With business down, restaurant owners are searching for new ways to bring in customers. While others are slashing prices or offering happy hour specials, Bob Stiles, owner of Hana Sushi, has brought in stripper poles.

Stiles was at the forefront of sushi when he opened Hana 31 years ago. Some of you might remember Bob as the MVP of the Rose Bowl when UCLA defeated Michigan State 14-12 in 1966.

He has now installed three poles for dancing in the restaurant. Patrons are encouraged to use the poles at any time. There is no age limit. On a recent Wednesday night, Nicole Williams and two of her instructors from Allure Dance Studio on Pico Boulevard performed in front of an enthusiastic crowd, including several celebrities. Johnny Mathis at a young age of 74 did a routine on one of the poles while Paul Michael Glaser of “Starsky and Hutch” fame directed a mini documentary.

Bob insists that pole dancing is going to become a popular form of aerobic exercise and, like sushi, will sweep the country. There is a saying in Japan that goes “Eat healthy, exercise and you will have a thousand rewarding dreams.”

Huckleberry redux <p>

When I last wrote about Huckleberry it was brand new, and so busy that about all I could do was look at the beautiful displays because there was too long a wait to order anything. I went back on a recent Saturday morning with my partner, Chef Giraud, for breakfast.

This time it was even more crowded, with a line all the way to the parking lot, but there were lots of servers behind the counter (as well as staff in the kitchen, and serving the tables) and the lines were moving well. Although every table was taken, as we arrived at the cash register we were given a number, and a “seater” showed us to a table a few minutes later.

In our case, we were given VIP treatment. The owners only pretended to take our order, and we were promptly seated. Instead of bringing the light breakfast we ordered, there arrived at our table an assortment of many different pastries, along with my cappuccino and the chef’s espresso.

When my wife and I are at our home in France, I wake up every morning about 9 and walk down to the local patisserie for a cappuccino and a pastry. I sit outside in the quiet morning, surrounded by quiet Europeans with their well trained dogs and children. Huckleberry is nothing like that. The volume is loud, and there’s constant movement of people. But the big surprise for me was in the quality of the food.

French croissants are the best, right? Wrong. The croissants here are as good as many patisseries in France, but in general the quality of many of the products is superior.

First of all, the coffee is equal to the coffee that I drink in Italy, where the best coffee makers in the world live. And nowhere have I been in France that offers lemon cake, muffins and apple tarts nearly as good as at Huckleberry. And after eating some of the sweet pastries I finished off a potato and onion tart bursting with several flavors and textures. No wonder it’s so crowded. In the midst of the din I heard a lot of French speaking people having breakfast here.

We didn’t try any hot dishes, but looking at them on other tables I could see that this is a breakfast unequaled anywhere I’ve been on the Westside.

Don’t look for another article by me reviewing this restaurant. I overate so badly that I’m afraid to go back — except maybe for takeout.

Merv Hecht, the food and wine critic for the Santa Monica Daily Press, is a wine buyer and consultant to a number of national and international food and wine companies. He can be reached at mervynhecht@yahoo.com.

If you go:

Hana Sushi

11831 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles

(310) 473-6828

Huckleberry

1014 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica

(310) 451-2311

www.huckleberrybakery.com

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