Owner/Manager, Seventeenth Street Café & Bakery
1610 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403
Yelp: 3.5 stars (70 reviews)
Interview Date: Monday, March 08, 2010
The Seventeenth Street Café on Montana Ave in Santa Monica has been a fixture in Santa Monica for 20 years. Since Lenny Rosenberg acquired it about a year ago, it has seen some subtle but significant changes.
Lenny got his restaurant legs in New York, where his dad owned about 25 Jewish-style bakeries. When I asked at what age he started working for his dad, he said “about 4 or 5.” This may explain some of the newest additions to the Seventeenth Street Café & Bakery’s menu, including Rugelach cookies, Matzo Brie, and Challah French Toast.
After growing up in the food business, it was natural for Lenny to become an accomplished baker and restaurateur. He moved to Los Angeles about 10 years ago and previously owned Mayer’s Bakery in Palos Verdes and The Nosh of Beverly Hills before acquiring Seventeenth Street Café.
Soon after acquiring Seventeenth Street Café, Lenny added an extensive bakery selection and added “Bakery” to the name. He also conducted a subtle but significant remodel that included freshening up all of the paint and installing modern windows to the front. The overall effect makes a regular think that something is different, but not shockingly so.
Lenny is proud of the fact that the Chef, Carlos, has been with Seventeenth Street Café since its inception, which means that all of the excellent core menu items remain, including excellent salads and delicious sweet potato fries. Many of the busboys have also been with the restaurant for 20 years, and the waitresses average 12 years with the restaurant.
Some of Lenny’s marketing efforts since coming to Seventeenth Street Café & Bakery include a revitalized catering program, which is advertised on tabletops throughout the restaurant. Another new program is the Curb Side Savings program, which offers a minimum of four dinners available for pick-up at a 30% discount. Lenny has also instituted several coupon programs, offering 30% dinner for diners who come for breakfast, and 30% off breakfast for those who come for dinner. This clever marketing activity helps Seventeenth Street Café demonstrate its breadth of food, potentially broadening customers’ perceptions of what type of restaurant it is.
Lenny says that he spends about 60% of his time managing the “front of house” and about 40% of his time baking. While he says that he does have the typically intense hours of a restaurateur, his employees are solid, and make it easier for him to avoid a completely brutal work schedule.
The best part of owning Seventeenth Street Café & Bakery is “seeing customers appreciate a good meal,” says Lenny. And the toughest part? “When an employee doesn’t show up for work.” Ouch. Yeah, that’s gotta suck.
Good To Know:
* Everything at Seventeenth Street Café & Bakery is baked on-site. That includes complimentary and delicious mini-muffins and bread that can easily fill you up if you’re not careful. Be sure to check out the many bakery samples on the counter, too!
* The restaurant is now open 3-5, and that’s a great time to come if you’re looking for a quiet meal. Core Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner times can be crowded depending on the day and time.
* Most popular salad: Chopped Grilled Veggie Salad
* Baked goods are fresh daily and sometimes come out fresh from the oven 2-3 times per day!