With a motto of “you’re only a stranger here once,” Simmzy’s prides itself on being a neighborhood joint with a large following of regulars who come in multiple times a week—the goal of every operator outside the white-tablecloth sector. How does this “Cheers” of southern California attain such high-frequency traffic? “When I figure it out, I’ll let you know,” says Mike Simms, managing partner of the restaurant and such other concepts in the Simms Restaurant Group portfolio as Tin Roof Bistro and MB Post.
The reality, though, is that some admirers believe Simmzy’s has cracked the code of exactly what patrons want: A combination of the right price (the average check is $20), service that is casual yet taken seriously and food and drinks that please a range of diners.
And all of that stems back to the original motivation behind the brand. “Simmzy’s is a concept that we created so that my brother [Chris, founder of Lazy Dog Café] and I would have a great place to take our family in Manhattan Beach,” says Simms, who named the restaurant after the brothers’ childhood nickname to exemplify their “fun-loving, hospitable” nature. “We wanted a beer-centric spot that had great food for our wives and casual enough to take our growing families,” Mike Simms said.
The duo also brought to the endeavor what they learned from growing up in the restaurant business. Their father, Tom, is the founder of Mimi’s Café, and their grandfather, Arthur, ran the commissary at MGM studios before opening several restaurants in the Los Angeles area.
To cater to businessmen, surfers, moms with kids and anyone in between, the focus at Simmzy’s is on doing local well for everyone. The restaurants have architecture resembling either a lifeguard tower or a beach house, common sites for the nearby crowd. “Each of our pubs is entrenched in its local market,” says Simms. That includes 24 rotating craft beers from different local breweries as well as food menus that differ slightly at each spot. “Each neighborhood and each restaurant is a bit different, so we cater to that specific clientele,” he says.
And now, on the brink of a small boom, Simms says that beer will still be at the heart of all of its pubs, reaffirming its relationships with breweries. What started as a local joint in Manhattan Beach in 2009, then became a two-unit concept in 2012 now has growth on the mind with the opening of its third restaurant earlier this year.
“We had no intention of growing it, but times change,” says Simms. “Our Burbank store that just opened [in January] shows us that we can evolve Simmzy’s and still keep the soul and culture.”
So what’s next? Three more locations this year in neighboring beach towns, says Simms, with Venice up next. From there, growth will continue south and north along the coast, he says, but there’s no plan to venture outside of California—yet.