The Story Behind the Deal: Brent Bolthouse and Michael Mina Spark a Hit-Making Partnership
California’s restaurant industry is poised for the ultimate comeback as dining restrictions begin to lift throughout the state after the
California’s restaurant industry is poised for the ultimate comeback as dining restrictions begin to lift throughout the state after the blight of 2020, and everyone is excited. Two of the left coast’s biggest hospitality players, Brent Bolthouse and Michael Mina are ushering in this new era with a celeb-haven social dining experience and community clubhouse in two surprisingly fresh locations. Their venture, The Bungalow Kitchen, debuted in low-key SoCal beach town Belmont Shore, an enclave of Long Beach, in March. This was one of the highest-profile openings since the beginning of the pandemic given the resumes of the men behind the deal. The duo will open a second Bungalow Kitchen in Tiburon, California, this summer.
This is not the first time the two have worked together. Mina’s former Sunset Strip restaurant, XIV, in partnership with SBE, was famously one of Bolthouse’s most popular nightlife spots. It attracted every A-list celebrity you can think of, and in its day was known as the toughest door in L.A.
Who Are Brent Bolthouse and Michael Mina?
Brent Bolthouse, the founder of The Bungalow Hospitality Group, is a nightlife icon. Throughout his three-decade long career he has pioneered some of California’s most recognizable social spaces first as a nightclub promoter and then throughout his multi-year partnership with hospitality giant SBE, which included headline grabbing locations such as Hyde Lounge, Area, Foxtail, Katsuya, the SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills and Mina’s XIV Restaurant. The cherry on top: he is the creator of Coachella’s infamous Neon Carnival party.
Michael Mina is a James Beard Award-Winning Chef and founder of Mina Group—a San Francisco-based restaurant management company with more than 40 brands. Within this lauded roster is International Smoke, a partnership with Ayesha Curry; Las Vegas’ Bardot Brasserie; Miami’s Ornos Estiatorio; and Orange County’s Bourbon Steak.
“Brent is a longtime friend of mine; his incredible vision, amazing personality, and the humility he carries himself with has allowed him to be successful decade over decade in this industry,” says Mina. “We are so excited to collaborate on our first brand new restaurant concept and to utilize his deep roots in the industry with the launch of The Bungalow Kitchen. Both restaurants will highlight my version of California cuisine and emphasize the incredible bounty and purveyors of the regions in which they are located. Our goal is to bring a warm and comforting place that will feel like an extension of the living room you always wanted.”
The Original Bungalow Lounge
In 2012, Bolthouse created The Bungalow in Santa Monica and much like his countless other ventures over the years, celebrities began to flock. The local beach bar vibes punctuated by a game room, indoor and outdoor dining areas, and plenty of places to mingle became so popular that a second location sprung up in Huntington Beach. In 2018, he decided to team up with Mina to create a new concept, The Bungalow Kitchen, and three years later, the first iteration of that idea is now a reality.
“Long Beach is the fourth largest city in California. There’s a whole community that doesn’t want to leave Long Beach,” Bolthouse says.
“Santa Monica became this juggernaut that was so popular, and people came from all over Southern California. But the original intention was to service that community and make a local beach bar that would speak to the people who lived in Santa Monica. And then I came down to Huntington Beach and there was a need there as it was underserved from a hospitality standpoint. There had never been a really great bar in Huntington before; there’s a lot of dive bars.”
The Bungalow Kitchen Belmont Shore
Originally, the Belmont Shore location was going to be a Bungalow bar, but because of the pandemic, the concept shifted into a Bungalow Kitchen—which meant shifting seating and lighting and making some modifications to the original design.
“It was a an intense pivot, but I think it turned out really well,” Bolthouse says.
Studio Collective, a Venice, California design firm—behind Solvang’s The Landsby Inn and DTLA’s Hotel Figueroa—was charged with making the new Bungalow Kitchen into the ultimate living room. It is layered with unique artwork and a residential vibe, creating a ‘fabulous dinner party’ atmosphere.
Stylistically, it is a contemporary spin on a Craftsman bungalow—vaulted ceilings, a covered porch, wood plank and fireplaces—with every nod celebratory of Long Beach’s punk-rock edge.
A game room giving off vibes of rock ‘n’ roll nostalgia with artwork in the same vein plastered throughout creates an atmosphere where people can order a drink, shoot a game of pool and lounge in the sun room. There is also a 3,000 square foot patio overlooking the Marina, with potted and hanging plants galore. One room leads to another and each is of unexpected sizes and styles—while it is all new, you would never know it.
“I could feel this magical departure—like most restaurants don’t have four bars. Most restaurants don’t have a game room. Our PDR is a sunroom. Early on, I felt wow, this is a new paradigm,” Mina says.
“We want people to feel like this is where they come for a nightcap, or Bill’s 40th birthday. And they can use it in any capacity they want,” Bolthouse says.
This is California Cuisine
“I want this to be the place you go to when you just want a really good pizza,” Bolthouse says. “And go a few times a week.
Mina and his team cook California like no one else. A garden “punch” bowl, featuring crunchy, ice-cold vegetables served with Gazpacho shooters; towers of tumbling shellfish; carbonara pizza; and even a short-rib Pop Tart and a lobster pot pie—the menu here is everything that dining on the coast should be. Each bite is an eclectic toast to the carefree Bohemian lifestyle that pristine expanses of surf and sand evoke.
“The Bungalow Kitchen creates this environment where people want to hang out. Every detail is important,” Mina says. “In the past, we have looked at our restaurants as more traditional spaces and I think that was really where our strength was. But now, because of the environment, we considered what do you cook at home? What do you like to eat at home? And how do you make this an extension of it—put a spin on it and make it more fun. I don’t know if I would have the discipline to do this menu 15 years ago. I would have thought to myself, I want it to be super cutting-edge. But this is about guests coming multiple times a week, to ‘your home.’”
The Bungalow Kitchen Tiburon
But wait, there’s more. The Bungalow Kitchen will open another location this summer in the ultra-exclusive retreat of Tiburon, California. Designed by Martin Brudniski, an internationally acclaimed architect and interior designer, renowned for his work at Las Vegas’ Park MGM, London’s Annabel’s, New York’s The Beekman and Paris’ Pink Mamma.
“It’s the most innovative restaurant project I have ever been a part of,” Bolthouse says.
The Bungalow Kitchen Tiburon will unfold over two floors with a dining terrace featuring incredible ocean views. Bohemian artwork will decorate the walls and there will be a billiard room and pergola-roofed terrace on the second floor.
“The location really guided the design of The Bungalow Kitchen,” Brudnizki says. “The fact it sits right on the water, overlooking the bay, meant we really wanted the interior to connect to the outside. It needed to feel comfortable and be a space where guests could enjoy the views and feel at home. To help achieve this, we included a few residential accents throughout the scheme, layering in fabrics and artwork – all with a subtle nod to the area’s bohemian past.”
Building The Bungalow Brand
With Belmont Shore a hit and Tiburon on the horizon, Bolthouse and Mina are reveling in the business partnership they always dreamed of.
“When we started, I said ‘I don’t want to wrestle with you, I want to have fun. I’m not saying we’re not going to have game-time stress. But I don’t want to wrestle with you about stuff. Let’s leave our egos at the door,’” Bolthouse says. “We’ve all had bad partnerships. And so both of our teams were given that direction. And we work well together.”
“That’s when all that hard work pays off and you start to see how people are enjoying the restaurant, and they’re enjoying it exactly like we envisioned it,” Mina says. “It’s about, how do you continue to push yourself and get the style right, and get what people love about it right? Then continue to make it better and better—that’s what makes it fun.”
The duo plans to continue the party with potential locations being tossed around in Scottsdale, La Jolla, Denver, Dallas and even Oklahoma City. And of course, Vegas isn’t out of the question.
“Vegas is just a different animal,” says Bolthouse, who masterminded the legendary Body English nightclub at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. “Bungalow Kitchen may happen in Vegas sooner than we think because everyone in Vegas wants to eat. And there’s such a big demand for culinary concepts.”