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Phil Rosenthal Hopes Max and Helen’s Will be a Community Anchor on Larchmont

Phil Rosenthal is opening Max and Helen’s at 127 N. Larchmont later this summer. Nancy Silverton will be the executive chef.

The neighborhood has been buzzing since EaterLA broke the news a few months ago that long-time resident and food celebrity Phil Rosenthal would be opening a restaurant on Larchmont Blvd with acclaimed chef and local resident Nancy Silverton serving as executive chef.

Max and Helen’s will open at 127 N. Larchmont, formerly the home of Le Petit Greek which closed last December after 35 years on Larchmont. (In January, they re-opened as Greek Eats at 8236 West 3rd Street.) Phil’s adorable parents were the inspiration for the name, Max and Helen’s.

Rosenthal has been talking to us about opening a diner on Larchmont for years, so it’s really sweet that he’s finally getting the chance.

“I love Larchmont, it’s my town,” Rosenthal told the Buzz last week when we met him on Larchmont. “I feel like I live in a small town when I come to Larchmont. I walk here, you know, every day that I’m in LA,” said Rosenthal. “I love coming to all the wonderful places to eat on the block and all the great stores.”

“When I come for coffee in the morning, it started maybe I know one guy, and now there’s like a family, like fifteen people who were strangers that I just keep adding and so that feels like a town,” explained Rosenthal.

“So now, cut to having a diner here,” he added. “This, I think, if it’s good, could be the anchor of the town, it could be a community center.”

There are lots of places to have coffee on Larchmont so we asked how Rosenthal envisioned the dinner becoming a community center.

“There is something different about a diner,” he said. “First, not to take anything away from the fantastic array of coffee places we have, but some people, maybe older people like me, would like to spend a little less on a cup of coffee at a diner because that’s our childhood and that’s what we remember. That’s how we grew up, especially, if you are front the East Coast.”

Rosenthal showcases restaurants and the communities they support all over the world in his hugely popular show, “Somebody Feed Phil” now in its seventh season. He sees the loss of American diners around the country as a loss of community too.

“Maybe we wouldn’t have as many problems as we have in the country if people had a place where they could go every day and talk to their neighbors and hang out over a plate of eggs or a sandwich or a burger and a reasonable cup of coffee,” he suggested.

Rosenthal said he was inspired by a diner in Maine that he featured on the show. (The Palace Diner in Biddeford, Maine in Season 5, Episode 2.)

“It was an old dining car, the man who owned it passed away and it sat empty for a while,” he explained. “Then a chef came in from the Gramercy Tavern, the great restaurant in New York City. He left the menu just as it had been for 100 years, basic diner food, and he elevated it just through great ingredients and his knowledge of how to make food, that was the inspiration.”

“I think we have a pretty good executive chef, her name is Nancy Silverton, and she lives in the neighborhood too,” said Rosenthal. “So for both of us, we have known each other for many years, we both have this vested interest in our town, this is really a labor of love. I’m not out to make money, I’d prefer not to lose money, but selfishly, I wanted a diner that I could go to!”

Rosenthal is aware of the challenges facing restaurants these days but he says, everything is a challenge. Right now they are figuring out who to make it all work. The restaurant will have just under 100 seats, including the outdoor patio in front.

He told us his goal was to open at the end of the summer but “honestly, we have no idea. I heard this great quote once, if you’re ever hiring a contractor for anything you should get three estimates in both time and money, then add all those together and that’s probably right.”

Max and Helen’s will be a game changer for Larchmont, likely to make it even more of a destination than it already is which could be great for the other businesses on the street.

“I love that I can do anything to give back to this place I love,” said Rosenthal.

What’s not to love about that?

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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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