Owner: The Den of Hollywood
8226 W. Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90046
Yelp: 4 stars
Interview Date: Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Michael Gans opened The Den of Hollywood on the Sunset Strip in 2009 with the vision of creating a space where people would feel as comfortable and cozy as they would in their dens at home … but with better food and a great atmosphere. To achieve the full vision, the Den of Hollywood is housed in a funky cabin-like space that has been a coffee shop and a naked sushi restaurant. The menu features home-style favorites like spicy macaroni and cheese and a really awesome TV dinner that blows doors on Hungry Man!
Michael got into the restaurant business somewhat reluctantly in 1995 when he and a friend opened Red Restaurant on Beverly Blvd. “My friend taught me everything about the restaurant business – I learned everything and enjoyed it, especially the people aspect,” says Michael. “I really enjoyed the setup – getting a project off the ground and making it run smoothly.”
The pair opened Red Santa Monica in 1998 and then split their partnership, each taking one location. Michael kept the Red Santa Monica location and was contacted by Rebecca and Bruce Marder of Rebecca’s in Venice. They had lost their lease and wanted to move Rebecca’s to Santa Monica. Michael went into partnership with Rebecca and Bruce, and proceeded to open Rebecca’s at Ocean & Broadway in Santa Monica, Breantwood Restaurant and Lounge, and the four more restaurants, including Rebecca’s (at the Red location), Brass Cap, Broadway Deli and Capo.
After parting ways with Rebecca and Bruce, Michael decided to focus on bars for a while, and, partnering with the Vintage Bar Group, opened The Well in Hollywood, The Woods, No Bar and The 5th. After a successful start, Michael sold his shares to his partners and began looking for a new project – this time back in the restaurant arena. After opening Soup’s Sports Grill in Woodland Hills for Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Jeff Suppan, his broker called to say that Hadaka Sushi, the naked sushi restaurant, was vacating the location currently occupied by The Den of Hollywood. Michael made an offer. In December 2009 a deal was struck, and Michael went to work “stripping out all of the red vinyl and plastic,” he says.
Following the building’s architecture, Michael focused on the comfy elements like the fireplace, added twinkling lights outside and cozy tealights on the tables. Of course, being on the Hollywood Strip, the location features two full bars in addition to its extensive menu of classic comfort food.
“The biggest change we have made since we opened is adding more small plates to our menu,” says Michael. “Our customers like to come in for happy hour and order some drinks, then order lots of small plates to share.” Michael also recognized that the more extravagant desserts weren’t appealing to customers as much as the traditional, classic and simple desserts, so he focused the dessert menu on sundaes, shortcake and other familiar desserts. “We want to be a neighborhood place, where people come 2-3 times per week,” says Michael. “Our happy hour makes that happen – we are in a neighborhood filled with young professionals who are looking for a place like this.”
“I call this a show – running a restaurant is like running a daily production,” says Michael. “My favorite part is at around 5-7 p.m. when everything comes together. People don’t realize what it takes to make that happen – someone has to run to the store to get tomatoes, or an employee just doesn’t show up.” And the hardest part of running The Den of Hollywood? “Managing cashflow.”
Michael has opened 14 restaurants in 15 years, so it was natural for me to wonder what’s next for him. He says that he would like to expand The Den into other neighborhoods. Right now the greatest challenge is raising money to do that.
- The happy hour offers ½ price food and drinks
- The pork belly tacos are awesome
- It’s not a sports bar, but you can catch all the games on TVs in the Den
- Live music on Tuesday and Thursday nights