A Joyful Oasis Thrives in the California Desert – Smart Media Magazine

A Joyful Oasis Thrives in the California Desert

Though at first, Ms. Hill shopped at supermarkets and drove to the lower desert to find produce, she now gets her fruits and vegetables from farms in California, including ones in nearby Pipes Canyon, Bakersfield and Chino.

The menu is concise; even with the wine list and desserts, it fits on a single page. Seating is first-come, first-served, and regulars know to look for the scribbled list attached to a clipboard by the bar outside, so they can put their names down as they arrive.

Most dishes are composed with speed and efficiency, rather than prettiness in mind — no wasted movements in the kitchen, no superfluous components on the plate. Ms. Hill, who cooked at Scopa and Huckleberry in Los Angeles, takes a sincere, straightforward approach to cooking, building dishes that tend to underpromise and overdeliver.

Opening a restaurant in Los Angeles, or any major city, would have required bigger loans and a much larger investment, but after putting another $30,000 or so into furniture and repairs — fixing the leaky roof and replacing the walk-in compressor, repairing the appliances on the line and sanding the walls — the couple was ready for business.

The line is outfitted with little more than two propane burners and a small grill, complemented by two tabletop fryers — one for chicken and another for beignets. Ms. Hill found a tiny electric smoker on Amazon that she uses to finish the salmon for the house salad.

Weekends, vacations and humane schedules are a rarity in restaurants, where hours are long and time off is tenuous. But since the couple’s investment in the space was relatively small, Ms. Hill and Ms. Wadsworth can afford to close their restaurant for three days each week and two summer months each year.

When it’s open, though, it’s slammed. At 2 p.m., just as La Copine starts to seat diners, a crowd is already waiting on the porch. Some live in nearby Landers. Some have traveled from Palm Springs or Los Angeles. Even on weekdays, the mood is of a casual, all-day celebratory brunch spot.

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