Michael Ritter, who was once chef at the insanely popular Oyster Bar at Palace Station in Las Vegas, is plotting a third restaurant called Ritter's Kettle in Alhambra, this one closer than ever to the heart of Los Angeles. But let's start at what he's done since leaving Palace Station's legendary steam kettle counter.
First he opened The Boiler in Chino Hills. Then, he went to open his namesake Ritter's SKC (Steam Kettle Cooking) in Santa Ana of all places. Even before the working class city's recent strides of gentrification, the crowd went wild; people wrote the chef odes to his "pan roast". In a little over two years after opening, the original location has garnered an extraordinary 1100+ Yelp reviews and twice as many photos, all without a PR firm.
Ritter, a history buff, thoroughly understands both the migration Acadian flavors and the travels of Creole spices into New Orleans. Coupling the two with classic French cooking techniques and his formal culinary training, Ritter found a fan base in the Asian gamblers who mobbed his Oyster Bar at Palace Station just off the Vegas Strip. Prior to opening the Chino Hills restaurant, the chef took a 6-day culinary tour of Taiwan, and fell in love with the location Chinese-Taiwanese culinary flavors while eating through the alley ways and gaining two pounds a day. Near the end of the trip, he had a moment of eureka and recognized the relevance of Cajun-Creole cooking to the Chinese palate. He also decided to start learning Mandarin Chinese.
Powered by steam, a favorite Chinese cooking method not commonly appreciated by Americans, Ritter's Kettle cooked seafood rang true to the Asian palate. Chino Hills' nouveau riche Taiwanese and Chinese quickly came to respect Ritter when he opened The Boiler in 2009. Then they followed his original recipes to his Santa Ana location — unrelated to original The Boiler in Chino Hills — where he worked both the hot line and the diners in 2013. A second location of Ritter's Steam Kettle Cooking opened in Huntington Beach in May 2014.
Due to his understanding of the Chinese diaspora and desire to expand into L.A. County, Ritter jumped at the opportunity to land on a Western stretch of Valley Blvd in Alhambra, mere yards away from Szechuan Impression. Ritter's Steam Kettle Cooking Alhambra, the third in the chainlet, replaces Green Papaya, a stalwart of Thai cookery in West SGV that has survived a changing neighborhood palate for the past 10 years.
Ritter's SKC arrival in SGV is a game changer for these semi-barren blocks of Valley Blvd. Despite a majority Chinese-population, Alhambra has many Latino families whose dining (and grocery) needs have long been under served except by chains such as Shakey's. Ritter's, with its Southern-inspired flavor profile, should appeal to both sides of the ethnic divide.
The partners behind Ritter's are committed to a high-quality and expedient build out, so Ritter's will look toward an opening just before Christmas. A beer & wine license is awaiting a transfer, and the central setup of the kettles will allow an open view of chef Ritter's cooking, just like at his first two restaurants. Regarding the local crawfish institution down the street, Ritter can only cheekily reply with: "oh, you don't want me to cook crawfish boil!".
Ritter's Steam Kettle
1800 W Valley Blvd