Who Is Arthur J: The Story Behind David LeFevre’s Latest

The new Manhattan Beach steakhouse pays homage to an L.A. restaurant pioneer

The Arthur J, chef David LeFevre’s much-anticipated new steakhouse in Manhattan Beach, makes its debut tonight. Done up pristinely with mid-century decor, the new spot will feature a menu of modernized takes on retro steakhouse dishes, like jumbo shrimp cocktail, Swedish meatballs, and pot roast, along with wet and dry-aged steaks cooked on a wood-fired grill.

The design and menu are nods to Arthur J Simms, the man behind the restaurant’s name. Arthur J, who died in 2000, is the patriarch of Tom, Chris, and Mike Simms, who together make up the Simms’ Restaurant Group, LeFevre’s partners in M.B. Post, Fishing with Dynamite, and this new venture.

“Arthur J’s verve and charm and love of hosting people and making people feel welcomed, and just providing an incredible experience—that verve and that excitement for service, really you can see it in his son Tom and his grandsons Mike and Chris,” says LeFevre.

Arthur J, as he was called by his children and grandchildren, grew up during The Great Depression and served as a bombardier and navigator in World War II. He first became interested in opening a restaurant upon his return home to Chicago—his father in law was running some coffee shops in the city at the time, and he thought he could do the same. Armed with the idea, he moved to L.A. in 1948 and got a gig running the commissary at MGM Studios, where he charmed some of Hollywood’s most influential players.

A natural restaurateur, Simms opened Ben Frank’s coffee shop on the Sunset Strip just four years later. It was the first of what would become a chain. In 1974, he made the business a family affair, enlisting his son to help him open The French Quarter in West Hollywood and The Kettle, which is still a popular neighborhood spot in Manhattan Beach today. His biggest claim to fame came in 1978 when he founded Mimi’s Cafe in Anaheim.

When deciding to open the steakhouse, LeFevre says that the idea for an homage to Arthur J came naturally.

“Here was a guy who liked to socialize, and he was a guy who liked a drink, and he hung out with the Rat Pack. He was a guy who was kind of swanky. We had the idea at the beginning, and then it came together and really evolved from there,” says LeFevre.

LeFevre’s dishes and his overall ethos as a chef is also in line with Arthur J’s desire to bring overall quality and creativity to the restaurant-going experience.

“I’m really excited about the quality of our meat, and I also like the fact that it’s simple but not boring,” LeFevre says. “I like the fact that we’re not tyring to re-invent the wheel. We’re trying to do something really well, buying great products and treating them very simple and very well.”

And how does LeFevre think his own legacy as a restaurant owner, as well as that of his partners, fits into the model set by Arthur J?

“There’s a quote from Abraham Lincoln that goes, ‘I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me, and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.’ That’s how I feel about the Simms’ group,” he says. “I definitely think that what I’m doing today has a lot to do with what I’ve learned from the Simms family. All of us are all very excited to make mention of Arthur J.”

redarrowThe Arthur J, 903 Manhattan Avenue, 310-878-9620