the same goals that we have,” Lozano said. “He needed an opportunity and we needed someone that can inspire the food at the bar. We're so happy to have come across him because that's what's going to differentiate ourselves from everybody else.”
With the help of his friend Tom Tellez, Davis rented the bar's kitchen and opened it April 26. Davis is assisted in the kitchen by sous chef Norma Balderrama, who worked as the lead line cook at Davis' previous employment as sous chef at the FrontRunner at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia. His son Neill Davis and his son's friend Edwin Lopez also help out.
Davis has been a chef for more than 10 years, but has been cooking most of his life. When he toured as the bassist for rockers Lizzy Borden in the '80s, he would be given $20 to purchase groceries to feed the band on the road; he got very creative with hot dogs.
Currently Davis plays bass for Dramarama, Halford and the new heavy metal outfit Death Dealer.(Disclosure: Davis also wrote restaurant reviews for the Pasadena Star-News.)
At Kick Ass Kitchen, Davis is creating food he dubs “gastrorock.” He begins with the foundation of each dish, considering every ingredient and how he can use it or change it to make the cuisine reflective of himself.
“You start with items on a menu that are going to be standard, and then ask, how do you make this better? And once you do that, you incorporate personality into it.
“It's a rock bar, I'm a rock 'n' roll guy, and well, this is going to be a rock 'n' roll menu,” Davis said.
“It's getting popular and people really love to hang out here,” Lozano said.
The downside is that both Davis and Balderrama work long hours and are hardly ever home.
“The sacrifice is the toughest part, but I know I'm sacrificing a short amount of time for the greater big picture,” Davis said.
He plans to change the menu every few months to reflect the seasons and to keep it interesting, not only for customers but for Balderrama and himself.
“I'm a chef who takes pride in his work, but at the same time I realize that I'm not curing cancer and the food needs to be fun,” he said.
LOVE HATE ROCK BAR
When: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Live music Thursday and Friday nights.
Where: 5226 E. Pomona Blvd., East Los Angeles.
KICK ASS KITCHEN
When: Noon-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, plus Sundays during football season.
Where: Love Hate Rock Bar, 5226 E. Pomona Blvd., East Los Angeles.
Information: 323-722-7992, www.facebook.com/pages/Love-Hate-Kick-Ass-Kitchen/1434475636803704