Lock and Key Social Drinkery located in Downey, in the words of the owner, is designed so you wouldn’t feel like you were in Downey. A restaurant bar, the interior is industrial chic complete with vintage styled Edison light bulbs and an illuminated sign of the gastropub’s initials affixed to the ceiling. The walls are partially covered in wood paneling, and sleek black booths. Socially aware, tall tables set for eight run down the middle to accommodate large parties.
Downey is only 13 miles from Downtown LA, and its residents vary from lower middle class to those living in a mansion maze worth millions. With the increase in twenty-somethings living at home, and relatively affordable housing where young families plant their roots; there exist a demand for great food and atmosphere in Downey. A market, owner Marc Shelton, understands and is tapping into. On a Friday night at 7:00pm the restaurant had open tables, but was far from empty. And by 8:00 there was a line waiting to get inside.
When seated you’re served a tiny glass and chilled water in a large medicinal bottle which you’d imagine would hold pharmacy tonics in the 18oo’s. The menu is creative and reads like a competitive cooking show, while not being off putting to those that might not be foodies. Gourmet classics taken up a notch or wrapped in bacon. A Grilled cheese with fontina cheese and white truffle butter. An appetizer called Amazeballs, that is fried Brussels sprouts, apple smoked bacon, candied walnuts, with an apple gastrique.
Being a Downey native, I had to start the dinner off with a Hot Cheeto pie. A sliced open Hot Cheetos snack bag drenched in jalapeno (nacho) cheese sauce topped with chorizo and scallions. I might have lost you, but understand Hot Cheetos and nacho cheese was a lunchtime staple for Downey kids. I didn’t eat it very often but I understood its delicious allure. It’s hard to get all food writer when talking about a bag of hot Cheetos and nacho cheese,but the warm melted jalapeno cheese compliments the Hot Cheetos seasoning without overpowering it. You still taste the Hot Cheeto flavor and its spicy build, while the creamy cheese coats the Cheetos without making it too soggy. Where it get gourmet is the peppery chorizo, and crisp scallions that add another dimension to this appetizer. I loved the Hot Cheeto pie, but I did regret starting off with it as it had scorched my palate a bit.
Yet by the third bite of my dinner sandwich, I felt my taste buds could fairly assess the flavors. I ordered the Sweet Thang Chicken Sandwich, a panko crusted chicken breast, apple wood bacon, sunny side egg, prairie cheddar, raspberry chipotle compote, on a pretzel bun. Its presentation was on point, and technical execution excellent. The sunny side egg’s yolk was thick and creamy. The panko crust crispy and light, chicken itself tender and moist. But lacked its own unique seasoning aside from “tempura” flavor. So the apple smoked bacon is what brought in an element of salt, and the prairie cheese forgettable unless the raspberry chipotle compote was in the bite. And that is where all the flavors came together and the sandwich made an impression. I picked at the top portion of the bun with drizzles of compote to eat with a bite of the other ingredients. Because without the compote, it was just an ok sandwich, but with the compote it hit all the flavor notes of sweet, salty, and tangy.