Anytime I see a menu that resembles Monte 52’s, I immediately wonder, “ Why it is so expensive?” I’ve seen menus, with almost the same, identical description written out on paper at more than double the price and yet half the amount of effort, skill and passion that is used at Monte 52. Every time I go to a regular old pub, in Los Angeles area, I order the Rueben. Its always $16, comes on thin rye bread, made with pre-brined brisket and jarred sauerkraut. At Monte 52 we don’t cut corners here. Our Rueben is made with pastrami that we brine, smoke and steam on site. We throw cloves, ginger and juniper berries into a brine for 10 days, and then we give it a rub, smoke it with hickory wood, then steam it for 3 hours. It is a lot of work, but well worth it. We even make our own sauerkraut. At Monte 52, we want to share our passion for cooking without charging too much. We want to send the message, that quality, non-frozen, from-scratch food can be reasonably priced and should be. It’s real food, people! Eat real food!
Chef Joshua Siegel has a great history in the kitchen. He has worked in almost every position in the kitchen and even worked under world famous chefs and is on his way to becoming one himself. Currently he is the owner of several different endeavors including Monte 52. Perhaps his most well known business is The Park Restaurant, in Echo Park, where he Mitchell Jones and I (Erika Jones), all met. At The Park Restaurant, Josh is constantly inventing new menus and fresh ideas. He also helps out new cooks, who have no experience, by training them and placing them in appropriate positions, whether it’s in other kitchens or his own.
Perhaps I was Chef Josh’s first student. When I finally decided that owning a restaurant was going to be my career, I immediately searched for “back of house” positions. The only professional food experience I had, at that point, was 5 years of Cheese Mongering, which is not the same as cooking, but does provide you with knowledge of worldly foods and food products. Fortunately, I met Joshua Siegel in 2011. He hired me to work one day a week, to train. It quickly became two days, then 6 days, which went on for of couple years. I learned everything from him. He even let me manage The Park’s daytime kitchen, until Monte 52 was created and was in need of a a head cook/ manager/ partner. I accepted, duh!
But Monte 52 would never have existed without Mitchell Jones (Yes, I am Mrs. Jones. No, we are not married). Mitch grew up working in his family restaurant and worked at The Park, as head waiter, for several years. One day, Mitch decided that he wanted a sandwich. Mitch lives in Highland Park, and loves the idea of walking out of his front door and having whatever he needs conveniently located to him. He tried to get a sandwich from the corner grocer across the street, but the sandwich man left and the space was empty. This made Mitch think, “If I really want a sandwich, and there is nowhere to get one in close proximity, there could be others, in the neighborhood, who feel the same.” Mitch immediately thought of Josh, who is always up for a new adventure. He called him over to his Highland Park apartment to watch a game. He said, “Hey, Josh, wanna check out this space I saw across the street? I think you and I could do some magic there.” So they went to check it out. They liked what they saw, and in the next week, Monte 52 was in operation!