It's hard to pinpoint exactly when punk died. Some argue it was the day the Ramones logo was first screenprinted on an overpriced onesie. Others blame the energy drink-ification of the Warped Tour. Regardless, the once meaningful movement is now as dead as Sid "Joke's on You, My Bass Wasn't Even Plugged In" Vicious. That doesn't mean its bloated corpse can't still be flailed for fun and profit, though; far from it. Hermosa Beach's Abigale Restaurant, a "globally influenced and domestically sourced" eatery located where the Church, a rehearsal space famously utilized by venerable punk bands Black Flag, Descendents, Redd Cross and Circle Jerks once stood, isn't the first business to shamelessly hammer nails into the Misfits™ approved coffin of punk™, nor will it be the last.
Abigale is your industry standard, clinically organic restaurant priced slightly beyond the meager means of the common man. The menu extols the virtues of "Gastronome: The science of good food and drink without any borders or rules," and hawks $300 bottles of champagne and $110 bottles of ice wine to one-percenters who seek a classier kick than its house-infused bacon vodka.
$16 burgers and $30 steaks pair well with $6 house-brewed beers, which are concocted in huge, polished copper kettles located behind the restaurant's immaculate bar. Right down to its wood tables, bottomless mimosas, and mediocre beach view, Abigale is interchangeable with hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of restaurants actively contributing to the Etsying of modern society. The only thing that differentiates Abigale from these other bourgeoisie brunch spots is its inexplicable insistence on a "punk" (and I use that term loosely) theme.
What makes Abigale "punk"? In a word, graffiti. Homages to the Misfits, G.B.H. and the Exploited have been artlessly spray-painted on the restaurant's main wall, overlapping decoupaged copies of Black Flag and Germs posters. The graffiti, done by Fletcher Dragge of Pennywise no less, is an impotent attempt to recreate the original look of the Church (as seen in the classic punk doc The Decline of Western Civilization).
The graffiti is juxtaposed alongside enormous flatscreen televisions. When I visited Abigale on a recent Saturday, said televisions were playing a football game. I tried to visualize a sports bar screening The Decline of Western Civilization instead of the Super Bowl—I couldn’t. To no surprise, the restaurant’s soundtrack reflected the taste of your average football fan. 80s Butt Rock songs like Poison’s "Talk Dirty to Me" and Whitesnake’s "Here I Go Again" loudly blasted overhead as my brunch companion, a fairly punk dude, and I alternated between laughing about the absurdity of it all and looking around in disgusted awe.
We, however, were the only patrons in the restaurant tickled by its antithetical nature. No one in my periphery appeared to notice or give a shit about Abigale’s theme, which made sense. Neither the group of polar-fleeced, middle-aged women to my left, nor the enormous table of professional brunchers wearing "tacky" Christmas sweaters to my right, came for it. They came for the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, “Sandos” (a nonexistent word, commonly used by assholes instead of “sandwiches”) and Roasted Medjool Date & Kale Salads. One of the pro brunchers, a rotundly rich turd of a man sporting a sleeveless Iron Maiden shirt and aviator sunglasses (indoors, mind you), stuffed his maw with organic fried chicken (from the “Brunch Carnage” section of the menu, natch).
Hungover from the night before, I gnawed at my frittata and wished I was still asleep. Brunch is the antithesis of punk, if only because it takes place at the ungodly hour of noon on a weekend.
Before I visited Abigale, I cleared it with the restaurant’s PR person. (Yes, they employ a PR firm. Suspend your disbelief.) Instead of writing about Abigale, he suggested I “...do a story about its chef, Chef Tin.” According to him, there was “lots of buzz on his newest restaurant, Little Sister, which is a little sister to Abigaile and located nearby in Manhattan Beach. At Little Sister, it's a more intimate setting and Chef Tin serves up dishes as if he was cooking for you at his own home... even music wise, it's not your standard mix, it's what Chef Tin listens to when in the car; a mix of Drake, Dre, Snoop, Jay z, Kanye, A$AP, 90's rap." I passed on writing the puff piece, but thoroughly enjoyed the email’s reveal of Tin’s musical tastes. Even the restaurant’s head chef didn’t give a shit about punk.
Granted, Chef Tin is not the owner of Abigale. Owner Jed Sanford, the mastermind behind a handful of other nondescriptly bougie eateries in the area, is the alleged punk fan. His story, I suppose, checks out. According to his personal Facebook profile, he "likes" Black Flag and Pennywise (along with a couple of generic-looking DJs and the abstract concept of “UK dubstep,” but that’s neither here nor there). These facts do nothing to redeem Abigale’s theme.
Before cementing its place as an important part of punk’s past, the Church was, as its name would imply, an honest-to-God Baptist church. Why not, then, make Abigale church-themed? Really, why give it a theme in the first place? After all, Los Angeles has history of not giving a shit about history; that being the case, the building that housed the Church has long been demolished. Abigale just happens to sit atop the ancient punk burial ground. Nowhere else in the area, however, do I know of a business that shittily pays homage to what it replaced. The legendary Brown Derby, for example, has been painted pink. It currently sits atop a strip mall in what is now LA’s Koreatown. The cafe inside is decidedly not Brown Derby-themed. Because, well, no one wants it to be.
NOTE: The food itself was damned good. As well it should be, given the prices. It goes without saying, however, that "true" punks would be financially and ethically unable to patronize it. Unless, like Henry Rollins, they have a sweetheart deal with Infiniti.