Inspired by 1970s Australian Beach Cafes, Founder Jay Lewis Gives Us All the Details on His Beloved Health-Driven Restaurant
As someone who once worked within the design and apparel industry, restaurateur and entrepreneur Jay Lewis knows a thing or two about building a lifestyle—and that’s exactly what he’s accomplished with his Aussie-inspired, health-forward restaurant, OUTPOST Kitchen.
After the booming success of its first location, Lewis and team expanded into a larger, full-service space in early 2020 to accommodate their large, loyal following. Although this is a newer location, OUTPOST’s hallmark values have remained the same: offering fresh, organic and responsibly sourced ingredients in delicious, beautifully presented dishes and beverages.
Upon stepping into OUTPOST Kitchen, guests are immediately welcomed by music, an open floor plan bedecked with clean, bright colorful accents, the hum of conversation and, of course, a palette of delicious aromas wafting from the busy kitchen (under the direction of Chef Jose Rodriguez).
Inspired by Australian beach cafes in the 1970s, the restaurant features nods to its local community just as much as its authentic Aussie roots. The booths are upholstered with fabric sourced from army tents from Camp Pendleton, and the restaurant features custom tableware from Salamat, bright, airy and eclectic interior design elements from Common Standard’s Amanda Malson and bold murals from artist Teddy Kelly.
While Lewis takes immense pride in how the interior of the restaurant turned out, his favorite spot is the sunny, expansive patio.
“The beauty about this location that I really love is the patio. It’s very rare to get such a large space; we have one that seats almost a hundred people,” Lewis beams. “It’s kind of like a resort setting in an urban jungle. I love it.”
“Whether you’ve been to Australia or not, you’ll sense the overseas inspiration at OUTPOST Kitchen,” Lewis shares. For Lewis, that means fresh, sustainable ingredients that are sourced locally and farm-to-table whenever possible. Some familiar and local brands featured here include Fermensch Kombucha, Common Room Roasters, Crema Artisan Bakers, Santa Monica Seafoods and Tanaka Farms.
“I like to live a healthy lifestyle, which is something I think California resonates with. People are more informed on what they eat, and a lot of people are starting to listen to their bodies,” Lewis explains. “So OUTPOST really brings it back down to the basics by cooking health-conscious food. We don’t have any freezers; we don’t have any microwaves, no deep fryers—all dishes are crafted in our scratch kitchen. We get daily deliveries to ensure all items are fresh, and we will make that product until it sells out.”
Some OUTPOST favorites for breakfast and lunch include the Gluten-Free Blueberry Pancakes, Steak and Egg Skillet, Kingswood Lamb Sandwich, Date Mate Salad, Smoked Salmon and Shrimp Benedict and OUTPOST Super Bowl. On the dinner menu, Lewis lists his top picks as the Hummus and Meatballs, , Lamb Toasties, Turmeric & Coconut Fish Curry, Roasted Root Vegetables, Jay’s Jumbo Burger, Alaskan King Salmon and the Ahi Tuna Bowl.
This same ethos is also applied to OUTPOST Kitchen’s drink menu. Not only does the restaurant offer a full coffee menu, fresh cold-pressed juices and scrumptious smoothies, but it also has a superfood-powered bar program designed by Lewis himself. All flavor syrups for coffees and cocktails are made in house and have no additives. Some cocktail highlights for Lewis include The Butterfly Effect made with Empress Gin, housemade cucumber juice and blueberry jam, the Blue Beehive with Coconut Tequila and Blue Lavender Superfood, the Summer Nights with cold-pressed beet juice and Liquor 43 and the Howling Wolf Bloody with nourishing bone broth and house pickled veggies.
Aside from healthy and sustainable ingredients, Lewis’ main motivation with OUTPOST’s larger second location was to be more community-driven—both in where these ingredients come from and how the space is set up for customers. According to Lewis, OUTPOST Kitchen was named after the old military term for a resting place where personnel could come through and leave books, coffee, notes and other comfort items. Then the next crew would come through and share their items, pay it forward to the next crew and so on.
“The idea behind OUTPOST is that it’s everyone’s post away from home. It’s where they go when they’re not at home or they’re not at work,” Lewis explains. “They can come to OUTPOST Kitchen and feel a sense of community and see familiar faces. I think that’s what was missing in the restaurant world, especially in the United States, which is why OUTPOST Kitchen has so many communal tables—it forces people to talk to each other instead of having a table for two in the corner separate from the rest of the restaurant.”
OUTPOST Kitchen is a firm believer in community in all aspects. There are special partnerships with local and private businesses as well as the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, and the restaurant runs specials based on what is happening in the community.
Lewis isn’t only encouraging interaction between patrons but with the staff as well. “A lot of people don’t know much about Australia and the cuisine,” Lewis shares. His goal is for OUTPOST Kitchen to serve as a deliciously educational experience, whether that’s learning about how the fish was sourced, the dish’s Asian influence or the story behind the Australian wine in the restaurant’s market space.
“Come here for something different,” Lewis says. “People come here because we are forward-thinking—you’re going to have some totally different food you can’t get anywhere else. We’re quite niche in that sense.”
OUTPOST Kitchen offers breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., dinner Wednesday through Saturday, 5-8 p.m., weekend brunch, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. and happy hour Wednesday through Saturday, 3-6 p.m.
Born and raised near the Pacific Coast, Jordan Nishkian is a California girl through and through. She graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a BA in Creative Writing and a BA in Anthropology, and her favorite place to be is curled up in a comfy chair with a book in her hand and a pen in her hair.