LOCATION: Beach Street

GENERAL COMMENT: This very popular indoor-outdoor restaurant on a side street in Pacific Palisades caters to people from all walks of life, but offers top quality Italian-American food at very reasonable prices in a garden-like setting. There is always a seat available at lunch, but dinner can get quite busy.

WHERE: 863 Swarthmore Ave., Pacific Palisades, 90272, (310) 573-1940, www.beechstreetcafe.com.

WHEN: Monday — Saturday, 11:30 a.m. — 9:30 p.m.

Sunday, 12 p.m. — 9:30 p.m.

BEST DISHES: At lunch I see a lot of chopped salads. Pizza is always a favorite. My personal favorites are the eggplant sandwich and the portobello sandwich. It’s hard to find a really good eggplant sandwich in Los Angeles that doesn’t have breaded eggplant slices, and does have grilled onions and goat cheese on the right textured bun. This one has it all, and it’s all good. Plus, a small delicious salad is served with the sandwich.

The pizza happens to be the style I like. The crust is very thin. There’s a nice mix of tomato sauce and cheese, without so much cheese that it dribbles on my shirt. I find it just to my taste. I also order roasted garlic cloves on the side, and a touch of red pepper to add to each slice as I eat it, which gives me a feeling of contributing to the preparation.

The range of food is also a positive feature here, with pizza, pasta, sandwiches, salads, and a lot of choices.

BEST FEATURE: The location and the setting are a special treat. You can shop in low key Palisades, and eat in what feels like a friend’s garden.

WORST FEATURE: This is no luxury gourmet restaurant, and sometimes the service can be questionable. Then again, sometimes it’s really good!

WHAT TO DRINK: There’s a nice selection of beer and soft drinks, but the wine is very ordinary and not really a draw. They would benefit from having a few bottles of good Italian inexpensive wine by the glass, if they could keep them from becoming stale.

PRICES: Prices are moderate, $13 for a pizza is a pretty good price for the Palisades.

BOTTOM LINE: Surprisingly good food in an out-of-the-way place with an attractive setting.

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.

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