Off-Ramp | Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

Dinner last night: Stanton's ParkAve

Chef David Slay browsing ParkAve's on-site garden. Image courtesy ParkAve.

Kevin Ferguson here. Last night was a family birthday dinner, and we decided to finally give ParkAve a try. ParkAve (pronounced informally, sans the "enue" at the end) surprises every first time diner. That's because it's less than five miles down the street from Knotts Berry Farm in Stanton, one of the poorest cities in Orange County. It even neighbors an El Pollo Loco and a camper shell dealership just across the street. Stanton (and the surrounding cities in Northwest OC) are great destinations for traditional Vietnamese, Mexican even Caribbean cuisine, but ParkAve's upscale Good Old Days fare has no local context. Santa Monica? Sure. Burbank? Why not.

So why Stanton? Even though ParkAve is relatively new, the property it sits on hasn't changed hands for decades. Originally a family owned dairy and roadside diner, heir apparent Clifford Ronnenberg transformed the space into what it is now back in 2006. And as for the food? It's mostly a seasonal, traditional American affair: steaks, salmon, fried chicken... but by no means is this a steak house. Each dish is totally self-contained and the sides designed to pair perfectly: no typical fried potato/steamed vegetable mix and match with your New York Strip. Park Ave also boasts a large garden where (right now) they grow eggplants, sugar snap peas, butter lettuce and herbs--they say each dish incorporates at least one thing grown on premise.

And ParkAve's modest surroundings (and long history of family ownership) keeps the overhead low, and savings are accordingly passed on to diners. If you're determined to splurge, the most you can spend on a dish is $30, which gets you a bone-in 14 oz. rib eye with complete with sides, but most entrees hover around the high teens.